Good Morning. Going to be about 73 degrees here in Florida land. A great day to sit on the porch and interview another one of my author friends. I’ve sweetened up the tea and I’m pouring a glass for John Guzzardo. I feel a bit like Robin Roberts today (too much Good Morning America, I guess) only not nearly as skilled, and John was kind enough to patiently answer all of my questions. Here goes….
Hi John! Tell us a little about your work right now in the writing world.
Hello! It’s great to be here. Well, first and foremost, I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was in high school. My writing skills got charged up when I got to college and began working for my campus newspaper. That became the inspiration, years later, for a novel series in progress. I also host two blogs – one for general stuff and one for writers – and do some editorial writing for the website Examiner.com. I’ve already released two books, “A 38 Day Education” and “Paper Losses” through Solstice Publishing. My next work to be released “Change Rising” is in editing phase with Sarah Book Publishing.
How long did it take you get your first break with an actual publisher?
Well, I signed a contract with my agent in 2010 and get my first book deal in 2014 so, four years. Now, the next deal was a LOT quicker – about four months.
What’s been the toughest part to being an author for you?
Promoting, by far. While it’s not easy to write a novel or any book, promoting it is the most grueling, gut wrenching part of the work. You have to be willing to have a thick skin and, more importantly, be extremely patient.
What’s your method to writing a book?
I don’t really follow an outline, or practice the “stream of consciousness” style that many authors subscribe to. This is going to sound very odd, but I actually like to “speak out” my books. I would “act” the scenes out verbally (and yes, I would change voices for the sake of tracking the characters), and go from there. What I remember prominently sticks. I write scenes out, then stitch them together with transitional passages. It sounds a little jumpy, but it works.
Tell us a little about the novel series you’re writing.
The series is unofficially titled “The Scope,” mostly because it’s spread out across two publishers. Solstice contracted for the debut work, “A 38 Day Education,” while Sarah Book Publishing contracted for “Change Rising” and holds an option for next three books after that. The finale to “The Scope” is what I’m currently in the process of writing. The working title is “The Last Party” and it’s a political thriller about a presidential campaign. With the exception of the finale, all the books in this series are inspired by events which actually happened while I worked for my college newspaper.
How do you feel about the currently literary market?
It’s really a mixed bag. While there’s a lot of great titles from emerging authors out there, there’s also a lot of books from celebrities, pundits, and reality stars which really don’t bring any real value to the market except to make a fast buck, and even then it’s a crapshoot. Take Hillary Clinton, for example. “Hard Choices” turned into a serious flop, but the upside to that is that it has the Big 5 publishers taking a serious look at their current stable of work. A good housecleaning is necessary right now and, when it’s all said and done, a lot of great new writers out there will get their shot.
In your opinion, what are some keys to getting picked up by a publisher?
I’m not an authority by a longshot, but there are a few things I’ve learned. First, you have to be relentless; never, ever, ever give up, no matter how much you want to. Second, this has to be something you love doing. I have a day job, and I’m always wondering when I’ll get a chance to sit down and write. Also, always be reaching higher. Don’t ever settle for “good enough,” always improve! Next, don’t expect to be picked up by a publisher out of the gate; if you get a publisher saying you are the best thing since sliced bread after one submission, alarm bells should go off in your head! Most good authors have many rejections before getting their shot!
What’s your greatest fear as an author?
Really, I’ve faced almost all of them so, I would have to say that would be having to look myself in the mirror one day and say “well John, it’s been a great run, but it’s time to hang it up.” I really don’t have any major practical passions aside from writing. I love to be active, and writing is how I do it.
And your greatest dream?
As silly as it sounds, I would love to be a guest on Conan, just so my wife could meet him in person.
What would you tell a child who wants to write books?
First, I would smile, ear to ear! Writing is a lost art, and our schools put too much emphasis on logic and practical things, not enough on creativity. Next, I would tell that child to focus on their education, and write whatever they want in their free time. It doesn’t matter what; short stories, poetry, prose, sonnets, limericks, even silly jokes or comic strips. This will help them build their skills. I would tell them to make sure they let their parents read the work, but make sure their friends read it also and give them advice. Parents tend to protect their children from a career in the arts, usually because of their own experiences; real friends actually tell you if you have talent or not.
What about college students? What would you tell them?
This is not going to be popular, but I’d first say not to bother majoring in Creative Writing unless they plan to write scripts or plays, and definitely not in Mass Communications, mostly because that sort of writing is too formulaic. I would suggest majors in English, Literature, Sociology or History and companion minors in either Business, Psychology, Journalism or Technical Writing. The reason is simple – the major focuses on the creative and critical thinking sides of the spectrum, which are essential to the creative process, while the minor provides professional expertise to produce a quality, marketable product. And get involved in extracurricular activities; clubs, publications or athletics – all these provide great experiences to draw from for believable stories.
If you could meet one writer alive today, who would it be and why?
That’s a tough one. I would say Dave Barry because he’s just hilarious and I really would love to pick his brain for a few minutes.
Which celebrity would you love to hear reads your work and wants to meet you?
That’s tough, mostly because celebrity endorsements aren’t something I think about. I would say Simon Pegg (“Scotty” from the rebooted “Star Trek”), because he’s funny as hell. Also, Johnny Galecki from “The Big Bang Theory.” I’m a huge fan of that show.
Which people in this world do you most admire?
My father, bar none. He is working on his Masters Degree at St. Leo University, and he’s in his late 70s! He’s a great guy, tough as nails, but has a gentle side to him few ever see. I’m fortunate to be one of those few. I also admire Rev. Chris Shoemaker, a good friend of mine from college, because he’s a great conversationalist and wonderful counsel to me.
What would be your theme song for your writing?
“Where My Heart Will Take Me,” by Russell Watson. It was the theme to “Star Trek: Enterprise” and I absolutely love it; very inspirational and uplifting.
Any last thoughts before calling it a day?
Just that aspiring writers should work from the standpoint of what they do being a calling. Yes, writing can be a grind and there will be days you just want to quit, but those days should be few and far between. Build a strong support system of trusted friends who will help you when you need it, and give you a swift kick in the pants when it’s called for. Most important, always remain positive as much as possible, and be the “nice guy,” readers and publishers see this and it makes you very marketable, and you never know…that writer you offer advice or writing help to could be your best endorsement ever one day!
Thanks for you patience John as a waded through all those questions. You’re answers were truly insightful and I hope helpful for all of our readers.
To find out more about John, please visit my Porch Guests page. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!