IndieView with John L. Thompson, author of Truck Stop

You have to allow your characters to speak, to tell you their story. You have to believe they live and to give them a chance at living.

The Back Flap

Moriarty, New Mexico is about as far as Logan Pierce got before the money and the El Camino gave out. He‘d hoped for a clean start in life as a field mechanic working for any company willing to pay top dollar for his skills in the oil fields of West Texas. Low on funds and out of options, he begins a change of course in his mechanic career and takes a local job as a technician at Duggan’s Truck Stop.

The truck stop is a miniature city within a city that has all the luxuries for a home away from home feel for the over-the-road truck driver. Under it all, Logan discovers there is also a dark side which people claim is operated by the Dixie Mafia. Then there is the persistent rumor that affiliates of the Mafia are looking for a quarter million in missing cash skimmed from over a five year time frame.

The job was meant to be a temporary solution but that was before Amy Hauser entered the picture and presented him with additional problems. They want nothing more than to leave New Mexico for a new life, but then again…there’s that rumor of a quarter million in missing mob cash.

And Logan just may well have discovered where it’s hidden, but soon finds that some people want it more.

About the book

What is the book about?

The main character, Logan Pierce, is running away from a bad divorce, a ruined life, and the big city of Las Vegas, Nevada.  He is hoping to rebuild his life in the oilfields of Texas, but his old ’69 El Camino isn’t up to task.  He blows the motor outside the town of Moriarty, New Mexico.  With few options available, he takes a job as a diesel mechanic at a local truck stop.  He makes some not so smart decisions in the story.  One being that a co-worker friend convinces him to help go on a search for an alleged money cache buried out on a dead man’s ranch.  The other error is falling for a married woman who is hiding a mysterious and deadly secret.

Over the course of the story, the main character finds himself getting deeper and deeper into trouble with a mob organization known as the Dixie Mafia.  His troubles grow to a point where he is forced to go on the run from the police, the Feds, and the Dixie Mafia.

When did you start writing the book?

2013. Originally, the idea was to be about a young man’s journey into being a diesel mechanic at a truck stop. There would be the struggles with alcohol, women, and the navigating the career.  The story instead evolved into the current crime fiction saga.  One day I’ll get back to my original premise, but this story evolved into its current crime fiction mystery story line.

How long did it take you to write it?

Five years.  As I mentioned before, the story was originally slated to be something totally different.  Something like a coming-of-age story, but it evolved into a crime fiction novel instead.  At one point, I shelved the project because I wasn’t sure on an ending.  After six months or so, I started back on it and wrote six different endings and still didn’t care for any of them.  After a few rewrites though, I finally settled on one and built it up.  People that have read it always mention that for an Indie book, it has a solid ending that didn’t leave them feeling gutted or flat.

Where did you get the idea from?

Over the years, I worked at several truck stops as a mechanic.  It is one of the least understood aspects of the trucking industry.  Anyone that has worked at a truck stop is witness to some of the inner workings.  Some of those workings are not so good.  There are the elements of drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and embezzlement of money and material.  A lot of the truck stops of old were havens for such activities.  It was easy enough to formulate a general idea for a story.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

The hardest part for me was trying to structure the romantic aspect of the story.  This is where Logan falls for Amy Hauser, who is hiding a deadly secret.  Their romance blooms throughout the story.  I feel it is neither too rushed nor forced.  I must have done a good job as I’ve had some readers tell me that it felt real and genuine.

What came easily?

The typical jargon and everyday operation and mindset of diesel mechanics.  I’ve worked in  the trucking industry for the better part of thirty years.  I spent several years driving truck and the remainder of the time as a diesel mechanic.  I’ve witnessed the evolution from mechanical systems into the current electronic and emission controlled units.  It was easy to write about anything mechanic related within the story.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

I think using the words of Ray Bradbury are fitting and hold truth. “Let your characters tell you their story.”

I mix and match people and characters.  There is one character in the book for an example, who is named ‘Big Mac’.  He is a Samoan with a fascination for the MAC-10 SMG.  In real life, back in the early 90’s, I knew a guy who had a fair collection of TEC-9 pistols and a love for the MAC-10 and MAC-11 SMGs.  I know another guy by the name of ‘Big Mike’, also a big gun aficionado.  Mix the two together?  I got a character.

The main character, Logan Pierce is totally fictitious.  I cobbled him together using what I call ‘trait characterization‘.  Somewhere in my notes, I have a full page describing what he looks like, his psychological buildup, life experiences, etc.  I do this with most of my main characters.  Those kind of trait characterizations range from unique physical appearances to what kind of psychological make-up a person may have that makes him or her unique and relatable to the story.

