I met Jim Potter in early 2018 when he drove from Hutchinson to Newton for my book signing at the Newton Public Library. If I remember correctly, he saw the signing advertised in the Hutchinson newspaper. I’ve enjoyed seeing him at different author events since then and can’t recommend his books highly enough. Jim’s a great writer and he knows his subject well.
I also have to say that if you get the chance to meet him in person, do it. He’s one of the nicest individuals you’ll ever meet. I promise. I hope you enjoy this insight to him and then go visit his award-winning website to pick up one of his books!
Retired Reno County Deputy Sheriff Jim Potter, a former School Resource Officer, has just released his latest book, a novella titled Deputy Jennings Meets the Amish. Potter is an award-winning writer for his play, Under the Radar: Race at School. His memoir, Cop in the Classroom: Lessons I’ve Learned, Tales I’ve Told, recalls his career in law enforcement. His contemporary, character-driven novel, Taking Back the Bullet: Trajectories of Self-Discovery, is about people who are stigmatized. However, once they discover their true identities, each is empowered to begin the journey of life’s purpose.
Jim and his wife, J. Alex Potter, reside outside Hutchinson, Kansas, in Greater Medora.
Tell us about your newest book, Deputy Jennings Meets the Amish.
Deputy Tom Jennings, a patrol officer for the Cottonwood County Sheriff’s Office, is a caring cop. He doesn’t understand the Old Order Amish and they don’t understand him. After being assigned to investigate the theft of soil from a county ditch, he meets Mrs. Rosanna Borntrager Yoder. Rosanna, and Adam (her husband) help Jennings begin to learn how the Amish and the English are different, and alike.
When and why did you start writing?
In college I learned the joys of research and composing, especially as part of my MA degree’s thesis on a Civil War regiment. Research meant studying the regiment’s original muster roll located in Springfield, Illinois. A trip to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. allowed me to read the pension records of “my” men. While I was focused on nonfiction, the work required me to use my imagination, to tell stories, and to learn the rules of writing.
I wrote a short play, Under the Radar: Race at School. It was awarded a fellowship for playwriting by the Kansas Arts Commission and the National Endowment of the Arts.
Over a long weekend, while preparing for a workshop I was leading about exploring and valuing diversity, an idea struck me. I wanted to find a way to personally involve workshop attendees in a fictional racist encounter at a high school. The play, read in a group setting with fourteen characters, became an effective tool that guaranteed participation while encouraging an examination of different mind-sets.
Tell us about your background in law enforcement and the role that has played in your writings.
One funny fact is that after 33 years working in law enforcement, it’s difficult for me to write fiction without a cop showing up in the story.
My years as a patrol officer writing reports made me a much better writer. It taught me to pay attention, to observe and listen, and to interview people. Our reports had a definite deadline. We couldn’t go home until the paperwork was complete.
You are the president of the Kansas Author Club District 6. Why is it important to you to meet regularly with other authors and why did you choose KAC?
The KAC is a friendly group of people who range from novice writers to experienced authors. Writers and authors find support at KAC. It’s also gratifying and inspiring for me to see people I know improving their skills. When I have a literary or marketing question, the KAC is a knowledgeable place with answers.
I understand trying to do everything myself, but sometimes it takes a village to publish a book, from first readers to editors, from formatters to designers.
You manage an award-winning website. What can people expect if they visit your website?
People have access to over 200 blogs I’ve written. They range from tips on writing, to book reviews, to historical fiction, especially on the sheriffs of Reno County, Kansas. It’s also the place to purchase my books directly from me.
What is your favorite part about writing? What is your biggest challenge?
Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, like a parent, it’s difficult to choose a favorite part of fun. It’s exciting to come up with an idea for a book and to brainstorm the possibilities. Creative writing and editing are work, but they’re also very rewarding. Editing is required and involves patience. It’s part of the process to improve the story.
Marketing is often ignored, but it’s part of the publishing process. A book is only new for so long. If you don’t promote your book, it’s often ignored or soon forgotten.
What writing tip most improved your writing?
Take it a step at a time.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love reading but getting outdoors to garden and do lawncare is my opportunity to get a brain break. I call it dirt therapy.
What does success look like for you as an author?
Personally, it’s writing a story or a book and being pleased with the result. Professionally, it’s being regarded as a very good writer. However, we all need to be careful when we allow others to label us.
Is there anything additional you want to share with readers?
Nowadays, most businesses have an online presence with advertising and selling. However, currently I’m having a blast marketing my books the old-fashioned way. The Amish-Mennonite communities across the country are my target audience. I advertise in a country-wide weekly newspaper, selling direct to customers who send me a check in the mail, not by using my website or ordering from amazon.com.
Very soon an audiobook of Deputy Jennings Meets the Amish will be available to purchase online. Also, I’ve started brainstorming and planning a sequel. The working title is Deputy Jennings Visits Amish Country.
Excerpt (Audio, narrated by Bob Neufeld):