John Theo Jr. writes novels from a Christian perspective. Like the stories of his youth, John enjoys tales with an otherworldly component to them as well as a good measure of action, adventure, and romance. A true “Happily Ever After” in fiction stories, and in life, is only attained with an eternal perspective, and the hope that we have in Jesus.
CKN Christian Publishing: You worked as a movie critic, magazine writer and college professor, what led you to finally writing a novel?
John Theo Jr.: Novels and screenplays have always been my primary focus. I do these side writing jobs to help pay bills and to keep my writing muscles active. Just like any sport, writing can atrophy if you don’t practice.
CKN: Do you still teach screenwriting or have any sort of day job?
JTJ: When you are a writer you generally have a “day job” which you don’t quit unless the proverbial “lightning strikes.” Along with my writing jobs, I have worked in property management for two decades.
CKN: Do you ever put pieces of yourself or your life into your books?
JTJ: I always do. Sometimes, to avoid the cliché’ of authors living vicariously through their characters, I will inject some of my personality into children, a female, or elderly character instead of the protagonist.
CKN: What does your writing process look like when working on a novel?
JTJ: I outline like crazy. Unlike most writers, I do my writing in small fifteen-minute increments. It’s the only way I can write with a day job, side writing jobs, and three children under the age of eight. To accomplish this, I must be organized and efficient, which is where outlining comes in.
CKN: Have you had to sacrifice anything in order to write?
JTJ: Time is the biggest sacrifice. I’ve definitely lost opportunities to spend time with friends over the years, but writing is what I love doing. On the flip side, I found that if you reduce your time in front of the tv, or cut it out completely, you gain back a lot of this lost time.
CKN: Do you have any family or friends that are the first to read your books?
JTJ: My wife is my go-to reader. She’s a lawyer and her forte is legal research and writing. She comes at my stories with a very different point of view. She is supportive, but tough at the same time.
CKN: Which of your books has been your biggest labor of love?
JTJ: It’s hard to say. I write in a broad range of genre’s. I’ve published a young adult book, three dystopian sci-fi, a political thriller, and a murder mystery. Each one is set in a different location, and each one was written at a different time in my life. However, if I was hard-pressed I would say young adult literature holds a special place in my heart. With Y/A you can, ironically, address a greater range of topics compared to adult fiction. From innocent puppy love, to school-age drama, all the way up to life and death situations. Some of the books that have impacted me on the deepest level have been Y/A.
CKN: When you set the location for Murder at Cluster Springs Raceway, how did you choose Southern Virginia? Do you have any ties to that area?
JTJ: A little over a year ago my family moved from Massachusetts down to Virginia to get out of the “rat race.” We purchased a small business in an effort to slow down. This move has had a tremendous impact on the quality of life for my family. Once in Virginia, the people I met, and stories I’ve heard, were so rich that the story basically wrote itself.
CKN: From racetracks and politics, how much research went in to Murder at Cluster Springs Raceway?
JTJ: I researched a lot. I love this aspect of writing. If you don’t do your homework the story won’t come across as authentic. It may be one reader in a hundred that you do this for. That one person who scuba dives, or works on diesel engines, who calls foul if your book isn’t accurate when addressing these topics.
CKN: I know all of your books are written from a Christian perspective, who do you hope to reach with them? Believers and non-believers alike?
JTJ: I hope to reach both groups with this book. In some ways I want to provide clean uplifting entertainment for fellow believers, but in other ways I’m doing my part in the Great Commission (spreading the Gospel) by writing with a Christian point of view.
Over the years I have read so many secular books where man is trying to fix “man’s” problems. They don’t hold much interest for me anymore as I know there is no “happily ever after” if you don’t have an eternal perspective.
CKN: What are you currently reading?
JTJ: I read the Bible daily, and for fiction I recently discovered Gilbert Morris. I never knew he existed. He writes a lot of historical fiction with a subtle Christian point of view in the background.