Title: The Weight of Guilt
Author: Jon Ripslinger
Genre: Young Adult Mystery/Romance
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Red Adept PublishingSummary:
Driving home from a bonfire party, eighteen-year-old John Hawk crashes, killing his girlfriend, Riley. Bullied and tormented at school, and crushed by his guilty conscience, John transfers to a school on the banks of the Mississippi River, where he attracts the eye of the principal’s daughter, Megan. Though he’s reluctant, she convinces him to be her prom date. The morning after prom, Principal Jones reports Megan missing. Four days later, her body is recovered from the river, and John becomes the prime suspect in her death.
Charley Cotton, Megan’s best friend, knows that Megan had a secret, but she doesn’t trust John because of his past. John is desperate to avoid adding to the shame he carries for Riley’s death, though—it’s destroying his life. With Charley’s help, he learns that others in Megan’s life had a motive to keep her quiet. But every effort they make to uncover the truth edges them closer to a desperate murderer with everything to lose.
First of all, I think because of the editorial help given to me by the Red Adept Publishing's content editor, line editor, and proofreaders, the story turned into first-class entertainment. It offers mystery, suspense, action, danger, and romance. Secondly, woven into the story is a valuable but simple message for teens: No one's life is cursed. No matter how bad things have been in the past, you can make your life good again by facing problems head on. Though John Hawk is the primary protagonist, part of the story is told from Charley Cotton's point of view, a very strong and appealing female character. In fact, with out Charley's help John would not have survived his ordeal. Thirdly, I'd like to think the book offers an exciting story with great take-away value for mystery and romance enthusiasts and for male and female readers.
2. Elaborate on your author biography.
I am a retired English teacher, married 59 years, the father of six children and grandfather to thirteen children—twelve of them girls. I have three great granddaughters and a great grandson. I am a Korean War veteran, having served aboard the battleship USS New Jersey. After four years in the Navy, I earned a BA degree and a Masters degree and taught English in public school systems for thirty-five years, the last thirty-three years at Davenport West High School, Davenport, Iowa.
I estimate that during my teaching career I taught over 10,500 young adults in my classrooms. This is not to mention the others I met casually in the school building's cafeteria, library, gym, and halls, or in the parking lot and at sporting events.
So it turns out that I am an 82-year-old grandfather and great grandfather writing books for teens. At my age, perhaps I should be writing books like The Five People You Meet in Heaven. But I'm not. Heaven can wait. I'm writing books for teens and having fun doing it.
3. How many novels, short stories, etc., do you now have in print?
I've published eight young adult novels and have recently signed a contract with Red Adept Publishing for a ninth, titled Trapped. During the 1960s-1980s, I published over fifty short stories in men's magazines that were popular during the era such as Mr., Man to Man, and Sir. Recently, I've published 18 short stories with Woman's World, a leading, weekly woman's magazine. My blog, one-minuteromance.com, features over one hundred 800-1,000-word romantic short stories, the only blog of its kind, I believe.
4. If you were to write a blurb for your YA novels, what would it say?
My blurb for my YA novels would read: Contemporary young adult fiction with an impact. Realistic and absorbing stories of mystery, danger, love, and self-discovery.
5. Do you have a favorite setting?
I'm a small town, rural person. I've spent a lot of time hunting and fishing Iowa's cornfields and lakes and also boating and fishing on the Mississippi River. My wife and I, when our six kids were young, spent summers camping in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The rural, wilderness scene is what I know best, and it's what I stick to while writing YA fiction. The Mississippi River, especially, presents a lot of opportunity for mystery and intrigue.
6. What point of view do you use? Who narrates your stories?
I write from a first person male point of view. This is the first time I've used a female POV for part of a book. Writing from Charley's POV frightened me at first. But once I developed a clear picture of her in my mind, understood her personality, knew her goals and fears, I felt I could climb into her skin each time I sat down in front of the computer to write another scene. Also, in earlier books I wrote in the past tense but have gradually shifted to the present tense because of the feeling of immediacy that tense gives to the story.
7. What’s your favorite part of writing?
I totally love rewriting the rough draft. That's when I have a chance to mold the story into the vision I had in my mind when I started. It's energizing to see the story improve with each rewrite and to see the characters and theme emerge in ways I hadn't dreamed when I started. Each time I revise, I love reentering my story world, allowing me to become once again the characters I created.
8. What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
The most challenging part is getting the rough draft written. On a good day, after two or three hours of writing in the morning, I'll get maybe five or six pages written. Sometimes only two. Maybe one. The most challenging part of writing the rough draft is writing the first chapter—setting the scene, suggesting what kind of story this is going to be, introducing the main character and introducing conflict but avoiding information dump. The hardest part of writing the first chapter is hooking the reader with a first sentence. I can't tell you how many times I wrote and rewrote the first chapter for TWOG. Twenty, thirty—I don't know. I wish I'd have kept track. Even now if I reread the chapter, I'd find some little thing I'd like to change.
9. What’s your favorite element of fiction to work with?
I like working with character and plot. I like creating a likeable, vulnerable, flawed character who faces an overwhelming situation, perhaps a death-threatening one. He attacks the situation head-on, overcomes great obstacles, and emerges triumphant. In the process, he earns a better understanding of himself and of the world in which he lives—just like John Hawk. I like making sure the plot is structured—beginning, middle, climax, resolution.
10. Now that you've seen The Weight of Guilt in print is there anything you'd like to change?
Yes, there is. I wish I'd given more time and space to Charley Cotton. She's unique. She's funny, brave, clever, loving, and loyal. If she hadn't possessed all those qualities, she and John would have died, victims of a ruthless killer's gun. Definitely, she deserved more chapters, and I feel bad that I didn't give them to her. I hope she's forgiven me.
After Jon retired as a public high school English teacher, he began a career as a young adult author. His credits include eight published YA novels, including Red Adept's The Weight of Guilt. His wife and he live in Davenport, IA, where their six children and their families also live. Jon and Colette are the proud grandparents of twelve granddaughters, a grandson, and three great grandchildren. When not working on the computer, crafting his next YA novel, Jon enjoys playing pool and spending time with his family.