PPW: So far, what is the greatest joy of being a full-time writer?
JH: All of it! (laughs) I mean, it’s a life changer, it really is. I would say it’s a freedom issue, the expression of ultimate freedom. I choose what I want to do. Literally, if I want to work on a Saturday night, if I want to take off Monday morning, if I want to take Wednesday off to be with my kids, it doesn’t matter. The thing about that is you do tend to lose track of time and days. You have to keep a schedule.
PPW: What prompted you to take your writing to an outside office rather than working at home? Was it just a matter of getting out of the house and away from the distractions of your family?
JH: All the things you just described. My wife, the children – they understand intellectually how my process works, but they don’t get it. My wife won’t hesitate to stick her head in and say, “John, this will just take one second.” Right? She doesn’t understand that now I’m going to spend another hour getting back into the scene and it’s not one second, it’s two hours.
The other part is, I had so many years as a lawyer and a stockbroker, so going to an office provides a sense of transition from home to work. And I like to have my space. I’ll be writing at home when we move to Virginia…for at least a couple months, as I have before.
During the Saturday lunch at conference, John shared that he and his family were moving to a rural Virginia farm so that his kids could have a “Huckleberry Finn” sort of childhood similar to his own. The land carries a bit of history, as Thomas Jefferson crossed it regularly to haul building materials to his own property. It is also dear to John because he and a friend were able to buy the property from a developer whose plans tanked with the economy.
PPW: Tell us about the environmental issues that are such strong themes in your books.
JH: When I was a kid, we lived in town but had 472 acres on the river. Down River is sort of a testament to my memories of that farm and that experience. You’ll see if you read King of Lies there’s a pretty big issue of development. For me, it’s the Southern connection to land and place.
PPW: You mentioned in your talk yesterday that you have some favorite charities that you support.
JH: There are charities that I serve on the boards for, the Children’s Museum in Greensboro and the Land Trust for Central North Carolina. I really have two hometowns. There’s Salisbury, where I grew up, and Greensboro. …For Down River and The Last Child, we did big, big fundraiser events for the Children’s Museum and the Land Trust. People who bought tickets to the events were the first in the nation to get copies of the book. There were centerpieces that triptychs of the jacket art with a candle in the middle so it would shine through – they just did a beautiful job. We had a character name raffle. We’ve been really good at getting media, so people were buying (raffle tickets) from all over the state. The woman who won it ended up being the main female character in Iron House.
PPW: Tell us a little bit about what you like to do when you’re not writing.
JH: My downtime, I swear, is all about my kids! My selfish pleasures are movies. I used to play golf. I just bought a new chainsaw. I’ve got some trees down on some of our trails.
PPW: What’s your next project?
JH: (Smiling) It’s probably a little too early to speculate on the record as to what the next book is. I’m working on it. I have ideas.
BIO: John Hart is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, The King of Lies, Down River, and The Last Child. The only author in history to win the best novel Edgar Award for consecutive novels, John has also won the Barry Award and England’s Steel Dagger Award for best thriller of the year. His books have been translated into twenty-nine languages and can be found in over fifty countries. His fourth novel, Iron House, releases today and is available from your favorite booksellers.
(Photo courtesy of Abigail Seymour Photography)