You have to allow your characters to speak, to tell you their story.  You have to believe they live and to give them a chance at living.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

I’ve read and studied many books by some well-known authors.  The primary influences are Philip Jose Farmer, Barry Sadler, Elmore Leonard to name a few.  I prefer the works of the older generation of writers as compared to the modern ones. I’m not knocking any of the new stuff, but the older guards of the trade had a unique and strong grasp of the English language.  They also have a mastering use of poetic metaphors that I believe is becoming a lost art.

Do you have a target reader?

Primarily, anyone working in the trucking or mechanic industries.  I also wrote it for people who have no knowledge of the industry, but would easily understand the dynamics.  I’ve had plenty of people who have read it and were nowhere connected to the industry, but they could understand what was happening or understood what was said.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

My own writing process is to write in private.  It is difficult for me to write if anyone is around making a bunch of racket or interrupting my writing with conversation.  Sometimes I’ll play my playlist when I’m working an action scene or to get into the mood.  But the essential necessity for me is to have my alone time to write, outline, or build my main characters.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

When I’m really focused on constructing a story, I try to pack the ‘Hero’s Journey’ into the three act structure.  Outlining is very important aspect in forming plots and plot-points.  I might write the first several chapters without an outline, but I inevitably put together an outline as I go along while writing those opening chapters.  I believe a story must have a solid ending and I’m always trying to figure out how a story will end that is believable and satisfying.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

I usually cram and write as much as I can for however long.  I might edit as I go sometimes, but the main thing is to get the words on paper.  Sometimes I don’t edit until I’ve completed multiple chapters or after the book is complete.

Did you hire a professional editor?

Here’s what I’ve learned about editing and editors.  You might as well bust open the wallet and pay for one.  I tried to edit myself or horse trade for editing services.  Neither one did me any true justice.  I look around for an editor with a good track record and high number of reviews.  I study those reviews with intense scrutiny.  We all know that reviews can be done by family and friends with all the best intentions, but what I look for are the real reviews.  Those reviews left by authors who have done actual business with an editor.  Always hire the best you can for your dollar.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

I have a playlist for each book I work on.  Like the playlist for Truck Stop is 345 songs long.  That list ranges from Waylon Jennings, Rolling Stones, AC/DC, The blues player Poppa Chubby, Eric Church, and a whole wide spectrum of other artists and songs.  It takes a good song to really rage through an action scene.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

I’m careful about agents.  I’ve had several contact me about offering services but something didn’t feel right in those situations.  I did talk to one or two other agents but those didn’t go anywhere, so I went the self-publishing route.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

When I finished Truck Stop, I ventured out to try and find a publisher.  I did some extensive research and found I didn’t like some of the conditions set forth by some publishers.  Some wanted up to six months or longer to decide if they wanted to accept.  Others were always closed or, there was too small a window to submit.  Then there were the ones that were just too strict in their guidelines.  A lot of them had the words: “If you don’t hear from us in three to six months, please know your submission was declined.”  Like I wanted to wait six months for nothing, not even a professional courtesy email.

I ventured off into self-publishing at that point.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

I construct all my own book covers and interior formatting.  I started doing that some ten years ago when I and another chap, M. Leon Smith, from the UK had a publishing company called Dead Guns Press.  I did all the covers for the books and anthologies produced there.  It has been a learning curve but I learned and still learn new things to add into the graphics.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

Currently, I’m learning to market.  I spend a fair amount of time marketing online.  I find the things that work and discard the things that don’t.  I keep a list of the things that do work and apply those findings to my other books.  I’ve had fair success.  I feel pretty good with my current position.  It might not be top spot or six-figure dollar amounts, but I hope to get there one day.

I refuse to pay any person or company to “show” me how to market my books.  I’ve done a fair amount of research into a lot of those people or companies only to find just how fraudulent most of them are. There might be some good ones out there, but I haven’t found any worth spending thousands of precious dollars on.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Be patient. Write your story and always have a solid ending.  Study and learn the three acts and the Hero’s Journey format.  Make your characters live.  Readers want that connection to something relatable, real, and living.  Pay for an editor.  Always be open to constructive criticism – always.  There are plenty of self-proclaimed critics out there but fewer who are willing to offer the constructive kind.

About You

Where did you grow up?

I grew up overseas.  I was born in Tokyo, Japan, and lived in Germany for a number of years.  I didn’t know anything about the USA until around 1980.  The family moved all across the US for a number of years before settling in New Mexico.

Where do you live now?

I currently live in New Mexico and plan to for years to come.

What are you working on now?

Currently I’m working on the third and final installment in the Truck Stop series.  After that, I plan on finishing a Sci Fi novel tentatively titled Dark Obelisk.  I have other completed novels that I’m working on also, but those two have my full attention at the moment.

End of Interview:

For more from John L. Thompson, visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Get your copy of Truck Stop from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

The post IndieView with John L. Thompson, author of Truck Stop first appeared on The IndieView.

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