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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

REVIEW & AUTHOR Q&A: A Beautiful Mess by John Herrick @johnherrick

A Beautiful Mess
by John Herrick
Segue Blue


Thank you so much to the author for this copy in return for my honest review. 
It was my pleasure.

A fallen star. A former hippie. And the Marilyn Monroe you only thought you knew.

Del Corwin is an aging Hollywood relic, destined to fade into a history of forgotten legends—unless he can revive his career. All he needs is one last chance.

When Del uncovers an original screenplay by Marilyn Monroe—and proof that she named him its legal guardian—he surges to the top of Hollywood’s A-list. But the opportunity to reclaim his fame and fortune brings a choice: Is Del willing to sacrifice newfound love, self-respect and his most cherished friendship to achieve his greatest dream?

A story of warmth, humor and honesty, BEAUTIFUL MESS follows one man’s journey toward love and relevance where he least expects it—and proves coming-of-age isn’t just for the young.


Del Corwin, 18, meets Marilyn Monroe on set where he's working as a basic errand boy.  She takes a liking to him and when he tells her he's going to be a star one day, she believes him and calls him her little star.  They forge a friendship and she gives him a manuscript she thinks will show the world she's not just a pretty face.  Fast forward sixty years later.

Del's career has roller coastered over the course of the years and now in his 70's, he's struggling to try and make any kind of come back.  He meets young Nora, a rising star who reminds him of Marilyn and who he starts to look out for.  Felicia, a minister he meets in a chance encounter, forces him to look at himself in ways he never wanted to.  As he begins to live outside of his means, he is forced to pack house and pull in the reins. In doing so, he finds the manuscript he had long forgotten about.  Here's the chance he's been waiting for to launch his career again..... but at what cost?

This novel is beautifully put together.  Del is wonderfully given to you as a womanizing, narcissistic but trustworthy type of man that you can't help but love him... and be extremely frustrated with him at times.  Nora is wise beyond her years with a subtle cloud hanging over her at all times.  We certainly see the other side to fame and what it can cost a person.  While money and popularity can be fun, at the end of the day, it probably won't satiate most people for the long term.

I think pretty much everyone knows who Marilyn Monroe is.  While I may not have been into the hype around her or the fascination most people had, I certainly was well aware of who she was and how iconic she was in the industry.  It certainly was nice to see her in a different kind of light than what society tends to put forth.  While she had an obvious impact on this story, it wasn't all about her but rather the friendships of people who otherwise may not have been drawn together and how things impact you on a daily basis more than you would ever realize. 

Not the type of book I usually read and while we pretty much know where the book is heading, a fast, fun read that I think will fascinate people of all ages.




John Herrick is the author of From the Dead and 8 Reasons Your Life Matters. A graduate of the University of Missouri—Columbia, readers turn to him as a chronicler of spiritual journey and the human heart. Herrick lives in St. Louis.

What is the most difficult part of your writing process? Your writing Kryptonite?
Perfectionism. It serves me well by forcing me to incorporate excellence into what I do, but it also prevents me from moving forward when I should, because of the fear that it will be less than perfect.

Do you have any strange writing habits?
Not strange, per se, but I need a hot beverage and a daily routine. They keep me dependable and running normal until I reach the end of the project. In that respect, I guess a routine does for my creative health what prunes and bran do for some people’s physical health! Lol.

What is your least favorite part of the writing / publishing process? Favorite part?
Least favorite part:  Locating my next book project. It takes forever to find a concept that grabs my heart, and I feel sad and like a failure until that happens. I could write without that heart connection, but it seems to the key component that draws readers to my work.
Favorite part: Hearing from readers whose lives a book has impacted. As much as I love the finished book product, people are more important.

Is there one particular subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Never say never, but I can’t see myself doing horror.

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
I don’t see how it helps to shelter yourself from criticism or live in a fantasy.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
In my teens and 20s, I did a lot of songwriting. It was, for the most part, a hobby. But it required me to tell a story—or take an emotional snapshot—in 4 minutes and 100 words or so. When you’re constrained by time that way, every word counts. So I learned to consider my audience, consider the context of the genre, and select each word with care. I credit that songwriting craft with my ability to convey emotions.

How many unpublished/half-finished books do you have?
I have one book that’s unpublished but in its final form. I have several other projects that I’ve partially developed, but no half-finished books. Logic, strategy and planning play such a substantial role in how I approach my writing, that I don’t end up with half-finished books. Thankfully, if I’m not able to finish a particular book, I’ll discover that during the preliminary process. It’s a lot of up-front work, but it’s efficient.

What are you working on now? What is your next project?
I’m planning another novel. This seems to be “the one” in terms of what I’m supposed to tackle next, because it’s flowing well. I hope it is, because I’m so excited about the concept!

