John McLaughlin spent half his life bootstrapping his start-up business to an industry leader. His desire to teach what he spent his career learning led him on a remarkable journey through the gates of a minimum-security prison where he taught entrepreneurship for almost three years. John has an MBA, a teaching certificate, and a marketing management certificate from Harvard Extension University. John enjoys riding a tandem bicycle with his wonderful wife, Reba on the greenways of Charlotte, North Carolina where they live with two extremely spoiled cats, Moe and Joe. You can learn more about John’s current teaching program at: https://www.lifelinetoasoul.com/
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
Thank you Jimmetta, but the pleasure is all mine. I really appreciate this opportunity and am a big fan of yours. I love how you encourage and empower authors! I’ve always enjoyed writing and having a book published was on my bucket list. I spent three years teaching entrepreneurship in a minimum-security prison and realized I was in a place that very few people know much about. My time there changed my perspective towards the prison system and it’s denizens, and I realized writing would provide the means for me to share my experience, and hopefully change some reader’s perspectives as well.
I love that writing is creating, and also that when words are put together correctly they can have a huge impact on the reader. The most frustrating part for me these days is finding the time to write.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
Absolutely! I am very fortunate in that I had the opportunity to work for my father’s small business when I graduated college. It was quite the learning experience and led to me starting my own business. In my late 40s, I decided I wanted to teach what I had learned to prospective or struggling small business owners. After a long and fruitless job search, the only teaching position I was offered was to teach entrepreneurship in a minimum-security prison.
My book, Lifeline to a Soul, is all about my experience teaching in that environment, the people I met, and how my perspective towards the prison system changed as a result of the experience. I am currently teaching at, Lifeline Education Connection, an organization which has the same goals as I had as a prison teacher. I am fortunate to be working with an amazing motivator, Tavares James. You can learn about the program at https://www.lifelinetoasoul.com
3) What projects are you currently working on?
I recently put the final touches on the print book and completed the audiobook, so my new project is the promotion of Lifeline to a Soul. The launch date is April 4, 2023. If anyone reading this would like an advance copy of the book, please contact us via the website and I’ll be happy to send you one at no cost. I’ve got a dozen or so promotional copies I would love to get in the hands of prospective readers.
4) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
Great question, Jimmetta! This is my first attempt at formally publishing anything I wrote, so Lifeline to a Soul has to be my biggest accomplishment as a writer. My biggest accomplishment as a person was being able to help some incarcerated men realize they had more options in this world than going in and out of prison for the rest of their lives. I am hoping to be able to continue to help people in similar situations for at least the next five years. I haven’t started another writing project yet, but I’ve got a rough outline for a sales related book.
5) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
Writing is so personal; it is easy for a writer to take rejection personally. Fortunately, my experience in sales taught me that rejection is just part of the process. You are going to have to get past some “no’s” to get to the “yes’s”.
6) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel?
Lifeline to a Soul took a little over three years from the day I wrote the first sentence until the book was printed. I did write a timeline for the book so that I could write about the events in the order they happened. I learned that I write best early in the morning, after a run on the greenway with a hot cup of coffee.
7) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
Maybe it’s because I am quickly closing in on my sixtieth birthday, but I think age is a huge advantage for a writer, it’s never too late to start. I’ve had people ask me if I thought they were too old to start a business, same answer.
8) Are you an avid reader and have you always been? What’s the first book you ever read that really touched you emotionally and moved you? Who is your favorite author? What book are you currently reading?
I do make time to read, typically a few hours a week. I wish I had read more in my younger day, but back then I mostly read business related books. Like a lot of adolescents, I loved The Catcher in the Rye. It was the first time I remember identifying with the main character, his brutal honesty in how he viewed the world was both enlightening and entertaining. I am currently reading Tuesdays with Morrie which I am enjoying. It would be hard for me to pick one author as a favorite. Who do you enjoy reading, Jimmetta?
9) Did the quarantine stifle your creativity or did it make you even more driven to get things done? What perspective did the Pandemic give you that you that now influences what you do creatively?
If the quarantine hadn’t happened, I would have never had the time I needed to write Lifeline to a Soul, and I was determined to make full use of the time at home. My wife and I also wrote and published a children’s picture book during the Pandemic. The unexpected free time gave me the opportunity to express myself creatively through writing that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
10) Given the recent shake-ups in publishing, what are your thoughts about how the publishing industry is being represented today? Do you lean more towards traditional publishing or self-publishing as a preference? Does being a hybrid author interest you?
What I learned through this process is that a first time author with a small social media following is facing an uphill battle to get their work noticed by a traditional publisher, so I am very thankful that self-publishing is an available outlet for today’s authors. I have always run my own business, so self-publishing appeals to me, I am able to maintain total control of the process. That said, if a traditional publisher was interested in working with me, I would be very receptive.
11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
Another great question, Jimetta! Lifeline to a Soul went through multiple edits and one of the early editors made the comment that my writing had “no ego” which she thought was unusual for an autobiography. I write more about the mistakes I made running a business and what I learned from them than my successes. Likewise, when I write about my time teaching in prison, it’s more about what I learned through the process than my ability to help inmates. Writing gave me the ability to take the reader along with me through the fence of the prison and experience what I experienced. I am very thankful for that!