Wednesday, December 7, 2011

John M. Daniel's Redwood Door

Come in, friends! John Daniel and I are Behind The Redwood Door, waiting for you. John has worked as a bookseller, a free-lance writer, an editor, an entertainer, a model, an innkeeper, and a teacher. He and his wife, Susan, live in Humboldt County, California, where they are small-press book publishers. Susan enjoys gardening, John enjoys writing, and they both enjoy living with their wondercat, Warren. 

John, I'm delighted to have you here this morning to talk about your latest book, Behind The Redwood Door.

Thanks so much for inviting me to your distinguished blog, Susan. I feel honored!

Tell us something about yourself that readers might be surprised to learn.

People may be interested to know that in addition to writing mysteries, I am also a publisher of mysteries, under the imprint Perseverance Press. So I’ve seen all aspects of this game.

How many books have you written?

Yikes! I’ve written 29 books. Eight of them never got published, thank goodness. Seven of them were ghost-written for other people.  I published a few of them myself. But I’m proud of them all.

Wow! What books or authors have influenced you?

I still can’t get The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which was the first book I read by myself, out of my mind. It made me want to be a reader, and I’ve reread that book at least a dozen times over the years. But I thank Richard Bissell for making me want to be a writer. He is (was, because he’s been dead quite a while now) my favorite novelist.

What has been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?

When my first Guy Mallon mystery, The Poet’s Funeral, was published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2005, it got a STARRED REVIEW in Publishers Weekly. This meant the world to me, because my book was a loving satire of the publishing industry, and I knew the review (and maybe even the book) would be read by my colleagues in the business.

However, let me say this: the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had as a writer is the process of writing itself. The joy of writing story beats all the reviews.

I agree, John.
Tell us about your latest release, Behind the Redwood Door.

As I write this, Behind the Redwood Door hasn’t come out yet, but it will be published November 20, just in time for my birthday. It’s the third Guy Mallon mystery. It takes place on the North Coast of far-northern California, redwood country, where I have lived for the past eight years. Guy’s no longer a publisher, but he still can’t stop getting into trouble. He stands five feet tall, but he stands up tall against bullies. In this book his foolhardy courage almost costs him his life.

Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

It will be a print book, paperback at $14.95. It will also exist in ebook form and will be available in Kindle format.

Were any of your books more challenging to write than the others?

My second Guy Mallon book, Vanity Fire, presented a huge challenge because I dealt with the dark side of publishing. I went into a black mood as I wrote that book, because I knew how sadly true some of it was. However, I got through it, and I’m proud of the book. Another book that gave me fits was my ebook, Elephant Lake. It dealt with an eight-year-old boy’s problems sorting out the serious problems of his mother’s alcoholism and his uncle’s suicide. Believe it or not, the book has its lighter moments, though.

What are some of the problems you faced while plotting a series with ongoing characters?

Well, it’s hard to believe that a mild-mannered amateur sleuth like my pint-sized hero, Guy Mallon, would always get himself into a pickle with hardened criminals. At the end of Behind the Redwood Door Guy promises his wife that he’ll stay out of trouble from now on. Will he? We’ll see.

How do you develop characters?

No matter how hard I try to tell them what to do or what to say, they always seem to have a mind of their own.

So true, John, and I love that, don't you?
How do you choose your setting?

I write about places I’ve been. Most of my books take place on the California coast, my stomping grounds.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?

Guy was called a “flawed” protagonist in reviews of Vanity Fair. His flaw was to succumb to dishonesty. That will never happen again, at least in my books. Otherwise his flaws are a sassy courage and a feisty manner shared by many short people (think Mickey Rooney, think Danny DeVito). His strengths? He has the tenacity of a bulldog and the wit of a class clown.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

 I’ve been blog-hopping a lot lately, as publication date draws nigh. I maintain a blog of my own, too, and I’m on Facebook. I’ve sent out a lot of advance reading copies to mystery media. (We maintain a good list of them for promoting Perseverance Press.) When the book comes out I’ll be sending out review copies and press kits. But I expect my most effective sales campaign will be emailing my own list of friends, family, and hundreds of colleagues in the writing and publishing worlds. I also teach creative writing, so I have a giant list of former students.

Can you tell us about current or future projects?

Just a there are always more books to read than I have time to read them, I have more plans for books to write than I’ll be able to finish in my lifetime, and the idea bank keeps getting fuller and fuller. All I can say is this: I’ll always be writing, and whatever I’m working on at any moment will be the place my spirit is living.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

The new book, Behind the Redwood Door will be published by Oak Tree Press:

Here are my contact spots:

my website:                             

my amazon author page:

and facebook:

John M. Daniel was born in Minnesota, raised in Texas, and educated in Massachusetts and California.  He was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford University and a Writer in Residence at Wilbur Hot Springs. He has taught fiction writing at UCLA Extension and Santa Barbara Adult Education and was on the faculty of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference for nearly twenty years.  He now teaches creative writing for Humboldt State University Extended Education.

John’s stories have appeared in dozens of literary magazines. His thirteen published books include four mysteries: Play Melancholy Baby, The Poet’s Funeral, Vanity Fire, and Behind the Redwood Door, recently published by Oak Tree Press.



Jean Henry Mead said...

Great interview, John and Susan. I look forward to reading BEHIND THE REDWOOD DOOR.

James Callan said...

Another good interview. I'm learning a lot about you AND Guy. Always good to have some flaws in your protagonist - but not too many on the dishonest side. Even though many people read John Locke, I have trouble with his protagonist who is basically a bad person with a few saving graces. I like it better with basically a good person with a few bad traits. Good interview.

john M. Daniel said...

Thanks, Jean. Thanks, James. Guy fell into a trap and temporarily lost his conscience in VANITY FIRE. He redeemed himself by the end of the book, but that book was the hardest one I've ever written.

Susan Whitfield said...

Jean, thanks for visiting. Please drop by again. James, thanks for the kind remarks. John, I don't know why you ended up sideways, but I can't seem to straighten you out!

john M. Daniel said...

Susan, I don't mind being on my side. I can use a good rest every now and then. Thanks for having me on your show!

Jackie King said...

Great interview! I was another child who was enchanged by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In fact, I read a couple of other Oz books in my early 20s and loved those, too. I had friends who rolled their eyes, but I just pretended they had some sort of optical problem.

I'm so looking forward to reading BEHIND THE REDWOOD DOOR.

Susan, I joined your blog today because of John Daniel.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Are you following me, John? Kidding aside, I love reading your posts and finding out more about your and your protagonist.

john M. Daniel said...

Thanks to all you good, good friends who stopped by and left your footprints on this page. I feel blessed. And Susan, thank you again for giving me the time and space on your blog today. It's been an honor and a pleasure!

Susan Whitfield said...

My pleasure, John.

Anne K. Albert said...

Hi Susan, I'm also a new follower and looking forward to more posts and interviews!

John, I'm looking forward to the e-copy release of Behind the Redwood Door!

Susan Whitfield said...

Thanks for following, Anne. I hope you enjoy learning more about authors around the world. I'm having a blast.

Jackie King said...

Susan, I suspect that the only person who could "straighten John out," would be his lovely wife, Susan. :-)

Jonathan Wilhoit said...

Another great interview, Susan. Thanks for bringing John to my attention. His work sounds very interesting!

Susan Whitfield said...

Jonathan, that's what this blog is all about...connecting authors and readers. Thanks so much to all of you who visited. Please come again.