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John L. Evans

Prolific local author John Evans in his office.

Prolific local author John Evans in his office.

Photo by audrey love

John L. Evans will by signing books at Borders, 4995 S. Virginia St., 448-9999, on Sat., Sept. 25, starting at 3 p.m. His books are also available from amazon.com.

John L. Evans has written four books—six if you count the two on the way. Remarkably, Evans, who doesn’t claim any famous attributes, has published all four. His secret?

“I can’t say I was actually lazy,” he says. “But I wasn’t motivated, and I certainly did not have any guidance.”

He turned to self-publishing. Late last year, on Amazon.com’s self-publishing service called BookSurge, now called CreateSpace, Evans began listing his books for sale. He controlled his book prices, after Amazon accounted for its share, designed his book covers and a few clicks later, he became a self-published author. Self-publishing became nearly essential for Evans who, after a pile of rejections and unsuccessful publishers, wanted to call his hobby more than just that.

On Saturday, Sept. 25, at Borders in Reno, Evans will hold his first book signing for Petals of Canna, Kelin’s Journey, Saguaro Express and Love Did That? All his books, with the exception of Love Did That?, combine adventure and high-risk action—perfect ingredients for thrill-seeker Evans, a sports car racer and aviation enthusiast, now retired.

But Evans’ entrance into writing—a hobby he admits is costly because he lacks marketing—came off the beaten path. Evans was born in Memphis, Tenn. After his parents divorced when he was 2 years old, he moved in with an aunt in Iowa. In 1963, Evans’ first real job required him to shut down his creative mind and, for the most part, to become a computer. For hours on end, he would feed wires from this hole into that hole, thus programming a giant computer for a telephone company. At 22, Evans was working on the first IBM 360 west of the Mississippi. Work became more complex and more mundane. Then, in 1970, after getting married and fulfilling his corporate duties, he “dropped out.”

To “drop out,” Evans explains, meant to leave the establishment. He quit his job and, with his wife, began to live off the land.

“I have this character who asks this other character, ‘How come you dropped out?’ and the guy explains, ‘Well, I don’t really know,’” says Evans. He doesn’t claim to know much, either. He describes his dropping out as a culmination of frustrations. “I just wasn’t relating to what I ate,” he says.

Once dropped out, he traveled across the United States from Tucson to St. Louis to Florida and New Mexico. Eventually, he recanted his decision. “I had this crazy idea that people can live off the land.” He and his wife lived for a few days in a hippie commune, but the hippies, disappointingly, weren’t very nice. They ate cold meals, at times, under a rain cloud.

“It was illuminating,” he says. “But ‘enjoying’ isn’t the right word.” Looking back, he was finding identity from his isolated Iowa upbringing, finding his place in the world, and also the inspirations to write. In Saguaro Express, his first novel, he teases, “Neil Burton is a private pilot and had a very successful career with a software company until he and his wife, Gina, ‘drop out’ in the late ’60s, then try to re-enter the establishment.”

His novels are filled with adventure, conflict and racing plots. But he admits that, like him, they are straightforward and “no bullshit.” From Kelin’s Journey, a novel about a 12-year-old at the dawn of an apocalypse, to Petals of Canna, a novel discovering corporate misdeeds while romance blossoms, Evans searches for adventure.