Hello again fellow Vagabonds. Please give a warm welcome to John A. Heldt. Heldt is the author of The Journey, book two in his Northwest Passage series. Heldt is here with me today to talk about himself and his debut time travel series. Let's get this started.
OBVB: Welcome to Offbeat Vagabond, John. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
JH: I am an Oregon native, a married father of three, and a former award-winning journalist who has worked the past dozen years as a reference librarian in Montana.
OBVB: When did you realize you wanted to be an author?
JH: I've enjoyed writing since the first grade but never seriously considered writing a novel until a few years ago. I figured I'd never have the time for such a project until retirement. But the success of a college friend, the romance novelist Maureen Driscoll, as a self-published author inspired me to give it a go in 2011 and I've been at it ever since.
OBVB: What author(s) influenced you growing up? What drew you to them?
JH: I didn't read a lot of fiction growing up. I preferred non-fiction and news stories. When I became a librarian in 2000, I began reading fiction and found myself drawn to the works of Vince Flynn, John Grisham, Nelson DeMille, Ken Follett, and Clive Cussler.
OBVB: Do you have any special rituals or anything you must do before or while writing?
JH: Yes. I listen to music from the relevant time period. When I wrote The Mine, I immersed myself in music of 1941 and the Big Band era: Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and others. When I wrote The Journey, I reacquainted myself with music I had listened to in high school in 1979 and 1980: the Knack, the Cars, Van Halen, Charlie Daniels, even disco. When I wrote The Show, I listened to early jazz and ragtime as much of the book is set in 1918 and 1919. When working on a book, I also like to go on long walks. It's the surest way to clear my mind and cure writer's block.
OBVB: Can you tell us what the Northwest Passage series is about?
JH: The series is not so much a continuing story as it is a collection of novels with similar themes. In each book, the protagonist, a Pacific Northwest resident, passes through a portal to a time of his or her ancestors. Joel Smith of The Mine, for example, travels from 2000 to 1941 and meets his grandmother as a fellow college student. In The Journey, Michelle Richardson, 48, travels from 2010 to 1979 and meets younger versions of her parents, her friends, and herself. My protagonists will have similar experiences in The Show and in Books 4 and 5 of the series.
OBVB: Which book was harder to write; The Mine or The Journey?
JH: The Mine was the most difficult to write, because it was my first novel and because I had to research an era that was foreign to me. I was not around in 1941, so I had to learn about the year through books, movies, music, newspapers, and interviews. When I wrote The Journey, I was able to apply what I had learned from The Mine and merely consult my memory about the times. I was a high school senior in 1979 and 1980. The particulars of that time were already in my head.
OBVB: If you could travel to any point in time, when and where would you go and why?
JH: California in the early 1960s would be fun. That is the time and place of the film American Graffiti. I loved the cars, the traditions, and most of all the music of that era.
OBVB: What genre would you write that isn't your own and why?
JH: I would love to write thrillers someday. They are mostly what I read now.
OBVB: What is your favorite science fiction film and why?
JH: If I had to pick one it would be Contact. The story is compelling and believable and the acting by Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey is first rate.
OBVB: What do you do in your spare time when you aren't writing?
JH: I can usually be found making homemade beer, reading, or walking. When the weather is warm, I like to fish, camp, and ride my mountain bike.
OBVB: I know you were a newspaper editor and sports writer, what was the most exciting thing about those jobs?
JH: I got to meet a lot of interesting people, from a former Olympian and college mascots to pro golfers and a woman who raised miniature horses. Every day brought something different.
OBVB: Are there any projects you are working on that you can tell us about?
JH: I just finished The Show, Book 3 in the Northwest Passage series and the sequel to The Mine. Told almost entirely from Grace Vandenberg's perspective, the book follows Grace from her heartbreak in 1941 to her reunion with and marriage to Joel Smith in 2000 to her shocking, spirit-crushing trip to 1918 Seattle. She meets her parents and aunt as young adults, falls in love with another man, and makes some gut-wrenching decisions that affect her future. I intend to publish the book by March 1.
OBVB: Last but not least, what is your New Years' Resolution?
JH: I'd like to travel more.
John A. Heldt Bio: