Wording With Purpose

Interview with John Nichols

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? I am happily married. My wife, Shawn, and I are blessed with 2 daughters, Amanda and Michelle. Both daughters are through college and on their own, but thankfully, we live close enough to visit often.

I majored in engineering and invested much of my life in product testing, circuit design, and software development. That career has been an adventure, but I decided to step away to focus on writing.

I love to garden and never tire of having my hands in the dirt. I volunteer, occasionally, to help others with their gardens.

My shop is in a state of constant chaos as I design and build projects. The ladies in my life are vibrant sources of ideas and inspiration. I am an avid “re-cycler” or “up-cycler” and use materials destined for craigslist or the landfill as the basis for many new ideas.

My intentions as a writer are to work hard and to create something worth sharing through my blog, my articles, my stories, and my books.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? I wanted to be an astronaut but suffer from severe motion sickness so that did not pan out. I got a guitar and felt a burning desire to play rock’n’roll music for screaming fans but started mowing lawns instead. In high school I wanted to be an auto mechanic and build hot rods.

I did very well in math classes and some well-meaning guidance counselor convinced me engineering was a great place for a math wizard. After three years of college, I realized engineering had nothing to do with driving trains. Through it all, I have always loved telling stories.

Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books? The Bible is my favorite book and it never gets old. Seems there is always something new to find and ponder. I enjoy anything Clive Cussler writes. David Baldacci is a great read, as is John Grisham. David McCullough’s Truman and John Adams are on my shelf, and he did a great job with those. Mark Twain was a genius who makes me think while I’m laughing.

If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be? Who says Vanilla is boring?

What was the book that most influenced your life — and why? The Bible and its life changing message. God is, and will remain, the greatest Author of all time. I believe His book is still the world’s best seller. It is definitely worth reading.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? I’ve always enjoyed telling stories, even ghost stories around the campfire with my cousins. It was tough in high school as each teacher expected a certain writing style for an “A”. I seemed to be either wordy or vague on most assignments, sometimes both at once!

After graduation from college I began working as an engineer and learned quickly how vital clear communication can be. I’ve been a Sunday School teacher for many years and found, especially teaching adults, the job had better results if I took time to study and prepare written notes. That study and preparation opened the door to capturing my thoughts in writing.

I was working for Northern Telecom when the telecommunications bubble popped and the death spiral begin in 2001. As layoffs happened, we were told to ignore concerns about the future, grab a copy of Spencer Johnson’s book Who moved my cheese? and read it. We would then understand the reasons behind the downturn and the need for us to suck it up and get on with life. Apparently someone moved the cheese?

I started writing a rebuttal to Johnson’s book and after 2 years dropped the manuscript into a drawer. A few close friends read it and suggested it was worth sharing. For my birthday in 2008, my daughter took the manuscript and published it through Lulu. I was blown away as I held that book in my hands, and a fire was kindled

Do you ever experience writer’s block? Certainly. I loved the original opening for Go for the Gold, but my advisory group was not thrilled with it. I was certain a change would throttle the action, but how arrogant for me to ask for input then ignore it. I grabbed my hiking boots and wandered the woods for most of a day as I considered alternatives. My mind was a blank canvas for hours. Finally, there was a glimmer of an idea. I drove home and parked myself at the keyboard. It was a warm fuzzy feeling when my advisory group responded with two thumbs up to the changes.

What’s the best thing about being an author? I love those moments when a reader gets it. In that moment we are joined across time and space, the marvel of written words. My work means nothing without my readers.

Where do you get your ideas? I watch, read, listen, and pay attention.

Who designed the cover? My daughter, Amanda, is a graduate of NC State’s School of Design and does the covers for me.

Do you have anything you want to say to your readers? A writer is nothing without readers. Thank you!