By Cynthia Smith for Wyoming Living Magazine –
Sometimes dreams have to wait. John Young’s semi-autobiographical novel was that kind of dream, 24 years in the making.
The book, about a young man’s search for self-worth began in the mid-1990s, while John was an MFA student in Creative Writing at Emerson College in Boston. Then, the manuscript sat in a drawer for 20 years.
John knew from a young age that he wanted to be a novelist, but understood it was a dicey way to make a living. So he got an undergraduate degree from IU in English, taught high school for a couple years, then built a career in advertising.
While he was successful at teaching and commercial writing, the desire to write fiction never went away. “I always needed a creative outlet,” he recalls. “When there was no time to write fiction, I composed poems on a 15-minute deadline. It kept me going, helped me survive corporate life. I would write one or two a week, and found myself looking at the world differently to get ready for my next 15-minute deadline.”
“I used to say, ‘advertising feeds my body, but fiction feeds my soul.’ Through the years, I found a way to do enough fiction to keep my soul alive.”
Fast forward to 2017
John moved from Indianapolis to Boston and then to Wyoming with his wife, Lauren, and two kids, Nick and Tess in 2005. When the kids reached college age, it was finally time for John to work on his own writing in 2017.
The process was arduous. When he needed time to focus, John decamped to a Houston Woods cabin, sometimes working 20 hours at a stretch. Lauren was “insanely supportive.” Their son Nick, a design student at UC’s DAAP program, created the cover art. After two years, the manuscript was ready to go.
Golden Antelope Press in Kirksville, Missouri, published When the Coin is in the Air in August of this year. There is a website—johnyoungwriter.com—where you can learn more and check out the reading tour. John did a reading in Clifton, another at Wyoming Community Coffee, and will read in Boston, Cape Cod and Beverly, MA. He will also read in Indianapolis, Oxford, OH, Crestview Hills, KY, Chicago, and Washington DC with still more readings to be announced.
“The story is sometimes sweet, often poignant, and frequently funny. You find yourself rooting for Jason, hoping his choices will work out. The heroes and villains are all satisfyingly complex and multi-dimensional.”
When the Coin is in the Air follows Jason Blake from early promise to settled accomplishment, with dramatic adventures, tough decisions and heart-stopping risks along the way. “It is fiction, John explains, “but the bones came from my life.”
The story is sometimes sweet, often poignant, and frequently funny. You find yourself rooting for Jason, hoping his choices will work out. The heroes and villains are all satisfyingly complex and multi-dimensional.
One reviewer said, “The novel makes its way from…a staggering opening to a quiet self-acceptance that seems wholly earned—and leaves a reader grateful.” Another said, “An abusive father keeps his son—and the reader—in suspense…a well-told coming-of-age tale.” I read more than 60 novels a year, and I say it is a good read that leaves one with much to think about.
A joy and challenge
After he dreamed of writing a novel for so long, I wondered if the process lived up to John’s expectations. It did. “It is a struggle to create a work of art,” he says, “to make the imagined convincing, but I love the craft and challenge of it, making it real and memorable, with truths people care about.”
Is it just as sweet when a dream is a long time coming to fruition?
“Finding a way to pursue dreams and passions adds meaning to life,” he notes. “I didn’t want to look back with regret that I hadn’t tried. I advise friends to follow their dreams, even if it is later in life. Especially if it’s later. Among my inspirations was Jim O’Reilly–Wyoming resident and former P&G lawyer–who became a law professor, writer and politician. He has thrived in his Act II, and that gave me hope I could as well.”
5 out of 600
A writer friend, recommended John submit his novel to Golden Antelope. The publisher looked at 600 fiction manuscripts to choose five for 2019 publication.
John is proud his novel made the cut, but he also proud of all the years he supported his family through advertising. “As a boy, I was often concerned whether we might lose our house, or have to go without food,” he explains. “When I got older, I swore my wife and kids would never go through that. For me, it was right to set fiction aside for stability. Most of what we have came from my pen. I was able to leverage my talent into a career.”
John is just getting started on his Act II. He recently completed a second novel, Getting Huge is a semi-comical tale of a duty-bound preacher with deferred dreams of his own. Early readers have compared it to The World According to Garp by John Irving. He is sending it out to literary agents now.
Once you write it, it is no longer yours
Readers have different takes on some characters in When the Coin is in the Air. “That is as it should be,” John says. “Once you write a story, you are just another reader. You can only hope people connect to what you are trying to say.”
John made his dream come true. “The role of the artist, of the writer, is to help people see what they might not have noticed, consider ideas they might not have encountered, or contemplate a different way to live.”
He proved to himself he could write a full-length book. Whether his stories will be bestsellers or make it to the big screen, no one knows. But they could. His first serious short story was titled Someone Has to Make it Big.
To follow John’s progress and his reading tour, to order signed books, or to request a visit to your book group, visit his website: johnyoungwriter.com. He’d love to hear from you.