The 19th Element: Interview with Suspense Thriller Author John L. Betcher

John L. Betcher is a University of Minnesota Law School graduate and has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota. He possesses substantial first-hand knowledge of the Prairie River Nuclear Plant’s real world counterpart, as well as Red Wing’s airport and the flight rules around the nuke plant.

In addition to The 19th Element, he has published a second book in the “Beck” series entitled, The Missing Element, A James Becker Mystery. The second book is available everywhere.

The author has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball in and around Red Wing and has authored three feature articles for Coaching Volleyball, the journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association. His most recent article was the cover story for the April/May, 2009 Issue.

His book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching is available at and at

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, John. Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing and how your journey led to writing your latest book, The 19th Element, A James Becker Thriller?
I’ve been writing for more than thirty years now. First, as an English major in college. Then, as an attorney for more than twenty-five years. Then, for publication in a national volleyball magazine. And finally, as an author of suspense/thriller fiction.

Each writing experience has contributed its own flavors to my writing. Fiction combines them all, while adding character development and plotting to the mix.

Q: I love your title! Can you tell us why you chose it?

Element number 19 on the Table of Periodic Elements is potassium. It happens that potassium . . . normally used for farm fertilizers and food supplements . . . features prominently in the book as a unique explosive. If not for elemental potassium’s violent reaction when combined with water, the terror attack on the nuclear plant could not be successful.

Q: Why did you believe your book should be published?

I believe there can never be too many enjoyable reads on the library shelves. My book takes an atypical setting for a terrorist attack and makes it a reality – at least according to several nuclear insiders who have told me as much.

Given that the story concerns an al Qaeda attack on a nuclear power plant, one might think that the book is serious and terrifying. Well . . . The 19th Element certainly contains plenty of action and excitement. But authentic and witty characters – native Midwesterners – add humor where needed, and combine with the tension to make the book an enjoyable ride.

Q: We all know that publishers can’t do all of the publicity and that some lies on the author. What has your publisher done so far to publicize the book and what have you done?

I am self-published. So I bear full responsibility for all publicity and marketing of my book.

To get the word out locally, I have engaged several newspapers who have written reviews and published back-story articles. I have appeared on a local radio show. I also do book signings and appear at book clubs.

On the web, I maintain a presence on such social media sites as Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn. I also administer a blog called Self-Publishing Central, where I chronicle my self-publishing journey in the hopes that others can learn from my successes and failures. And I engage in Virtual Book tours, such as the one I am on right now.

Q: What book on the market can it compare to? How is it different? What makes your book special?

Some compare this book to writings by Vince Flynn or Michael Connelly. I think, if you like the late Robert B. Parker’s Spenser detective series, you’ll like The 19th Element. Although Parker’s books are mysteries instead of thrillers, he has so influenced my writing style that Parker fans will recognize that influence instantly.

What’s special about this book?

The attention to detail that makes the terrorists’ plot both plausible and frightening.

The setting in rural America, where our nation is most vulnerable to terror attacks.

The capable foursome of core characters who work together to defeat the terrorists’ attack.

Heck . . . what’s not to like?

Q: Open to a random page in your book. Can you tell us what is happening?

Page 69. My main character’s wife, Beth, is calling her husband – panic in her voice – to tell him that their college-student daughter seems to have a mysterious stalker. Beck departs his law office with haste to help Beth assess the potential threat.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

Absolutely. I have already released a new title in November, 2010 entitled A Higher Court – One Man’s Search for the Truth of God’s Existence. The book is a work of literary fiction and explores one person’s struggle with conflicts between science and faith.

There is also a third installment in the Beck series due out this spring. It remains, as yet, untitled. The story will reprise the same core cast of characters as the first two Beck books – The 19th Element and The Missing Element. The new book will take a frightening look into the activities of Mexican drug cartels in the Midwest.

Q: Thank you for your interview, John. Do you have any final words?

Many thanks for inviting me to visit. I truly appreciate your help getting the word out about this book. Cheers!
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