NAW Interview with John Shors


John Shors lived for several years in Kyoto, Japan, where he taught English. On a shoestring budget, he later trekked across Asia, visiting ten countries and climbing the Himalayas. After returning to the United States, he became a newspaper reporter in his hometown, Des Moines, Iowa, winning several statewide awards in journalism. John then moved to Boulder, Colorado, and helped launch GroundFloor Media, now one of the state’s largest public relations firms.

Now a full-time novelist, John’s first six novels, Beneath a Marble SkyBeside a Burning SeaDragon HouseThe Wishing TreesCross Currents, and Temple of a Thousand Faces have won multiple awards, and have been translated into twenty-six languages. Contact him here or on facebook.

NAW- Tell us about your book, ‘Temple of a Thousand Faces.’ How did you get the idea for it? How long did it take to finish the book?

Temple of a Thousand Faces is set at Angkor Wat, Cambodia. The story takes place about a thousand years ago, at a time when there was immense upheaval and unrest that pitted two empires against each other. Within this novel, a famous, powerful, and important series of events is retold through a compelling cast of characters. As far as how I got the idea for the novel, I had traveled to Angkor Wat several times, and I was so impressed by the magic and majesty of the temple. It’s such a special place. I wanted to write a novel that served to reincarnate Angkor Wat on the page, allowing people around the world to enjoy its wonders.

NAW- Why did you choose South East Asia as a setting for your novels? Was it a deliberate decision? How was it travelling in Vietnam and other nations?

I have been fortunate to spend quite a bit of time in Asia. I’ve lived in Japan and Thailand. I’ve traveled across India, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and China. I enjoy so many things about the area—the history, food, climate, and people. So, for a long time I’ve had a comfort level when it comes to writing about Asia. Equally important, very few American authors, of which I’m one, are writing about Asia. So, I’ve felt like there has been this wonderful opportunity for me to create a niche for myself and my novels. It’s been quite enjoyable for me to share my love of Asia with readers. My books have even inspired many Westerners to travel to Asia, a fact that gives me great pleasure.

Beneath A Marble Sky book cover

NAW- How did you get the idea of writing a mix of historical fiction? It’s very unique and has worked very well for you, hasn’t it?

I’ve always enjoyed history and been fascinated by it. And as a reader, my favorite genre has been historical fiction. To me, the best novels are the ones that are set in exotic, interesting places. I like to feel upon finishing such a novel that I’ve learned something. So, I go to great efforts to write the kinds of novels that I like to read. My books are multi-layered, complex, and well-researched. They aren’t easy to write, but people seem to really enjoy them.

NAW- Tell us about your other works.

My first novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, is based on the remarkable love story behind the creation of the Taj Mahal. That novel has done very well and is now in 25 languages. A miniseries is also being made. The success of Beneath a Marble Sky launched my literary career, and I’ve written five novels since. All take place in Asia. Currently I’m working on a novel set on the Great Wall of China, and I’ve also started writing a young adult novel.

NAW- Which authors have influenced you?

Again, my favorite novelists write historical fiction, so for me, the perfect kind of book is something like James Clavell’s Shogun. I find that these sorts of epic, wonderful tales are few and far between however, probably because they are so difficult and time-consuming to write. Still, authors like Clavell have been inspiring to me, showing me that it is possible to share my passions about Asia with readers.

Temple of a Thousand Faces bookcover

NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?

Because I receive so many emails from people who read my books and would like to travel to the places that I write about, I’ve started a touring company through which I take travelers to the settings of my novels. That’s been a lot of fun. I’m currently planning trips to Cambodia, Vietnam, and India. So far the response from readers has been quite strong, and I’m really enjoying planning these trips. Aside from work, I spend time with my wife and two children, all of whom love to travel.

Read an excerpt from John’s work here  

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