Monday, February 6, 2012

10 Questions with Writer John L. Betcher (@JohnBetcher)

This Author Spotlight features writer/novelist John L. Betcher.

John holds a Bachelor's Degree, cum laude, in English from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis. He has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota. He has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball there. Mr. Betcher has published three feature articles in COACHING VOLLEYBALL, the Journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association. His most recent article was the cover story for the April/May, 2009 Issue. His book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK OF VOLLEYBALL COACHING, Insights From the Trenches, has been selling nationwide and is currently available at

Mr. Betcher has also published a series of "Beck" suspense/thriller novels. The first three are THE 19TH ELEMENT, THE MISSING ELEMENT, and THE COVERT ELEMENT. He has also published the Amazon No. 1 Bestselling Spirituality novel, A HIGHER COURT.

1. How did you get into writing?

I started out writing articles for Coaching Volleyball Magazine. That pursuit eventually turned in to a small book about volleyball coaching philosophies entitled, The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching.

Then my kids graduated from high school and I found that, since I was no longer coaching their sporting activities or attending their music and awards banquets, I had extra time on my hands. So I thought I’d try a novel.

It’s really as simple as that. (Or as silly as that.)

2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?

Ha. My favorite thing is when I finally finish all the rewrites and the edits and I can publish the book. Isn’t that everybody’s favorite part of writing?

3. What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?

I don’t outline. I usually start out with lots of research, interviews with subject matter experts, reading of written materials, and trying to put all that information into a current social or political context.

From there, I have the plot in my head, and I just write until I feel like the book is finished. Usually, I like to write 4,000 or 5,000 words a day of rough draft material. Sometimes, that means writing for pretty long days. Other times, I need to set a project aside in the middle until I can mentally sort out the situation my characters have gotten themselves into.

4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”

There are lots of writers I read and admire. I have always enjoyed Robert B. Parker’s Spenser books. I like Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s sense of humor and writing voice. For fresh, new writing styles, I enjoy sampling indie writers and self-publishers. There are too many to list here. And I don’t want anyone to feel left out. So I’ll leave them all out. (Seems fair?)

5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?

LOL. “OUTSIDE.” Per the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), question marks go inside the quotation marks only when the quoted material is a question.

6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

I never used to use serial commas. But the CMOS does call for them. So I’ve adapted my writing to include Oxford commas. If I had my choice, I would use a comma before “and” in a listing only when I thought it was necessary to clarify the writing. But I’m pretty sure nobody at CMOS cares about my opinion. And that’s cool with me.

7. What is your book, THE COVERT ELEMENT, about and how did it come to fruition?

The Covert Element is about a fictional Mexican drug cartel trying to exert its influence into parts of the northern U.S. It’s also about how my ensemble of characters responds to this new and unexpected threat.

Since The Covert Element is Book Three in the Becker suspense/thriller series, the roles the characters play are all pretty well established. But the readers do meet an important new personality from Bull’s past. This man reveals a few things about Bull that many of us have been trying to pin down . . . like how he knows so much about explosives.

I put a ton of research into this book. So the cartel actions and drug manufacturing are completely authentic. And my interview with a retired Army Ranger lends some detailed texture to a military operation early in the book. I think suspense readers will like the book a lot. Sales so far are encouraging.

8. What’s your current writing project?

I have two projects in the works. The first, and biggest, is Book Four in the Becker series. It will take place in various locations between Minnesota, Washington, DC, and Egypt. The plot deals with stolen American military technology and the geo-political ramifications of “The Arab Spring.”

The second book is non-fiction. Its title speaks to its content – PUT ME IN, COACH – Reclaiming the Fun in Youth Sports. This is a book many parents will buy to give to their kids’ coaches to read. And many coaches will buy to give to their players’ parents to read.

9. What book(s) are you currently reading?

I’m on a reading break at the moment. But I’m anxious to get to Doug Dorow’s thriller, THE NINTH DISTRICT.

10. Who or what inspires your writing?

I am motivated to write by three goals: to entertain, to educate, and to enlighten. All my books have these inspirations at their core.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.

I’d like to thank you very much for taking the time to grant me this interview.

Readers can find out more about my books, including samples to read and video trailers to watch, at my Independent Author Network Member Page here:

My books are all available to buy at, in paperback and Kindle formats, here:

And at Amazon UK here:

You're very welcome, John. It's been a pleasure learning about your novels. Be sure to let us know when the next Becker book is ready!