John Inman is a Lambda Literary Award finalist and the author of over thirty novels, everything from outrageous comedies to tales of ghosts and monsters and heart stopping romances.
John has been writing fiction since he was old enough to hold a pencil. He and his partner live in beautiful San Diego, California. Together, they share a passion for theater, books, hiking and biking along the trails and canyons of San Diego or, if the mood strikes, simply kicking back with a beer and a movie.
John’s advice for anyone who wishes to be a writer? “Set time aside to write every day and do it. Don’t be afraid to share what you’ve written. Feedback is important. When a rejection slip comes in, just tear it up and try again. Keep mailing stuff out. Keep writing and rewriting and then rewrite one more time. Every minute of the struggle is worth it in the end, so don’t give up. Ever.”
Tell us about yourself
Worst question ever. Okay, let’s see. I’m a shy, neurotic, happily married, aging, ex-hairstylist who is finally living the dream he’s had since he was a kid. To be a writer. The fact that I get paid for it actually surpasses my dream. Even I didn’t expect that. I have about 25 novels published, with 5 more to be dribbled out to the public over the next 16 months or so. The biggest break of my entire life came one morning at the crack of dawn about seven years ago when I was sitting bleary-eyed, sipping coffee, and scouring the internet looking for a publisher to submit a novel to and up popped Dreamspinner Press on my computer screen. It was insta-love. On my part anyway. (Thanks to the “neurotic” part of this bio, they’ve probably had a few second thoughts now and then.) Anyway, not a day passes that I don’t thank my lucky stars that DSP accepted me into their fold, and I’ve written exclusively for them ever since. And there you have it. That’s me.
How do you start your day
I get up at 5:00 or 5:30, stumble straight to the computer after making a pot of coffee, check my emails, peruse Facebook, sneak a peak at a couple of dirty pictures while nobody’s looking, throw the cat off my lap, dig up my work in progress, fiddle a little with what I wrote the day before, throw the cat off my lap again, start pouring coffee down my throat and begin writing. I write until about 9:00, then I jump in the shower and start the other part of my life. The normal part. But all the time I’m doing the normal part, I’m thinking about the writing part. Oh, did I mention I’m retired from actual work? No evil day job to drag myself to. There are a few perks to being old. Not many, but a few.
Morning or nite person?
I’m a morning person. Always have been. Get up early, go to bed around ten. Boring, I know.
What would you like to do if you didn’t write?
Few things interest me as much as writing, although I must say, if I was smart enough and if I had the education needed, I would love to be an archeologist, digging around remote places, unearthing skulls, and weird stone tools and trying to piece together the lives of prehistoric people. How they interacted with each other, how they foraged for food, what their lives were like around the hearth, how they hunted, how they raised their children, everything about them. Wouldn’t that be interesting?
Where would you like to live?
I’m lucky. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather live than where I live right now. Beautiful San Diego, California. There’s a reason I place almost all of my stories in this city. It’s because I love it. Mountains, ocean, desert, this neck of Southern California has everything. It also has the best climate in the world. And when people say “beautiful San Diego”, it’s not just a mindless compliment. It’s true. San Diego truly is one of the loveliest cities I’ve ever seen. Having said all that, I also wouldn’t mind having a little apartment in Manhattan to run to every now and again. Love New York City.
Ever think of quitting writing? And what makes you keep doing it?
A hurtful review might make me think for two minutes about not writing anymore, but the feeling passes. The truth is, there’s nothing I love more than writing (and reading). It isn’t really even a matter of choice for me. I’ve been writing my whole life. I swear, even in grade school I was cranking out stories. And the fact that I never sold anything I wrote until I hit sixty (and it wasn’t for lack of trying) pretty much shows that even a chronic infusion of rejection slips for decades and decades couldn’t kill my love for writing.
If you started over, what would you do differently?
Not much. I made a lot of stupid mistakes in my younger years, but I feel certain those mistakes help me now in my writing. I can draw on them. Draw on what I learned. Regret is a marvelous teacher. I understand things now I never gave a second thought to when I was young. I understand remorse. I understand the need for humility. I understand the hope and promise to be found in second chances. A writer needs to know these things. And to know them, I think he needs to have lived them. The more fucked up you are in your youth, the wiser you are in your old age. Haha. That’s my theory anyway.
