N. John Shore, Jr.


I've been a fan of John Shore ever since I read my first "Ask John" column in the Asheville Citizen Times about four years ago. Sadly, it's published just once a week but I always looked forward to his words of wisdom on publishing day. And I don't use the phrase "words of wisdom" lightly here. His advice is indeed very, very wise. Damn, I wish he'd run for president! Ah, but I digress. 

When I saw recently that he had written a novel that received amazing reviews (see below) I immediately bought a copy. It's not easy to tell a story that is filled with hilarious humor, the pangs of love lost, excruciatingly sad family life and deep, deep inner circumspection that ultimately uplifts your soul but......John has done just that. 

I highly recommend you read this book; you will thank me later.

"I just finished Everywhere She's Not...I'm not crying...There must be something in my eye...What a phenomenal story! Thank you so much!"

"I wanted to tell you that I have read your novel four times now, and each time I 
realize a different reason it resonates so deeply with me."

"Shore's territory is the daily, personal challenges of how we live. He traces the very real, very emotional lives of ordinary people who are just trying to keep up--with, often, their own hearts."  

And if reading these added comments by some of his early readers doesn't convince you I don't know what will.

Here's a summary.

David is a brilliant young man living alone in an old seaside motel in San Francisco in 1979. He has just destroyed the life that he and his live-in girlfriend Kate spent two years building together.

He has no idea why he did the terrible thing he did. All he knows is that he's appalled he did it, and desperately wants Kate back. Fat chance. Kate, who loves David, is many things. Stupid isn't one of them.

Everywhere She's Not is about crazy-making, mind-boggling, gut-wrenching love. It's about how ultimately rewarding it can be to keep hoping, even when you know there's no hope at all.

It's about passing through locked motel doors, travel brochures for ax-murderers, Cornish game hens playing lawn darts.

It's about helping your best friend, who is gay, pretend that he isn't gay, so that his ex-wife won't take away his child visitation rights.

It's about David Allen Finch finally facing the truth of who his family is, and what they've made him become--and what, if anything, he can do about that.

 About John.
N. John Shore, Jr. is a long-time magazine and newspaper writer who has edited and ghostwritten several fiction and non-fiction bestselling books. In 2014, in order to start writing Everywhere She's Not, he put on hiatus his personal blog, which since 2007 had been among the most read blogs in the country (receiving upwards of 300,000 views a month). From April 2016 to November 2017 he penned, for the Asheville Citizen-Times, Ashes to Asheville, the first real-time weekly serial novel ever published on the website of a major daily newspaper. With the conclusion of Ashes he started writing for the Citizen-Times his popular advice column, "Ask John." He has published fifteen short stories in little literary magazines across the country. Everywhere She's Not is his first (non-serialized) novel.

My Questions to John and his fine Time Travel answer.

Tell me about where you live and why you love it so much.
I live in Asheville, NC. The reason I love it so much is because no matter
where you are in the city, if you but close your eyes and walk five steps
you’ll bump into a brewery. 

Three other reasons Asheville is a great place to visit AND you’d want
to live here are:
1. It has a humid subtropical climate. This means that during the spring
and summer here, if you stand in one place for more than a minute,
three different vines will curl right up your leg and steal your wallet.
The overwhelming beauty, power, and diversity of nature is on full
display everywhere in Asheville. For real. It’s jaw-dropping.
2. Ashevillians tend to take whatever they’re doing extremely seriously.
And what an astounding percentage of them are doing is full-on creative
work, be their medium food, clay, paint, textiles, music, the theater arts .
. . all of it. In Asheville, saying you’re an artist doesn’t trigger that,
“Oh, so you’re a self-indulgent broke loser?” look. It triggers respect.
3. Asheville exists on about a million levels, time-wise. On the one hand,
it’s a near-ancient Appalachian mountain town. On the other, it’s a
tourist town that’s so booming real estate developers playing Monopoly
on crack wouldn’t slam down their hotels any faster.
Half the town is old, rusty, and worn; half of it is new, shiny, and doesn’t
have enough parking. Walking around Asheville is like walking around
in The Land That Time Got Confused About. It’s fantastic.
What I hate about Asheville is how segregated it is.

Where were you living when you were 7 years old? Are they fond

Born in Nashville, I spent my kindergarten through high school years in
Cupertino, CA, back when that now humming megalopolis comprised
endless fruit orchards, ma and pa stores, and the sort of middle-class
neighborhoods where I always felt that I could walk into virtually any of
the homes, sit down for dinner, and just be THAT family’s kid for a
And they’d be fine with it. Nobody would care.
My childhood memories of life outside my house are extremely fond. 
But inside my house? Not so much.

Did you have a favorite teacher, and are you still in touch with him
or her?

The schools in Cupertino were (as it turns out) exceptional, so I had lots
of great teachers. Two who really stood out for me in high school were
Rick Hornor and Sue Stimson. They were both English teachers who at
different times selflessly took me into their lives; who made sure I
understood how deeply they loved and believed in me; who insisted that
I had within me genius. Those two people saved me.
I’m still in touch with Rick Hornor. I just last week learned that Sue
         Stimson passed away.

