Author Interview: John Coon

John Coon Author Photo

First off, tell me about yourself?
I am a sports reporter based in Salt Lake City. I cover NBA basketball, college sports, and Olympic sports. I’ve worked in this profession since graduating from the University of Utah in 2004. I’ve had my share of incredible moments while writing about sports. I’ve done everything from raced in a race car at 160 miles per hour to sail the Great Salt Lake as part of my day job.

Why did you want to become a writer?
Writing is the perfect outlet for my creativity. I’ve had an active and vivid imagination ever since I was a little kid. I just love visualizing characters and stories. It’s so fun to imagine what could happen if you encountered an alien or discovered a monster or dealt with some other out-of-this-world situation. Since I struggled with poor health as a child, it also served as an escape from those issues.

I actually took my first stab at writing a book when I was 12 years old. I  pulled out an old manual typewriter in my parents’ house and started typing a series of humorous stories involving mischievous kittens. These feline characters were based on pet cats that our family owned at the time.

I tinkered with those stories over a few years and completed nine of them by the time I graduated from high school.  During the summer before I headed off to college, I wrote a rough draft for a 400-page science fiction novel. I plan to edit and publish both projects at a future date.  

There are so many possible stories you can tell when you write. I absolutely love it! It’s so much fun to explore new characters and new worlds and then turn around and share them with the rest of the world.

What can you tell me about Pandora Reborn?
Pandora Reborn is a YA novel that blends the horror, paranormal, and fantasy genres.  It centers on Ron Olson, a teenager who is uprooted from his father, friends and old club soccer team following his parents’ divorce. Ron is a reluctant newcomer to Deer Falls, a rural Colorado town. Adjusting to life in Deer Falls takes a frightening turn when a malevolent witch is foolishly released from a chest that once imprisoned her. Ron is soon drawn into a battle with this ancient and powerful evil when mysterious deaths crop up around Deer Falls. Along with some new friends, he must find a way to stop her from unleashing terror and death upon the town.

This story that first took shape more than 20 years ago when I was still in high school. I created several main characters and the basic plot at the time after being inspired by some local folklore in my hometown of Kamas. There’s a popular legend there about the lost Rhoades Mine. Thomas Rhoads, a Mormon pioneer, had a sacred gold mine in the Uinta Mountains shown to him by Ute leader Chief Walkara Rhoads was allowed to extract gold for the sole purpose of financing construction of the Salt Lake Temple. No one  else was permitted to know the mine’s location except Rhoads and he only gained access to it after promising to use the gold exclusively to help temple construction efforts.

Many people reportedly died in the Uinta Mountains over the years while attempting to track down the lost Rhoades mine. Their deaths led to legends of a lingering curse on the mine. Learning the story sparked a question in my mind: what could make a mine cursed? An idea came to me of an ancient chest with an evil witch bound inside. What would she do if someone was foolish enough to open it and let her out? As the idea took shape, I also drew on some elements of Pandora’s box in Greek mythology and the Jewish legend of the dybbuk box to flesh it out.

How was it received?
Honestly, I’ve been blown away by how much people have enjoyed the book. More than 90 percent of the reviews on Amazon have awarded it five stars. More than 80 percent of the readers on Goodreads have given it either five stars or four stars. I’ve had people tag me on social media to let me know they bought a copy and thought it was an excellent story.

A common theme among these positive reviews is that they love the visual writing style I employ, the strong and realistic characters, the clever and believable dialogue and the great suspense. I’ve had many people tell me that they read the entire novel in a single night. They just couldn’t put it down once they started to reading. I recently had one reviewer who compared my story favorably to the work of notable horror authors Stephen King and Charles L Grant. Honestly, it’s so flattering that I’ve created a story that so many people truly love reading.

Now it’s published would you do anything different or change anything?
One thing I wished I had done differently before publishing Pandora Reborn is taking time to build up my author platform on social media ahead of my novel’s release. I have a decent social media following and some name recognition for my work as a sports reporter. That circle doesn’t necessarily intersect with book lovers. In fact, many of my social media followers don’t read fiction or don’t read books altogether.

It’s been an eye opening experience to see just how tough it can be to get your name out there. Being an indie author is a little like being a single snowflake in a winter storm. Sure, your story might be unique and compelling and high quality. But when there’s a ton of other new books out there competing for attention, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd like a single snowflake blends into a blanket of snow.

I learned my lessons and it has shaped the marketing approach I will take for my work in progress, once it is finished.

What attracted you to the genre?
I love scary stories. What makes it even better is when it is rooted in actual tangible fears we face in real life. There’s zero chance you’ll get attacked by a marauding zombie or a sexy vampire in the real world. The best horror stories figure out how to create an antagonist that embodies real fears in such a way that the reader will want to keep the lights on all night long after they’ve read the final page.

Having said that, my fiction going forward is not rooted exclusively in the horror genre. My focus is on writing stories that are driven by characters rather than forcing characters to fit a designated story line. If you encountered Ron, my protagonist in Pandora Reborn, at a different point in his life, the circumstances in his life might lead to a story that is a better fit in a different genre, like comedy or romance. Readers who have read and enjoyed Pandora Reborn can expect to see stories from me down the road that fit into other genres such as science fiction, adventure, or humor. They will also see some stories that blend multiple genres into a cohesive whole.  

Tell me about your publishing journey?
People are blown away when I tell them that Pandora Reborn was kicking around inside my head for 20 years before I finally wrote it down and published it. And it’s not the only story where that’s the case. I have dozen of pages filled with plot summaries, character sketches, scene descriptions, random dialogue, backstories, and other material for dozens of stories yet to be completed.

I had rough drafts that I started or completed over the years. Most were short stories, although I did complete a full-length sci-fi novel and a collection of children’s stories about cats like I mentioned earlier. I submitted short stories to random magazines here and there without much success.

I finally decided to push forward and complete Pandora Reborn in 2017. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do at times, since I had to balance writing my novel with covering NBA games and college basketball games.  Once I had a complete, polished manuscript, I decided to go the independent publishing route. Traditional publishers typically only consider works from an author who has an agent, but most agents want you to be a published author first. It’s a bit of a catch-22 for a new author. Independent publishing gave me control and allowed me to cut out the middleman, so to speak, in getting my book out there.

Have you written anything else and where can potential readers find it?
Pandora Reborn is my debut novel, but I am hard at work on my second novel right now. It is a science fiction story that centers on four Louisiana college students who break down near an isolated Texas town during a spring break road trip. This quartet quickly becomes entangled in some sinister events unfolding within the town that affects the town residents and puts their lives in danger.

I give updates to my writing journey and other related topics on my blog at my author website (http://johncoon.net) and the blog feed also links to my Amazon author page. People can also subscribe to my new Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/johncoon) where I will post exclusive excerpts of upcoming works, share poems and/or original short stories, and offer a behind-the-scenes look at backstories, character sketches, and other details from published works or works in progress.

Could you share social media links  where people can follow you?
Besides the pages I mentioned above, I maintain an active presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. I encourage people to follow me or like my pages on these social media channels.

My Facebook author page is: https://www.facebook.com/jcoon/

My twitter handle is @johncoonsports (https://twitter.com/johncoonsports) and is primarily focused on sports-centric content, though I do include some tweets on blog posts, reviews, and other things related to my fiction writing.

My Goodreads author page is: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18159853.John_Coon

 

First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org

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