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Q&A with J.T. Kelly - Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction Indie Author

Q&A with J.T. Kelly - Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction Indie Author

[Bookends] Podcast Episode #11


Welcome to Bookends, a podcast about the books, chapters, and pages of our lives and the writers behind the stories we love. Today we will get to know indie author J.T. Kelly. If you want to get in on the fun by doing an author interview, answer the questions you can find at

Now on with the show.

Welcome back, bookworms. I'm your host WriterKat. I am doing a Q&A with thriller author John Thomas Kelly who writes under the pen name J.T. Kelly. J.T. has lived in Indianapolis for 34 years but lived out west in Tucson and Denver after graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1971. He has been married for 47 years and has two grown children who live nearby. He also has two grandchildren, which he says are his and his wife’s constant blessing.

J.T.'s career included marketing, advertising, and public relations roles, working for himself and various agencies and companies. When he retired at age 70, he considered positions as a consultant, but nothing appealed to him.

Among J.T.'s eight siblings, one brother wrote a book a few years ago. His effort inspired J.T. to give it a try. Another part of his inspiration was something an acquaintance told him while working out at the gym. He described a New World Order that secretly controls much of the planet’s geopolitical maneuverings. After much research, J.T. built his first novel on this real or imagined revelation.

Listen in as we get to know J.T. Kelly.

Welcome to Bookends, J.T.

What inspires you to write?

Two life experiences helped shape my stories. My grandfather bought a cottage on Lake Maxinkuckee in northern Indiana, where my father and his four brothers spent parts of every summer. Our families all loved going to the lake to enjoy each other and the beautiful environment for swimming, skiing, boating, fishing, golfing, tennis, and exploring nature. As our families grew, the fun continued. Then, about ten years ago, we sold our family home. The memories remain and became a key to my books.

The other factor that influenced me was the year abroad I spent as a junior in college. My base was Rome, Italy, but I had the good fortune to travel extensively throughout Europe. Readers of my books know that fictional crimes take place at Lake Maxinkuckee and expand to Europe, where teams of familiar Interpol characters try to solve them and bring the felons to justice.

What is your favorite genre to read?

I primarily enjoy thriller novels but try to vary my genres. For example, I learned of Tess Gunty, a Notre Dame graduate who recently won the National Book Award for The Rabbit Hutch, her first book. Very impressive! So I checked out her interviews on YouTube and picked up her novel through my local library. David Baldacci, James Michener, Dan Brown, John Grisham, Stieg Larsson, and J.K. Rowling are among authors I’ve loved.

What is your favorite genre to write?

My six novels tend to be in the mystery, thriller, and suspense category. The first one is somewhat political, but the others are action-packed adventures. The sixth was published in March of this year. I’m currently halfway through book seven. As you can imagine, writing keeps me quite busy. When I’m not writing, I’m marketing. Sometimes it’s difficult to switch hats, but it’s part of the business.

I agree. The business side of writing can be daunting, but it can also be a creative endeavor like we are doing now!

What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

For those who love page-turning crime thrillers, I believe my novels provide entertaining escapes. Each one offers new experiences into international mystery and adventure.

While I’m not well known, those who are fans have told me how much they look forward to the next book. Each one incorporates a cast of characters that readers are familiar with. After the second novel, the plot of each stands on its own. Readers are brought up to speed on any important details from previous ones.

What is the most challenging part of writing?

My goal for each book is to arrive at a concept that can be developed into a fascinating story. As in all my books, research is key for my background. As the writing evolves, new ideas come into play that help tie the overall plot together. The seventh book continues the adventures of young Amos McCabe, who accidentally enters an alternate reality. He doesn’t know how he got there or how to escape. But he makes the most of it.

What is your favorite quote?

I have this quote from Anton Chekhov posted in my office, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on the broken glass.” It reminds me to provide visual imagery for my readers. Or ‘show, don’t tell’ as writers are taught. I continually strive to achieve this goal.

I love that quote. It's a perfect reminder for writers to see as we write.

If you could do a book signing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I’d be happy to do an event anywhere there are avid readers searching for a fun experience.

Where is the most interesting or unusual place you promoted your book?

