Long and Short Reviews welcomes John R. Sikes, whose latest book At First Light, a collection of short stories, was released in March. His novel, A Fisherman's Son, was published by Rogue Phoenix Publishing in February. I asked him to tell us a little about the book.
"It is about a young guy who goes to sea on his uncles fishing boat the Wave Dancer. The story is made up from my personal experiences from working on the high seas as a professional fisherman. I incorporated what has happen to me over the years as his experiences at sea. I also explained how the major fisheries of the Pacific Northwest Ocean are conducted. Not only the dangers of the job but the emotions the men doing them content with. It is a harsh life but very addictive to those who experience it."
He is currently working on his second book of short stories. It, too, is mainly about survival in the wilderness, hunting and being a fishing guide in the Pacific Northwest. His first book of short stories was such a success, it prompted him to write Just After Daylight.
"Both books have a humorous side of often awkward situations I have found myself in," he told me.
He's also drafting the second book about the crew of the Wave Dancer in the sequel to Fisherman's Son.
"It is about the daily life and dangers of being a commercial fisherman. In this novel they take the boat up the inside passage and fish the Bering Sea. It comes from my personal experience of doing just that. I spent six years fishing the Bering Sea. It tends to make good writing," he said.
John took some college classes about ten years ago that got into writing. He had written some short stories about fishing and hunting, and the person who did the drawings for the short stories encouraged him to write a book. He started his first novel four years ago.
When he's bothered by writer's block, he takes a long walk and clears his mind or he'll do something fun.
"An idea will come to you when you least expect it. Stressing out about it is the last thing that will help you," he told me. "When something comes to mind write it down. You may come up with a great angle from something that does not sound so great the first time you put it on paper."
He starts notes of what he wants to write—listing the parts he wants to cover in the book. He will list the characters and the different traits that will bring them to life and try to make them individuals. He also makes notes of many different titles and, as she writes the book, one always seems to stand out by the time he finishes the book.
When he's writing, John sits at a table with a panoramic view of the mountains in Mexico where he lives. He usually gets up around two or three in the morning, writes for about four hours, takes a nap, and then writes until early evening—going to bed around nine.
"This comes from years of working watches onboard ship where we often worked six on six of for months at a time," he explained. "It has shaped my sleeping habits for life."
"What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?" I asked.
"I have always had a pack of dogs sitting around with me when I write. They tell me when we need to take a break and go for a walk. They also help me with writers block. If I am stumped I can always ask one of them what they think. They will come up with something. More often than not it is something I can use."
When he's not writing, John likes to travel, spending time in remote wilderness areas, and floating rivers in his riverboat or canoe. He also loves to cook and loves to learn new dishes or improve the ones he already knows.
His life experiences provide the majority of research for his work and, when he needs something those didn't provide, he goes to the internet and other people for the answers.
"For the book on smuggling drugs I spent a year in Mexico traveling to the places I wrote about," he said.
Writing from his personal experiences gives him an edge over other writers.
"I was lucky to live a life that most men could only dream about," he told me.
"What is your most embarrassing moment?" I asked.
"Getting real drunk and waking up in a different state."
If John had it to do all over again, he told me he would polish is work more before submitting it.
"Editors like writers who don't need babysitting," he explained.
"Ebook or print?" I asked. "And why?"
"I guess I am old school 'cause I like to hold the book in my hand. Ebooks are the future. Anyone who travels will tell you packing a Kindle or any other ebook reader is the way to go. Cost is a big factor also. I can get three ebooks for my ebook read cheaper than two books cost and buy them from whereever I am. After living in the Middle East for several years I learned that just having access to books in your language can be a problem. With the new ebooks that is no longer a problem no matter where in the world you find yourself."
John is the youngest of four boys.
"It made for a rough childhood," he admitted. "Grew up living out in the woods hunting and fishing. My father worked in the lead and coal mines and my mother was a nurse. I left home at fifteen."
Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"Keep a notebook with you and any time you have a good idea write it down while it is fresh on your mind. Don't give up. It takes years to come up with a finished product. Keep your work. You may need it years later."
About the Author:Captain John Sikes has been a professional fishing guide for over 30 years, chartering off the North Coast and on the Olympic Peninsula rivers. He loves floating the rivers lacing through the temperate rain forest of the Pacific Northwest. Currently, he winters in Mexico and spends the summers on the Olympic Peninsula.