What is your writing process?
Once I have an idea for the novel I want to write, I first create the main character. I add to him piece by piece until I feel I know him. When I’m writing a romance, I do this for the second main character as well. The love interest. It’s only after I know them both completely that I feel I can put them into believable situations. Once the MC’s are fleshed out and I can see them as real people, then I just start writing. The story unfolds as I go along. I usually have a general idea for a plot, but nothing concrete. I just let the writing go where it wants to go. I write 2 or 3 pages every morning, coaxing the story along, maybe goosing it now and then into a slightly new direction if I feel it’s getting off track. I keep index cards with me everywhere I go. When I think of something I jot it down. I also walk miles and miles every day. Some of my best ideas come to me when I walk. Ideas also come to me in my sleep. I wake up with them fully formed inside my head, just waiting to be written down. This morning I woke up with the last line of my new book right there. I still have half a book to write before I’ll need it, but when I finally get to the last page, the last sentence will be there waiting for me.
What is most challenging about writing and publishing?
With writing, staying focussed can be hard. Getting in a groove and writing every single day can be hard too. I manage it pretty well now that I’m retired. The books I wrote in 9 or 10 months back when I was working, I can crank out now in 3 or 4. Less distraction is the best part of being retired. Being happily married is a major bonus too. There’s less angst to destroy your concentration. Less worrying about money or loneliness to take your mind off your story. If you’re REAL lucky, you might even find a mate who enjoys reading what you write, then you can coerce them into proofreading for you.
As for publishing, I don’t think about it. I have Dreamspinner Press for that. I trust them completely to do whatever needs to be done to make my books as good as they can be and to market them so they can sell as many as possible. And they really are incredibly good at what they do. My senior editor, Andi, is especially terrific. The DSP staff, from the bosses on down, are considerate, kind, patient, and just plain nice. Writing for DSP really is like being part of a family. As I said earlier, finding them and being accepted by them, is the best thing that ever happened to me.
What comes first, the story or the title
Good question. Sometimes a title pops into my head before I’ve written a word and just by the power of that title I can formulate an entire plot around it. Other times the story comes first and while I’m writing it I go through fifty titles trying to find one I like. I’ve even completely finished books while I’m still floundering around for a title. So you never know. Sometimes titles are easy and sometimes they drive you crazy. They are a lot like blurbs that way. And oh God, don’t get me started on blurbs.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a romance with a shy, sad librarian who has somehow misplaced his ability to have fun. Then he meets a handsome, young kindergarten teacher who slowly brings him back to joy. I’m having fun with the sweet, slow romance in this one. The kicker to the story, and I’m almost there now in the writing, will be when the teacher loses his own joy after a shooter targets his school and his students. Shades of too many of today’s headlines, I know. For a while, it will be doubtful if even the man he has changed can bring the young schoolteacher back. But it’s a romance, don’t forget. Happiness always wins. Good thing too. I hate sad endings. The title of this one (so far at least) is LAUGH CRY REPEAT.
Plans for the future?
My plans for the future are to do exactly what I’m doing now. Write. It’s as simple as that. As long as there are people out there who still want to read my stories, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than share them.
And speaking of sharing, while I have a chance I want to thank everyone at Divine Magazine for having me here. It’s a real honor to be your Author of the Month.
Ben and Shiloh
A Belladonna Arms Novel
Shiloh Smart is alone and looking for a fresh start. Convinced he’s finished with love forever, he signs a lease at the Belladonna Arms, a tacky, run-down apartment building situated high on a hill in downtown San Diego.
Determined to turn his back on romance, Shiloh works hard at carving out a life for himself where love doesn’t stand a chance and staying single is all that matters.
Then his drag queen landlord’s nephew, Ben Moss, moves in. Thanks to a rumor Ben has heard since childhood of a fifty-year-old crime and a fortune in stolen money, he sets out to find the loot supposedly hidden decades ago in his uncle’s apartment building.
The minute Ben spots a kilted Shiloh toddling off to work at the Scottish restaurant up the street where he waits tables, he falls hard and fast for the aloof young redhead. Even a hidden treasure can’t compete in Ben’s eyes with the beautiful waiter with the fiery copper hair.