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
It all depends on how much is needed. For Beautiful Mess, I needed to research Marilyn Monroe’s background, read some biographical material, checked into theories on why she died. I researched the home in which she lived, and found the area and the home’s floor plan. I also studied one of her last interviews so I could get a grasp on how she spoke as a person, in case it differed from how she spoke on-screen. Then, to fill out the details of the flashback scenes, I checked out Billboard Hot 100 chart from the week and year Marilyn died. I needed to locate a convertible that would have been common but also affordable for Del at the time, so I researched some cars and found one that fit him. And Del was nominated for an Academy Award, so I needed to calculate the year, look up the list of nominees, and see the actor to whom he would have lost—which turned out to be Richard Dreyfuss in Goodbye Girl. To get a feel for Del’s mansion in Malibu, I got on Google’s satellite view and checked out some mansions to see how isolated they are from their neighbors, where the driveway is located, how far up the mountain they are located.

What's the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Trying to remember that the way I view things as a male doesn’t match the way females tend to view things. So I always get female readers to read my first drafts—females who will tell me what they don’t like or that “A woman would never say that!” That said, I have a strong emotional core and never fit in well as a typical guy, so creating female characters isn’t quite the stretch it might be for others—but it’s still a challenge.

If you could cast the characters of any of your books for a movie, who would play your characters?
Here’s my latest dream cast for Beautiful Mess:
Del – Craig T. Nelson
Nora – Emma Stone
Felicia – Jessica Lange or Vera Farmiga
Tristan – Hunter Parrish or Dev Patel – Dev is my current celebrity man crush, but he’d still also be perfect for the part! Lol.

If you didn't like writing books, what would you do for a living?
I’d get into politics. Not sure if it would be behind the scenes or in front, but I seem to be good at understanding how people think and perceive things.

What authors have inspired you?
John Grisham. With The Firm, I fell back in love with reading.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes! After interacting with bloggers and other readers regarding my first novel, From the Dead, I discovered readers are savvy. They can read between the lines. So I started weaving symbolism, parallels and other traits into my work to give people something extra to discover. But you can enjoy the books without discovering them, too.

What's your favorite under-appreciated novel?
There’s a novel by Ray Blackston called Flabbergasted. It’s Christian fiction, which I don’t usually read, and I think he left a lot of its potential untapped. However, I’ve returned to that book many times when I wanted a simple, clean read. The quirky characters make me chuckle.
What's the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
Receiving word that Beautiful Mess would be a featured giveaway in the National Examiner. Technically it’s a tabloid, so a friend has joked and called me Mr. Tabloid, but the truth is, I wouldn’t trade the opportunity. It’s great exposure, and its readers read.

If you could paint a picture of any scenery you've seen before, what would you paint?
I’d paint my dreams.

If you could witness any event past, present or future, what would it be?
The years leading up to the American Revolution. I love American history and politics.

Which celebrity do people say you resemble?
Okay, this is funny. But when the Rams football team was in St. Louis and won the Super Bowl, I’d go out in public and people would think I was Kurt Warner, the quarterback—especially when I grew a goatee. I’d go to target and hear a kid whisper to his mom, “That’s Kurt Warner” when I’d walk by, and I’d have people say, “Hey Kurt!” when I’d pass their table in a restaurant. But these people had only seen Kurt on TV. The irony was, I went to the same church as Kurt at the time, so I knew how tall and how built that guy was—and I’ll just say that if people had seen him up close, there’s no way they would have mistaken my out-of-shape body for his!

What would you name the autobiography of your life?
I’ve thought about that! I’d call it Between These Walls: A Memoir. It’s a fitting title for a memoir and it would link it back to one of my own book titles.
What songs are included on the soundtrack to your life?
Oh wow, I could draw up a list! I’m a Gen-Xer, so of course “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel.

Then there are songs that make me believe anything is possible:  Sheryl Crow used to teach elementary school near me. Scott Weiland, the lead guy from Stone Temple Pilots, was my cousin’s roommate when they lived in L.A. and STP recorded their first album. So whenever I heard songs by those artists as a college student, it reminded me that dreams are always within reach.

And there’s an older song called “What am I Without You” by Christian singer Twila Paris. It was a theme and an anchor in my life my first year in college, when I was trying to figure out details of who I was and where I was headed. It’s an important song to me that always takes me back to my roots and forces me to ask, “What’s my real purpose in life?”

What did you do growing up that got you into trouble?

I was such a fearful kid and kept myself so guarded, I never did much that would have gotten me into trouble. In retrospect, I tend to wonder if I caused myself harm by internalizing everything and not letting my personality shine through.
What's the best/worst gift you've ever given/received?
My niece and nephews are some of the best gifts God has given me.

What do you miss most about being a kid?
The freedom of not having to pay the bills. As a kid, I didn’t appreciate the joy and freedom to the full extent I could have. Looking back, I would have done a few things differently.

What is something you learned in the last week?
God can make your connections when you least expect it to happen.

What's one piece of advice you have received that has always resonated with you?
Treat people with kindness. It’s not a piece of advice anyone gave to me verbally; it’s an attitude other writers and publishing people have demonstrated toward me over the years. And it’s reinforced in me, “Yes! That’s the kind of writer I want to be.”

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