Hello, L.M. David here. Today, I am interviewing John Evans, author of Water like Stone. Before we get started, I have to tell you that John arrived in a racing car. He encountered Preston in the hall and tossed him the keys. I’ve never seen Preston smile, at least it looked like one on the surveillance tape. After the vampire left, we conducted this interview without a problem. Not long afterwards, I received an irate call from the building manager. Apparently, while we were in here conducting this interview, Preston was outside performing donuts in the parking lot. Does anyone know how to get black rubber marks off of concrete?
Okay, let’s get to the interview.
Q. Welcome to my spot on the wall, John. Let’s start with you telling me little bit about yourself.
A. Well, I love dogs and flowers and I’ve never been a couch potato. I love antique aircraft and race cars and pretty music. I have always had a great curiosity, from childhood to the present. I wanted to know how things worked, why something was done the way it was, what is on the other side of the hill, how did that rock form, how does an airplane fly? Although I had close childhood friends, for the most part I have been a loner. I’m always trying to improve myself, mentally, physically and spiritually. It is my belief that each individual and mankind as a whole should endeavor to attain their highest level of function. I don’t fit into any box politically although I am vehemently anti-republican and not so hot on democrats either. The nature of running for and maintaining public office has evidently worked as an evolutionary selection process and we now have the best liars and the least capable running the nation. With the wondrous technology available today in medicine, food production, education, manufacturing, and communications, this nation could be a Garden of Eden and helping the world to attain the same. Instead we argue endlessly about taxes, same sex marriages and carrying knives on airliners. Whew! Sorry about the rant but it does say something about my nature.
Q. No problem. Now your book, Water Like Stone, is written as a narrative of Ian Cannasy. Why use that style to do this book in?
A. Much of Water Like Stone is the story of Osa Hensley, a young woman. As an old man, I did not feel qualified to write an honest third person omniscient or first person version of her story but I did feel qualified to write a narrative by a middle aged man.
Q. What is the character Ian Cannasy like?
A. Ian is a pragmatic idealist, a competent pilot and business man and a loner. Despite protestations otherwise he is still reticent due to the death of his fiancé a decade ago. He is kind, sensitive, candid and decisive.
Q. Osa Hensley, is the love interest. Tell me a bit about her.
A. She is very much a soul mate to Ian and a match in the good character traits mentioned above but 20 years younger. Her adventurous spirit is much the same as that possessed by her namesake, Osa Johnson, a real life character. Her childhood was filled with books and research but it was light on the social aspects a normal American young woman experiences. She is not unfriendly but has few close friends and is devoted to her career of archeology and is a recognized expert in reading the old scripts.
Q. Water Like Stone sounds like an intriguing novel. How did you come up with the idea behind it?
A. I came up with the idea so long ago I have forgotten how it came about. I wrote a few pages at the time, it was titled The Find then and was about this young woman who makes a fabulous archeological find but credit for it is stolen by her supposed mentor. I came back to it last year after it had rattled around in my brain for perhaps 10 years and the story wrote itself much as my other novels. The title refers to how the ancient Egyptians might have written ice into a description, in this case a mountain where they encountered ice. They did not have a glyph for ice although they are known to have encountered snow and ice on northern expeditions.
Q. How much research did you do before writing this book?
A. A lot and it was very enlightening. I had no idea how advanced the Egyptians were in some aspects of science, medicine and math. They knew the earth was round and had longitude and latitude. That knowledge was lost during the dark ages and had to be re-invented. In the field of medicine they practiced a number of surgeries and used maggots to clean rotten flesh from wounds. Their religious beliefs and form of governance extracted a huge toll from their society which explains to some extent their many rises and falls over the 3000 year period they were dominant.
Q. There are references to Tuthmosis III. What is known about this ancient ruler?
A. Much is known about him down to the names of the officers of his court and some Egyptologists argue he was the greatest of all the pharaohs. He re-united the north and south of Egypt and led armies into Mesopotamia and traveled well outside the current day Egyptian border. The latter is one of the reasons I chose him to have built a memorial a thousand miles from Egypt near a mountain with water like stone.
Q. I’m guessing Dohclus is the evil plotting male who is out to destroy Osa. Tell me about his character.
A. Dohclus is really not evil nor did he start out plotting to destroy Osa. He is more a sad, declining man without the skills to maintain his status in archeology and initially hopes to use Osa’s abilities for his own benefit. Later, he finds Osa a handy scapegoat for his mistake of lying to the Egyptians. He is of course spineless and jealous of Osa’s ability.
Q. Have you been to Africa? Or Egypt?
A. Yes but only if Morocco counts, no to Egypt.
Q. I read in your bio that it’s a running joke that you were raised by wolves. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
A. That partially came from the primitive conditions in which I grew up; no running water, no indoor toilet, wood and coal stoves, etc., and from the behavior of the aunt and uncle that raised me. After my wife met my aunt, she declared I was raised by wolves.
