10 QUESTIONS FOR…John Jeter, author of “The Plunder Room”


Author #6:pr-cover-and-jjphoto

John Jeter, “The Plunder Room”

 I’m the Talent Buyer for The Handlebar, a 520-capacity concert hall that my wife, Kathy Laughlin, and I started in Greenville, SC, in 1994. Since opening (with no money and no idea what we were doing), we’ve promoted more than 2,500 shows, including Joan Baez, John Mayer, John Hiatt, Bela Fleck, Tower of Power, David Sanborn, Richie Havens, Janis Ian and more. Before that, I was an editor and reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, St. Petersburg Times and San Antonio Express-News, and earned my master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. I’ve appeared on Oprah!; traveled all over the world (including Vietnam, China and Hong Kong, and Honduras – all of which appear in my novel); and had a kidney transplant in 1984, from my brother.

1. Tell us about your latest book.

My novel, THE PLUNDER ROOM, is attempt No. 7. The first four are cringe-worthy, the next two are a delight, the seventh sold–without an agent … I pitched it over the transom to an editor at St. Martin’s Press, who had read No. 5 and liked that one, but not well enough, and remembered me.

2. How did you get started as a writer?

I started as a writer when I was 6, kept at it until I wanted to get paid, but as an itinerant one–a journalist. That meant I moved from city to city, up the professional ladder. Until I burned out on journalism, realized the night-and-day difference between journalism and fiction (really!) and opened a concert hall and bar.

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

I have a day job negotiating with music agents, so I’m actually something of a publisher. Our venue, The Handlebar, receives 3,000 to 4,000 queries each year from bands, artists, agents seeking 300 to 400 slots (including headliner and opening-band) each in every Calendar. So I know what it feels like to get thousands of rejections and to have to dole them out. I write when I can get away with it, and try to get away with a minimum of 1,000 words whenever I can.

4. Describe your desk/workspace.

A leather recliner with a TV table that has no visible surface space, direct line of sight to the TV, which is rarely on, and a gas fireplace, accompanied by a mean Shih Tzu who thinks he’s a Doberman.

5. Favorite books (especially for writers):

Just finished Junot Diaz’s “Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao,” made me want to quit writing altogether because it’s too amazing. Now reading Roberto Bolano’s “2666.” Fan of The Richards: Russo, “Empire Falls”; Yates, “Revolutionary Road”; Ford, “Independence Day”). Also, Michael Chabon’s stories and “Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay”; Henry Miller’s Rosy Crucifixion trilogy and the “Tropic”s; Thomas Wolfe; Melville’s “Moby Dick”; Dickens’ “Bleak House”; Maugham and Forster.

6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you.

I’ve appeared on Oprah!

I was the first son of a U.S. Army helicopter pilot to retrace his father’s footsteps in Vietnam (1988)

I walked through Hemingway’s house in Cuba.


7. Favorite quotation?

“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.” – Herman Melville


8. Best and worst part of being a writer.

Best – Starting to write, going Left Brain and vanishing into a world of your own creation. Worst – Figuring out how to promote and sell the book you’ve just gotten published.

9. Advice for other writers.

Disgorge the story just as fast as possible, spit up all 100,000 or so words immediately, then go back and clean up the mess. Don’t think, don’t edit, don’t second-guess – just write.

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience.

 I wrote my first novel in 1989 and pitched it to my aunt’s college roommate at Knopf. She as kind, but it was Knopf, and the ms. was . . . I was 29 and never realized how wobbly the project was. It took 20 years, a decade in journalism, a decade to recover from journalism, six more novels, thousands of rejections, a lot of maturity (and still practicing), love, fortitude, patience and some serious editing from my wife of 15 years, a nervous breakdown, some psychotropic drugs, three hip replacements and an unwillingness to realize I could do anything else but get a book published to become an overnight success.

Where can people buy your book?

  As a small business owner, I’m pitching small businesses: Local, independent bookstores! THE PLUNDER ROOM is in stock at all of them; if it’s not, demand it. The book’s also on sale at Barnes & Noble, Border and online everywhere. Also through my Website http://theplunderroom.blogspot.com and through The Handlebar’s Website (which goes to my site): http://www.handlebar-online.com. And at http://www.thomasdunnebooks.com.

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