Is there a book that changed the way you look at life?
No. I mean, you know: LIFE made me change the way I look at life. But
there were books that instantly and inextricably wound themselves
straight into the DNA of my soul.
The Fixer. A Confederacy of Dunces.Breakfast of Champions. A collection of Chekhov’s short stories. Crime
and Punishment, Moby Dick, Dante’s Inferno, and all of J.D.
Salinger’s work blew my mind.
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol is one
of my all-time favorite books. So is
The Princess Bride. I’ve been
reveling in the Winnie-the-Pooh books since discovering them at
seventeen. I still read the copy of Isherwood’s translation of the
Bhagavad Gita that I first picked up when I was a teenager; it’s maybe
the most beautiful piece literature I know. I’m a fanatical Mark Twain
fan. He’s my favorite author. 


Note from Jon: Wow!

Do you have a favorite children’s book? And if so, what makes it so
special to you?

I plan on being buried with the Winnie-the-Pooh books—but, as I say, I
didn’t know those books as a kid. When I was nine or ten, my two
favorite books were
The Way of Zen by Alan Watts, and Zen and the Art of Archery 
by Eugen Herrigel.


Which, as I’m writing that, makes
me pretty positive we didn’t have any normal kids’ books in our house.
But actually those two books were pretty easy enough to understand. I
just liked what they were telling me about . . . the larger system at hand,
and how I might best relate to it.

Oh! And I was also a freak for Aesop’s Fables

I couldn’t believe how
much they captured pretty much everything you’d want to know about
life in one mini-story about a lion and a mouse, or a fox and some
grapes. And it killed me, the way every fable concluded by just flat-out
TELLING you what you were meant to learn by reading it.
You’d read the story—and then, just to make sure you got the POINT of
it—it’d say, “Moral of the story: It’s wrong to be greedy.” Or “Moral of
the story: Screw a friend, lose a friend.” “Don’t invite someone over for
dinner, and then serve food that only you like." “Nobody likes a
dipshit.” (That last one is from Aesop’s lesser known fable, “The Fox,
the Crane, and the Dipshit.”)

What are the funniest or most embarrassing stories your family tells
about you?

Um. So, as far as I know, nobody in my family has ever told any story
about anyone else in my family. I don’t remember any such story,
anyway. I honestly wasn’t even aware that that’s a thing. But duh:
course it is. It wasn’t to us, though. Because there wasn’t really an “us”
to my family. We were just . . . four people who somehow got stuck
together in the same house.
It’s hard to tell stories about people you don’t really know all that well.

Is there any message you want to give to, or anything you want to
say, to your great-great-great grandchildren when they read this?

Sure! Here it is:
Dear great-great-great grandchildren:
How thrilling it must be for you, knowing that you’re descended from
me, the most revered writer in the history of making things.

But here’s the thing: You ain’t, k? We’re not related. I never had any
children. Your life is a lie. So, you know . . . stop using my name. Also,
get a job. It’s wrong for you to keep living off my royalties, which I know
continue to flow in like any one of the mighty rivers that used to flow on earth, 

back before we destroyed the planet, and everyone had to relocate to Mars.
Sorry about that, by the way. We really did try to save the earth. But
there were just SO many great shows on TV, which you could stream for
practically free. And they’d release all the episodes of some of the best
series AT THE SAME TIME. So, there was really nothing we could do.
Thanks for understanding!

How did you meet Cat? How did your first date go?

When I first met my cat, she was hunkered down inside a cage, wheezing
and hacking up a hairball. She looked like she had mange. But I was
desperately lonely, so—
Oh, wait. Sorry. My mistake. (Note to self: don’t show Cat this joke.)
So, I met my wife, Catherine, aka "Cat", in 1978, during the one year that we both
attended San Francisco State University. I was drunk when I saw her for
the first time, walking down a long dormitory hallway straight toward
me. By the time she reached me, though, I was intensely sober, as one tends
to get when one realizes that one’s entire life has just very sharply
pivoted. We didn’t really have a first date. We just never stopped hanging out
together after that first meeting.

How would you say you are different now than you were in your
early 20’s?

Fatter. Hairier—yet baldererer. More married. More cautious. Happier.
Since this is a blog about writerly-type things, I’ll say this: My early
20’s, 30s, and even 40’s were largely defined by the steady torture of my
being unable to find my writer’s voice. I’d write and write and write,
and could NEVER get onto the page anything near what I almost
desperately wanted to. It was like . . . I dunno . . . spending thirty years
pregnant, but unable to deliver.
I’ve heard a lot of writers say, “I always knew that I would just have to
be a writer.” And they always mean it as a good thing. But for me,
knowing I was BORN to write was always more curse than anything, by
far. I spent years trying NOT to write. Because I just could not create on
the outside the voice I heard so clearly on the inside, if that makes sense.
It’s like I’d been born a mermaid—but lived in the desert.
Anyway, all that’s over now. I eventually did find my voice, thank God.
But when I say I’m happier now than I was in my early 20’s, that’s
A couple of questions about your book. I see a lot of you in David,
the main character, at least the sense of humor. Are there other

Yes, there are a great many connections between myself and the
character of David. David is basically me.
Here’s a truth: I always knew that I would never write any novel before
I wrote this one—and that I would never write this one before my
mother, father, and step-mother had passed away.
Not that I was ever, like, WAITING for them to die so that I could get on
with my career, or anything. But once they’d let loose their mortal coil, I
was free to let loose my pen in a way that I couldn’t have before then.
And, voila: “
Everywhere She’s Not.”
I mention this only by way of giving some sense of how intricately
David’s story is bound up with my own. And, all that being said, I should probably make 
clear that while in spirit and character David is essentially me, much of what happens to and with him in the book never happened to me in real life. It's a novel, in other words, not a memoir.

