A former producer with Wisconsin Public Radio, John Desjarlais teaches English at Kishwaukee College in northern Illinois. His first novel, The Throne of Tara (Crossway 1990, 2000), was a Christianity Today Readers Choice Award nominee, and his medieval crime novel Relics (Thomas Nelson 1993, 2009) was a Doubleday Book Club Selection.
Bleeder and Viper (Sophia Institute Press 2009 and forthcoming 2010, respectively) are the first two entries in a contemporary mystery series. A member of The Academy of American Poets and Mystery Writers of America, he is listed in Who's Who in Entertainment and Who’s Who Among America's Teachers.
John, Thank you for joining us today. It's exciting to interview such a prolific writer. With two books published, I'm eager to learn what you are working on next. Can you tell us about your latest books?
BLEEDER is a contemporary amateur-sleuth mystery where a stigmatic priest bleeds to death on Good Friday in front of horrified parishioners. A miracle? Or bloody murder? Aristotle professor Reed Stubblefield needs to find out, because police regard him as the prime ‘person of interest’ in the mysterious death. He applies Aristotle’s logic to get at the truth before he is arrested or killed by people who don’t want this mystery solved.
VIPER, the sequel due out this fall, features a minor character from BLEEDER as the protagonist. Latina insurance agent Selena De La Cruz learns that her name has been written in her parish church’s ‘Book of the Deceased’ on All Souls Day. The problem is, she’s not dead. But someone wants her to be.
These are interesting plots! I’m intrigued. How did you pick the genre you write in?
When I worked as a scriptwriter for a multimedia company in the 1980s, I produced a documentary on the history of Western Christianity and became fascinated by the Irish monastic movement. These artistic, scholarly monks saved civilization at a time when barbarians were burning their way through Europe. Saint Columba of Iona was especially interesting – a hot-headed warrior and poet with Second Sight who went to war over a disputed manuscript and, in remorse over the thousands slain, exiled himself among the Picts of Scotland where he dueled the druids, miracles versus magic. So his fictionalized biography, The Throne of Tara, was my first novel.
I learned about relics along the way and the rich trade in them (and battles over them) in the Middle Ages and that became the basis for book 2, Relics. I’d begun researching a third historical wherein Aristotle, the Father of Logic, would solve a crime. But I learned this had already been done (and well) by a British writer not long ago. So I fancied a classics professor who was familiar with Aristotle’s writing and who would apply Aristotelian logic to solving a crime that defied reason. That’s how BLEEDER began, a story of a stigmatic priest who bleeds to death on Good Friday. I always enjoyed reading mysteries and now I’m hooked on writing them.
It sounds like you enjoy the experience of researching topics and writing about them. Are there any parts of the writing process you find challenging?
You won't believe how many times you'll read your own book in the proofing process. You do want it to be perfect and avoid typos and such - but what tedious work.
Promotion and marketing are harder than writing the book, more time-consuming, and potentially a real hindrance to writing. 15 years ago, my publishers invested in my titles with advertising, solicitation of reviews and other things. We've all heard how little publishers are putting into marketing these days, backing only their top-sellers who don't need much publicity anyway. The business side of writing, the selling side, is a real challenge. There's always something you could be doing, and this can bite into the work you like most - writing.
How can my readers get in touch with you?
My email is email@example.com – my web site is JohnDesjarlais.com – I look forward to hearing from your readers. Thanks for the opportunity to talk with you.
It’s been a pleasure to host you and to learn more about your books. Thank you for sharing your writing with us.