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Sunday 11 October 2015

Meet: author John Wiltshire

Posted in: Books
By Jacqui Stanford - 13th June 2014

The first book in NZ-based author John Wiltshire's contemporary gay thriller series has been published, and readers love it. We find out more about the ex-Army officer, who cut his teeth on fan fiction – and was delighted he didn’t have to live up to promise to do a nude run when he was published!

Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is John Wiltshire. I’m originally from England, and I’ve been living in New Zealand now for six years—I came to surf in the Pacific and then discovered the temperature of the water here in Dunedin. I’m ex-army, and soldiers and military situations feature heavily in my books.

How delighted are you to have your book published?
I once told some friends that if I got published I’d run down the street naked, shouting, “I’m published, I’m published.” Fortunately, when I heard the news in August last year, I was living here in the Southern Hemisphere where it was winter, and no one held me to that promise.

How many in the series have you written?
I have two series being published. The first More Heat Than the Sun is a contemporary thriller series with six books currently written—this is with MLR Press. Love is a Stranger, the first book is out now (available from Amazon and MLR Press), and the second, Conscious Decisions of the Heart, comes out next month.

The second series is a historical series being published by Dreamspinner Press with two books (so far): A Royal Affair and Aleksey’s Kingdom. I’ve also got a novella coming out with MLR called Catch Me When I Fall.

How long have you been writing for?
About fifteen years. Like many authors, I began with fan fiction (under an assumed name), which is a superb market to cut your teeth on. Fan fiction gets a bad press sometimes, but it’s a unique medium where the best writers can capture a mood, a character, an ambience, and turn these into something more rewarding than the original. However, the downside of fan fiction (other than you don’t get paid for it) is that it gives a false sense of security to the author. I was translated into many languages, had fans all over the globe, but there was always this nagging little voice telling me that I wasn’t brave enough to swim with the big boys. Eventually you have to kill the voices in your head.

Was it a tough road to getting published, or an easy one? What did you have to overcome along the way?
Surprisingly, I was accepted with my first submission. I did my homework, researched where I thought the best market was for my novel, wrote the synopsis and sent it off. I’m still “experiencing” the editing process. My editor at MLR Press is brilliant and I’m really enjoying working with her. But you have to let go to some extent, and that’s the downside compared to fan fiction which is very freeing—basically there are no restraints in fan fiction. Writing for publication is far more disciplined. Increasingly we’re entering an age when people allow themselves to be “triggered” (and I’ve probably triggered some people putting it in those terms). “Offence” is the buzzword of the day. I’ve had to take a few things out of my books, which my editors have said might trigger readers. That’s hard. And they’ve only seen the early novels. As the series goes on, I tackle some very contentious issues—I’ll put up a good fight to keep them in. If you want vanilla, go read Mills & Boon.

I’m a social media virgin, so that’s been hard. Writing the book seems to be the easy part—it’s getting people to hear about it that’s been the challenge. I keep hatching plans for some spectacular event that will cause the books to go viral. If anyone has any suggestions, please write to me at All suggestions welcome!

How has your military background influenced your writing?
It’s fundamental. My characters are almost all ex-army. I don’t do fluff. I’ve never used the word cuddle in a book yet. I write about the life I’ve known in the forces, struggling with being gay. There’s no feminisation whatsoever. Having said that, men can feel as intensely as women—we just express it in different ways, and that is very much a feature of the novels.

Does/will New Zealand come into the series?
Yes! In Book 5 of More Heat Than the Sun (The Bruise Black Sky) one of my characters comes to New Zealand to film a biopic of a Kiwi actor who has recently died. It’s set in a fictional town called Paradise, based on Glenorchy, and has scenes in Dunedin and Wanaka.

Who are some writers whose work you enjoy?

My favourite author of gay fiction is Josh Lanyon, and if anyone hasn’t read his Adrien English series, then they should. My first book, Love is a Stranger, is dedicated to Josh because he’s been pretty inspirational over the years. I read mostly in the crime/thriller genre—John Connolly is a favourite. He’s got two superb gay characters, Louis and Angel, which only goes to prove that you can have gay leads in mainstream fiction. I love Karin Slaughter’s novels, particularly her series based on the character Will Trent. I generally find I don’t like anything that wins the Booker Prize. I’m not sure what that says about me.

The reviews online have been great – one thing that’s common is that it’s not the usual ‘fluff’ you can so often find in the m/m genre – especially when it comes to romance. What do those types of comments mean to you?

They mean I’ve got it right. The late Maya Angelou was once asked why she wrote I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and she replied, “Because I wanted to read it.” That pretty much sums it up for me.

All in all, what do you hope readers take from Love is a Stranger?
I hope they take that it’s the first in a series of six. It’s a long road for my characters and hopefully my readers will stay on board for the entire ride! 

Jacqui Stanford - 13th June 2014

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