Monday, June 24, 2013

Scene of the Crime with Author John M. Daniel!

In working with Jeana Thompson, publicist for Oak Tree Press, she asked me if there were any of their authors whose books I'd like to read. John M. Daniel happens to be one of the authors I chose, and-- courtesy of the internet-- that's how we met. The redwood country of Northern California is a very special place to this author. Not only does he live there, but the book I'll be reviewing tomorrow is set there. Come back tomorrow to see what I thought of Behind the Redwood Door, but in the mean time, let's start getting to know this very interesting writer!

John M. Daniel
John M. Daniel is a very busy man. He writes books, he's a small press book publisher, a freelance editor, a creative writing teacher, and I can't leave out his wife, four children and seven grandchildren. (Does he have a few more hours in the day than all the rest of us?) As usual I went searching around the interwebs to find a few links just in case you want to learn more about him. (Of course you do!)

Do you feel like cutting to the chase? Let's do it and get to the interview!

What was the very first book you remember reading and loving? What makes that book so special?

The first book I read all by myself was L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In fact, my mother had already read the book to me, but once I learned to read, I returned to the book to read it on my own. And I've returned to it over and over throughout my life. It's an amazing tale, and even from the first reading I began learning what it had to say about irony, about friendship, about quest, about politics, and of course about brains, heart, courage, and home. 

Outside of your writing and all associated commitments, what do you like to do in your free time?

Because I'm a publisher, a reader, a freelance editor, and a teacher of creative writing, most of my non-writing time is filled with "associated commitments." I do love travel near and far, especially with my wife Susan, and especially to spend time with our children and grandchildren.

If I were to visit your hometown, where would you recommend that I go? (I like seeing and doing things that aren't in all the guide books.)

Trinidad Bay
Please do come visit! I'll show you the redwoods and the rocky coast. I'll show you the town plaza in nearby Arcata, and the fishing harbor in nearby Trinidad. I'll buy you a drink or two at our favorite bar, The Alibi, and we'll browse together in our local used bookstore, The Tin Can Mailman. You don't need a guidebook to enjoy Humboldt County, but I would encourage you to first read my latest mystery, Behind the Redwood Door, which is set in a small city and a small county on the rocky North Coast of California, redwood country. When you come to visit, you'll see where all that book's scenery, and all the places I've just mentioned, were inspired.

You have total control over casting a movie based on your life. Which actor would you cast as you?

Hmm...Tom or Dustin?
I asked Susan how I should answer this question and she said, "Brad Pitt." And then we both cracked up. I confess I've sometimes thought about this question. My answer used to be Jack Lemmon, but unfortunately he's under contract to Death, so I have to choose somebody else. First choice: Tom Hanks. Second: Dustin Hoffman. I'd want to audition them, though to be sure the lucky actor can carry a tune.

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

No question about it. Kinsey Milhone. Why? Because Sue Grafton is such a nice person, and because I lived for twenty years in Santa Teresa (Santa Barbara). I love that town, and Kinsey keeps things in order there.

If you could have in your possession one signed first edition of any book in the world, which book would that be? Why that particular book?

I'd do hard labor for a personally inscribed copy of A Stretch on the River, by Richard Bissell. It's the first novel by my favorite writer, and I wish I'd had a chance to meet the man. Elmore Leonard said that 75% of all he knows about writing he learned by reading the works of Richard Bissell.

How did you celebrate when you first heard you were to be published? What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore?

I couldn't believe my luck! I had such faith in that book, Play Melancholy Baby, even though it had been rejected umpteen times; this was the book where I found my writing voice. How did I celebrate? By agreeing to a book signing at Kepler's Bookstore in Menlo Park, California, the neighborhood where the book takes place. And that's where I first saw my first book for sale in a bookstore. I was thrilled. The book's no longer in print, but I thank my publisher, Perseverance Press, for launching my writing career. Eventually my publishing company teamed up with Perseverance Press and we now publish mysteries together.

Name one thing on your Bucket List.

I'd like to learn to play jazz piano. One more bucket item: I'd like to apprentice to a master wood engraver, like Barry Moser, to learn that wonderful art form.

You've just received a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice. Which bookstore are you making a bee-line for?

In my imagination, I'd take that card to Maxwell's Bookstore in Palo Alto, California. The trouble is, that store doesn't exist (although it closely resembles Kepler's in the next town over, where I worked for seven years in the 1970s). Maxwell's Bookstore is the setting for my new novel, Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery, which will be published this coming fall by Oak Tree Press.

In my dreams, I'd take that gift card to Birchbark Books in Minneapolis, because the store is owned by Louise Erdrich, one of my favorite writers. I'd love to meet Louise and tell her how much she means to me. And I'd spend the card on books by her, signed books for my own collection.

In reality, I'd take the gift card to Northtown Books in Arcata, California. It's a fine independent store, and independent stores need our support.

Available Now!

Thank you so much for spending this time with us, John. It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you a little better. I look forward to reading Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery.

May your book sales do nothing but increase!


  1. John this was terrific. Great interview. I enjoyed your candid answers. Hope the books are selling well :-)

  2. I learned lots of new information about you, John. I've been to Humboldt County but it was so many years ago. My son now lives in Chico but that seems so far away. Maybe I'll get over to visit somehow! I'm so glad to know there's another book coming out this fall. To paraphrase Cathy: may your book sales keep increasing and (my addition) may you never lose the Joy of Writing!

    1. Eileen, I hope you'll return to Humboldt some day. It wouldl be a pleasure to show you some big, beautiful redwoods.

  3. Thanks for sharing a bit of your life with us, John. And congratulations on this past weekend. I really liked your answers to various questions, such as which signed original book would you take if y9ou had the option. OTP is lucky to have you - and so is the Posse.

    1. Thanks, Jim. And thanks for all you do on behalf of the Posse.

  4. Fine interview, John. I admire Barry Moser's work, too.

    1. John, I'm glad you're a Barry Moser fan. He's a fantastic wood engraver--maybe the best!

  5. Cathy, thank you so much for interviewing me today, and for giving such artful attention to the presentation! You're a gem.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed, John. Something tells me I could learn a great deal from you about time management! I'm glad you like the look of the final product, but the words are all yours.

  6. This was a great interview, John and Cathy. It's always so nice to know these tidbits about authors. I am interested in that bookstore I must say...

    1. So am I. I have to admit that, with the inclusion of that last question in the interview, I could compile an entire bookstore itinerary of the US and England!

  7. I greatly enjoyed this interview. The answers tell me John Daniels has a sunny nature and a wonderful sense of humor - my kind of person, especially a writer. I shall be looking up his books to read.


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