Today we are talking to Book Country member John Franklin, whose book SIERRA OVERDRIVE is a June Editor’s Pick. Connect with John on Book Country, and read on to find out more about his book and how he’s using Book Country to write and revise a story that’s been thinking about for ten years.
Lucy Silag: How did you find out about Book Country? What made you want to be a part of the community?
John Franklin: I first heard about Book Country on National Public Radio. I’d had an idea for a novel that had been rattling around in my head for probably ten years. I decided that if I could write some of it out I could put it up on Book Country so people could read it. If it got good reviews I would keep working on it. If it got bad reviews I would at least be taking on a new challenge. I didn’t know if I had enough talent to write a story that people would want to read but I really wanted to try. Sometimes I’m still surprised I had the courage to put it out where people could read it. People I don’t even know!
JF: SIERRA OVERDRIVE begins with a group of Marines who are led by a charismatic colonel. He is convinced that America has lost its way and he wants to bring back the country of his fathers. The story catches my attention because it seems there are so many people in America today who are convinced the country is on the wrong track and they know what needs to be done. Yet all these people seem to have conflicting solutions.
LS: Tell us about how you are making your main character compelling and interesting for readers to get to know.
JF: The protagonist of the story is Julie Bravo, a park ranger who is independent, talented and driven. She is, like so many park rangers working in remote areas, self-sufficient and competent. When she is called upon to help, she naturally responds. There is never really a doubt that she will be involved, it’s her nature. I have given her a family and a backstory to make her real to me so I can understand what she will do in any situation. Almost none of that detail will be in the book but it helps me give her depth. We are all the result of our upbringing and things that effect us; Julie is no different. When people read about her I want them to feel like she is a real person they might want to get to know. Although there is a lot of action in the story, I want the personalities to make it interesting, otherwise I’m afraid it’s going to be like a Die Hard movie with lots of action but no one you can relate to. Julie is the one everyone will know the most about.
JF: My career is with the National Park Service and I’ve worked all over the country. It has given me such a wealth of experiences over the years. I’m also a pilot so the aviation related parts of the story should be pretty accurate. I’ve had to do some research on military weaponry and on the Korean war but really, not too much. Korean era military aircraft are still around and you can commonly walk right up to them when they are on display at some of the larger air shows around the country.
LS: What’s your writing routine like?
JF: My writing isn’t exactly done on a routine, but I do try to write or work on the book in some way every day. If I’m not writing, I’m mentally wrestling with a plot twist or something. When I write, I write to get it down. I get the idea or the chapter down while it’s fresh. Then, on a day when I sit down to write, if I find that I’m dry, I go back and clean up dialogue or descriptions so that they are clearer.
LS: Your writing is extremely detailed. Don’t you ever get confused? How do you stay so organized?
JF: I don’t think of my writing as detailed, to me it’s more like trying to create a picture in the mind of the reader. I try to describe an image or a situation that is clear. I want anyone to read what I’m writing and be able to get a sense of what is around the character at the moment. I feel like there should always be an image. Sometimes there is a lot of detail but other times I hope it’s only enough to allow readers to fill in the details with their imagination. Tony Hillerman once wrote that he almost never describes his main character’s physical characteristics so that readers can imagine themselves in the role.
Do I get confused sometimes when I’m writing? Sure I do. What saves me is when I go back after a few days and read it out loud. If I can’t make it sound smooth when I’m reading aloud then I know it needs reworking.
LS: When you imagine the readers of SIERRA OVERDRIVE, who do you see? Conversely, when you do hear from people reading your book, are you ever surprised at who your audience has turned out to be?
JF: I haven’t ever tried to analyze who might be most interested in my story. I think it would be someone who has interests somewhere between Tom Clancy’s techno thrillers and Edward Abbey’s desert musings. I wish I didn’t have to call it a military thriller, I’m afraid that will keep some people from being interested. It’s a little about military politics and it’s about desert resources and how the two come together in conflict. Mostly though, it’s about one park ranger who finds herself in a situation. How she deals with it and how the whole thing sweeps her up is the real story. However! It’s interesting that most of the reviewers I’ve had have been women, so maybe I’m worrying about something that really isn’t an issue after all.
Do you write Military or War Fiction? Share on Book Country, and let us know about your book!