Seven Questions with John W. Otte

Today we have the amazing John W. Otte with us! 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. John looks forward to telling even more strange tales that point people back to God and His incredible grace.

Please join me in welcoming John!

1) Everyone seems to have a “how I got published” story. What is yours?

Way back when, I had written a book about a teenage superhero. I went to the ACFW Conference that year and I had three goals: first, to pitch to Jeff Gerke (then publisher for Marcher Lord Press, now Enclave Publishing), second, to pitch to Amanda Luedeke, a literary agent, and third, to pitch to Steve Laube, then “just” a literary agent.

When I got to ACFW, pitching to Jeff proved to be really easy; because I had met him at past conferences, the two of us were roommates. We went out for lunch before the conference officially got started, got caught up with each other, and then I showed him the first few pages of my story. He said he was definitely interested and wanted to see the full manuscript.

When the conference got started, I learned that I had a pitch session with Steve but not with Amanda. Fortunately, another one of Amanda’s clients, the supremely talented Jill Williamson, had read my manuscript and endorsed it. She offered to introduce me to Amanda. Well, she not only introduced us to each other, she also wound up enthusiastically pitching my book for me! Amanda wound up asking to see the first few chapters of the manuscript.

Then I pitched the book to Steve. He seemed very interested and asked to see the full manuscript…if I could cut about a quarter of it.

So when I got home, I sent the manuscript to Jeff, I sent the chapters to Amanda, and I sat down and started hacking apart my poor manuscript so I could send it to Steve. But shortly after I got that done, Amanda offered to represent me, so I signed with her. And shortly after that, Jeff bought the story and thus, Failstate went to print.

In my case, it was definitely personal connections that got me published, and I only had those because I had gone to so many publishing conferences. I had attended more than a few (I don’t remember how many exactly) and I made a lot of the connections I needed. I guess if there’s a lesson to be learned, you have to just keep showing up.



2) What is the one author, living or dead, who you would like to co-write a book with someday and why?

Brandon Sanderson. Without a doubt. He’s one of my all-time favorites because his magic systems are so intricate and his stories are so epic. I think it would be fantastic to collaborate with him on something, partially because I’m sure I would learn so much.


3) If you could travel anywhere for book research (all expenses paid) where would you go and why?

I know this is pie-in-the-sky, but deep space. I just want to see what it would be like to travel out to distant planets and galaxies and such, but right now, it’s just a lot of somewhat educated guesswork. It would be a lot of fun to see how it all works.

4) Do you listen to music while you write? If so what are some examples?

Sometimes. It depends on where I am and if I have headphones. If I do listen to music, I tend to listen to soundtracks or other instrumental music. I read once (don’t ask me to cite sources, I don’t remember) that when you listen to music with lyrics, the language centers of your brain engage with the music and that distracts them from the job of writing. I don’t know if that’s true for everyone else, but it’s definitely true for me. My go-tos are Star Wars soundtracks, MCU soundtracks, and a band called Gothic Storm that I stumbled across on iTunes.


5) What is the last book you read?

The Story Peddler by Lindsey Franklin. Loved it! So very good. And right now, I’m reading Fawkes by Nadine Brandes. I don’t always read books written by friends of mine, but I love it when I can!


6) What is your favorite part about writing?

The “aha” moments when bits and pieces of the plot come together in unexpected ways. I recently had that happen with my current work-in-progress, a kind of mash-up between the book of Esther and Star Wars, and it really revitalized my writing. And I kind of have a lot of fun with the rewriting process too. First drafts can be painful for me, so I kind of like getting everything in order and ready for people to read.


7) How do you come up with your story ideas?

Lots of different ways. Sometimes, like with Numb, it was thinking of a character—in this case Crusader—and wondering what kind of adventures he’d have to go on. Sometimes it’s coming across a little nugget of information or factoid that starts my brain spinning out story ideas. For my current story that I’m working on, the story grew out of a throwaway example I shared with students during a talk.




John, thank you for visiting us today!

Here is where you can find him online:

And here is where you can find out more about his books:


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