J.L. Salter, author of The Overnighter’s Secrets, is a writer of romantic comedy and romantic suspense. The Overnighter’s Secrets was published this year by Astraea Press. Salter also co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship, his career for 30 years, as well as shorter peices on that subject. Salter was a newspaper editor and photo-journalist, and a decorated veteran of the U.S. Air Force. One of the most memorable experiences of that time was a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic, at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland. Salter is married, with two children and six grandchildren.

MTAR had a chance to ask Salter a few questions.

MTAR: What do you do when you are not writing?
J.L. Salter: Exercise regularly. Enjoy watching movies I’ve recorded, or purchased, or rented from Netflix. I collect militaria and used to display selected items, usually around a theme or period of time. I also volunteer in my church, working with kids (mostly in grades 1-3).

MTAR: What inspired you to write your first book?
J.L. Salter: Difficult to say, since I’d never envisioned writing book-length fiction. I always thought I’d continue with poetry. But a story idea hit me in fall of 2006 … and I was hooked.

MTAR: How did you choose the genre you write in?
J.L. Salter: I write in multiple genres: screwball romantic comedy, romantic suspense, comedic romance, etc. Also at least two of my novel manuscripts are what they call ‘hybrids’ … which cross traditional lines of genre demarcation. I get story ideas and then figure out what ‘kind’ of book could best express it.

MTAR: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you when you were growing up?
J.L. Salter:The Bobbs-Merrill ‘Childhood of Famous Americans’ Series. I read many dozens of them in 4th through 6th grade. Though I now realize the series authors took certain liberties with the dialog and accepted apocryphal legends (in some cases), these books instilled in me the belief that I could grow up to be nearly anything I wanted if I applied myself.

MTAR: Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
J.L. Salter: Rejection by the first (and only other) publisher I submitted it to. Then waiting for response (I’m not terribly patient), having to correct a couple of scenes and re-submit. The entire editing process … which was very new to me. [None of my previous publications had this level of involvement.] Delays between the steps of the editing process. It was all challenging.

MTAR: Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
J.L. Salter: Five of my other six completed novels are very special to me and, I think, quite publishable. Some need a lot of work still, but a few just need a quick run-through.

MTAR: Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
J.L. Salter: I have a few characters (in other manuscripts) who want me to write more featuring them. No particular theme, as far as I know, but I do enjoy stories which build off of some real-life situation or event … or person.

MTAR: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
J.L. Salter: At an age when this was really true (though I could not accept it) an English professor told me that I had not had enough life experience to have anything very interesting to write about. I think she over-stated her case, but she was also right in so many ways. At age 18, I wanted my poetry to be recognized as solid gold … and, sadly, it wasn’t. I resented her comments at the time, but as I actually gained some of those life experiences and truly did write better because of them, I realized she had been right. Albeit heavy-handed.

MTAR: What has been the best compliment?
J.L. Salter: “I couldn’t put it down” and slight variations on that.

MTAR: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
J.L. Salter: Be careful whom you choose for feedback on your writing. If they say it’s the best stuff ever written, they’re probably exaggerating … so don’t get a big head. But if they trash it … try to shake off that discouragement and keep working to improve.

MTAR: What would your fans be surprised to know about you?
J.L. Salter: I’ve “nearly drowned” (according to my parents) twice, as a toddler; I’ve been bitten by a snake; bucked off of a horse, knocked off another horse, and had a third horse rear up and fall BACK on TOP of me! I figure something in that list should surprise somebody.

MTAR: Do you have a specific writing style?
J.L. Salter: I’ve written articles (news, features, sports, and even a few editorials) as a photo-journalist, probably about a thousand poems (no exaggeration), plus book reviews and articles in professional journals. I’ve co-authored two non-fiction books on aspects of librarianship … plus a chapter in another book and a signed article in a specialty encyclopedia. AND … I’ve written seven completed novel manuscripts. I defy anyone to discern one particular “style” among that entire array.

MTAR: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
J.L. Salter: I have a significant message in one of my other novel manuscripts – about honoring the Greatest Generation – but in this currently published novel, I just wanted to tell an interesting story with realistic characters.

MTAR: What books have most influenced your life most?
J.L. Salter: The obvious (and sincere answer) is the Bible.

MTAR: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
J.L. Salter: In one sense, Walker Percy, the critically-acclaimed and award-winning author from my hometown of Covington LA. But he did not ‘mentor’ me, so to speak, as much as he inspired me. He was a good friend of my parents and I also had several encounters with him over a number of years.

MTAR: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
J.L. Salter: Too many to mention, but early novels by Jack Higgins and Frederick Forsythe would certainly be on the list. For non-fiction, I’ve become attached to Bill Bryson.

MTAR: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
J.L. Salter: If I listed one, I’d need to list a dozen or more. So let’s just say I’m enjoying the diverse offerings within the ‘stable’ of Astraea Press Authors.

MTAR: What are your current projects?
J.L. Salter: Trying to get my sixth novel ms. ready for submission.

MTAR: Can you share a little about that novel with us?
J.L. Salter: That sixth novel is about a mysterious ‘new guy’ in town who rescues the heroine of my story. Their first encounter is by FEEL, in total darkness.

MTAR: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
J.L. Salter: I had several English teachers through Jr. and Sr. H.S. who took an interest in me and/or my writing.

MTAR: Do you see writing as a career?
J.L. Salter: Since my early retirement from librarianship in mid-2006, writing HAS been my career … though this is my first novel to be published.

MTAR: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
J.L. Salter: I cannot recall a time when I didn’t think of writing as vital to my being.

MTAR: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
J.L. Salter: Eliminating distractions and securing adequate windows of time.

MTAR: Have you learned anything from writing your novels?
J.L. Salter: For my first published novel, I learned a good bit about Vaudeville days and American silent movies. Also quite a bit about actress Lizette Thorne.

MTAR: What were the challenges in bringing it to life?
J.L. Salter: I really wanted to do justice to the talent and accomplishments of that real-life actress … and I also wanted to honor her memory with the surviving family (with whom I became acquainted). So I guess the big challenge was to create a suspense novel – inspired by examining this actress’s mementos – which could be warmly received by her living family.

MTAR: Do you ever experience writer’s block?
J.L. Salter: I’ve never done the stereotypical ‘bit’ of staring at the screen and not being able to type anything. But I have had periods when I just can’t seem to get into my study and hunker down with the ms.