February 21, 2011

Made It Moment: John Desjarlais

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 9:04 am


Please welcome John Desjarlais to the blog. John knew he’d made it in just the way that would have such meaning for me…But I’ll let him tell you all about it.

John Desjarlais

I knew I made it when my book kept an editor up all night reading. She literally could not put the manuscript down. She had other urgent projects in her to-do list with higher priority, and she gave my book a quick glance after I emailed to inquire politely about the manuscript’s status (not having heard from her in a good while).

One glance was all it took. One read-through without stopping. She emailed the publisher very early in the morning (with a cc to me) urging an immediate contract.

This was VIPER (forthcoming in March 2011), the sequel to BLEEDER, the contemporary mystery this editor had acquired the year before. Sophomore books are often more difficult to write and – according to many in the biz – are weaker than the debut. But VIPER required very little editing, whereas BLEEDER needed more work. That story showed great promise and was in pretty good shape, but the editor skillfully spotted the gaps and gaffs and there was some serious re-writing to be done. Not with VIPER. Hardly a line changed.

This was nearly miraculous, since VIPER was much more challenging than anything I’d done before. The protagonist, Selena De La Cruz, is a 30-something Mexican-American woman coming to terms with her bicultural identity and her place in a man’s world. So much could have gone wrong – not to mention all the potential pitfalls of mystery writing. Apparently, it all rang true and there was no misstep to trip up her all-night marathon. “More compelling than BLEEDER!” she told the publisher.

I’d made it.

A former producer with Wisconsin Public Radio, John Desjarlais teaches journalism and English at Kishwaukee College in northern Illinois. His first novel, The Throne of Tara (Crossway 1990, re-released 2000), was a Christianity Today Readers Choice Award nominee, and his medieval thriller, Relics (Thomas Nelson 1993, re-released 2009) was a Doubleday Book Club Selection. Bleeder and Viper are the first two entries in a contemporary mystery series. A member of The Academy of American Poets and Mystery Writers of America, John is listed in Who’s Who in Entertainment and Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.


  1. This post was mentioned on Twitter by William E. Spear.

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Suspense Your Disbelief » Made It Moment: John Desjarlais -- Topsy.com — February 21, 2011 @ 9:30 am

  2. Congratulations, John! VIPER sounds very compelling. Where did the inspiration come to write about a character like Selena?

    Comment by susan — February 21, 2011 @ 10:40 am

  3. Neat! Congrats on your success. That must’ve felt great!

    Comment by Savvy — February 21, 2011 @ 10:50 am

  4. “Hardly a line changed” is indeed making it! Good job!

    Comment by Sara — February 21, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  5. John, Hi! I’ve been meaning to read BLEEDER for months. Thanks for jogging my TBR. Reading this post, I put it together–your THRONE OF TARA came out just before Crossway did my GLASTONBURY. I have TARA on my shelf, thoroughly tabbed and underlined. I loved it.

    Comment by Donna — February 21, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

  6. Thanks, Susan. Selena began as a minor character in BLEEDER where I needed a smart, strong Latina as the local insurance agent to assist Reed with his disability claims. She just leaped from the page. In researching VIPER, I did a great deal of research on Mexican-American families and the struggle of Latinas to manage their bi-cultural identities. I read several books by Latinas about this issue of living in two worlds at once, I subscribed to Latina magazine, visited many Latinas’ blogs and websites, interviewed Latinas and many other things – including having a Latina reader who reviewed the work-in-progress to make sure I was getting everything right. At one point she wrote to me, “I am SO into Selena!” and I knew I had it right. But the whole thing made me nervous. There was so much that I could get wrong. — Donna, I read Glastonbury years ago and enjoyed it very much. I had been thinking of writing a follow-up novel to TARA based on the life of St. Patrick – but you treated the character so well I abandoned that idea.

    Comment by John Desjarlais — February 21, 2011 @ 5:47 pm

  7. Congratulations John. Love the cover on BLEEDER, and VIPER sounds like my kind of book. I’ll check those out.

    Comment by Doralynn — February 21, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

  8. Hi everyone! So glad you’re here to read John’s thoughts. Isn’t making someone stay up all night everybody’s dream? Stephen King says it’s his goal as a writer. Welcome Doralynn and Susan, and hi, Savvy, and Sara, and Donna!

    Comment by jenny — February 21, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

  9. Thanks, Doralynn. You can see the VIPER cover art at my site, http://www.johndesjarlais.com. I had a part in designing the covers, though it is unusual for writers to be involved with cover designs. I suggested the cleric with the bandages and fingerless biking glove for BLEEDER, and I found the model used for the VIPER cover. I had nothing to do with the covers of my earlier historical novels, though.

    Comment by John Desjarlais — February 22, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

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