John Schembra, Long time Member of PSWA

Marilyn: John Schembra is one of the first friends I made in the PSWA. I don't remember the exact place we did meet. But since that time he's attended several PSWA conferences and we've participated in the same book fairs.

John: Actually, I think we met at the Jack London Writer's Conference in Santa Clara. I happened to sit next to you during a seminar and we started talking. I hadn't been published yet and you gave me some very good advice both on writing and getting published. You told me about electronic publishing and about the PSWA. It interested me, especially since it's members were all part of the law enforcement community. I thought it would be interesting to attend the conference and meet the members. I was not disappointed! I attended the conference that year at the Reno Peppermill and found it to be very worthwhile and a whole lot of fun!

Marilyn: Tell my blog readers a bit about yourself.

John: About me- I grew up in Oakland and San Leandro, California. I was drafted into the army in 1969 and ended up becoming a Military Policeman. I spent a year with the 557th MP Co. at Long Binh, Vietnam, (1970) where I had several "adventures" that provided the basis for my first book, M.P. When I returned home and completed my military service, I joined the Pleasant Hill ( CA. ) Police Department, retiring as a Sergeant after 30 years service. I have been married to my best friend, Charlene for 38 years and we have two wonderful children, Allie, 33, and Scott, 29. Char and I live in Concord, CA., which is about 25 miles across the bay from San Francisco.

Marilyn: When did you start writing?

John: I started writing trade articles for law enforcement periodicals a couple of years before attempting a novel and enjoyed it very much. I also am an avid reader and have always admired authors that could write great stories.

I decided to write a book at the urging of several fellow officers at the police department. Another Sergeant, who also was a Vietnam Veteran, and I would talk about our experiences, swapping tales, and they would listen to our stories. They told me I should write them down, that it would make a good book. So, one day, I grabbed a tablet and a pencil and started writing them down. That eventually coalesced into a book. I decided to write it as a work of fiction, based in part upon my personal experiences, as my purpose was show the readers not so much what I personally went through, but what were the duties and mission of the Military Police in Vietnam. I wanted to provide a complete picture, and, in real life, no one person would go through what I made my protagonist experience!

Once I completed the book, I started looking for a publisher. I contacted several, but most weren't interested. I learned more about electronic publishing through the PSWA and EPIC, and using their resources, researched numerous e-pub companies. I liked what I read and heard about Writers Exchange E-Publishing, and decided to give them a try. I sent my manuscript to them and it was accepted, and M.P. was electronically published in 2002. I was officially a published novelist! A year or so later, M.P. became available in print through Writers Exchange, using Booksurge as the print on demand resource.

Marilyn: Hubby and I both read M.P. and enjoyed it. What came next?

John: My second book is called Retribution and is mystery that takes place in San Francisco. The protagonist, Vincent Torelli, is the same character from M.P., just 25 years later. He now is a homicide inspector with SFPD and is investigating a series of vigilante killings. The killer is targeting the worst criminals who have in one way or another, not been prosecuted due to some sort of technicality or lack of evidence. I like to think it has several twists and turns that will keep the reader engaged in the story! Retribution is also published by Writers Exchange and is available both electronically and in print, through my website, the Writers Exchange website, , and at

Marilyn: What kind of promotion works best for you?

John: I like to use both the internet and personal contacts to promote my books. I really enjoy attending book fairs, library events, and other special events to talk about my books and writing in general. I like meeting people and signing books. I found word of mouth works best in getting the information about me and my books out there, though, especially when it's a happy reader who posts comments on Facebook or through e-mail and my web page guest book. Another valuable resource are the numerous writer's conferences, though I limit my attendence to two or three a year (PWSA, EPIC, and the Military Writer's Society of America.) I send bookmarks and business cards to several of them each year.

Marilyn: What's up next for you?

John: Well, I just completed my third novel and and sent it off to the publisher- Writers Exchange again. It is the third novel of Vincent Torelli and again takes place in San Francisco. In this one, tentatively titled Diplomatic Immunity, he is searching for a sniper who is killing foreign consuls in the City.

I am currently working on my fourth novel. This is also a mystery but takes place in a small town in the central valley of California. The two main characters are a professor at the local community college and a female campus police officer who help each other in solving a couple of murders that happen on the campus and in the town. I hope to have that done in the next few months, and then begin on another book. I guess I'll continue writing as long as I can. Might even eventually catch up to you, Marilyn!

Marilyn: Is there anything else you'd like to tell my blog readers?

John: I would just like to say that if they want to be associated with a great writer's association, join the PSWA! The conference is exceptional. The seminars are wonderful, very informative and pertinent, and the members a great bunch of professional writers. It is the best conference, and what makes it better is it is loads of fun. Thanks so much to you, Marilyn, for all your hard work on behalf of the PSWA and the conference!

Marilyn: Thank you, John, and we'll miss you at the conference this year. And for anyone who would like to attend, visit the website for all the information:


M.M. Gornell said…
Good interview! Great getting to know you John, especially since you've been involved with PSWA for awhile. Your books sound interesting and are going on my "list"! Much success and hope to meet you down the road.
WS Gager said…
I loved listening to your stories at the conference last year. You will be missed this year!
Wonderful interview with John, Marilyn. What a prolific author you are turning into, John! Best wishes with your latest book and good luck as you write the fourth -- how exciting!

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