I haven’t done a lot of promotion in person, but since I have a lot of fans in the Culver and Lake Maxinkuckee area, I’ve thought of setting something up there. For example, Culver Coffee Company shares books, but I haven’t been aggressive in pursuing it. I have received excellent publicity from the local newspaper there, which has helped spread the word.

I'm sure your fans would love to see you at the Culver Coffee Company. If you let me know when you get a book signing scheduled, I will add it to our Indie Author Insider Calendar of Events!

What is one thing you wish you had known before publishing your book?

As a writer with limited knowledge of the publishing world, I was naïve about the scope of the competition. I’m self-published through Amazon and spent a good deal of time studying the process. Fortunately, there are many helpful gurus with informative tutorials for new authors. I recommend checking out as one.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

In addition to checking out helpful tutorials, it’s very effective to have a group of readers who will provide a positive review, hopefully five-star, in exchange for a free copy of your book. I did this for my first one and received many excellent reviews. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow through with this tactic on successive books. Getting reader reviews is a valuable part of gaining attention from a new audience.

What is one thing you love about being an author?

When I retired at age 70, I would never have guessed I’d find another career. It’s one where I can use my imagination to create fictional realities filled with thrills and emotions that I can share with so many others.

What is one thing you hate about being an author?

I’ve spent a fair amount of advertising on Amazon, but it hasn’t been extremely beneficial in attracting readers. With one thousand new books published almost daily, getting noticed is more than a challenge.

What has helped you sell the most books?

Press releases have been one of the best ways for me to reach potential readers, so I continue to use them to communicate with my audiences. I’ve built a solid email list, but I’m not sure it has been as effective as it is for many authors. Facebook advertising has also been great for building my readers.

Where can we find you?

My best communication tool is my website at Also, there’s,, and

Is there anything else you want to share?

Here’s a published article that I used in one of my email campaigns.

Hoosier begins life as a novelist at 70, by Mark Bennett, TribStar, Indianapolis, Oct. 29, 2022

A framed photograph sits on a table in the writing room of John Kelly’s Indianapolis home. It shows a 20-year-old guy with longish hair and sunglasses walking through a field, with the dome of the Vatican in Rome in the distance. It’s Kelly. He was a University of Notre Dame junior then, with a year to study abroad while living in Rome, tour Europe and the Middle East. And explore.

“It was the best time of my life,” Kelly said last week, reclining in a chair in his living room.

Kelly, now 73, is offering readers a glimpse of the countries he toured and his Indiana homeland, which served as the backdrop to his youthful adventures. In retirement, he’s become a novelist. A prolific novelist. He’s written a series of five mystery thrillers in less than three years. Each novel is connected by a core of characters, European locales, and the summer vacation spot his family enjoyed for generations — Lake Maxinkuckee in the northern Indiana town of Culver. Kelly hopes his sixth book, already in progress, will be finished early next year. If it follows the first five, Kelly’s sixth novel will feature protagonist Jack McCabe, whose vacation home is on Lake Maxinkuckee; Interpol chief Samuel Aritan and others; and international crime, mayhem, and mystery.

As a reader review put it, “Oh, my goodness, these books are full of adventure, intrigue, blood, and gore.”

Life as a suspense novelist (under his pen name “J.T.” Kelly) diverts from Kelly’s previous, decades-long career in marketing, advertising, and his own multimedia business — a path that included residing in Tucson, Denver, and finally, Indianapolis.

Kelly continues to live there with his wife Jane — a fellow Hoosier native he met, ironically, in Denver — who is very proud of his new writing pursuit. Their son Ryan and daughter Courtney live in the area as well.

Kelly retired in 2019 at age 70 and considered consulting work but didn’t find those options appealing. Then, during a workout session, a friend started talking about a global order network and its infiltration into multiple entities worldwide, unbeknownst to the public. Kelly started to research and then write a fictional tale centered on that theme. Kelly’s experience running a business from home for years and writing advertising and marketing copy helped.

“It kind of instilled a work discipline that made it easy for me to write a book,” he said. "But I had a lot to learn. As far as writing books, I didn’t have a lot of training.” His brother, Daniel Kelly, wrote an inspirational thriller novel in 2017, “The Beauty Beneath.” Like John, Dan also has a vocation other than writing books; he’s a Vigo County Juvenile Court magistrate.

