I met author John R Monteith through his wife Aida, a dear childhood friend of mine. Knowing our love for books and writing, she introduced us years ago and since then, John and I’ve had several conversations with him about the art of prolific writing. We’ve both authored 12 books, and he’s now ready to publish his 13th book.
Last week I invited John to come on my TV show for several reasons. Aside from being supportive of my work, and this being an opportunity to reconnect with his lovely wife, he is a highly accomplished author and has good literary advice to share. He also has a fascinating story. John graduated from the Naval Academy in 1991 and his career in the U.S. Navy included service abroad a nuclear ballistic missile submarine and a tour as a top-rated instructor of combat tactics at the U.S. Naval Submarine School.
A few years ago, I interviewed John about his work, when he was only on his seventh book of the award-winning and bestselling Rogue Submarine series. His newest book, Prophecy of Ashes: A Supernatural Occult Thriller, is a thriller that blends supernatural, metaphysical, and paranormal elements. The main character, Diana, was inspired by his stepdaughter Christina Salem, a beautiful and educated young woman who does Tarot Cards (I’m having her on my TV show in a couple of weeks and I can’t wait for her to do a reading for me!)
Prophecy of Ashes is different than Monteith’s other books, but given the reviews he received so far, it looks like his readers are impressed with his storytelling abilities, regardless of genre. I’m reposting John’s older interview in this blog post, focusing on his Rogue Submarine series, because it’s really inspirational and motivational for emerging writers. And I encourage you to watch the recent half-hour interview as it shows how commitment and discipline can help you grow within a matter of a few years.
WN: How did you start your writing career?
MONTEITH: It was all a matter of self-expression. It was never a business decision. I was going through a very dark time, had a lot of issues to deal with and feeling lost and angry. I didn’t want to yell at people, so I yelled at the paper. My main character, Jake Slate, a naval officer, was very angry. He wants to understand his anger and get over it. He has a drinking problem and his wife tries to introduce him to religion while he tries to figure out where he fits in as someone who kills people.
WN: Was writing therapeutic for you?
MONTEITH: Psychologists say to figure out what’s bothering you and write it down. I picture Jake Slate as me, the invincible invisible me. He is ten years younger than me. Then there’s the international arms dealer, Pierre Renard, and he’s ten years older than me. He’s part of the therapy too. He has a heart, but he just can’t stop manipulating people.
WN: What was the writing and publishing process like for you?
MONTEITH: I started writing the first novel in 1996. It took nine years until it was published. I lost count of the number of revisions it went through. I realized later that I needed that time to learn to write. I had two mentors and I took a class and a few workshops in creative writing. I also read a lot of books.
I was very disappointed when it came to publishing the book. I approached over 120 agents. Two offered to read the manuscript and nothing came of that. I figured this is a dead end. It’s self-destruction. Still, I started writing the next book because I couldn’t help it. I wrote the first draft to that book in two months, and I felt that at least those years of writing were an investment in learning the craft. Now I know how to do it.
I went on to write the third book. But I hated losing money and not getting published. In 2005, I had decided to publish with Author House. In 2007, my second book was published by iUniverse. I went that route just so I could see my books in hard copy, but they were money losers.
WN: What did this do for your writing career?
MONTEITH: Well, one day I called a friend of mine, an author, for a blurb for my book, and he asked, “How are you publishing this book?” When I told him, he said, “No, no, you’re doing it all wrong. Nowadays it’s all about Kindle and eBooks.
He told me how much he was making and I was surprised. At that point, I changed the title of my first book, to make them all alphabetical, and published them as eBooks in 2010. I did this for the rest of my books as I continued writing the series.
WN: You’re a full-time engineer, working ten to eleven hours a day. How do you find time to write so many books?
MONTEITH: I write nights and weekends. I’m married, but I don’t have any kids, and that allows me for the extra time. I’ve done this enough times to know how to fill out an entire manuscript. I can just start writing and know what direction it will take. I don’t start writing until I have a story arch. The skeleton is already there. I already have an idea for book eight. I’m going to take the Rogue Submarine book series as far as I can.
WN: What advice would you give writers?
MONTEITH: Make sure you do it because you have a burning desire to express yourself. Don’t do it for money and to be famous, because there’s much better ways to do that.
John will be presenting a workshop on “Writing Adventurous Fiction” for Detroit Working Writers’ upcoming conference. For more information, visit http://www.detworkingwriters.org/conference/