Where did you learn about the “Devil’s Grip”? I sure hope you
haven’t experienced it first hand.

Alas, I did. What’s in the book about that is exactly what happened to
me when I was the same age as David when it happens to him.
Man. When the doctor told me I had “Devil’s Grip,” I thought—and this
is real—“Motherfucker! I’m gonna die. But they DID nail that name.”

And in a short essay…………………………
 to any period from before recorded history to yesterday,
be safe from harm, be rich, poor or in-between, if appropriate to your
actually experience what it was like to live in that time, anywhere at all,
meet anyone, if you desire, speak with them, listen to them, be with
 When would you go?
Where would you go?
Who would you want to meet?
And most importantly, why do you think you chose this time?

I would go back to the year of ( . . . busting out my calculator . . . )
1934—to my father’s family estate in Amityville, New York, when my
dad was seven years old.
He was rich, because his father had invented some pretty commonly
used mechanical devices (chiefly the snazzily-named Shore Durometer,
which for decades was the standard means of measuring the density of
I know almost nothing about my father’s life before, well, me. I know he
was the youngest of eight brothers, and that the next youngest son was
some eighteen years older than he. And I think he had three sisters, one
of whom was in some pretty severe way mentally disabled. That sister
spent her whole life locked away in a house up on a hill, where another
one of my aunts spent her life caring for her.
Apparently, my grandfather lived next door, or down the road, from the
huge main house—where, by the time my dad was seven, he and his
mother lived alone. I guess my dad’s father would stop by the house
every morning on his way to his factory, to give his wife some spending
money and pat my dad on the head.
About the only thing my dad ever told me about his life growing up was
that he literally never saw his father when the man wasn’t fully dressed
in a suit. And, gosh, wouldn’t you know it: I’ve almost never seen my father when
he wasn’t fully dressed and pressed. It was like living with a giant
catalog model. For some pretty dorky clothes, I always thought. But
when it came to his clothes, my dad’s shit was ALWAYS tight. Dorky, but
tight. Anyway, I’d like very much to view at all my father’s childhood. It’s
weird for me to know so little about his life. I’ve never met any relative
of my mother or father’s, save for one time.
That one time happened when I was seven, and my dad’s mom came
from New York to California to stay with us for about a week. Man, was
she one scary, Victorian old lady.
Something she seemed to believe was beneficial to do to my sister and
me was to slide her long, cold, knobby index finger down our throats far
enough to make us vomit. That was fun—and an insane thing to want to
be FIRST for, since “Nanny” didn’t wash her hands between fingering
our uvulas.
I remember watching her broad backside as she was heading down the
hallway toward our front door on her way back to New York, and
thinking, “The minute she’s in the air, we have GOT to move.”
Periodically my mother would encourage me to write ol’ Nanny. And I’d
always have a maniacal response.
“Whaddaya want me to SAY to her, Mom? ‘I sure miss all our
RETCHING fun’? ‘Thinking of you—since I’m BARFING!’?”
And my mom was always, “All right. Calm down, drama boy. You don’t
have to write her.”
Literally the only thing I know about my mother’s past, beyond that she
was a beautiful girl raised in an orphanage located in a truly
impoverished part of rural West Virginia, is that when she was 15 years
old, she dropped out of school and traveled around the south as a
magician’s assistant.
One day, when I was a kid, my father and I came home on a Saturday
afternoon to find that my mother had shattered the glass in the frame of
every picture hanging in our house. We found her sitting on the floor in the middle of the 
living room, looking perfectly calm.
“Are you OKAY?” I said. Serenely, she said, “I am.”
I looked around at all the smashed pictures in the room. “What
happened?” Taking a slow, deep breath, she said, “What happened is that I realized
that the reason my parents treated me the way they did was because they
blamed me for not saving their marriage.” She smiled, and did a little
shrug. “That’s why they adopted me. I was supposed to save their
marriage.” She locked her gaze onto mine. And then tears came into her eyes. Her
smile broke a bit, but not much.
“I couldn’t save them,” she whispered. “I couldn’t.”
Years later, I tried to fashion from that moment something like my own
Aesop’s fable.
I’m still trying. With that moment. With all the moments.

Thanks John for your well thought out answers and for making me laugh out loud sometimes and wipe tears from my eyes at others. I wish continued success and many more years with your beautiful bride.
Oh, that running for president thing? I think it's yours for the asking.


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