Please join me in welcoming John Otte, one of the authors here at Enclave Publishing. John is a life-long writer. He started with badly drawn comic books in the fifth grade. When he realized that he was a lousy artist, he moved on to badly written novels in middle school. He’s tried his hand at screenplays (don’t ask), stage plays (a little better), fanfic, teen mysteries, and religious fiction. But his first love has always been speculative fiction.
His debut novel, Failstate, was published by Marcher Lord Press in April of 2012, and was a finalist for the Christy Awards in 2013. He has gone on to publish three more novels with Marcher Lord Press, one of which, Numb, was a finalist for the Christy Awards in 2014.
And now onto our interview!
1) Everyone seems to have a “how I got published” story. What is yours?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been writing. I produced badly drawn comic books when I was in elementary school. I wrote horrible novels when I was in junior high. I churned out tons of what can only be called sophomoric fan fiction in high school. The funny thing is, I always wanted everything that I wrote to be published.
But I didn’t get serious about getting published until I was in my mid-twenties. I had written a Christian science fiction trilogy that I was really proud of. Since I didn’t know the nuts and bolts of the publishing world, I joined American Christian Fiction Writers in the hope that they’d show me the way.
And they did, just not the way I expected. That sci fi trilogy? Still unpublished (and it may never be; it has issues). But thanks to ACFW, I was inspired to keep writing. I produced more manuscripts and eventually, at one conference, I was able to find both an agent (Amanda Luedeke) and a publishing home (Marcher Lord Press) for my debut novel, Failstate.
2) Tell us a little about your books.
So far, I have four published books and a fifth on the way. I have my Failstate trilogy, which follows the adventures of a teenage superhero and his rise to become an officially licensed vigilante.
My other two books, Numb and The Hive are space operas set in the future. The former is the story about an assassin who can’t feel pain or fear, but then, he’s ordered to kill the one person who is able to make him feel anything. He doesn’t want to murder her, but he also believes that if he doesn’t, he’ll be condemned for all eternity. So what does he do?
As for The Hive, well, more on that in a bit.
3) What is the one author, living or dead, who you would like to co-write a book with someday, and why?
Ah, man, do I have to pick just one? Okay, if I have to, then there’s only one person: Brandon Sanderson. Hands down. I was introduced to Sanderson’s writings by Jill Williamson and since then, I’ve pretty much devoured anything I can my hands on. I love the intricate world building that he does, and I think it would be a blast to write a story with him.
Of course, I don’t know how much I’d be able to contribute. If anything, I’d probably be a drag on the story. But it’d still be a blast to work with him.
4) What are your hopes for your future as an author?
You know, I have a lot of dreams as an author: to someday hit the bestseller list, to write something that will be adapted into a Hollywood movie (maybe something that fills Hall H at San Diego’s Comic Con?), that sort of thing. But I know those are dreams. My hope is that I can keep telling fun stories that entertain my readers and maybe give them some new thoughts to chew on.
5) What inspired you to write?
That is a really good question. The best way I can explain it is that I have a biological need to tell stories. I get these ideas that start rattling around in my head. Sometimes, those ideas go away. But other times, they start to gain momentum and size until I realize that I have to tell the story, if only to free up some space in my brain.
I think it also helped that I was a voracious reader when I was a kid. My family was the terror of our local library. We would show up with crates filled with books, all of which we had read. And then we’d check out another crate or two. There’s definitely a connection between reading and writing.
6) What can you tell us about any future releases you have planned?
I’ve got a new book releasing with Enclave Publishing in just a few weeks, and I’m really stoked for everyone to see it. People still say “stoked,” right?
The Hive is my “pregnant teenage cyborg” book. Zain is a teenage member of the Hive, a cyborg collective. One day, she is separated from the Hive and discovers that she’s pregnant. This makes no sense to her. She’s an engineering drone, not a breeder. So she sets out to find the person responsible for her condition, hoping that he’ll be able to get her home again. The problem is, powerful forces want her baby and so soon, she’s on the run.
7) Star Wars or Star Trek?
This is kind of wishy-washy, but I’m going to say both. I know they’re both uber-popular and there’s a lot of supposedly bad blood between the two fandoms. But it’s really an apples/oranges type of comparison. Star Trek is space opera with a toe in the science fiction camp. Star Wars is more space fantasy.
I’ve been a major fan of both at various times. When I was in high school and college, I read dozens of Star Trek novels and even tried writing some. Several years ago, I read a lot of Star Wars novels and I’d still like to write one of those someday. It just depends on what kind of a mood I’m in.
8) Favorite place to vacation?
I haven’t been on many family vacations, but one of my absolute favorites was going to Australia with my wife a year after we had gotten married. We had a lot of fun on that trip and we said afterwards that someday we’d go back.
But I’m also looking forward to two trips in the future. When we were in Australia, we met a father and son from America. Apparently they had a tradition where the two of them would go on these big trips, and they had been to just about every continent except for Antarctica. I decided that, when my boys are old enough, they’ll each get to plan a big trip that we’ll go on, just the two of us, when they’re sixteen.
9) Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like cocoa, raspberry tea, chocolate?
My poison of choice is Coke. That’s not just for writing, it’s for life in general. But I usually will have a can or bottle sitting next to me while I’m writing.
10) Favorite color?
Purple, and that’s not just because I’m a long-suffering fan of the Minnesota Vikings.
11) Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Waaaaaay too many to list here, and I usually like chunks of verses instead of just one. But two of my absolute favorites are Romans 8:28-39 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-58. The reminder that I can never be separated from the love of God is helpful, and I just love to remind myself of the coming resurrection.
12) Do you listen to music while you write? If so what are some examples?
I do, but I make sure to limit my choices. I read an article once that said that it’s a bad idea to write while listening to music that has lyrics. The part of your brain that deals with language will engage with the music instead of the story you’re trying to write. So I’ll listen to soundtracks or other music that doesn’t have words to it.
So here’s some of what I listen to: there’s a guy named Erock on YouTube who does heavy metal covers of different songs. I have a bunch of those to listen to. I also listen to an Epic Soundtrack playlist on Spotify that I learned about from Brandon Sanderson. Those sorts of things.
13) Does anyone else in your family have musical/writing/artistic skills?
Well, my brother and brother-in-law have both tried their hand at writing. And I come from a very musical family. My dad studied organ in college and is very talented, and my siblings and I used to play in a brass quartet in worship from time to time.
In my immediate family, my older son is turning into quite the artist. He’s just blossomed lately with his free-hand drawing. It’s a lot of fun to watch him get to work, creating his own stories and comic books. He’s written close to a dozen of them at this point.
14) How would you like to be remembered?
As a faithful servant. I mean, it’d be nice to be remembered as a teller of enthralling tales, but fame can be fleeting. So I’d be happy to just be remembered as someone who lived out his faith.
15) Who would you most like to thank for their involvement in your writing career?
Two people in particular: Amanda Luedeke and Jeff Gerke. Both of them took a chance on me and I am so grateful that they did. I hope they never regret it.