Recently I had the privilege to dig into a wonderful mystery, The Missing Element. One of the draws for me to this book was that author John Betcher is a fellow Minnesotan. As Johns story centers around Minnesota areas I enjoyed reading about areas I was familiar with first hand.
What started out as a “I want to read Minnesota authors!” goal…. became more as I found elements, if I may use your word of choice John, in this read that I have missed in may other reads of this genre. With a bit of humor and a refreshing look into marriage, I found myself really liking the characters that John had placed into his book. His characters…. have character. 🙂
So – with no further raving and babbling by me…. I am thrilled to share Book Journey space today with author John Betcher.
John, welcome. I am so glad you were able to make time to join me today and talk books. Before we get down to business, how do you take your coffee?
John: Thanks for the offer, Sheila. But I picked up a Diet Mountain Dew on the way in.
John: Other than 25 years of legal writing as a private practice lawyer . . . I started writing for publication about 5 years ago. My first published materials consisted of three feature articles in Coaching Volleyball magazine, the AVCA Journal. The last of these, in 2009, was a cover story. http://www.virtualonlinepubs.com/publication/?i=13938 I jokingly say that U.S. Men’s Volleyball Olympic Gold Medal Coach, Hugh McCutcheon, had to wait until the next issue to get his picture on the cover — Hugh and the Olympic team were, indeed, the cover story for the following issue.
Were you a reader when you were younger? If so, what genres drew you in and do you have a favorite (or two) book/author?
John: I was an avid reader during my pre-school and elementary years. I credit my mother, a reading teacher, for that. I used to love the Boxcar Children and the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. In Junior and Senior High I read a lot of historical biographies. Now I enjoy mysteries and thrillers.
I have many favorite authors: John Sandford, Brian Haig, Jeffrey Deaver, Kurt Vonnegut . . . the list goes on. But the author I was reading the most of right before I began writing fiction was the late Robert B. Parker. Must’ve read about 20 of his Spenser detective books in a row. I would have to say that Parker’s writing has had the greatest influence on my own style.
John as you know, I really enjoyed The Missing Element. As a fellow Minnesotan, I enjoy reading about areas I am familiar with. What reasoning did you have in choosing the area that you did for this book?
John: Well . . . I’m also a native Minnesotan and current resident of Red Wing. Having spent all of my life here, Minnesota was the natural choice for my book’s setting. I’m familiar with not only its geography, but its people, history and culture. I tried to draw on those familiarities to add texture to the book.
Beyond these reasons, the Twin Cities are widely known for their contributions to high-technology. 3M, Seagate, IBM, Medtronic and many other prominent technology companies operate, and were even founded, here. The University of Minnesota also has widely respected computer security experts on its staff. Since the book has a rather large cyber-espionionage component, what better location for the technological suspense?
I really enjoyed your characters The Becker’s. I am very curious what made you decide to go with a married couple, almost “dynamic duo” for this suspenseful read. I thought it was an unusual move, as most main characters are out saving their world alone or with a “love interest” but not a spouse. I found it to be a refreshing way to create your characters.
John: One of the aspects of the Parker novels I always enjoyed was the loving relationship between Spenser and his S.O., Susan. I just took that relationship a bit farther in The Missing Element. Having a strong and loving marriage of my own for the past 27 years was also a factor. And I love strong women in fiction. While Beth may not feature quite as prominently in future books, their relationship will always be there. I suspect she will continue to add her own expertise, intellect and support to all of Beck’s activities.
John: Bull is a guy who is very much like Parker’s “Hawk” character in the Spenser series. Nebulous but intriguing background. Always willing and available to help out. Very effective in providing “muscle” (and many other special skills) when necessary. Loyal . . . but mysterious.
So the answer to your question is, “No.” He’s more based on a American Indian version of Hawk than on anyone I know in real life. Thank goodness my life is mundane enough to not require Bull’s sort of assistance! Haha!
The 19th Element is your new release and I was pleased to see that this as well has James Becker. I am curious about the title – as you went from The Missing Element to the Nineteenth Element. What does this title mean and how does it tie into The Missing Element?
John: The use of the word “Element” in the title of the Beck series of books is intended to be a sort of “branding” of the series — like Sandford’s “Prey” series, or Janet Evanovich’s numerical sequencing. Beyond that, just as “The Missing Element” has a meaning in this book, “The 19th Element” has a specific meaning in the second book . . . one that I’d rather not disclose at this point.
What is currently happening in your life?
John: As a self-published author, I’m spending a lot of time marketing my two new books. The publishing industry has changed so much in the last year or two, and will likely change even more in the next couple years. I’m trying to get ahead of the industry and target my marketing efforts — local, regional and national — where they will work most efficiently in this new environment. Part of my marketing effort is maintaining a blog at Self-Publishing Central Blogspot and a website at www.johnbetcher.com. Suffice it to say that all of this is a formidable challenge for a small town writer — especially one who is trying to keep his day job.
John it is a tradition for me to ask the authors I chat with to share a little known fact about themselves.
John: I probably hold the highest level of volleyball coaching certification of anyone you know. I’ve even had the privilege of studying with the gurus at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.