In 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned
mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can't use, money he can't spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever. THE MINE follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come. Montana
Welcome John! Thanks so much for stopping in today so we can find out a little about you and your debut book. Tell us about your current release.
The Mine is a novel with something for everyone: humor, history, adventure, romance, and drama. It is the story of Joel Smith, a cavalier college senior who road trips to Yellowstone in May 2000, enters an abandoned mine on a lark, and emerges from the mine in May 1941. With little but his wits to guide his way, he returns to his hometown of Seattle and starts a new life among a circle of friends that includes his 21-year-old grandmother and a beautiful, recently-engaged honors student named Grace Vandenberg. Joel possesses encyclopedic knowledge of the past, and he struggles with how to apply it. He knows Pearl Harbor will affect his friends in tragic, irrevocable ways. But he knows he is an interloper in another time and vows to limit his impact on the fate of others, a goal that becomes problematic when he falls in love with Grace. The Mine is a book that entertains, but it is also one that prompts readers to think and ask some big questions.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
Most readers gravitate toward Joel. He is the protagonist and the heart and soul of The Mine. But my favorite character is Grace. She is appealing not only because she is smart, beautiful, and kind, but also because she has a compelling, albeit tragic, life story and views the world with childlike innocence. Raised by missionaries in Africa, the Philippines, and war-torn China, she is a stranger to modern technology and the complicated social norms of 1941 America. She is a sympathetic character who, like Joel, adjusts to new challenges in surprising ways.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?
When you write a novel, you don't simply type words on a screen. You get sucked into your story. The narrative is real. The characters are real. They are in your head 24 hours a day and don't go away. When I wrote newspaper articles years ago, I left the subjects behind as soon as I filed the stories. That's not the case here. I suspect Joel, Grace, and others will be with me for years to come.
Tell us about the absolute BEST fan letter you have received.
When I wrote The Mine, a romance novel, I expected feedback from women. They represent 91 percent of the market, according to a 2011 Romance Writers of America survey. I did not expect many letters from men, particularly men with military backgrounds. The Mine is romance, not Rambo. But I've received quite a few inspiring comments, including one from a Navy veteran who said he couldn't put the book down. That made my day.
Is there one passage in your book that you feel gets to the heart of your book and would encourage people to read it? If so, can you share it?
The last paragraph of Chapter 40 fills the bill:
Yet when Joel thought again about what had transpired and the effect he had already had on several people, he did not hear a symphony. He did not hear bells or whistles or even fireworks. Instead, he heard something ominous, something he had vowed to avoid and could little afford to recklessly invite: the distant but unmistakable sound of thunder.
Joel has just kissed Grace in an outburst of affection that sends her running away in tears. He realizes, for the first time, that he is altering the fates of others and it troubles him. The last three words are a reference to Ray Bradbury's short story, "A Sound of Thunder," where a time traveler makes a mess of the future by imposing on the past. Joel is very mindful of this story.
If you could exchange lives with any of your characters for a day which character would you choose and why?I think it would be fun to be Joel for a day and carry knowledge back to a time where I could put it to use. Joel doesn't just struggle in 1941; he has fun. He wins bets on sporting events and playfully interacts with people who don't know what the next 59 years will bring. But I would want to take his place only for a day. Nineteen forty-one was a serious year and I don't think anyone would want to be stuck in it for the long haul.
John A. Heldt is a reference librarian who lives and works in
. The former award-winning sportswriter and newspaper editor has loved reading and writing since writing book reports on baseball heroes in grade school. A graduate of both the Montana University of Oregon and , he is an avid fisherman, sports fan, home brewer, and reader of thrillers and historical fiction. THE MINE is his first novel. University of Iowa
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