J. R. Lindermuth is the author of 15 novels, including six in the Sticks Hetrick mystery series set in a fictional rural community near Harrisburg PA. A retired newspaper editor/writer, he is now librarian of his county’s historical society where he assists patrons with research and genealogy. He has published stories and articles in a variety of magazines, both print and on line. He is a member of International Thriller Writers and is a past vice president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
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1. You were born in a coal mining town in Pennsylvania. Was it the norm that most men in the town worked as miners?
Mining was the dominant industry when I was born, though my father, grandfather and other relatives worked on the railroad. Silk mill factories, which employed many men and women earlier, was in its decline.
2. What has happened to coal mining in Pennsylvania now? Are the mines closing down these days like they are in the UK?
The big mines here and in other counties have closed down. There are still a few small operations but the majority fell victim to environmental concerns, the expense of getting coal at deeper levels and lack of demand due to competition with alternate fuel sources–oil, gas and other.
3. What’s the most interesting story you’ve ever covered in your previous work as a newspaper reporter?
That covers a lot of time; 40 years on the job, not counting additional in the military. Three that particularly stick in the memory would have to be covering a conference on the DMZ in Korea; the Dr. Jay C. Smith murder trial and the resettlement of refugees after the Vietnam war.
Readers may find this of interest–Dr. Smith was a high school principal who was sentenced to death for the 1979 murder of Susan Reinhert and her two children. His conviction was later overturned, but a co-conspirator William Bradfield died in prison.
4. How has modern reporting changed from your time as a newspaperman?
I began with manual typewriters, switched to electric, then went through various computer phases. All digital cameras now; no more darkrooms. Change continues. It seems to me many, not all, but many reporters now rely more on technology than getting out of the office to interview and observe activities. There’s far too much personalizing of copy, too. A news article should convey just the facts, not opinion. Opinion is meant for the editorial page.
5. Do you miss the buzz of working to a deadline now that you are retired?
I still often work to the deadline. My own fault. I’m a born procrastinator (according to my daughter) and sometimes need a push to get started on an assignment or duty.
6. You serve as librarian of a historical society where you assist patrons with research and genealogy. Have you delved into your own ancestry?
Oh, yes. A paternal aunt and I had started tracing family history when I was still in high school. I’ve now documented my paternal line back to the 1600s. So far I’ve only got my mother’s (Sears) back to ca 1790. Despite my German surname, my DNA results revealed my ethnicity to be 74 percent Great Britain.
7. Tell us a little bit about your Sticks Hetrick Crime Series, and about your main protagonist. What is your new book about?
Hetrick is a retired police chief and now a county detective who keeps getting involved in crime-solving. The protagonist in this latest book is one of Hetrick’s protégés, Officer Flora Vastine.
When Jan Kepler, a school teacher, birder and niece of a fellow officer, is murdered Flora finds herself thrust into an examination of the other woman’s life. Despite other suspects, the behaviour of another classmate rouses Flora’s suspicion. Her probing opens personal wounds as she examines the cost of obsessive love and tracks down the killer.
8. The Darkness, your 15th novel and the 7th in the Sticks Hetrick Crime Series, will be published on September 13th. How do you promote a new book launch?
There are no book stores near me. Normally I would have a release day at the local library. But I’ve been under treatment for cancer since January (doing much better now) and not supposed to drive because of the medications I’m on, which pretty much restricts me to online promotions–hitting FB, Twitter and the other hot spots, seeking interviews like this, reviews and, possibly some paid advertising.
9. If I asked you to write exactly seven words to describe your new book, what would you write?
Intriguing plot, skilled characterization, twists and romance.
10. Do you send your manuscripts off to literary agents, or do you prefer to remain self-published?
After getting the normal hundreds of rejections from the BIG publishers, I got smart and started submitting to smaller publishers who are more attentive to their writers. I’ve only self-published one novel. I don’t currently have an agent.
11. How long does it take you to write a novel?
That depends. Some are fully formulated in the mind and the writing goes very quickly. Others, counting germination, research, actual writing, can take years.
12. Do you write only in the thriller genre?
No. I’ve written non-fiction on various subjects that interest me and fiction in the mystery/suspense, historical, Western and romance genres.
13. Who is your favourite author?
That’s like asking which of my children is the favourite. I read widely, both fiction and non-fiction, and constantly find new writers to admire. Some of my favourites in the mystery genre would include James Lee Burke, Ruth Rendell, Harlan Coben, Ian Rankin, John Harvey, Elmore Leonard, Charles Willeford and Val McDermid.
14. One of your hobbies is ‘listening to good music’. What type of music or bands do you consider good?
My personal favourites are classical, blues and folk music. But I have catholic tastes and will try anything to see how it jars my senses.
15. You have travelled extensively. Where in the world would you like to travel to now if you had the opportunity?
The UK would be a priority, Mexico or the Caribbean close seconds.
16. Where is the best place on earth?
The place where you feel full-filled and happy.
17. Is your glass half full or half empty?
18. If you could save one possession in a fire, what would it be?
Most possessions can be replaced. Since I live alone I’d have to say family photos.
19. Do you prefer to be alone, or to be around people?
I enjoy solitude, but I also like being with family and friends. Not in crowds, though. Abhor crowds.
20. You are a past vice president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. What were your duties?
As vice president I worked with the president and other officers to develop policies and helped coordinate our prestigious Derringer awards program and filled in for the president when she wasn’t available. Through a process of judging, Derringer awards (named for the popular pocket pistol) have been annually presented since 1998 to authors in four length categories, from flash fiction up to novelette. The purpose the society is to promote and support short form mystery fiction and provide a forum for short story writers.
Thanks John, for answering my questions today.