Friday, May 15, 2015

A Conversation with Mystery Author John Carenen

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with John Carenen

We are delighted to welcome author John Carenen to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of Great Escapes Book Tours, which is coordinating his current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find his schedule here.

John's debut novel, the first in a series, introduces wise-cracking tough guy Thomas O'Shea in A Far Gone Night (Neverland Publishing Company; September 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we recently had the opportunity to catch up with him to talk more about it.

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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to the characters of your new series.

John Carenen
Photo provided courtesy of
John Carenen

John Carenen: I have several characters from my series that I would like you to meet. The protagonist, Thomas O'Shea, is a wounded man from the loss of his wife and two daughters in a car accident in Georgia. He tries to retreat from life by going "home" to his native Iowa, but stumbles onto crimes that draw him in. He struggles with drinking, violence, his faith, and relationships. He is a tough smart-ass living by a code. Lunatic Mooning (named after the first thing his mentally-ill mother saw after giving birth to him in the state mental hospital) is an Ojibwa Indian who owns The Grain o' Truth Bar & Grill and becomes a friend. Other quirky characters are Bunza Steele, barmaid and aspiring pro wrestler; Liv Olson, lovely high school English teacher with an approach-avoidance relationship with Thomas; Sheriff Harmon Payne, and more.

OMN: How do you expect these characters to develop over the course of the series?

JC: Whether the characters change over time, or not, is really up to them. They do things I never expect, and thereby change from time to time. On the other hand, certain characters remain unchanged, as they should.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in the book?

JC: There is some of "me" in my Thomas O'Shea series in that I can be, in my own unspoken monologues, a bit of a wise guy with the gift of sarcasm. Thomas is like that, and he struggles to keep it under control, except when he is bantering with bad guys or law enforcement types, or women that annoy him. Women don't annoy me one bit, so that part isn't really "me." Sometimes my stories, or parts of my stories, are based on real events. The rest erupts from my imagination.

OMN: Where do you most often find yourself writing?

JC: My writing environment is somewhat Spartan. I have an excellent desk with plenty of retractable flat surfaces, pigeonholes, and technology to help me be productive. The desk, which my long-suffering wife found for me, is situated in a little nook facing a wall between two small closets. There is a wonderful window with a lovely view out on the mountainside, but we decided that would be too much of a distraction for me, so up against the wall works better. I have several helpful books on the desk's bookshelf, including an English handbook, Stephen King's On Writing, word dictionary, word menu, and John Gardner's On Moral Fiction. I also have a large font quote from King, taped just to the right of my computer screen. It reads, "No it's not a very good story — its author was too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have to the one coming from inside." An excellent reminder.

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories?

JC: I fact-check several ways. The Internet is wonderful for that, also talking to experts from time to time, especially a couple of friends who are lawyers. My most challenging fact-check involved farmland prices and how estate planning is used by people to protect their resources. I was also interested in researching Indian casinos and the effect they have on surrounding communities.

OMN: Is this series set in a real place?

JC: Although all of my Thomas O'Shea novels take place in a fictional city, it is very much based on an actual small town in northeastern Iowa that I stumbled upon years ago when I was just out for a drive in the country.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests?

JC: I don't have any hobbies, per se, but I do have a lot of interests outside of writing. They include lifting weights, following the Iowa Hawkeyes' sports teams, lots of visits back home to Iowa, keeping up with old friends, playing with our dog, writing my blog, reading.

OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author?

JC: The best advice I ever had was from reading Stephen King's book, On Writing. He wrote that to be serious about writing, one simply has to read more and write more. The harshest criticism has been no criticism on "form" rejection letters. Cold. My advice to aspiring writers is the same as Stephen King's.

OMN: Tell us more about how you came up with the title for A Far Gone Night.

JC: I stumbled on the title when I was reading a few passages from Romans, in the New Testament. One stuck out, which is Romans 13:12, "The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light." So, A Far Gone Night came to be, and the source of that title relates to the book's story in that the protagonist goes forth to cast off the works of darkness; that is, solving an horrific crime, and he does so to bring light to the situation.

OMN: Have any specific books or authors influence how and what you write today?

JC: The specific books and authors influencing what I write today are few. I regret that Robert B. Parker died so young. I love his Spenser novels which influenced me in that Spenser had a tough guy "code" that he lived by. I read Parker's doctoral dissertation related to that, and it influenced me almost as much as the novels. King's book mentioned earlier influenced me, and so does Strunk & White's Elements of Style. I am also influenced by the work of Ron Rash, inspired by his genius, yet knowing that I could never write that well. Just knowing it's possible is enough. I also love Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Wonderful, dark humor and absorbing characters.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any topic.

JC: My top favorite authors would be Ron Rash, Robert B. Parker, Mark Twain, William Kent Kreuger, and Ernest Hemingway. Others.

OMN: What's next for you?

JC: What is next for me is writing and more writing. I will be revising the third Thomas O'Shea novel over the next few weeks, trying to publish a romantic comedy set in a small, private college in the Blue Ridge Mountain area of South Carolina's Upstate, other long pieces I am working on. My outstanding book concierge, Rowe Copeland, has me scheduled for several book signings, which I enjoy doing, especially if people show up. I love to write, and that's what I'll be doing, Lord willing.

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John Carenen Book Tour

John Carenen, a native of Clinton, Iowa, graduated with an M.F.A. in Fiction Writing from the prestigious University of Iowa Writers Workshop and has been writing ever since. His work has appeared in numerous popular and literary magazines, and he has been a featured columnist in newspapers in North and South Carolina. John is currently an English professor at Newberry College in Newberry, South Carolina. He and his wife live in their cozy cottage down a quiet lane in northern Greenville, South Carolina. He is a big fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes and Boston Red Sox.

For more information about the author, please visit his website and his author page on Goodreads, or find him on Facebook.

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A Far Gone Night by John Carenen

A Far Gone Night by John Carenen

A Thomas O'Shea Mystery

Publisher: Neverland Publishing Company Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)

Suffering from insomnia, Thomas O'Shea goes for a late-night stroll through the peaceful streets of Rockbluff, Iowa, and finds himself pausing downtown on the bridge that spans the Whitetail River. When he glances downstream, something catches his eye … something that looks like a body. He scrambles down to the riverbank, pulling the body of a young girl from the water. The girl is naked, with two bullet holes in the back of her head. Ever suspicious of law enforcement, O'Shea chooses not mention the bullet holes when Deputy Stephen Doltch, on routine patrol, discovers him at the river's edge.

When the coroner's report lists the cause of death as "drowning," Thomas goes into action. Confronting the coroner, he is met with hostility. But then the coroner and his wife disappear, along with the body of the dead girl. Once again, Thomas gears up to find answers that will reveal who put the bullets in the girl's head, why she was killed, and her identity, which may hit a little too close to home.

Teaming up with his friend Lunatic Mooning and Clancy Dominguez, an old buddy from his Navy SEAL days, Thomas and the other two men join together to bring justice to the dead girl, a quest that takes them to the Chalaka Reservation in Minnesota, seedy businesses adjacent to the Chalaka Casino, and straight into the world of organized crime.

A Far Gone Night by John Carenen

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing! I loved the introduction to the new characters in this series, although Lunatic Mooning is still my favorite.


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