A Conversation with Spy Fiction Author John Knoerle

John Knoerle

Please welcome my special guest, spy fiction author John Knoerle. John is here today to talk about his latest release, The Proxy Assassin. John  began his creative endeavors in the early 70s as a member of the DeLuxe Radio Theatre, a comedy troupe in Santa Barbara. He then moved to LA and did stand-up comedy, opening for the likes of Jay Leno and Robin Williams.

Knoerle wrote the screenplay Quiet Fire, which starred Karen Black, and the stage play The He-Man Woman Hater’s Club, an LA Time’s Critic’s Choice. He also worked as a staff writer for Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.

Knoerle moved to Chicago in 1996 with his wife Judie. His first novel, “Crystal Meth Cowboys,” was optioned by Fox TV. His second novel, “The Violin Player,” won the Mayhaven Award for Fiction.

John Knoerle’s novel, A Pure Double Cross, was the first volume of a late 40s spy trilogy featuring former OSS agent Hal Schroeder. The second volume, A Despicable Profession, was published in 2010. Knoerle’s latest book,The Proxy Assassin, Book Three of the American Spy Trilogy, has just been released.

Visit his website at www.johnknoerle.com.

It is a pleasure to have him here with us today!

Thanks for this interview, John.  What an illustrious background!  Let’s start at the beginning?  How did you get intoThe Proxy Assassin the entertainment field?

John: I was working at the college radio station at UC Santa Barbara in the early 70s because I was a music nut. One fateful day two members of The Firesign Theater, a very popular and sophisticated comedy troupe, swung by to record promo spots for a gig on campus.

My job was to engineer the session. Firesign’s David Ossman and Phil Proctor improvised three brilliant and hilarious thirty-second spots in no time and left me in Studio B, stunned and amazed.

I didn’t have a clue if I could do what they did, but I sure knew I wanted to give it a try!

Was comedy your passion?

John: It became my passion. And The DeLuxe Radio Theater had good success in Santa Barbara in the 70s. But we were big fish in a small pond.

When I moved to LA to do stand-up, what comics call the room, got a whole lot colder.

Foolishly, I thought that my brilliant material would win them over and I wouldn’t have to stoop to that hackneyed ‘Where are you folks from?’ patter to warm up the crowd.

Lesson learned. Unless you’re well-known, you have to establish a connection with the audience before they will laugh at your jokes.

How’d you go from comedy to writing spy fiction?  Was it something you loved reading?

John: Yes. Though I wrote two novels based on personal experience before I branched out. It took me years of research to become conversant enough in espionage to attempt to fictionalize it.

I’m pretty confident that if you Google ‘former stand-up comics who now write spy fiction’, I’ll be the only hit!

Your first novel, Crystal Meth Cowboys, was optioned for a Fox TV movie.  Tell us about that?

John: Actually it was optioned for a TV series. Crystal Meth Cowboys was my first novel, self-published after years of rejection. A Hollywood writer saw it in a bookstore in LA – the only copy in the joint – and gave it a read.

Then I got an email inquiring about ‘sub-rights’. The writer and I – her name is Jacqui Zambrano – hit it off and wrote an hour-long pilot script that got the ball rolling. We got as close as auditioning actors and scouting locations when somebody upstairs pulled the plug at the last second.

Your latest book, The Proxy Assassin, is the last book of your American Spy Trilogy.  Is it sad to say goodbye to such a fantastic series?

John: Yes.

Can you give us a brief description of each book?

John: Book One, A Pure Double Cross, is Hal Schroeder, former OSS behind-enemy-lines spy, coming home to Ohio in late ’45, bitter and disillusioned after WWII. When the FBI seeks to exploit his undercover skills, he sees a way to make a pile and get the hell out.

Book Two, A Despicable Profession, is Hal’s uh-oh moment when he realizes he may enjoy intrigue and espionage a bit more than he is willing to admit.

Book Three, The Proxy Assassin, is, essentially, Hal’s transition from boy to man.

What’s next for you?

John: Not sure. I take the task of writing fiction very seriously, even if my style is somewhat smartass and throwaway. Making it appear to the reader that you’re not making much of an effort takes a ton of work, trust me.

And the prospect of writing another novel at this point in my life is….exhausting.

Thank you so much for this interview, John.  Do you have anything else you’d like to share with us?

John: Yes, here’s my great words of wisdom: travel! Break your routine. Travel to strange places, the stranger the better. It can help you appreciate what you’ve got and it makes life seem longer and fuller.

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