John Robinson - First Rejected, Then Chased Down  

Posted by: Lynnette Bonner in ,
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I’ve been married for thirty-seven years to my lovely wife Barb. We have two grown sons (one of them married, with a family of his own), and a little daughter waiting for us in heaven. Presently I’m director of business development with a company that does contracting work with the military and the federal government. The three Joe Box novels I have out are Until the Last Dog Dies, When Skylarks Fall, and To Skin a Cat. The protagonist is a Vietnam vet and former Cincinnati cop who now works as a private investigator. In the first novel he’s just recently come to the Lord, but given his violent past, he’s not really sure how—or if—it’s going to work out for him. Joe’s a transplanted Southerner with a strong code of honor, but he also has a dark side and a bit of a sarcastic mouth on him. Being that I’m from the South, Joe’s an amalgamation of several of my uncles, plus some of the guys I knew who’d served in ‘Nam. To my knowledge he’s a bit of an anomaly in the CBA, and was a real kick to write!
I also have an apocalypse-with-a-twist thriller called Heading Home, due out from Sheaf House this August. In addition to that I have another series started with a soldier-of-fortune named Mac Ryan, and the (working) title for that is Relentless; it’ll be out next fall. The sequel is called Burning River, but it’s not nearly done yet. Finally I have a spec-fic novel I’m currently shopping called The Radiance; it was also a ton of fun to write.
Surprisingly I get a lot of women who read my books. Bear in mind, when I set out to write the Joe Box series I specifically did it to give something for Christian men to read. Let’s face it; the CBA is chock-a-block with romances, but not a lot of hard-edged action novels, especially penned by men. I think I was as shocked as anyone when the distaff side seemed to like them as much as the men. For some reason Joe struck a chord with the ladies, but I’m not complaining!
I’d always liked to write, even from my early teen years, and when I was in college I was student affairs editor for the school paper. Years passed though, and that love seemed to fade. But a decade ago it came roaring back, and in an unexpected way.
It was New Years Day, 1999, and I was watching one of the bowl games on TV when suddenly I started seeing something different on the screen. Don’t laugh, but it was almost like watching a movie. When I roused myself I found only a few minutes had passed, but amazingly I had the entire plot of Heading Home completely lined up in my head; it was then just a matter of writing it down and editing it. That process took about a year. Finding a house that would take such a controversial novel proved to be a challenge, though, and it wasn’t until 2008 that it was sold to Sheaf House (as I said, it’ll be out this August).
During those intervening years I wrote and sold the Joe Box novels, and began the Mac Ryan series. Because of its theme and unconventional main character, Until the Last Dog Dies was a booger to get published. My agent shopped it tirelessly, but kept coming to me back with stuff like “they love your writing, John, but the character of Joe Box scares them to death; they’re afraid women won’t buy it.” To which I responded, “Jeeze Louise, it’s not written for women!” Months pass, and my agent finally says they’ve done all they could, but can’t place it with anybody. That’s in December of 2002. Flash forward to July of 2003. The CBA trade show is in Orlando that that year, and my agent is attending. As the story was told to me, the head buyer of one of the largest Christian bookstore chains is speaking with one of the marketing directors for Cook Communications, which owns RiverOak Publishing. They’re talking about this and that, and the buyer says in an off-hand way, “I heard you’ve bought a novel featuring a Christian private investigator.” The Cook guy says no, he’d heard wrong, they took a pass on it. To which the buyer says, “that’s funny; we could probably move a lot of units of that.” The Cook guy takes that info to his people, and they tell him, “how about that, see if it’s still available.” The Cook guy finds my agent and asks if Until the Last Dog Dies is still on the table. Stunned, my agent says yes, and they proceed to verbally cut the deal on the floor of the CBA. True story!
Someone once asked me if I have a favorite character that I’ve written. Besides Joe, Joe’s mentor, a crusty old retired Cincinnati cop, was fun. And interestingly enough Joe’s cat Noodles, who Joe rescued as a kitten from being burned alive in a fire, is also a favorite. They play off each other pretty well.
With my Mac Ryan character I wanted to take a man who was a little like Joe, but with a darker past, and then take him in different direction. The result is the spirituality is still there, but much more subtle; think the movie Signs, or Dean Koontz’s later works. Somebody once asked me what would be my advice to someone just trying to break into publishing in this day; I’d tell them a story I once heard about Winston Churchill. The time was either the late fifties or early sixties, and by then Churchill was quite elderly when he was asked to give the commencement address for a large university.
The day came, and the auditorium was packed with students and alumni wanting to hear strong words of wisdom from the man who’d basically saved Britain during the darkest days the country had ever known. Slowly Sir Winston took the platform. Standing behind the podium, he gazed out at the sea of faces.
Then setting his famous bulldog jaw, he ground out these words: “Never give up. Never, never, never, never give up.” He fixed them with a gaze of iron. “Never.”
And then he sat down.
And the place erupted in praise.
That’s what I’d tell people: “never give up.”
Just that.

This entry was posted on Monday, June 14, 2010 and is filed under , . You can leave a response and follow any responses to this entry through the Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom) .

8 comments

John, thanks so much for dropping by to share your story with us!

Good interview. I'm amazed at how many stories John has written in that time span. I predict. Its just a matter of time before he hits the bestsellers list.

This was wonderful! I really enjoyed reading it and I was at CBA that year:) To think that was going on! I love the "Never give up." Trying hard not to!

As always, John, I love reading what you have to say. Thanks! And may the Lord bless your writing!

Thanks so much, guys; you're very kind!

Good words, John. Perseverance pays.

Thanks John,

I'm encouraged! No matter what my pea-brain says to me, I will never give up!

:)

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