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July Spotlight Interview: John Rhodes

Veteran and railroad enthusiast, John has worn many hats over the years and now this Washington, US resident is a published author who focuses on writing novels with veterans as the main characters.

John Rhodes is a well-traveled individual who grew up in Wrangell, Alaska and joined the Navy in 1967. After four years of service, he earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at the University of Idaho in 1979. Now retired from the Washington State Department of Transportation, John has shifted his focus to his love of the written word. His writing style that includes veterans as the main characters is insightful and thought-provoking.

Our interview had a few technical difficulties, but became a wonderful opportunity to get a glimpse into the mind of a veteran and his outlook on life and writing.


The Interview...


What are some quirks or hobbies that you enjoy outside of your writing?

I enjoy Hiking & Model railroading.


What is one place you visited that was most memorable?

A charter flight into Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska. We landed on a small lake over 1,000' above sea level. The lake was 800' deep and the mountains surrounding the lake towered over 2,000' above us. The only way in and out was over the lakes outlet gap in the mountains. While standing on the float planes pontoon and taking in the scenery, The solitude and quietness was humbling.


How/When/Why did you get started as a writer?

I started writing Tech Report style articles for outdoor magazines in the 1990's In 2017 I joined a writers group and started writing my first novel in 2018.


What are the biggest challenges you face as an author?

Overcoming the lack of inspiration and marketing.


What are your favorite genres?

Historical fiction and historical non fiction.


Is there anyone who inspired you during your military career or afterwards when you became a writer?

My nephew asked me a question and answering that question became the first of many technical report style magazine articles.

In 2017 I joined a writers group and started writing. A Korean War veteran told me over and over to get my story's out to the public, "You have to get this published." Without her encouragement, I'd never have published a book.

I want to tell or educate people about something so the reader will learn something while reading a fictional fun story. Through fiction, I put many of my experiences and those of my friends and acquaintances in my books. I just twist them enough to match the character who is experiencing it in the story. My main characters are returning Vietnam veterans and being one myself, I tell of our life's experiences after we returned with a heavy emphasis on family.


What have you published to-date?

Jef Thompson, a returning Vietnam veteran encounters society's erroneous stereotype, the era's anti-war attitude, and having to cope with PTSD while trying to get an education while living in a small northwest town. His trespassing brings him face to face with the landowner, an attorney who later discovers he is related to her. She finally learns to accept him but not until after he rescues her sister's son, and falls in love with the boy's mother. Though fiction, Jeff's life's struggles are very similar to all of our returning Vietnam veterans' lives.

Home at Last was published in 2021.

Vietnam veteran Carl Weston returns from the war, disillusioned, haunted by flashbacks, and alone. Life is nothing like the dream it would be. Years after the war, he’s still living with the physical and mental scars of fighting for his life.

Carl moves into the Montana backcountry of the family ranch using a different name in hopes of living a quiet and anonymous life. Due to other people’s perceptions, Carl encounters the same erroneous stereotype concerning Vietnam veterans the public believes as being truth and fact.

Though he has the perfect cover, his identity is finally discovered by his family, and his plans are ruined again. Despite his hesitancy to trust the people he knew before the war, family, lovers, and enemies still find their way into his life. Can Carl ever find the love and privacy his tortured mind craves?


“Home at Last” and “The Trespasser, the rescue, and the family” – both about returning combat vets. Tell us how you felt writing the stories?

I wanted to inform people of what it was like after we returned. There were many challenges, The anti-war public, the erroneous stereotypes published by the media, family members who believed what the media sold them, and life in general.

Do you feel these stories are a therapeutic process for your readers: Combat vets returning home who can relate?

I don't hear back from many readers and that is probably because they keep those feelings hidden. One reader did tell me I did a great job of showing the situation in a positive manner. Another reader told me she could see herself in my main character in The Trespasser, the Rescue, and the Family.


Can you tell us about your most recent literary work?

Home at Last tells the reader what PTSD is like through the actions and dialog of my main character and a secondary character.


Finally, can you give us a teaser of your current project? Perhaps a favorite quote from you most recent (or soon-to-be) released book?

"Loneliness can be a bitter companion." - Home at Last. I'm working on a third book that will connect the family in The Trespasser to the family in Home at last. I don't have a title for it yet.

About this teaser and finishing your trilogy with a connection to the families: How important is it to have a link to family or community for returning vets?

I believe very important. In all of the services, everything you do is as a team, your life depends on each other. Whether on shipboard, in an aircraft, or on land, each person has a job to do that the others depend on getting accomplished.

After returning home, our Vietnam veterans have volunteered and helped others across the nation. A case in point, In 2015 we had a landslide and flood in the small city where I live, Team Rubicon made up of veterans came and helped people for several weeks. I joined them and several were from out of state.

I try to help my neighbors and friends when they need it. I stress this point in both books. I realize this isn't the picture our national media shows the public.

Do you think this message helps your veteran readers get through rough times of depression and loneliness?

I don't know but I hope so. At least they know we all faced the same challenges after we returned and somebody wrote the story for them. Granted, my books are fiction but they tell the facts as well as I could.


Let's wrap this interview up with a few recommendations for our readers: Can you give us some of your favorite books that you’ve read? The ones you’ve gone back to time and again?

The Good Shepherd, by C. S. Forester

Sitka, by Louis L'Amour

Scorpion in the Sea, by P. T. Deutermann


Although we had a few technical difficulties with this interview, I was honored to have been given the time to learn more about John and his writing. He is an insightful author with a heart of gold. The underlying theme of his books is certain to inspire both military and non-military readers alike. John's novels give his audience the opportunity of understanding and appreciation on what life is like for a veteran after returning home, a changed person.

I encourage you to visit John's author page to learn more about his books. Be sure to sign up to his email list so you can be first-in-line to grab the last book in his trilogy by clicking the link below!

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