What Does Success Look Like To You? – John Perry Author

What Does Success Look Like To You? – John Perry Author

John Perry is a distinguished author and musician hailing from Kentucky, with deep roots in Houston and a longstanding residence in Nashville. A graduate of Vanderbilt University with further studies at University College, Oxford, Perry embarked on a 15-year career in advertising before transitioning to a successful freelance writing and musical career. He is widely known for co-authoring the New York Times bestseller “Letters to God.” Perry’s extensive experience in radio production includes working with icons like Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. Beyond his literary achievements, he is passionate about classical music, having recently performed at Carnegie Hall. Perry actively supports the fine arts in Nashville, contributing to the community’s cultural enrichment. His upcoming projects continue to explore significant historical and cultural narratives, showcasing his commitment to both storytelling and music.

Q&A with John Perry: Unveiling the Depths of Storytelling and Music

John, your career spans across writing and music. What initially drew you to these forms of expression?

Growing up in Houston after moving from Kentucky, I was surrounded by a rich tapestry of musical influences and a family that valued storytelling. My early encounters with classical piano and choral music, especially a fantastic high school fine arts program, were the cornerstones. These experiences nurtured my love for both music and writing as powerful means to communicate and evoke emotions.

You’ve had a successful career in advertising before becoming a novelist and musician. How did that experience shape your creative journey?

My years in advertising were invaluable. Working as a copywriter and radio producer, I learned how to appeal to an audience on a visceral level, how to craft a message that resonates, and how to work to a deadline. Those skills translated beautifully into writing both nonfiction books and novels, where thoroughly understanding your audience is crucial.

Your book, ‘Letters to God,’ was a bestseller. Can you share what inspired this novel and what the writing process was like?

‘Letters to God’ was inspired by real-life stories of a young boy battling serious illnesses and how he and his father found hope through faith. I collaborated closely with the father, who was the co-author of the book. It was a project that required a delicate balance of truthfulness and respect for the sensitive subject matter while also grabbing and holding the interest of the reader..

As someone deeply involved in classical music and having recently performed at Carnegie Hall, could you describe how these experiences influence your writing?

Performing at Carnegie Hall was a dream come true. This discipline and the emotional depth required in music parallel the process of writing. Both require an understanding of rhythm, of crescendos and diminuendos in narrative and musical lines, which in the case of books help me craft more compelling stories.

You’re an advocate for the power of archival research in writing. Why do you believe this method is crucial in the era of digital information?

 Digital resources are convenient, but there’s something irreplaceable about archival research. Handling actual documents connects you physically to the past. Holding a letter that was written more than a century ago and traveled through the mail by stagecoach provides a depth of understanding that digital screens cannot replicate. This hands-on method enriches the authenticity of my historical narratives, allowing me to provide a more vivid portrayal of past events. Also, some of the best and most surprising sources appear from just looking around or randomly going through a box of archival material. When you rely only on digital sources, you’re allowing someone else to curate and limit your access. As a researcher, you need to do more than that.

Can you tell us about a particularly challenging moment in your career and how you overcame it?

One challenging moment came during the initial transition from advertising to full-time writing. There was uncertainty about whether I could make a living from my books. I overcame this by persisting, refining my craft, and not shying away from marketing my own work. The breakthrough came when one of my biggest advertising clients, a book publisher, invited me to collaborate on one of their manuscripts, which validated my career shift and set a new path for my creative endeavors.

What advice would you offer to aspiring artists and writers who look up to your career?

My advice is to immerse yourself in your craft, whether it’s writing, music, or any other form of art. Be patient and persistent. The journey is as important as the destination. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of learning from others—mentorship and collaboration are invaluable. And one more thing: never give up.

What projects are you currently working on, and what can your readers look forward to next?

I’m currently finishing a book on urban America, exploring significant historical shifts in our cities. It’s been a fascinating project involving a lot of research, including interviews with people who’ve lived through these changes. 

Thank you, John, for sharing your insights. Any final thoughts you’d like to leave with our readers?

Thank you for the opportunity. I’d like to encourage everyone to support their local arts, whether it’s by attending performances, reading books by local authors, or participating in community arts programs. Arts enrich our communities and our lives, and by supporting them, we ensure they thrive for future generations.