I’m excited to introduce John Otte (rhymes with karate (I asked)) to you. I’ve read and enjoyed his novels Numb and Failstate (click for review), and I’m currently enjoying The Hive (review to come). For now, though, it’s time for us to get to know the author’s mild-mannered alter ego.
John, thanks for coming on the blog today! Tell us: when you’re not writing, what are you doing?
My secret identity is that of a Lutheran minister. More specifically, I’m a pastor in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, which is a pretty conservative denomination.
What do you find most interesting about being a Lutheran minister?
What I find really fun about my job is finding new ways to present ancient truths in a relevant way. For example, my denomination uses a pericopal system for Bible readings in worship. What that means is, there’s a set schedule for what gets read when. In most cases, that means that the same Biblical readings will show up every three years. Some even show up every year. That can be a bit of a challenge, because it means that you have to come up with new thoughts and new takes on the stories in a way that is meaningful and engaging. It can be a challenge, but I like that challenge a lot.
What are some common misconceptions people have about ministers?
That I only work on Sundays. Seriously. I know that that’s an old joke about being a pastor, but I find a lot of people really do think that’s true. They can’t quite wrap their heads around the fact that it’s a 24/7 type of job. It takes a long time to put together sermons and Bible studies, to go visit people who are sick or shut-in, and that you’re on call pretty much all the time should your congregation need you.
Give us the skinny – what are some interesting facts about ministry that most people don’t know?
Well, in my case, I had to go to school for a long time to become a pastor. I not only had to earn a bachelor of the arts degree of some kind (in my case, it was in theatre), but I also then had to attend a seminary for three years of classwork and year-long internship my denomination calls a “vicarage.”
Also, it’s a requirement in my denomination that pastors study and learn both Biblical Greek and Hebrew so we can read the Bible in its original languages.
Oh, and here’s another one! You know the traditional “pastor” outfit (black shirt with a white tab in the collar)? It’s symbolic of what the pastor’s job is. The black shirt represents the pastor’s sin, but the white tab or collar at his throat symbolizes that he speaks the Word of God.
How do you balance writing, ministry, and your private life?
Not very well, unfortunately. There are days when my day job pretty much precludes me doing any writing, simply because I’m too tired to get my mind to focus. I try to do at least a little writing every day, but that’s not always possible. It’s usually about finding a spare moment or two to get a few words down on the page.
Does being a Lutheran minister ever sneak into your writing?
All the time, especially since I write Christian fiction primarily. There was one time, though, that really stands out. I was working with my editor on my debut novel, Failstate, and my editor wasn’t happy with one of the scenes toward the end of the book. The main character goes to church and, wouldn’t you know it, the pastor just happens to deliver a sermon that speaks directly to the problem that the character is facing! My editor rightfully labeled it a trope and a cliché and suggested that I change it.
Now I understood why he didn’t like that, but here’s the thing: I’ve seen this sort of thing happen in real life a lot. One of my parishioners will come out of worship and tell me, “Pastor, that sermon spoke directly to me” or “That’s exactly what I needed to hear” or even “Have you been reading my mind?” After talking about it, we left the scene in so long as I promised I wouldn’t do it again in later books.
What do your parishioners think of your books?
They’ve been mostly supportive. I actually had launch parties for my first two Failstate novels at my church, and many of my members bought copies of the books, which was funny, because the line to get the books was filled with grandmothers. Many of them would talk to me after reading it saying stuff like, “I never read books like that!”
Connect with John:
Don’t miss John’s latest book, The Hive, releasing on October 16th!
A pregnant cyborg and a teenage boy fight against intergalactic governments to protect the unborn in this novel from a Christy Award-nominated author.
Why is Zain pregnant? She belongs to the Hive, a collective of cyborgs who choose to live apart from the rest of human society. At times, the Hive rent out some of their females to produce tailor-made children for paying couples. But Zain is an engineer, not a breeder. When she finds herself separated from the Hive, she decides to find the person who she thinks ordered the baby. Surely they’ll help her find her way home.
Matthew “Scorn” Nelson has spent the better part of his teenage years cracking computer systems, causing mischief and havoc wherever he can. But the night of his greatest triumph turned into a painful memory, one he wants to erase. But that night was also his first step on a road to faith. When Zain arrives on his doorstep, Scorn is horrified. What’s he supposed to do with a pregnant teenage cyborg?
Unfortunately, he’ll have to answer that question on the run. Zain’s people want to reclaim her and terminate her pregnancy. And both the Ministrix and the Praesidium, two intergalactic governments in a constant state of cold war, want Zain’s baby for their own reasons. Will their enemies run them down? Or will Zain find a new Hive for both her and her child?
WHAT WOULD YOU THINK OF YOUR MINISTER WROTE SCIENCE FICTION? WEIRD OR AWESOME?