Interview: John Stith

Read on to get to know John Stith, author of Pushback.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

In mystery my list would include Nelson DeMille (love everything he does), Thomas Perry (I love the trope inversion and the intelligence in the Jane Whitefield books), Linwood Barclay (I love the mix of humor and drama in his Zack Walker series), Lee Child (no explanation needed), and Robert B. Parker.

In SF it’s impossible to escape the influence of Asimov/Clarke/Heinlein but I also love Ray Bradbury, Daniel Galouye, Dean Koontz, Preston & Child, Robert Sheckley, and Clifford Simak (he shows that gentle stores can be filled with suspense).

Both lists omit dozens of brilliant, moving writers.

Tell us a bit about your new book.

PushbackPushback is a mystery-suspense novel. It begins with Dave, an investment counselor with PTSD, who survives a blowout accident that kills his fiancée, Allison.

A year later, Dave has found unexpected happiness with Cathy. At Dave’s high-school reunion, he is stunned that he doesn’t recognize anyone there. Cathy, who was previously victimized by a con man, breaks it off. And that night Dave gets a text: “How does it feel to be so quickly forgotten?” Apparently, someone close to Allison is angry that he has moved on so “soon.”

Dave’s PTSD symptoms make him avoid conflict, so he hopes this will pass. It doesn’t. His car is filled with cement. His house is razed. And now, someone is trying to kill him.

Dave’s only choices are to flee to Bolivia or stay and fight. He stays.

What inspired you to write it?

I typically start a book with an emotional issue, plus a vague idea of a plot that appeals to me, and a setting that fits both. One of the emotional triggers of the book was moving on after a huge loss. My wife of nearly 30 years died of cancer, and in the following year I happened to meet a new wonderful woman. But while I was feeling attracted and wanted, I was also feeling guilty that I was still around to experience life, while my former wife was not. I felt disloyal. Intellectually I knew that was wrong, partly because of two things my former wife had told me before she died. Her two greatest desires were to get through the dying process with dignity (she was a 10) and that I would find happiness after she was gone. In writing the novel, I jumped from those feelings to imagining a character who was moving on after a loss, and compounding the situation by adding a character who also felt my hero was moving on too quickly. Someone angry enough to do something about it.

How did you get started writing?

I spent years wishing I were a writer. And then finally I decided to spend a fixed time every day and do it. I started with 15 minutes a day, and that grew. Eventually I sold some non-fiction articles, then worked my way to short stories, and finally to novels. My first eight novels with Ace and Tor were all science fiction, but most with a strong mystery element (a private eye on a distant planet, an amnesia/murder tale aboard a space station, an undercover operative going back home again and finding an old flame in trouble, a starship hijacking, and an investigative reporter wondering why one news team is often the first to reach a new disaster).

If you couldn’t write, what would you do?

Kill myself. Just kidding. Writing is the most fulfilling work I know, so would feel incomplete without it. But I do suffer from having too many interests. If I had additional lifetimes, I would love to develop the skills to become a fine photographer. In another life, I’d love to compose music.

*****

About the book:

At his ten-year high-school reunion, Colorado investment counselor Dave Barlow, who suffers from PTSD, finds he doesn’t know one person there, and soon realizes he must outwit an unknown antagonist before he winds up dead.

“Some people dream about going to their high-school reunion in their underwear. Dave Barlow goes to his and finds himself worse than naked — unrecognized. A lovely, twisty thriller that moves like a roller coaster — racheting up the suspense, then plunging into crisis, or doing a swift loop-the-loop through flashbacks of PTSD before the climb stars again.” — Diana Gabaldon, New York Times bestselling author of the Outlander series.

“PUSHBACK is a fast-paced crime novel guaranteed to keep you reading into the night. Accelerating through enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, PUSHBACK ramps up to a heart-pounding ending that will leave you breathless. Stith, known for his award-winning science fiction, really brings it home in his debut mystery. Bring on the next installment!” — Chris Goff, author of RED SKY

*****

John Stith HeadshotScience fiction and mystery author John E. Stith writes across many worlds. His books have been translated to French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Russian and are even available in braille for the sight-impaired.  His science fiction stories have been categorized as “Hard science fiction,” a label given to those stories thoroughly researched to play fair with the rules of science; something any die-hard SciFi fan can appreciate. PUSHBACK is his debut in

Stith holds a B.A. in physics from the University of Minnesota, has served as an Air Force Officer, where he worked at NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex. The passion for science runs in his family, as his father George worked at the White Sands Missile Range on such projects like the rocket sled.

He has appeared on a live nationwide PBS broadcast or Science-Fiction Science-Fact (SF2) and his work has also been sold to film and television. His novel Reckoning Infinity was chosen as one of Science Fiction Chronicle’s Best Science Fiction Novels,  Redshift Rendezvous was picked as a Nebula Award nominee and Manhattan Transfer received an honorable mention from the Hugo Awards and a nomination from the Seiun Award in Japan.

Stith is a member of Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), Writers Guild of America (WGA), International Thriller Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW), Colorado Author’s League and Mensa.  He currently lives in Colorado Springs.

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11 thoughts on “Interview: John Stith”

    1. Thanks for the welcome, Liz! And thanks for the comment. You’re right that “too soon” varies a lot. In one branch of my weird extended family, a widower married a new partner within, I think, a month after the funeral, and in the process alienated his children. And I know widows and widowers who never plan to marry again.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Welcome, John. That’s some heavy stuff you’re writing about. Brave you! That’s tough stuff. I read somewhere a quote by an actor who said that once you had found true love, it is easier to find it again when he was criticized for remarrying quickly. Wait, that might have been Elizabeth Taylor. Were we to explore it, I suppose we could establish three degrees of separation. I drove past White Sands once to visit the Quonset hut in which I was born at Walker AFB, Roswell NM (a few years after The Event.)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I definitely agree. I was lucky enough with my former wife that I was willing to risk it again. And I’ve known people who have been put through enough stress that going around again is unthinkable. (In the small-world department, I was in Alamogordo NM for all but three years during the span from grade school through high school.)

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Welcome, John! Thank you so much for sharing your stories, both personal and fictional. As Keenan said, that’s tough stuff and brave to write about.

    I love that you start with an emotional issue. Absolutely brilliant. What a powerful way to connect readers with your characters.

    Your book sounds terrific. Wishing you much success and every happiness.

    Like

  3. Your topic is timely and intriguing. I can’t wait to read your book.
    It is interesting that you worked mystery into your science fiction works.
    I didn’t recognize anyone at my high school reunion, but it was because they were all OLD.
    Thanks for visiting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean. 🙂 I’ve been to a couple of reunions, and something that struck me more than once was how much some people and places had changed while others seemed to have just stepped out of a doorway from days past.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Another Colorado author! Yay!

    And in that small world… decades ago my dad was involved with a presidential visit to NORAD. He was in charge of the (I might have this term wrong) Black Box in the event of a military emergency. And a few years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity for a tour of NORAD. Fascinating!

    Welcome to Mysteristas!

    Like

    1. Cool, Peg, and thanks! NORAD is an interesting place. I worked there when I entered the Air Force and that exposure to Colorado Springs was what brought me back when I had the chance. Colorado Springs is now bigger than I would like, but I don’t know where else I’d rather be.

      Liked by 1 person

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