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Author Interview - John H. Paterson

Get to know Author John. H. Paterson as he shares a little of his writing and personal life with us.

John, thank you for participating in my interview. I have to say some of your answers made me chuckle. Your embarassing moment - I'm sure you were "popular" at the reception. And your answer to question #17 - um, isn't that just noodles? :).

About Writing

1. Do you remember the first book you read that had an impact on you - in what way and what was the name of that book?

I probably started off reading the Hardy Boys series and enjoyed them but as far as having an impact, I was around 14 when I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Besides making me want to ride a raft down a river and smoke a corn cob pipe, it made me think that, if these young guys could be so independent, so could I. I think it encouraged me to look for ways of being more independent, like finding part time jobs, so I would have money to do what I wanted. When I was 16, I had saved up enough to buy a used motorcycle so I could go where I wanted, when I wanted.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to write?

As an engineer, it was necessary for me to write technical reports. I was always comfortable writing but it wasn’t until after I retired that I decided to give creative writing a try. And when I did, I found that I loved learning about writing techniques and having an outlet for my creative side. I enjoyed not being constrained by the facts as I had always been before.

3. Who is/are your favourite author(s)?

My favorite has to be John Grisham, hands down. I just like the way he tells his stories and develops his characters. That being said, I also enjoy reading works by dozens of other authors like Dick Francis, Michael Connelly and Michael Creighton.

4. What is your favourite thing about writing? What is your least favourite thing about writing?

I love to have a way I can be creative. I tried painting, playing musical instruments, woodworking etc., but quickly learned that they weren’t for me. Whereas, I can spend hours working on a book or writing an essay and enjoy every minute. My least favorite thing about writing is allocating valuable writing time to marketing. Which is probably why I don’t do much.

5. Where do your ideas come from?

My ideas come mostly from my experiences with my imagination thrown in. I was fortunate enough to travel extensively for my job and my writing content has been focussed on these far-off experiences and settings. My first two books were set in Costa Rica and the Ivory Coast and I have some short stories from Burkina Faso, Benin and Mexico. But Honduras, Guatemala, Bolivia, China and Indonesia are waiting in the wings.

6. I’ve often found that creative people have more than one talent, what is yours?

I can remember the words to most popular songs. Unfortunately, I can’t sing. So, it would probably be a natural ability with numbers. Perfect for a career in engineering.

7. If you could jump inside a book for one day (as an observer) what book would it be?

“Don’t Stop the Carnival” by Herman Wouk. One of the funniest books I remember reading. Hits pretty close to home.

8. When you create characters, are they completely made up or do they resemble or remind you of people you know?

Both. Some are exact replicas of characters I know, only the names have been changed. And some are completely fictitious.

9. Have you ever created a character “out of thin air” only to run into someone in real life that reminds you of that character either in personality or their features?

No. And with most of my characters, that’s a good thing.

10. How do you come up with titles for your books?

I make a long list of possible names while I’m writing the book. Every time I think of another possibility, I write it down. Then I add as many variations to those possible titles as I can. I even look at the thesaurus for ideas and brainstorm some more. Then I narrow it down. Ask for advice from people who have read my draft. Then pick one.

11. What are you working on now and can you tell us about it?

I’ve been working on a collection of short stories while putting together some ideas for my next novel.

12. Have you won any awards for your writing/books and if so what?

Nothing of consequence. But considering entering some short story contests for fun.

A Little More Personal

13. What is one thing you haven’t done but would like to do?

Ride a raft down the Mississippi smoking a corn cob pipe. Or maybe write a best seller?

14. Can you tell us about an embarrassing/funny moment?

I make a lot of bonehead moves so I don’t have any shortage of embarrassing moments. But the worst was when I was driving in Toronto. I was trying to change lanes to make a left turn and no one would let me in. Making eye contact with one of the drivers who could see I wanted him to let me in, I gave him a look like “Hey buddy, what’s the problem?” I watched him mouth the words “F U” at me. Infuriated, but not missing a beat, I said it back to him and cut-in in front of his car forcing my way into his lane. Strangely, a police officer waved us all through the left turn at the intersection while stopping the oncoming traffic. I thought there was a problem with the lights. A block later, all the rest of the vehicles turned into the cemetery. Turns out the driver was trying to tell me I was trying to cut into a “FUNERAL” procession and I reacted by telling him to “F U.” Since then I’m more careful when reading lips.

15. Have you ever experienced something weird you could not explain?

Forty-two years ago, my wife married me. And she hasn’t taken off screaming yet.

16. Are you superstitious? Do you have any rituals for good luck?

Not superstitious, don’t believe in that kind of stuff. But I am careful. If I spill salt, I always throw a few grains over my shoulder. And I never ever walk under a ladder. Just in case I was wrong and there is such a thing as luck.

17. What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?

Birds’ nest soup in Indonesia. I could have eaten weirder stuff in China but I didn’t ask what most of it was. I was advised before my first trip, “If you like it, eat it. If you don’t, don’t. But nothing good can come from asking what you are eating in China.”

18. Do you have a favourite vacation spot? Where?

Costa Rica. Love the people and the climate and the protected natural biodiversity.

19. Can you tell us about one of your favourite childhood memories?

Spending summers at the lake. I wasn’t fond of school so I made the most of every minute of my summer holidays and enjoying being a kid.

20. What makes you happy?

Seeing my kids and grandkids. Learning new things. Seeing my grandkids learning new things. Meeting people, travelling, writing and 23-year-old rum.

21. If you aren’t writing (or doing anything associated with writing), what are you doing?

Taking care of our nature lodge and coffee farm in the Costa Rican rainforest with my wife and our three dogs. We have a small place, five guest rooms and seven acres of coffee surrounded by jungle. You could say we are off the beaten track. Perhaps that’s why we attract such interesting guests.

22. Have you ever met anyone famous – who?

Canadian author Pierre Burton. He was the guest speaker at a dinner we attended at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. My wife and I had pre-dinner drinks and our picture taken with him. Quite a personality.

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