For nearly 15 years, John Coon has worked as a professional sports and business journalist based in Salt Lake City, Utah. His byline has appeared in major publications and on major websites across the nation. Now John has branched out into fiction writing and published his debut novel, Pandora Reborn, in 2018.
1. Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
I’ve wanted to be a fiction author ever since I was 12 years old. At that time, my parents had an old typewriter that they kept on a table at the back of our kitchen. My older sister had written a story and one day I decided that I could write one too. So I pulled out a stack of orange typing paper and started typing up stories with the central characters based on our family’s pet cats we had at the time. Those stories were a bit rough around the edges, as you might expect for a little kid, but my love of writing took root and grew from there. I’ve always had an active imagination and embrace writing fiction as the perfect outlet to share the stories that occupy my mind with the rest of the world
Writing Pandora Reborn is the first step in realizing that goal. The basic plot and main characters have been kicking around in my head since I was in high school. I revisited the idea from time to time as an adult. I wrote a chapter outline a few years ago and then sketched out random scenes and snippets of dialogue as time went on. I finally committed to producing a rough draft in 2017 – more than 20 years after I first came up with the idea.
2.Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?
I enjoy seeing how my characters are forced to evolve when confronted with a powerful enemy who puts them in a true life-or-death situation. A good example is Ron Olson, my main character. When we first meet Ron, he is the epitome of a selfish person. All Ron cares about is furthering his soccer career. He blames his mom for his parents getting divorced. He resents being forced to move from the big city to a small town away from his old friends and his club soccer team. As the story progresses and Ron finds himself and his loved ones in danger, he finally lets go of his selfish ways and begins to finally be the force for good for the other people in his life he was always meant to be.
3.If I were stuck in a room with your main character, what would we be doing?
Ha! I hope you’re a diehard soccer fan. Chances are you would be watching a soccer match or talking about it in great detail if it were just you and Ron. The kid loves the sport with an unrivaled passion. Part of it is he has had aspirations for playing soccer in college and then the pro ranks since he was a little kid. Soccer also serves as a safety valve and escape from life’s problems.
4.What is the most fascinating thing about your main character?
One thing that fascinates me about Ron is his arrogant confidence. In my sports journalism career, I’ve interacted with plenty of athletes at all levels. The best ones seem to have this swagger that sets them apart. It’s almost as if they know they’re better than you and you can’t do a damn thing about it. That’s the sort of characteristic Ron possesses. I think it serves him well in dealing with the challenges he faces as the plot unfolds. When push comes to shove, Ron isn’t going to back down and will do what needs to be done in the end.
5.What character from your book fills you with hope?
Eric, Ron’s younger brother, has the potential to be so much more than a simple prankster as he matures into an adult. You have to love his determination to not give up on doing the right thing, even in the face of serious danger. At one point, after his initial encounter with the woman in black, Eric is dismissed as crying wolf when all evidence of a murder she committed and he witnessed seemingly vanishes. But Eric remains persistent in getting the other main characters involved so they can investigate and uncover the growing danger for themselves. I also love that Eric’s love for his mom leads him to show some bravery that some people twice his age don’t possess when the story’s climax begins to unfold.
6.What character from your work frightens you, makes you feel dirty to write?
The easy answer would be to go with my main antagonist, the woman in black. After all, what’s more frightening than a powerful witch using dark magic to destroy her enemies. But it wouldn’t be the right answer. Trevor, who serves as sort of a secondary antagonist early in the story, is an equally chilling character in his own right. The reason I say that is he embodies so many negative characteristics of a popular jock. As Christina puts it at one point, Trevor is nothing more than a mean-spirited jerk. We aren’t likely to encounter evil witches in the real world, but bullies like Trevor can be found everywhere. The physical, mental and emotional damage they inflict on their victims can last a lifetime in some cases.
7.What is it about your genre that speaks to you?
