John Vanek graduated from Case Western Reserve University, where his passion for creative writing took root. He received his M.D. from the University of Rochester and practiced medicine in Ohio for a quarter century, but his interest in writing never waned. Medicine was his life, but mysteries and poetry became his drugs of choice. 

He began honing his craft in creative writing workshops and college courses and was gratified when his early work won contests and was published widely. He now lives happily as an ink-stained-wretch in Florida with Geni, his wife, fellow writer, and best friend. He teaches a poetry workshop for seniors at a local college, and enjoys swimming, hiking, sunshine, good friends, and red wine.

John is an active member of the International Thriller Writers.

A reader's question: What inspired the Father Jake Austin mystery series?

I practiced medicine at St. Joseph Hospital in Lorain, Ohio until it closed its doors in 1997. Father Jake Austin is a fictional character, but aspects of his personality and struggles are modeled after two Catholic priests who became my close friends and confidants. When I first met them, I expected the usual stereotypes, but when their Roman collars came off, I found that they were simply human.

One priest confessed his attraction to a young nun. Call his love unrequited; he called it hell. I watched this righteous man struggle with his commitment to his vows. This became the inspiration for Jake and Emily’s relationship in my novels.

Seeing these men wrestle with the same emotions that we all share shattered my preconceived notions. I wanted to portray Father Jake as a spiritual man, but as realistically as possible.

A reader's question: What inspires your poetry?

I discovered the healing power of poetry as I dealt with my mother’s Alzheimer’s, my father’s cancer, the suicide of a friend, and the suffering and incredible bravery of my patients.

Poetry provided a vehicle that took me to places that logic wouldn’t go. It became a way of understanding the incomprehensible, both in life and in medicine. I now prescribe poetry PRN (“as needed”), but warn that “it may hurt a little.”

Although my book, Heart Murmurs: Poems, is a work of fiction, any resemblance to actual events or persons is not entirely coincidental. My poetry is inspired by friends, family, and patients who live in the heartland and in my heart.

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Sandusky (Ohio) Library Book Fair, 4-6-19, 1-3 p.m. 

Westlake, Ohio (Crocker Park) Barnes & Noble, 4-7-19, 2-4 p.m.

Elyria (Ohio) Library, West River Branch, 4-8-19, 6 p.m.

Kendal at Oberlin Community (Ohio), 4-9-19, 7:15 p.m.