John Juettner knows that writing a novel is a marathon effort.
His athletic background led to an apt description of the process.
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"Everybody's got a lot of false-starters," said Juettner, who competed in track and field for three years and played football and basketball for four before graduating from Fremd in 2004. "You think this is a great idea, and then you don't know where to go with it."
Juettner's initial foray into novel-writing was definitely no sprint. The genesis of it began eight years ago during a poetry class when he was a sophomore at the University of Missouri.
Juettner, who has also covered high school sports for the Daily Herald as a freelance writer since 2008, finally hit the finish line with his first novel. The Mother Who Loved Halloween will be available April 15 as an eBook through a variety of retailers for $6.99 (go to his website at johnjuettner.com for more details on how to purchase the book).
"It's exciting and scary at the same time," Juettner said in what he hopes is a good summary of how readers will feel about his novel. "A lot goes into it."
Juettner's novel revolves around three characters after a mother is informed near midnight on Halloween that her son is allegedly dead. But the plot quickly thickens as the three main characters try to keep their dreams and realities from being twisted by what Juettner calls a mysterious, dark and evil force that will consume them all.
"It's set up around a crime, but it's not like it's a 'whodunit,'" Juettner said. "You get to see all the players involved as you go through the story and you get to see how each side deals with these events.
"It's definitely designed to be an exciting, page-turning kind of novel. And it does have some moments where I hope it's a little frightening."
Juettner was similar to a lot of kids as he grew up hoping to play for the Bears or Bulls. But at 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, he knew those dreams weren't going to become a reality.
The dream of becoming a writer, however, took root during his junior year at Fremd. He was inspired by the authors and writers who came to speak at the "Writers Week" the school has held since 1995.
"I've always enjoyed writing and enjoyed story-telling in general," Juettner said, "be it through movies or books."
That fueled Juettner's decision to go to one of the country's top journalism programs at Missouri. For an open assignment in a sophomore poetry class he wrote about the subject that became the theme for his novel.
"The professor said this sounds more like a short story or something bigger," Juettner said.
Doing the latter with it was put on hold while he finished college and pursued a full-time journalism career. But those hopes stalled as the country's recession led to significant struggles for the newspaper industry.
Juettner started working for his uncle's law firm in downtown Chicago in December of 2011. That helped kick-start a complete commitment to his novel as he would write on his laptop during the train commute of an hour each way.
As a guide, he used famed novelist Stephen King, who said in his memoir he would write at least 2,000 words every day he was working. The work ethic Juettner got from his dad Tim helped him maintain that pace, and by the end of July 2013, his first draft was complete.
"Me being naive, I thought, 'We're done, let's go,'" Juettner said.
Fortunately, he had an editor available in his mom B.C., who was a guidance counselor for 30 years at Schaumburg and instilled a love of reading at an early age to Juettner and his younger sister Annie. His mom proved to be a tough critic of what she did and didn't like as Juettner did about seven revisions of the book.
He didn't have any success with traditional book-publishing methods but was able to get his eBook published through a third-party service he liked called Book Baby. The Mother Who Loved Halloween will be approximately 400 to 459 pages depending on the font size type used by the reader.
"The first moment I was able to download a proof and see it on my I-Pad," Juettner said, "I thought, 'Holy Cow, this is amazing.'
"People have asked, what happens if it doesn't sell? I said, 'Well, I'll write the next one and hopefully that one will sell.'"
So now the dream is to be like his favorite writers such as King, John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Thomas Harris (Silence of the Lambs) or Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City). Juettner's ideas for his next project include the genres of science fiction and the mafia.
"It's so interesting to actually do it," Juettner said. "I would read a book and think, 'Oh, that's great.' It inspires you and you think, 'I can do something like this.'"
Now he has.
• Marty Maciaszek is a freelance columnist for the Daily Herald who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.