Interview with Author, John Vorhaus

Thursday, 3 May 2012
Hey everyone! Today I've got an interview with author, John Vorhaus. He's wrote a ton of books and you can find more about him and his works on his goodreads page. He's joined us today to tell us all about one of his latest novels, Lucy in The Sky. Enjoy! :)

First off can you tell us a little about your book, Lucy in The Sky?
Lucy in the Sky is a coming-of-age story set in Milwaukee in 1969. It tells the story of Gene Steen, an earnest, intelligent, truth-seeking teen stuck in a suburban cultural wasteland. He wants to be a hippie in the worst way, but hippies are scarce on the ground in the forlorn Midwest of Gene’s 15th year. Then, propitiously on the Summer Solstice, his life is turned upside down by the arrival of his lively, lovely, long-lost cousin Lucy. She’s hip beyond Gene’s wildest dreams and immediately takes him under her wing. Lucy teaches Gene that being a hippie isn’t about love beads and peace signs, but about the choices you make and the stands you take. Yet for all her airy insights into religion, philosophy and “the isness of it all,” Lucy harbors dark secrets –secrets that will soon put her on a desperate dash to Canada, with Gene by her side.

Gene wanted to be a hippie, as a teenager did you know what you wanted to be?
Well, I really, really wanted to be a hippie, but I was just a shade too young. I was fascinated by hippie culture, though, and used to ride the bus into Westwood, California, near the campus of UCLA to “look at the hippies” and pick up copies of the LA Free Press, or “Freep” as we called it. It’s probably just as well that I was just too young, because I don’t think I could have handled all the freedoms and responsibilities of being a hippie if I had really gotten involved with that culture at my tender age. During the 1970s I more than made up for lost time, though, emerging as “a punk with hippie sensibilities.” From a career point of view, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be, except that – in true hippie fashion – I wanted to “do my own thing” and not get cornered by the constraints of nine-to-five living, even at the pinnacle of white-collar professional pursuits, like medicine or law. As a consequence, I had a brief flirtation with advertising after college, but quickly “dropped out” to become a singer-songwriter, first step on my lifelong path as a writer and teacher of writers.

How did you plan your characters? Did you know what you wanted them to be like before you even started writing?
I don’t do any character mapping at all before I start writing. I discover my characters by putting them in situations and examining the actions they take and the choices they make. Sometimes I then strip those initial actions right out of the narrative; it’s great if they become part of the story, but perfectly acceptable if they’re “only” exercises in discovery. Sometimes I start with just a name, and make a decision based on that. Before I wrote The California Roll, I was enamored of the name “Radar Hoverlander” (which is another way of describing the technology for placing vehicles on other planets, a “radar-guided hover-landing device” or radar Hoverlander). I thought I would like to use that phrase as a character name, but knew that the character would have to be special in order to “own” it, and so assigned Radar the personality of a con artist, and a very much larger than life one, at that.

With Lucy in the Sky, I knew that Gene, the fifteen-year-old boy, would be the protagonist, the character in need of change, and would therefore start out pretty “normal.” I also knew that Lucy, his seventeen-year-old hippie cousin, would be his antagonist, his change-agent, and should therefore be charismatic and shine pretty brightly. After that, I just put them together and let them start figuring things out.

If you could have any superpower what would it be and why?
Teleportation. When I’m not writing, I’m traveling around the world teaching and training writers (for example, as I write these words I’m consulting on a Norwegian situation comedy in Oslo). I get tremendous value and joy out of this enterprise. I go to fascinating places where I exchange information for experience and money. But I do wish it weren’t such a hassle getting from point A to point B, and if I could do it via Star Trek transporter or via astral projection, rather than via airplane, I would be a happier lad. Some people say that “getting there is half the fun,” but they’ve obviously never spent a nightmare layover at Heathrow.

Do you have any current books in the making? If so, can you tell us a little about them?
I’m currently writing a “soft-boiled detective novel” called Secord and Smoke: Scream Bloodless Murder. It’s intended to be the first in a series of short novels involving police detective Anne Secord and her partner, curmudgeonly police consultant DAVE “SMOKE” SAWYER. The bad guys are members of a splintered religious cult who seem to be committing ritual murders in the name of the cult but are actually, in a very weird way, culling the herd. It’s a departure for me because it involves real murder, something I haven’t spent much time with on the page, and it’s the first time I’ve written from a cop’s perspective. To tell you the truth, I’m really only writing it to see if I can – but then I guess that’s true for almost everything I’ve ever written. I’ve always embraced projects as a challenge, an opportunity to advance my craft.

Quick Fire Questions:

Favourite animal? Honey badger. Honey badger’s not afraid.
Favourite sport? Ultimate Frisbee. I’ve been playing twice a week for 36 years, but I can quit any time I want.
Favourite colour? Aquamaroon, because it doesn’t exist.
Favourite season? Endorphin Rush. Oh wait, I thought you said seasoning.
Favourite genre? Sunshine noir, because I invented it.

Thanks, John!

Happy Reading,
Rachel xoxo


  1. Awesome interview!! Lucy in the Sky looks brilliant! Thanks for the fantastic interview!
    Beth xx

  2. You're very welcome! :D xx


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