Interview with author John Otte

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Today, we have a special guest on Guts on the Page. Author John Otte’s latest novel, ‘The Hive’, releases on the 16th and I am happy to be part of the blog tour.

In the midst of his crazy busy life, John took the time to answer a few questions for us and give a little insider information. So, without further ado, I give you John Otte!

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HI, John. Thanks for sharing with us today. Would you care to tell us a little about your world?

Well, it’s roughly spherical, although the forces of its spin and gravity and all that tend to make it bulge at the equator, which is 12,742 kilometers around, and…

Oh, wait, you mean my little corner of the world, don’t you? My bad.

It’s okay, I walked into that one!

I like to say that I’m a pastor, husband, father, author, and geek, although not necessarily in that order. It’s hard to sum a person’s life up in just a few titles. But those five do a pretty good job of talking about the things I do and what I am. Balancing all of those isn’t easy, so I’m getting more and more adept at metaphorical juggling.

I think most of us can identify with juggling, especially writers!

I’ve heard that your latest novel, The Hive, is a sequel of sorts to Numb. Can you tell us how you came up with this story world and its characters?

Well, the story world itself came first. Many years ago, I published my first short story in an online magazine called “Dragons, Knights, and Angels”. Shortly after they accepted my story, they ran a contest where they challenged people to write a short story that used all three elements from their title, and they specifically said they wanted sci-fi authors to come up with stories as well.

So, I came up with a story called “The Dragon’s Heart”, but as I wrote it, I realized that the story was big enough to be a novel. I tried to write it as part of my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project. The story fizzled after I reached 50,000 words, but one of the things that emerged were these two intergalactic governments, the Ministrix and Praesidium.

Shortly thereafter, the characters for “Numb” popped into my head and I went from there. And when that was published, I kind of asked myself “What would happen next?” I think. To be completely honest, I don’t remember where I got the idea for “The Hive”. Kind of weird in hindsight, but there you go.

I don’t think it’s strange at all. Often, stories take on lives of their own and we as writers simply follow along.

The Hive is, I feel, a fabulous example of what science fiction should be, complete with tech speak and intriguing inventions. What kind of research went into writing something like that?

I hat to admit this, but very little. I mean, I would look stuff up to make sure that I had a veneer of plausibility to it, but I like to think that what I write is more “space opera” than hard science fiction. So, as long as the technobabble is consistent, I think it works.

Well, whichever way you went about it, this story definitely works!

Are you planning on writing more books from this story and making it a trilogy or series?

I actually am working on a new book that would continue a story thread that’s woven through the first two books. And hopefully, this new book would be the first in a trilogy that would cause a lot of chaos for both the Ministrix and the Praesidium.

Ooh, can’t wait to read that!

What do you hope the reader will take away from The Hive? Was it written strictly for entertainment, or did you have a clear message in mind?

A little from column A, a little from column B. I can’t say much about my original message. It’s definitely in there, but if I talk abut what it is, it’ll give away the ending. Let’s say that by the end of the last page, I think people will understand what part of the story is about. But as I was working on this story, I realized that there was second message that was emerging about what the role of the Church is in the world. I tried to draw a parallel between The Hive and certain segments of Christian society.

I like that. It speaks to the strength of the message, I think, if it is so tightly interwoven that it would be a spoiler to mention it. To have that solid connection to the real world is also vital, even in speculative fiction.

One random question before we get back to the serious stuff. Coke or Pepsi and why? Any flavors?

Coke. Cokecokecokecokecoke! Did I mention Coke? I’m the guy that, when I’m at a restaurant and ask for Coke and the server asks, “Is Pepsi okay?” my immediate reaction is “No.”

I knew there was a reason I liked you. Kindred spirits!

Christian Speculative fiction has been getting more attention lately, not only fro the Christian fiction market, but the general market as well. Yet, Christian spec fic still lags well behind mainstream Christian fiction titles in sales. Why do you think that is, and do you have any ideas of your own about how we can go about reaching a larger market?

Oi, that’s a good question. I think part of it is market inertia. For a long time, speculative fiction just didn’t sell well in the Christian market. That created a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts: there isn’t that much spec fic out there because it doesn’t sell well, so it doesn’t sell well since there’s so little out there. That trend is changing (I hope), but we still have a long way to go.

The best way to continue the change, I think, is to do our best to support the speculative stories that are out there. Buy the books, talk them up on social media, recommend them to friends, that sort of thing. There’s no magic bullet; it’s just matter of getting the word out.

Oi, good answer. I couldn’t agree more.

What do you think stories like The Hive, and other spec fic titles, have to offer that other genres don’t?

Oh, boy, another really good question. Every genre of Christian fiction can bring something to the table in illustrating what our faith is all about. And speculative fiction can certainly do that as well. For one thing, it can help illustrate the realities of spiritual warfare in a vivid and engaging way. It also reflects our Creator’s own heart, since He allows His creation to be creators in their own right as well. Speculative fiction creates unique and amazing worlds for people to explore and enjoy.

I couldn’t have said that better. And as an author of supernatural stories with a high focus on spiritual warfare, I would agree that the visualization of such things in spec fic can be more in depth and descriptive.

What made you decide to write Speculative fiction, instead of, say, westerns or thrillers?

It’s just a matter of writing what I enjoy. I love reading speculative fiction, so it’s only natural that I gravitate toward that genre when it comes to writing. I can’t imagine writing anything else. Well, I take that back. I have tried writing mysteries and even an ill-advised Biblical fiction book. But I think I’ll stick with speculative fiction.

I agree, it’s definitely a love for the genre with me as well.

Finally, I have a question I ask everyone I interview. What is your favorite verse or favorite quote? Or both if you wish.

Oooo, never ask a pastor if he has a favorite verse! I actually have a top ten list. If I had to pick just one, though, it’d probably be Romans 8:28-29. But my favorite non-Biblical quote is actually something I saw on a bumper sticker once: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans”. I normally don’t try to base my theology off a bumper sticker, but in my experience, that is most certainly true.

John, I’d like to thank you again for taking the time to hang out with me here today. I’ve enjoyed the conversation!

If you’d like to see more from John, find him on his website at:  http://johnwotte.com

 Facebook at : http://Facebook.com/authorjohnwotte

And Twitter: @JohnWOtte

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