Sunday, 23 November 2014

Fossils, Findings, and Prodigious Savants

I have known John J. White for the longest time, from the infancy of my blogging days and since my time at Helium, which was a long time ago indeed. John had a blog called "Give It Up, You'll Never Be Published" where he wrote forthright, quirky-humorous posts about writing and the quest for publication. An infrequent blogger, but a prolific, and multiple award-winning writer. His book Prodigious Savant was released last month, and two more titles are scheduled in 2015/16.  Check out his new author website.

Today I am honoured to have him here, sharing his insights and experience. All yours, John, and many thanks. 

Finding That Elusive Fossil
By J.J. White

“Let's get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft

If you’ve already read, On Writing, then Stephen King has already set you straight that there’s no story fairy to conjure magic ideas and plots for nascent, or even best-selling authors. You’re pretty much on your own to find that once in a lifetime tale that brings success, fame, and untold wealth. After you’ve achieved that goal then you can write about anything and somebody will buy it just because you wrote it. King also said, “A story is a fossil you find on the ground, and you dig it out slowly, gradually uncovering its full potential.” which contradicts his earlier quote, somewhat. Still, I’m a firm believer in King’s philosophy and have searched and found those elusive fossils to use in my novels. These metaphorical fossils can be just one idea or several that morph together into a cohesive yarn someone will be interested in reading and even possibly moved by. These rare fossils inspire you to write something that will keep you and your reader interested for three hundred pages and hopefully more.

In my novel, Prodigious Savant, I found two fossils to inspire me to labor tirelessly for eight months until I had an honest-to-God book, tangible and complete.  The first fossil was an antique and the other, brand new. When I was a young boy growing up in Vermont, I played centerfield for the South Burlington Braves in the local Little League. During an extra inning game, one Saturday, my team had used up all three of our pitchers. Our manager decided to use me as a relief pitcher since I was the only player who could throw a ball from the outfield to the infield.  As I threw my first pitch toward home plate, a huge explosion rocked the field, knocking all of the players and some of the parents to the ground. Two teenage boys had been shooting their .22s at a construction shed filled with dynamite over at the I89 construction site, a half-mile from the ballpark. Besides blowing out all the field lights, the resulting explosion killed one of the boys and blinded the other. I still have vivid memories of that blind teenager riding on the back of a bicycle-built-for-two with either his mother or father steering in the front. I always thought I would write his story, someday.

My other fossil came from a television piece about Jason Padgett, an acquired savant. Jason had been partying at a local karaoke bar, when at the end of his night he was mugged outside the club by an assailant who hit him a vicious blow to the left side of the head. Much later, Jason woke from a coma in possession of new-found genius abilities in mathematics and memory. Apparently the damage to the left-anterior temporal lobe made the right hemisphere overdevelop, giving him these amazing abilities, and all without the usual mental disabilities that plague prodigious savants.

My job was to take these two fossils and meld them into a coherent and hopefully interesting story about Gavin Weaver, a seventeen-year-old every-kid, who in 1962 Vermont, survives that explosion, waking with not just one genius ability but several, including mathematics, memory, music, and the arts. Gavin struggles with the celebrity his savant talents bring him, while fighting the demons that drag him toward madness. A little dramatic, I agree, but my point is any experience can be turned into a gripping novel if you know where to look. 

J.J. White


A native of Vermont, J. J. graduated from The University of Central Florida with a B.S. in Engineering and has worked primarily in the electric and electronic engineering field for most of his career. He is married to the lovely Pamela and they have raised two wonderful daughters.

A while back, as luck would have it, he ruptured the L5 disk in his back playing tennis as if he were eighteen–years–old again. With nothing to do but lie on his stomach for days on end, the right side of his brain saw an opening, and pounced on the left brain and thus the creative juices once again surfaced.

Since that time he has penned seven novels and over two hundred short stories. He has had articles and stories published in several anthologies and magazines including, Wordsmith, The Homestead Review, The Seven Hills Review and The Grey Sparrow Journal. His story, The Adventure of the Nine Hole League, was recently published in the Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Volume 13. He has won awards and honors from the Alabama Writers Conclave, Writers-Editors International, Maryland Writers Association, The Royal Palm Literary Awards, Professional Writers of Prescott, and Writer’s Digest.

He was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize for his short piece Tour Bus, published in The Grey Sparrow Journal. His novel, Prodigious Savant was published by Black Opal Books in October, 2014, to be followed by Deviant Acts in 2015 and Nisei in 2016. He enjoys writing, surfing, golf and tennis and lives in Merritt Island, Florida with his understanding wife, editor, and typist, Pamela. 

Website URL:

What an amazingly scary life-experience to meld into a novel, John!  Thanks once again for sharing the story of your story. 


  1. Hi Nila and John - what an amazing story line ... and the back story of where your ideas came from ... I can quite see how you 'ran' with the idea and thought processes. Very interesting research I expect too - lots of learning curves ...

    Cheers - and some food for thought .. Hilary

    1. Hi Hilary,

      Knowing the back story always adds an extra layer of enjoyment to a book, doesn't it? And research is the fun part of writing...

      Have a great week.

  2. Hi there Nila and John. Great choice of guest Nila. Thanks for the King quote John. I like the way he never makes out writing is easy. What remarkable fossils you've dug up for your story. :)

  3. Hi Nila - just commented on today's poem re war in Nigeria, France etc - and saw the Savant label - funny I've just had a lad here with Aspergers and we were talking this sort of thing ... so I came back to re-read. Co-incidences do occur ... one day I must read JJ White .. this looks so interesting .. cheers Hilary

    1. Guess what? John has just got his second book out...Deviant Acts. Coincidence or what? :)