John M. Floyd is the author of more than a thousand short stories in publications like Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Strand Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, Best American Mystery Stories (2015, 2018, 2020), and Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2021. A former Air Force captain and IBM systems engineer, John is an Edgar Award finalist, a Shamus Award winner, a five-time Derringer Award winner, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, and the author of seven collections of short mystery fiction. He is also the 2018 recipient of the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer for lifetime achievement.
Unlike most writers, I started later in life, not as a kid—but I still believe one of my inspirations was my childhood love of adventure stories, in books and elsewhere. I especially remember liking the little half-hour “anthology” TV shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Twilight Zone, Death Valley Days, Outer Limits, One Step Beyond, and others. I think that’s when I first became interested in short fiction. My start “in the industry,” so to speak, happened much later, when my wife talked me into sending some of the short stories I’d been writing off to editors, to see if I could get them published. I was reluctant—no one likes to be told his baby’s ugly—but finally I took the leap, and was extremely fortunate to sell a few stories to publications right away. Though I eventually received my share of rejection letters, the confidence of those early and unexpected successes convinced me to keep trying.
I write mostly mystery/crime stories. I like the suspense and tension and anticipation that always accompanies that kind of fiction, and the justice-is-served endings. But I also write some Westerns, which a friend said is actually just “crime fiction with cowboys and horses.” I suspect my love for both those genres again goes back to my childhood. Most primetime TV programs in the 1960s were Westerns and cop shows.
A little of all three, but mostly short stories.
To get ideas, I eat a bowl of spicy chili just before bedtime; that way I wake up at 3 a.m. dreaming in Technicolor and Cinemascope. Just kidding. I usually come up with ideas by thinking of normal, everyday people and situations and then asking myself “what if” such-and-such happened? From that point, one’s imagination can go in all sorts of directions.
It sounds corny, but it’s the fulfillment of creating stories out of thin air that, if I’m lucky, make me (and hopefully a reader, someplace) feel good, and entertained, and satisfied. The feeling of accomplishment I always get when I write THE END is hard to describe. And also the freedom of being able to start the process all over again the next day.
Keep trying. Everybody gets rejections. I once heard that a professional writer is just an amateur writer who didn’t give up.
I’ve honestly never had what’s known as writer’s block, but I certainly realize that others have, and I know it can be debilitating. I’ve often heard that the only way to overcome writer’s block is to sit down and make yourself write something, anything, even though it might not be much good. To attempt nothing is the worst thing you can do.
I think what intrigued most of us (the folks I knew who heard about it early on) was the fact that it’s such a different way to approach storytelling. I felt a real challenge to come up with something that could be expressed via both animation and narration, in a way that would be interesting to a reader/viewer. And yes, it certainly aligns with my goals. I think one of the goals of every writer is to try to connect with as many readers as possible.
The most recent of my three Storiaverse stories is called “A Night at the Park,” about a couple of prison escapees looking for a hideout who stumble upon a place in the woods that turns out not to be what either of them expected. The story contains quite a bit of danger and suspense and (I hope) a little humor also, and if it has a theme, it would probably be that in a perfect world, good people and bad people both get what they deserve.
I think it will help the reader to visualize the story in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, and will hopefully increase the suspense and the enjoyment along the way.
I think fiction should reflect real life, at least to some degree. As our society becomes more diverse, writers and their characters should be as well. What we as writers can do is try to include those different folks and groups in our stories and try to make what we write interesting and relatable to everyone.