Interview with Suspense Thriller Author John L. Betcher

John Betcher John L. Betcher is a University of Minnesota Law School graduate and has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota.  He possesses substantial first-hand knowledge of the Prairie River Nuclear Plant’s real world counterpart, as well as Red Wing’s airport and the flight rules around the nuke plant.

In addition to The 19th Element, he has published a second book in the “Beck” series entitled, The Missing Element, A James Becker Mystery.  The second book is available everywhere.

The author has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball in and around Red Wing and has authored three feature articles for Coaching Volleyball, the journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association.  His most recent article was the cover story for the April/May, 2009 Issue.

His book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching is available at and at

The 19th Element

On the 19th element

The 19th Element Q: Thank you for this interview, John. Can you tell us why you wrote your book?

I wrote The 19th Element for several reasons. I wanted to see if I could actually write a novel. I enjoy challenges. And I love to learn new things.

Writing a book filled the bill on all fronts.

Q: Which part of the book was the hardest to write?

Without a doubt, I found the beginning of the book hardest to write. I suppose that’s natural, given that this is my first novel. I went through so many different beginnings, that I probably threw away more words than remained in the book. At one juncture, I actually deleted the entire first ten chapters and re-started the story from there.

Q: Does your book have an underlying message that readers should know about?

Although the book’s main purpose is to entertain, the underlying message is that small town America is not immune from the effects of international terror. If anything, the perception that the American Heartland is insulated from major terror attacks, contributes to its vulnerability. My book shows why all Americans should remain vigilant concerning the ongoing terrorist threat, and why no locale is absolutely safe.

I’m not advocating fear. Just respect for our adversaries, and their desires to terrorize Americans.

On Writing 2

Q: Do you remember when the writing bug hit?

While our daughters were in school, I was very involved in their school and extra-curricular lives. I coached several of their sports. I attended concerts, awards ceremonies and teacher conferences regularly. When our youngest daughter graduated from high school in 2009, I realized that I was going to have more discretionary time in my life.

Betcher Coaching

With my wife’s encouragement, I decided to give fiction writing a try. The first draft of my first book (The 19th Element) took me twelve (long) days to write. As I’ve already mentioned, the first draft needed a lot of editing. But it had a beginning, a middle and an end. I was thrilled. I would say it was at that point the writing bug really bit me.

Now I divide my time between lawyering and writing every week. Sometimes the writing is working on a new novel. Sometimes it’s book marketing. Sometimes it’s maintaining my own blog at Self-Publishing Central, or appearing as a guest blogger on another writing site.

Each writing opportunity brings with it a new challenge, a new audience, a new goal. What could be more fun than that!

Q: What’s the most frustrating thing about becoming a published author and what’s the most rewarding?

Probably the most frustrating thing about becoming a published author is how long each step takes. But it’s only a frustration if the author lacks patience.

If there is one virtue every author needs in quantity, it is patience. Writing takes time. Editing takes time. Re-writing and re-editing take time. Designing and implementing a book marketing strategy takes time. The list goes on. I’m pleased that I’ve been able to stay the course without letting the time table frustrate me. I view publication as a long term proposition.

One of the most rewarding things about writing is networking with all the great authors out there in various stages of their writing careers. I have found the online and local writing communities to be extremely welcoming and helpful to other writers. Nearly all of them recognize that writing is a cooperative activity – not a competition. Being surrounded by a supportive community of fellow authors is a tremendous boost to one’s morale when another rejection letter arrives. And a source of encouragement when you reach a writing or publication goal and the atta-boys come rolling in.

Q: Do you have a writing tip you’d like to share?

Keep on writing, whether you feel inspired or not. You can always fix it later.

On Family and Home 2

Q:  Would you like to tell us about your home life?  Where you live?  Family?  Pets?

I have a wife of 27 years whom I love dearly. Together, we have two marvelous daughters who are currently attending college. We had a family dog for many years while the girls were at home. She came pre-named from the Humane Society – “Taffy.” She was definitely part of the family. Two years ago she was suffering from arthritis to the point where the only humane decision was to put her to sleep. We will always miss her.

Betcher Taffy

Q: Where’s your favorite place to write at home?

I have a leather chair where I like to sit with my computer on my lap.

Q: What do you do to get away from it all?

I like to go south on winter trips with my wife.

Betcher Trip

And to REALLY get away, I rent an ice fishing shack on Lake of the Woods with some buddies and we stay out on the ice for three nights. It’s like being on the moon.

Betcher on Ice

On Childhood 2

Q: Were you the kind of child who always had a book in her/his hand?

When I was of elementary school age, I read all the time. My mother was a reading teacher. So she helped me on my way. In my teens, I didn’t read nearly as much. Instead, I played guitar in a rock band and hung out with friends.

Q: Can you remember your favorite book?

As a kid, I loved all of the Boxcar Children books.

Q: Do you remember writing stories when you were a child?

I never wrote stories. But I liked writing poetry, and had several poems published in my local newspaper.

On Book Promotion 2

Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promoting your book?

I sought out independent reviewers. How would anyone know if my book was any good if no one with an unbiased reputation had reviewed it? So that’s where I placed my initial focus.

Q: Are you familiar with the social networks and do you actively participate?

I’m on FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter and a few writing-specific sites. I am an active participant on Twitter. Twitter actually drives about 50% of my website traffic. My FaceBook page is more geared toward my friends and relatives, but still focuses on my writing activities.

Q: How do you think book promotion has changed over the years?

I didn’t know much about book promotion before 2000. However, since then, my understanding is that author’s have taken on a much greater role in promoting their books than was previously the case. Publishers are less active – especially with new writers.

The promotion channels also seem to have changed. I believe publishers used to send ARCs out to established review outlets such as the NY Times Book Review, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly and many others. Those avenues aren’t available to self- or indie-publishers. But new avenues are opening up every day. Blog touring is one great example.

On Other Fun Stuff

Q: If you had one wish, what would that be?

That I could be the person God wants me to be.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world other than where you are right now, where would that place be?

At a Minnesota Twins home game.

Q: Your book has just been awarded a Pulitzer.  Who would you thank?

My family. The Pulitzer committee. The late Robert B. Parker, whose writing has influenced me greatly. And the people who have read, and are reading, my books.

If you would like to travel with John as he visits blogs from all over the world to talk about his new book, The 19th Element, click here!