But even while he diligently works to break down Shiloh’s defenses, Ben doesn’t give up his quest for buried treasure. Soon, as their friendship deepens, the two young men join forces in a search for the stolen cash.
As the treasure hunt gathers steam and all the tenants get involved, Ben and Shiloh come to realize the greatest treasure isn’t buried in the Belladonna Arms at all. It’s buried far deeper—in each other’s hearts!
Excerpt from Ben And Shiloh
The rattletrap neon sign atop the century-old structure said it all. Over and over, the sign flashed the words Belladonna Arms, carving a stuttering orange tattoo across the San Diego skyline. The letter B, tilted and slightly askew from the other letters, flashed off and on at a different rhythm from the rest, as if about to flicker out or abandon its mates altogether and head off for greener pastures somewhere else.
The run-down six-story building beneath the sign was perched high on a hill overlooking the shimmering city streets below. Those streets were ablaze with the unwavering linear glow of streetlights and the constantly moving headlights of a thousand automobiles tooling this way and that, surging, blending, shooting off here and there like fireworks. The twinkling diamond lights splayed out at the building’s feet like a crystalline skirt of fire spread gracefully about the knees of a crouching goddess, only the goddess had most assuredly seen better days.
Beyond the grid of city lights encircling the Belladonna Arms, the lights of the San Diego Bay could be seen less than a mile to the south, with ships and sailboats gliding to and fro and the long, graceful arch of the Coronado Bridge connecting the city to the peninsula beyond. And past the peninsula, past the neighboring city of Coronado, there was nothing but the vast empty blackness of the grand Pacific Ocean, with a spattering of stars shining down to cast an occasional spark of light onto the surging swells below.
Over it all, high in the sky, an October moon gleamed fat and round and proud, surveying its earthly realm and the measly lives of the inhabitants below.
Like mine. My life is pretty darn measly.
My name is Shiloh Smart, and no, you’re not seeing things. I am indeed wearing a kilt.
I’m twenty-two, stand about five feet seven, weigh in at about 145, have red hair and freckles, and I work as a waiter in a Scottish restaurant downtown—thus the kilt. I’m not Scottish, by the way. My employers just thought I looked the part because of the red hair and freckles. I tend to turn heads when I walk down the street in this stupid kilt, but I doubt if it’s because I’m handsome or anything. I think it has more to do with my pale fuzzy knees and the oddity of seeing a guy in Southern California wearing a skirt. I mean, there are a lot of guys running around in skirts, but they are drag queens, so that doesn’t count. I’m not a drag queen. I’m just a redheaded guy pretending to be Scottish so I can work in a Scottish restaurant where they make me wear a kilt.
By the way, I’m not suntanned like every other guy in Southern California, because I’m a redhead. Redheads don’t tan; they burn. And peel. And freckle. One of God’s little pranks, I suppose. What a card.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. Me. I’ve been working at The Twisted Kilt for about a year now. Tips are good, so I don’t do too badly. I save money by not driving. Someday I’ll find a job that pays a decent wage. When that day comes along, I’ll buy a car. Until then, I’ll scuttle around town on the bus. Or walk. No problem.
Being gay—oh, did I mention I’m gay? No? Well, I am—umm, now I’ve lost my train of thought again. Oh yeah, I remember. Being gay is kind of hard for a guy like me. I hate the forced camaraderie of bars, especially gay bars, and I’m not much of a drinker anyway. I prefer reading to movies, silence to talking, eating in to eating out, and being alone to being in love. I’ve been in love a couple of times, in case you’re wondering, and those two times were enough to convince me not to shoot for it again. The beginning of love is such a rush, such a joy. But the ending of love is like a knife to the heart. Every single time.
Being stabbed twice in the heart is plenty. That’s why I’ve decided to avoid the inevitable mutilation of another love affair. Not that I’m planning to be a monk for the rest of my days, mind you. A man has needs. But the whole romance thing is off the table. Definitely. (Unless, of course, the right man comes along, in which case all bets are off. Nothing is carved in stone, right?)
Where to find John Inman
My email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/john.inman.79