“That kind of stuck with me and inspired me,” John Kelly said. “I thought, ‘If he could do it, maybe I could do it.’” So in late 2019, just months after retiring, Kelly started working on his debut novel, “Fair Ways and Foul Plays.” He independently published it in the spring of 2020. He wrote and released “Deadly Defiance” and “Suite Suspicion” in 2020 and 2021. This year, Kelly completed and published “Formula for a Felony” and “Diamond Destiny.”

“All of my books require a lot of research because I’m writing about subjects I don’t already know about and based in countries I need to learn more about,” Kelly said.

Still, his travels as a young college student and later, as well as his family’s longtime summer vacation tradition at Lake Maxinkuckee, help Kelly paint the settings for the stories. “It’s so much fun to relive all those places I visited, but enriching them with more details,” he said. The plots of the books all contain a link to Lake Maxinkuckee, protagonist Jack McCabe’s fictional getaway place too.

His grandfather, the late John F. Kelly, owned an asphalt business and bought a house on Lake Maxinkuckee, a place where generations of the Kelly family visited until it sold ten years ago.

The references to the Lake in the J.T. Kelly novels “conjured up many happy memories,” Dan Kelly said last week. “In fact, the preponderance of three generations of home movies were taken there.”

Back then, the idea that John Kelly would write fictional thrillers about Lake Maxinkuckee never occurred to his brother, Dan. “I did not know that either of us would ever decide to write a novel,” Dan said. Action in each J.T. Kelly novel begins at the lake community and then extends to European cities such as Rome, Munich, Prague, Cannes, Paris, and Venice. Yet, each book stands on its own and would not require readers to have read his earlier books. “They’re completely different stories, even though they involve Jack McCabe and Lake Maxinkuckee,” Kelly said.

Storytelling keeps him busy. “I write all the time,” he said.

He’s always been an intense reader of suspense novels himself, especially those by James Michener, Dan Brown, John Grisham, Stieg Larsson, David Baldacci, and J.K. Rowling. Kelly gave his readers a slightly different twist with “Diamond Destiny,” his latest novel, released in July. “It has more of a feel-good, emotional component,” Kelly said. He’s considering building that sensation into his sixth book. Regardless of the vibe, Kelly tries to expose readers to exotic parts of the world he roamed all those years ago.

“I want people to feel like they’re going on a thrilling adventure,” Kelly said.

Fascinating! Thank you for sharing your writing journey with us, J.T. Kelly. And thank you, listeners, for tuning in. If you enjoy reading mystery, thriller, and suspense novels, you will love J.T. Kelly's books.

Now, on to the news for poets and writers.

Poets! Have you sent in your poems for the PSI 45th Annual Poetry Contest? You can win money and publication for your poems. This contest has not one or two but a whopping 32 categories for you. Enter one or all for the same low fee of ten dollars for PSI members or fifteen for non-members. You have until September 1st, 2023, to share your poetic brilliance with the world. To get all the details, visit poetry society of

Writers! If you want to hone your skills and network with authors, editors, publishers, and other cool cats in the writer world, join me at the Taylor University Professional Writers Conference on July 28th and 29th, 2023, in Upland, Indiana. You can sign up at Taylor professional writers

Indie Authors! If you want to see how a master marketer does a book launch, join me and about 200,000 (!) other curious creatives on Saturday, August 19th at 12 p.m. Eastern Time for Alex Hormozi's book launch of one hundred million dollar leads. It's free, and he's giving goodies away to everyone who shows up for his LIVE virtual book launch. To sign up, please use my referral link at, so I can win a one-on-one interview with him that I will share with you!

If you're an author with a book release on the horizon or want to participate in a Q&A interview, visit for the author interview questions or email

If you want to support this show and lots of other upcoming author interviews and book launches, please subscribe at

Alright, bookworms, that’s it for today. Visit for links to all my writerly projects and social media. Until next time, keep reading, keep writing, and remember; every story has the power to change lives!

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That's a wrap for this episode of the [Bookends] Podcast. Thank you for listening! We hope you enjoyed getting to know J.T. Kelly.

Please subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes.

We'll be back soon with more great conversations about books and authors. In the meantime, we hope you continue to enjoy those special moments between the bookends of your life.

Until next time, happy reading!

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