4 Mar 2016

Author Interview / Troubled Mission by John Wagner

What happens when, after a life-changing study-tour of Peru, a successful US attorney abandons his law practice to volunteer with a religious organization and travel to Peru to fight for human rights in the midst of a culture of violence and terror? Not what he expected. In his sometimes romantic, sometimes terrifying, always inspiring memoir, John Wagner searches for love, spirituality, and the chance to fight against injustice and oppression in a country not his own, while working for a religious organization he could not trust.

Wagner lives under a death threat from the fanatical Sendero Luminoso terrorist organization that he must keep secret from his religious community. He develops an on-and-off love affair with Bella, a beautiful but mysterious Peruvian teacher. He faces dramatic betrayals. He accidentally travels into the heart of the drug capital of the world.

Day by day, he sees the increasing violence in Peru and overnight, he sees Peru’s president become a dictator, shredding the rule of law. After a terrorist attack in a small town, he confronts Peruvian Army officers head-on to gain access to the scene. Then he must help prepare for burial the bloody, ravaged, body of a campesina woman killed in that attack. In this story, Wagner skillfully interweaves his inner struggles, including coming to grips with a new language, a new culture, a lower station in life, and a new perspective on his native Catholicism. Finally, he stumbles into what would become a landmark human rights case, stopping the Peruvian government from persecuting human rights lawyers. Ultimately, Troubled Mission is the story of human redemption. Many people seek personal change only to find unexpected obstacles. Troubled Mission shows how we can find redemption—or redemption finds us—in so many unexpected ways.

book avaliable at amazon

You can read more about John Wagner and his book at johnpwagner.com

1.  If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?
Joseph Heller. His Catch-22 has influenced me more than any other book. I know his book underwent substantial revisions and I also know it was well-organized chapter by chapter. I would love to discuss his writing techniques and thoughts with him. It's not enough to have a great idea--you have to be able to express it and build on it with an overall theme.

2.  What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
I have now become a devotee of large desktop computers and don't write on my laptop anymore. I write in my home office, my "studio." I don't have a set writing schedule, it depends on the day and the other activities I have scheduled. I prefer writing from late morning or early afternoon to early evening or lnto the night. I hate trying to write early in the morning. My brain just isn't ready to go yet!

3.  What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
The endless editing and rewriting.

4.  When and why did you first start writing?
I wanted to be a writer since early childhood. I wrote a poem in the fourth grade. Also around that time, I tried to start a "newspaper" on my toy typewriter. I did a lot of creative writing in college. But then, life happened and I had a career that took all my physical and mental energy. Even when I retired, I forgot that I had wanted to be a writer. After about two years of trying various activities in retirement, I remembered--hey, I wanted to be a writer. I then took it seriously and began writing with a disciplined schedule.

5.  How did you come up with the idea for your book?
After I did human rights work in Peru many years ago, I thought that work might be a good subject for a book. But as I said, live intervened and I just forgot about the idea. Suddenly I remembered it after a few years of retirement.

6.  Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?
Yes, I am reading something all the time and have very eclectic tastes. Right now, I just finished what may be the last Watergate book--Bob Woodward's The Last of the President's Men. I lived through the Watergate days and am a Watergate junkie. Now, I've started Wolfgang Herrndorf's Why We Took The Car. I was looking for contemporary German literature and someone recommended this. I didn't realize until I got it that it is considered Young Adult literature. Oh well, I'm finding it interesting so far. I also enjoy poetry and plan to soon re-read what to me is an all-time favorite, Sharon Doubiago's Hard Country.

7.  Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
My advice for aspiring writers would be the same advice I give myself--don't worry about how the book will sell or how it will be categorized. Just get it down. Then hone it, hone it, and hone it to show a clear and strong theme. And then hone it some more!