The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Local author talks books at Carnegie Library


Ian Minielly/Daily Globe

author JOHN R. SWIFT engages with people at the Ironwood Carnegie Library Thursday afternoon. Swift has written novels set in the local area with his main protagonist, Sheriff Gogebic. Swift said he studies the "masters" to learn how they write, so he can better write for his own audience.


Ironwood - John R. Swift, - chronicler of the fictional accounts of Sheriff Gogebic - visited the Ironwood Carnegie Library Thursday to discuss his latest Sheriff Gogebic novel, which takes place in the area. Swift and his wife Mary live in Mercer during the non-winter months and his main protagonist, Sheriff Gogebic, works the local beat that would be familiar to the people living here.

Swift said he and Mary settled on the Mercer area because it is close geologically and weather wise to his native upstate New York, with its Adirondack mountains. Swift said he grew up poor in New York. So poor they did not have toys and did not have much of anything, to include electricity, or any of the other amenities people consider normal in society today. With this in mind, Swift's calling the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin area wealthy, makes sense compared to what he grew up knowing and experiencing as a kid.

One of the by-products of a poor youth being, it left a bad taste in Swift's mouth for certain foods. Swift said he will never eat salted pork or salted cod again, after having it as one of the main staples of his childhood. It was during this childhood, where his family could not afford gifts during Christmas or any other time, that Swift received a gift that changed his life. Swift's fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Stowe, bought all the kids in her class a present.

Swift said he was angry initially with the gifts, because Stowe bought all the other kids toys, while she gave him Zane Grey's, "Sunset Pass." Swift said when all his classmates toys had broken, he finally relented in his anger and opened up "Sunset Pass." Grey hooked him and he was a reader from that day forth. Swift said he still has the novel, but it is worn out and that if you want to be a writer, "You must be a reader first."

When Swift retired from the workforce, he returned to his alma mater at the University of Chicago to learn the ins and outs of fiction writing. The reader would become a writer. Leaving Chicago and coming to Mercer, Swift enrolled in the University of Wisconsin School of Arts in Rhinelander for more knowledge regarding book writing. "Writing fiction is the hardest mental challenge I have ever had," said Swift regarding his passion for writing.

Writing fiction allows Swift to combine his love for research with his love of the written word and combine them as prose on a page to tell a story. Swift says whatever genre a person is writing in, the author must know their customer and provide books the customer will read. Swift accepts very few will find his self-published books and read them, but he acknowledges the marketing aspect of the business is not his forte and he has accepted it.

Swift said God blessed him with the gifts of writing at birth. Unfortunately, according to Swift, that gift does not make a writer excellent out of the gate, as a writer must write to improve, while also continuing to read. Swift told the group assembled in the library that Stephen King said he reads about 70 books a year. To learn how to write, a writer must read, and it helps to read the "masters," according to Swift.

"All fiction has one central question driving the book and the text, what is the protagonist's struggle?" This is the single most important element of fiction and what a writer of fiction must focus on, even if they cannot answer the question, said Swift. The book must resolve around this struggle and it is incumbent upon the author to wrap the reader up in the story.


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