Horror isn’t my only genre of choice. I love science fiction, adventure, thrillers and humor and I have planned out stories in those respective genres in the months and years ahead. But one thing I do enjoy with horror is the chance it offers to explore real-life fears within the construct of an otherworldly menace. With Pandora Reborn, I get to explore issues of abandonment, rejection, ridicule, distrust and other issues that are universal within the human experience. It isn’t just about a witch running around and racking up a body count. Sometimes, the biggest monsters to battle are the ones that do damage you can’t easily see or heal.
8.You’re going to go back and visit yourself when you first started writing, at whatever age it was, and you can give yourself one piece of advice. What would it be?
Don’t give up. It seems like simplistic advice, but it can have a powerful impact if followed to the letter. So many times, I’ve let obstacles get in my path and steal away time and energy from doing what I love. I’ve had detractors who’ve scoffed at the idea of me writing a novel and tried to dissuade me with the idea that fiction writing too competitive. Maybe there’s a kernel of truth to that notion but, ultimately, the only one who can keep you from succeeding is yourself.
9.How did you find the time to write this book with your busy life? What ideas do you have on how others can make time in their lives?
Making time to write Pandora Reborn was definitely a challenge. While I worked on the rough draft, I had tons of demands on my schedule from my day job. I cover the Utah Jazz, the Utah Utes and the BYU Cougars, so football seasons and basketball seasons, as you can imagine, keep me quite busy. Some days I barely had enough time to write more than a few sentences. But I kept working at it daily and, eventually, I finished my rough draft in time to keep with my original goal to publish this summer.
My suggestion to others looking to write a novel, or accomplish any other worthwhile goal for that matter, is to make reaching that goal a priority. Don’t let anything get in your way and derail you. Pick a consistent portion of day where you can spare time and just keep working at it. Nothing is more fulfilling than to achieve a goal or realize a dream that is important to you.
10.Everyone has at least one specific challenge that holds them back. What is that challenge in your work and how do you overcome it?
I’ve dealt with a moderate disability that has been with me since I was a toddler. When I was a year old, I experienced two life-altering accidents. One resulted in my left hand being partially severed and the other resulted in me almost biting through my tongue. Both were saved and surgically reattached, but permanent damage resulted.
I dealt with a speech impediment in my youth that I overcame for the most part, but I still have trouble with a few select words and syllables from time to time. I have permanent nerve and tendon damage in my left hand. Because of it, I had to invent my own method of typing in order to be able to use a computer effectively. I type a little slower than my peers as a result. When I am covering a game or event that requires a tight deadline, I compensate by mapping out potential storylines to follow ahead of time to help me make up for my lack of typing speed.
11.A publishing house gets a hold of you and wants you to take over writing an established character. For instance, DC Comics calls you and tells you they want you to take over writing Batman. What is the dream? What established character would you love to write?
I’ve always said if I became a best-selling author, there would be two projects I’d do if given a chance. I’d love to write a script for an episode of my favorite TV show, The Simpsons, and I’d also love to do either a screenplay or novelization for a Star Wars movie. When I was a child, my brother and I watched each move in the original Star Wars trilogy more than 100 times. At one point, we had memorized the dialogue from all three movies word for word. When it comes to The Simpsons, I’ve watched each episode multiple times and never get tired of quoting it and referencing my favorite moments from the show.
12.If you could live anywhere other than where you are, where would it be?
I want to be some place where I have wide open spaces and untamed wilderness. That’s one thing I enjoy about Utah. You have snow-capped mountains, red rock vistas and other incredible locales that are made for hiking and biking. For me, I have to be in a place that offers an outdoor adventure at my doorstep. Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska are other destinations where I can realize such a thing.
13.What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
Nothing compares to a starlit sky in the mountains on a night when you have a new moon. You can actually see the arm of the Milky Way galaxy on such occasions. It is a beautiful and simple reminder of the vastness of the universe beyond our own small planet. I sometimes wonder who could be out there among those stars, staring at the sky on a distant orb, and asking themselves the same questions that cross my mind.
Find John Coon online:
Links to Pandora Reborn: