John L. Betcher is a University of Minnesota Law School graduate and has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota. He possesses substantial first-hand knowledge of the Prairie River Nuclear Plant’s real world counterpart, as well as Red Wing’s airport and the flight rules around the nuke plant. In addition to The 19th Element: A James Becker Nuclear Thriller, he has published a second book in the “Beck” series entitled, The Missing Element: A James Becker Mystery.
Enjoy this interview.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?
I’m a native of Red Wing, Minnesota – about an hour south of Minneapolis/St. Paul. I grew up on a farm, went off to college and law school, then returned to Red Wing to start my own legal practice. I’ve now been practicing law here for over twenty-five years.
I have a wonderful wife and two great kids – both currently attending college. My wife and I live in a 1910-vintage Georgian Colonial with screen porches, front and back.
It’s really hard to say when I started writing. I was an English Major at St. Olaf College (Class of 1980). I wrote a lot in my legal work as well.
My first published writing was in a national volleyball coaching journal – Coaching Volleyball, the AVCA Journal. I penned three feature articles, including one cover article, for that publication between about 2006 and 2009.
In May, 2009, I self-published a small book on volleyball coaching philosophies called, Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching (Insights From the Trenches). I also began working on my first novels that summer.
Tell us about your latest book. What do you hope readers take away from it?
My latest book is Book One of the James “Beck” Becker Suspense/Thriller Series. Entitled The 19th Element, a James Becker Thriller, it’s a tale of international terror in the American Midwest. Al Qaeda recruits homegrown American terrorists to assist in attacking the Prairie River Nuclear Power Plant, just up the Mississippi River from Red Wing, Minnesota.
My hope is that readers will sit back and enjoy the ride. This book is not Faulkner or James Joyce. It’s mass market fiction. The action is fast-paced. The characters are likeable and clever. And there’s a good deal of information about nuclear power plants and small plane avionics in the book. Some may choose to delve into those areas more deeply than others. It’s a good, quick read either way.
Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on book three of the series, which will focus on Mexican drug cartels and their reach into the Midwest. I’m also engaged in an entirely different project. The book is entitled, A Higher Court, One Man’s Search to Find the Truth of God’s Existence. I hope to have it finished and available yet this year.
As if that’s not enough to keep me busy, I’m doing my best to promote The 19th Element.
What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?
I’m really bad at “most,” “best,” “favorite” kinds of questions. I never have just one. One book I found intriguing, though, is Cat’s Cradle: A Novel, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. No one writes in the same style as Vonnegut. And he has such an off-the-wall sense of humor.
Here are a few of my faves: Robert B. Parker (especially his Spenser Detective Series), Brian Haig, Vince Flynn, Barry Eisler and J.R.R. Tolkien. There are lots more.
Book you’re currently reading?
I haven’t got a book in progress at the moment. Most of my current reading is devoted to researching articles for the drug cartel book.
Any type of writing ritual you have?
I like to sit in my leather chair, with my computer on my lap and a Diet Mountain Dew on the side table. I like to write at least 2000 words in a sitting. Ideas seem to flow better that way for me.
Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?
I do believe in writer’s block. But I don’t believe I have ever experienced it. On the other hand, maybe I have, and I just kept writing anyway. Hmmm?
I just keep writing whether I feel inspired or not. You can always go back and fix up later.
In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?
An individual writer’s success must be measured by that writer’s own standards. So I don’t want anyone to think my personal measure should necessarily be theirs.
I measure my own success in several ways. First, I have to enjoy reading the finished book – even after editing it dozens of times. Second, I want anyone who reads the book to learn something interesting from it. And third, I’d like to sell 1,000 copies (or 100,000 copies) over time.
I don’t expect writing to make me rich. But I wouldn’t complain about that either.
Advice for other writers?
1) Keep on writing, whether you feel inspired or not.
2) Always remember that writing is a cooperative activity – not a competition.
3) Help out your fellow authors.
Where can we learn more about you?
The easiest place is my website. Or just Google my name and see what you find.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for inviting me to do this interview. And thanks, also, to your readers for checking out my books. I hope to be back with a new book in the not-too-distant future.