Q. You traveled a lot as a youth. Why did you move around so much?
A. Curiosity? One did not experience much of the world in a small (population 1800) Iowa town. From the books I read I knew there was a lot of world out there and I wanted to see it. I’ve traveled much of the world and still at it. I have a trip planned this summer to Eastern Europe. Over the years I found some places I would rather have retired to than Reno, Nevada, like southern France. In the 70s I tried to get my wife to move to New Zealand, a beautiful land with kind spirited people.
Q. You retired in 1998 and are now racing cars? How did you get interested in that?
A. I’m not sure what started it but when I was about 12 a friend had a kind of homemade go-cart that his dad built and a big half mile dirt track. I liked sliding the thing around the track so much I would have sold my soul to the devil to do it every day. As soon as I got my driver’s license I immediately started racing around the local winding rural roads. This is no role model to follow but I had 20 traffic violations by the age of 21. Eventually I discovered organized racing like hill climbs and autocrosses and TSD road rallies which then were really illegal cross country road races. I did not do much of it in the 70s and 80s but started it up again in the late 90s, by then able to afford cars I could only dream of when I was younger. My ex-wife also liked auto-crossing and became a formidable driver, winning regional and national awards.
Q. If you had one thing to do over in your life, what would that be?
A. Wow! That is kind of personal. I did a number of things I regret and failed to do things I regret not doing but we don’t get mulligans in life. I guess I could name one general thing. While it was never my intent to be so, I was an oblivious jerk for at least half my life. I wish I had possessed the wisdom to have been otherwise. On a lighter side I wish I had piloted more antique aircraft.
Q. You did not get serious about writing until 1985. Was Water Like Stone one of the first projects you tackled?
A. No, my first novel was based on real events and real people and I wish I had had the foresight to avoid that pitfall because it did not help me as a fiction writer. I did not realize the importance of the reader fully understanding the motivation of a character. In my first novel I had characters do what they actually did without providing sufficient motivation to the reader. Reviewers have commented on how surprised they were when so and so did something that was unexpected.
Q. Are you currently working on a sequel to Water like Stone? If not, what are you working on now?
A. I have started a sequel to Water Like Stone although I may simply add it to the existing book and just make it equal in size to many contemporary novels. Water Like Stone is currently 271 pages in paperback. A reviewer on the B&N site commented that the only thing she did not like about the story was its length and that it should have been 600 pages.
I am currently stalled on the rewrite of a Catch-22 like corporate satire I completed in the late 80s but eventually the motivation will come around or I will get excited about something I am not even thinking of today. I am occasionally adding to a post-apocalypse story based on the world I created in the preteen adventure, Kelin’s Journey, but 300 years later.
Q. Why did you choose to self-publish?
A. Rejection, rejection, rejection and rightly so for my first and second novels. While the stories were good, the writing stunk. An agent talked about a movie for my third novel but it turned out to be bogus. After that disappointment, I have not submitted to a traditional agent or publisher. Self-publishing used to be very expensive and disparaged in the literary world, even getting tagged as vanity press, meant only for the vain. After reading perhaps 500 novels I came to the conclusion that I can recognize a good story and good writing. That conviction and the wonderful staff at Booksurge and later Createspace gave me the opportunity to publish.
Q. What would you tell a writer who is struggling to get out into the world of publishing?
A. It depends upon the individual. If they just want published by a traditional publisher, they should write something so topical a publisher will jump on it regardless of the quality which happens too often today. Or they can cultivate a personal connection to an agent or publisher. Or they can keep writing until they have written something so good it will be recognized on its own but they should not quit their day job. I can’t guarantee the latter option will work today. If they want to compare their writing to some good contemporary writing, read the first chapter of The Hunger Games. Now write the whole story with that quality.
If they are writing for creative expression, they must not depend solely upon outside validation. Outside validation is wondrous but I have motivated myself to write nine novels with only pitiful royalties and only a dozen or so reviews that are truly meaningful.
And finally, always remember every reader does not like the same thing as another. A few days ago on a discussion group, a reader said she hated the J.R.R. Tolkien stories!
L.M. David: Well that concludes this. Best Wishes on the success of your book. In the meantime, I am off to Home Depot to get something to remove those tire marks in the parking lot.
A running joke in my family is that I was raised by wolves. In fact I was raised by an aunt and uncle. The home in which I grew up was originally built around 1870 as a barn and converted into a house well before indoor plumbing was standard. I was the kind of kid that read encyclopedias like novels and built catapults, telephone systems, radios and flying model airplanes and rockets from scratch.
In the 1960s I worked as farm labor, auto mechanic, produce manager, butcher and railroad blacksmith and with the very early room filling computers. Around the age of 20 I began searching for the meaning of life.
In 1965 I started working on a pilot’s license and began taking college courses for computers, personnel management, banking and writing that took me to a dozen universities over the following 40 years. I have continued my education even after retirement, accruing 42 college credits after I turned 45
Although I wrote short stories in my twenties and later wrote technical manuals for computer processes, I did not start writing fiction in earnest until 1985. In 1998 I retired from consulting and now race cars, write and play poker, golf and the stock market in Reno, Nevada.