John L. Thompson is a graphic designer and an author of long and short fiction in several genres including crime fiction, thriller, and sci-fi. He published two books in 2021: Monkey Wrench, the second novel in his crime fiction Truck Stop trilogy, and the nonfiction release It’s a Lonely World: An Indie Author’s Journey (Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them). Visit John on his website at JohnThompsonAuthor.com, on Facebook and Twitter, and on his Amazon author page.
What sparked the story idea for the Truck Stop trilogy?
Working as a diesel mechanic for the better part of thirty years, writing the story came naturally. I worked at a truck stop a couple decades ago that resembled an old western honky-tonk. The supervisors were trying hard to hang on to the dying age of Outlaw trucking. They wore all the western clothing, the custom boots, the whole shooting match. They reminded me of characters out of the 1973 film Walking Tall except they resembled the bad guys…a lot. They ran the place like mafia henchmen. It seemed natural to include that fun fact in the story line. I show the dark underbelly of a chain of truck stops. Mix in a mob group, a couple of down-on-their-luck diesel mechanics looking for lost mafia money, and finally a woman with a hidden agenda, and you’ve got a story.
What is your elevator pitch for Monkey Wrench?
George Olsen’s life is one big lie, and he is proving to be a problem in the WITSEC program. All he wants is his old life back, but then again, there’s that mob group wanting him dead. When he hears about an old flame moving to town, he takes a chance to step outside the protective boundaries set by the US Marshals, only to find that people are still looking for him.
Who are your main characters? Will those who know you recognize you in any of these characters?
The main character is George Olsen. He has many names within the story due to the fact he hates life in the WITSEC program. He botches living in one place only to find himself in another state under a new name. This habit eventually leads to further issues. As far as using real life people as characters in my story, I did in Truck Stop (book one), but I mixed character traits to make it impossible to tell who is who if the real-life person reads the story. Some of my friends caught on to this and were happy to see they were in my book.
Why did you choose New Mexico as a setting for the book?
Monkey Wrench continues after the events in Truck Stop. Choosing New Mexico as a setting was natural selection. I keep with the adage of writing what you know. It was easier to write about the places mentioned. Even though Monkey Wrench takes place in several states, New Mexico was obvious. Not only do I live here, I try to center all my stories within New Mexico.
What is the most challenging aspect of writing a series?
The challenging aspect of writing this series is trying to remember all the details, such as character traits and plots from one book to another. I had to go back over Truck Stop for details of the crime in question. In another instance, I had forgotten a character’s last name. You would be surprised how often a writer can forget the small things. Detail is critical.
Is there a scene in the book that you’d love to see play out in a movie?
Not so much in Monkey Wrench as I would Truck Stop. I envision a single scene in Monkey Wrench where the main character Olsen is thrown in jail after a bar brawl. His background check is a bit spotty, and he is detained because the local cops believe he might be hiding who he really is. He confesses who he is and the cops think he is bluffing. At least until Olsen’s handler in the US Marshals shows up to bail him out. It is a mix of comedy, and it shows just how serious a predicament Olsen is in if he ever leaves WITSEC.
What would you like readers to know about It’s a Lonely World?
Basically, the premise behind Lonely World is that Indie Publishing is a lonely project for just about anyone involved in the self-publishing world. Many people believe that authors write the book and that’s it. Few people realize these same authors wear many other hats. Not only do they write the books, most will design their own book covers, perform editing, learn the marketing angles, and finally try to sell a few books. Some authors are proficient at selling their books, but the fact is, the majority of Indie authors fail in selling their books. This is discouraging for many and some give up on the dream of being an author. Lonely World is kind of a motivational book for authors. Eventually, I’ll have to update the material, but it points out my own personal successes and failures.
What prompted the push to begin this project?
I started writing and publishing stories some fifteen to twenty years ago. I met many, many great writers within the Indie community who were just awesome people to talk with. Many encouraged newer authors to keep writing and trying to publish. Fast forward to present time, I find many of those authors no longer in the writing world. The reasons are numerous as to why. Some had passed away, some found the journey too damn difficult to balance with marriage and a 9-to-5 grind. Others just gave up chasing the dream of being an author. I wanted people to know that there are those out here who really want you, the writer, to succeed.
This is your first nonfiction release. What unique challenges did the work pose for you?
Actually, writing Lonely World was natural. I didn’t feel like there was any stress to writing it. I wanted to be open and honest, but not discourage people from wanting to be a successful writer. I wish for anyone wanting to be a writer to keep chasing the dream and never let go. I have seen people struggle for years to be a published writer and also become a success, so I know it can happen.
What was the expected, or unexpected, result of writing It’s a Lonely World?
The best feeling in the world is being told, “Hey, I bought your book, read it and liked it. I even continued writing when I was about to give up.” I can appreciate those kinds of compliments.
Who are your favorite authors? What do you admire most about their writing?
There are many to note, but off the top of my head, I admire Philip Jose Farmer, Barry Sadler, Ray Bradbury, Robin Moore, Dashiell Hammett, Carsten Stroud, Ian Fleming, and Philip K. Dick. The reasons are numerous but these authors are literary giants who left a huge footprint within their genres. I love to read their stories and have for decades now. They told stories that were worth reading and learning about character and world building that are believable and relatable.
What kinds of scenes do you find most difficult to write?
Romantic aspect. It is truly difficult to write a believable and relatable romantic perspective in any story line. At least for me, anyway. Most importantly, I don’t want to write scenes that are too graphic in nature. I must have balanced the romantic aspect well enough in Truck Stop. Everyone has said it is believable.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I have multiple stories in the oven. One book I’m working on that has my interest is a graphic novel, which will be completed sometime next year. I’m not going to spill the beans yet on title or subject. I have an agreement with the artist to withhold info until he gives me the green light. Let’s just say, the story is one awesome ride in the making. I’m also working on a sci-fi thriller titled Puzzle Man. It is a story that I have had on my mind, and on several computers, for the last ten years. It is going to be a “Rip Van Winkle” kind of story, and perhaps a little bit of my own personal story thrown in.
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.