Interview With the Author: John Hart


John Dwaine McKenna

Our interviewee today is NY Times bestselling author John Hart, who graciously took time from his busy schedule to share his thoughts and writing tips for all of us.  With many thanks . . . here’s our first question:

When do you write?

I’m a morning guy for story momentum. Get up, get to work, trust whatever organ guides the story. In the afternoons, I edit. The goal is a thousand good words a day, but I’ll settle for eight hundred. Twice that, and I break out the good scotch.

Where do you write?

If it’s still dark outside when I wake (and the family is still asleep) then I write in a barely lit corner of my favorite room – lots of books and leather and dark paint. In daylight, I go to an office I’ve built in an old tractor barn on the back corner of my farm. No one goes there but the dogs and me. Great views, a lot of quiet. I call it “Johnland.”

Why do you write?

I enjoy writing but, it’s harder to do than most will ever realize. That’s because it’s stressful and lonesome, an act of sheer will and sustained faith, at times for many years. Write well, though, and a novelist’s life is the ultimate expression of personal freedom. For me, that was always the brass ring. 

What’s the most important element for writing success?

Whatever talent I have is God-given, so I take little credit for it. Perseverance is what made the difference for me. I wrote two failed novels before the third was finally published. I could have quit a thousand times. 

What makes a character compelling?

I believe the events of childhood shape us all, that for good or ill, we’re largely formed by the time we mature. Allow those childhood issues to drive an adult character – perhaps in ways the character does not fully understand – and that character becomes imminently compelling, especially if wounded, hardened or left in some sort of powerful denial. It makes for good storytelling when the reader sees things the characters do not.

Do you plot-outline or wing it?

Oh, I grope and hope. Quite shamelessly, in fact.

How did your first book get published?

I call it my fifteen-year, overnight success story: two failed novels before the third showed a whisker of promise. Even then, it took four years for that novel to find an agent, an editor, a sliver of daylight. It did, however, hit the NY Times list right out of the gate, and I’ve never looked back. I offer that story in the hope it will encourage those who aspire and are frustrated. Many successful novelists have failed manuscripts buried in a dark drawer. It’s a good thing to remember.

Mr. Hart:  Thank-you again, on behalf of all our readers, for one of the most insightful and inspiring interviews we’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of.  Your honesty and thoughtful answers are encouragement for everyone, no matter what their occupation, but especially for all the wordsmiths who toil away in anonymity.