John Robinson is the acclaimed author of the Joe Box series of Christian suspense novels featuring a private eye named Joe Box. Joe Box is a tough as nails ex-cop, a Vietnam Vet, and a new convert to Christianity. Think of a Christian Sam Spade, and you’ll get the idea.
The series consists of three novels that will be featured on this site on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Anyone who posts a comment to today’s interview will be eligible for a drawing for each of these three novels. Please let us know which novel you’d like. There must be at least ten comments for the drawing to take place, so tell your friends.
Joe Box Series Novels:
Until the Last Dog Dies
When Skylarks Fall
To Skin a Cat
Tell us a little about when and how you got started in writing.
Oh, wow, that’s a loaded question! I suppose I’ve always liked telling stories, but the real impetus came when I was in eighth grade. My English teacher had us all write a one-page story each week, which we would turn in on Fridays. I always got pretty good grades on these, but one day she asked me if she could submit that week’s story to a little literary mag. I said sure, and they published it. From then on, I was hooked. I kept writing little things here and there, mostly for my own enjoyment, but didn’t really ever think of getting published again until I was forty-seven.
I love the Joe Box Series. These novels are like the Christian version of Sam Spade. What gave you the idea of writing this series?
I’d always liked these kinds of novels, but about ten years ago while re-reading a very good one, the thought hit me: “What if this guy somehow got saved right about now? How would something like that spin the plot?” That’s when I started weaving the threads of the Joe Box character.
One thing I love about Joe Box is he’s a new Christian who’s rough around the edges and shows his warts and all. Do you think that it’s important to show the edgy side of a character in Christian fiction?
Absolutely. The name of the game in any form of art is “honesty.” This is especially true in writing. People like to relate to characters, both good and bad. And while we do have to be cognizant of not causing others to stumble, we have to be equally aware of showing life as it is (or should be). It’s a fine line, and I frequently fall off it.
Your novels have showed the seamy side of life. In “To Skin A Cat”, you even showed Joe going up against the porn industry. How important is realism in Christian fiction?
The same answer. Honesty and realism are really two sides of the same coin. In writing redemptive fiction, we have show what someone is redeemed from, as well as the consequences of rejecting grace. And let’s face it, not all stories are for all ages. Mine aren’t.
Tell us a little about how you researched the Joe Box novels.
I went deep into several facets of his character. First, the Southern part was easiest. I’m from the South, and Joe’s speech and mannerisms are second nature. For the Vietnam stuff I interviewed several vets from several branches who’d been there, as well as historical documents and videos. The sniper incident in Until the Last Dog Dies, for instance, is based on a true event. The cop stuff I also researched with some folks from the Cinncinnati Police Department, as well looking at forensics files.
What advise do you have for writers who haven’t been published yet?
Work on your art until the angels weep, write something every single day of your life, and read everything you can get your hands on until hell won’t have it. Rinse, repeat.
You have a new apocalyptic novel coming out soon. Tell us a little about it.
Ah yes, Heading Home, the book they said couldn’t be done. *G* Years ago I heard a preacher on the radio (could have been Bill Bright, but don’t hold me to that) say something that rocked me to the core. To paraphrase, he said “the Bible is clear that no one knows the day or hour that Jesus will return. But oddly enough, is doesn’t say we won’t know the week. My challenge to you: what if you knew, without a doubt, Jesus Christ was returning to earth sometime in the next seven days? How would you spend that time?” That idea percolated in me for years, finally culminating in Heading Home. The plot’s simple: one September night every Christian on earth has two words simultaneously dropped into their hearts: this week. And that’s all. But it’s enough. The story then focuses on two friends who’d served together in the Vietnam war being led to find what’s left of their old unit and minister salvation to them. A lot of people told me the idea was heretical (psst, it ain’t; it’s called FICTION) and that no publisher would ever touch it. It took years, but one finally bit, Sheaf House. It’ll be out fall of next year, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Thanks so much for letting me speak, Tamera!
I’m happy to interview you. I love your books, and I look forward to reading Heading Home.