Interview: John Carenen

Please welcome John Carenen, author of the Thomas O’Shea mysteries.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Sleeping in late (8 or so), pancakes and sausage and cappuccino for breakfast, catching up on emails and sites on the internet (Red Sox, Hawkeyes), writing for a couple-three hours, working out, pasta salad dinner with lemon meringue pie, watching a movie.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
AFGN CoverSignature phrase would be “Don’t ask the question if you can’t stand the answer.”

Do you listen to music when you write?
No. I like to have it quiet.

If your latest book were chocolate what kind would it be and why?
Hershey’s Big Block with almonds. Because it has substance and staying power.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
For my debut novel, Signs of Struggle, I was prompted by wondering what I would do if I lost my family, and then it just took off. For the sequel, A Far Gone Night, I simply carried forward the protagonist in another situation he did not seek out.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I like the idea of a character who can deal directly with evil, who can write wrongs, who has a code to which he is committed. All this, and without having to wear a mask.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led him to be the person he is today?
I would have to say that Thomas O’Shea is a man of strong convictions, enjoying a strong Midwestern upbringing, fighting through great personal pain, relying on his skills and history to just make it day to day.

Describe your character as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Thomas O’Shea is a mashup of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux, and Jethro Gibbs on NCIS.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
That would be Parker, Burke, David Morrell, Warren Moore III, Hemingway, and Janet Evanovich (she could punch out Hemingway).

What’s next for you?
I want to keep writing about Thomas O’Shea (working on book #3 now) and also publish a romantic comedy.


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. A novel, Son-up, Son-down, was published by the National Institute of Mental Health. His debut Thomas O’Shea mystery novel, Signs of Struggle, was published in October of 2012. A Far Gone Night, the long- anticipated sequel, continues the exploits of the enigmatic protagonist and the quirky characters of Rockbluff, Iowa.  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.


12 thoughts on “Interview: John Carenen”

  1. Welcome, John, thanks for visiting. Any character who has a touch of Jethro Gibbs is okay in my book. I’ll be checking these out (yes, normal people in situations they didn’t seek can be powerful stories).


  2. I like how you summed up Thomas O’Shea so succinctly. Trying to live day by day while fighting through great personal pain tells me so much about him. And “a man who can deal directly with evil” is a great teaser for the book. Makes me want to meet him!


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