Hey Copywriters! If You’ve Dreamed of Writing a Book, Here’s Some Advice from Ex Ad Guy and Author John Crawley

Written by Vicki Young

Announcing his New Novel, One Elephant Too Many

What happens when an agency copywriter has some down time? Writes a book, of course. Author John Crawley’s 16th novel, One Elephant Too Many, weaves magic and law together to tell its compelling tale of the plight of the African Elephant.

AdChat DFW had the opportunity to ask John about his advertising background, how he began writing and to offer potential novelists sage advice on how to begin writing their first book.

AdChat DFW:  Where have you worked in advertising and in what roles?

John Crawley: I started in the advertising agency business in Austin at Ray Hall and Associates and then I went to Houston and worked at Metzdorf Advertising. After Houston I went to Austin for a stint with GSD&M and then to Dallas to The Richard’s Group where I became a Creative Director for the first time. In a very short time, I was at Bozell, which became Temerlin McClain, before I left and went to work on Mazda at Foote Cone and Belding in Southern California. After FCB I went to work for Duncan and Associates in L.A. as ECD and then back to Dallas where I retired and started writing novels.

AdChat DFW:  When did you first become interested in writing a novel?

John Crawley: While working on Mazda, I discovered that the car agency business has three seasons.  The very busy time just before the new cars are launched into the market, then the second phase of building dealer traffic with promotions, and then finally a dark period where we had time on our hands waiting for the factory to open the doors and push the new models out and onto a waiting public. It was during one of these down times that I decided to keep my mind and fingers busy writing a novel.

 AdChat DFW:  What tips do you have for advertising copywriters out there reading this and dreaming about writing their first novel?

 John Crawley: Pour a cup of coffee. Turn off the noise around you. Sit down. And type. I know it sounds simple and in a way, it is. But the main thing is just get started.

Write a good first sentence. I mean a really good first sentence. As Hemmingway says, “…write a true sentence.”  I take it from that Papa meant a powerful one. One that grabs a reader’s eyeballs and makes him or her continue reading. Then write another sentence following that and then another and then a paragraph and finally an entire first chapter. There. You did it.

Now to be sure, there are some things that need to happen before the mechanical aspect of writing a novel begins; but if you are a good copywriter – one that is worth their salt – you already do these things. You need to have a story in mind. What do you want to tell me? What is the story we are going to sit down and have a conversation about. Now some writers have every detail of their book organized and thought out. Others (like me) have a general idea of the story and we let it happen before us.

But the real key…the most important thing you can do, is just start writing. If it is garbage, you can always hit the delete button. I wrote five complete manuscripts when I was doing Man On The Grass Knoll and tore each of them up until I found they right way to tell the story. But I learned something on every pass I made at that book.

AdChat DFW:  How do you get ideas for your books?

John Crawley: I get asked this question a lot by students who are in writing classes. I tell them I read a newspaper everyday – sometimes two or three. A daily newspaper is such a fine source of ideas. And magazines. And I listen to radio from around the world on the Internet. Stories from faraway places whose names and locale I barely know. There is always something that strikes my fancy, and I will jot a note or two down and return to it later. But just looking at the world…reading about it daily. Keeping an eye on it, to paraphrase Scott Keen, from Between Sunday’s Columns, is the way I get my ideas.

I read an article in National Geographic Magazine (I think it was at my dentist’s office) about the plight of the African Elephant. And that led me to write One Elephant Too Many. You never know where an idea will come from.

So, the idea comes from the great muse of the universe. From your subconscious. It comes from events around you or that happened in your life twenty years ago. You must stay open to hearing those stories then write them down…that is your novel. Just tell a story.

Check out more information on John’s latest novel…

The African Elephant population has decreased from roughly 5 million a century ago to just 415,000 today. It is dwindling every day. Some experts fear the African elephant has as little as four to five years left unless the mass genocide is halted. Between 2014 and 2018 it is estimated that elephant carcasses in Africa increased by almost 600 percent. While not all of these are a result of ruthless ivory poachers, a vast majority are. John Crawley’s 16th novel is a fantasy/legal thriller that tells the tale of one woman’s battle using both magic and the law to bring the plight of these elephants to light.

One Elephant Too Many Synopsis

Myra Hunter, a very polished, but very young black lawyer right out of NYU Law School is at the center of Crawley’s new novel. Recently hired by the Global Justice Project, she is sent to The World Court in The Hague to represent the elephant species in a legal fight against African poachers. As her first assignment becomes a legal crusade to halt the deadly practice of slaughtering elephants for their ivory, magic enters the picture: Watching over her are a witch and two bumbling warlocks, just earning their degrees in the dark arts.

One Elephant Too Many is the story of the disappearing herds of Africa’s elephants at the hands of ruthless, unscrupulous businesses and greedy governments involved in the harvesting of blood ivory. They will do anything within their power, including employing deadly mercenaries, to protect their right to slay the elephants, harvest their ivory, and then sell it into both open and black markets in Asia and America. It is a practice that threatens the very existence of these mighty beasts.

In the novel, Myra Hunter is assisted by Mary Agnes of Wintergarden, a witch. Crawley says, “Well, not fully a witch; she didn’t finish her final exams before the Grand Council of Magic Arts prior to being sent out on a special assignment to protect Myra.”

Crawley adds, “This legal/fantasy thriller is about the rights of a species to exist on this planet using the same set of laws that protect the victims of atrocities in human war. It is also about believing in the truth, and allowing love to overcome fear, prejudice, and the darkness of evil.

“It is also about how to make a pretty damn good magic wand.”

About John Crawley

John Crawley is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to penning his numerous novels, he built a thirty-year career in advertising, specializing in TV and Radio and helped build dozens of national brands. He has taught creative writing and advertising at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M Commerce), TCU, as well as guest lectured at The University of Texas at Austin, North Texas University, SMU and LaVerne University in California.

One Elephant Too Many is John Crawley’s 16th novel. He has won Shelf Magazine’s Top 100 awards three times – for Stuff, a story of a man’s life, told by what he takes from his home as he escapes from an impending wildfire; Letters From Paris, a saga of Clare de Fontroy, a black poet, journalist and essayist (and part-time jazz singer) writing to John dos Passos about the changing nature of Europe and the world, even as the shadow of Hitler casts its dark cloud over Paris; and finally, The End, a tale of a woman wishing to choose death over life while confronting a horrid disease, which is slowly killing her– the only person standing in her way, is her brother: a Catholic priest.  John also wrote the award-winning story, Man on the Grassy Knoll, a fictional interview with Raul Salazar, the second shooter on the day of the Kennedy assassination.

John is an award-winning photographer, an avid cook, as well as a guitar and mandolin picker. He occasionally finds time to fly-fish and to ride his bicycles. John is married with three grown children and somewhere around his house, a cat.

Find all of John’s books at They are also available online at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Walmart.

Proceeds from Crawley’s new novel will benefit Elephant Havens, whose mission is to protect and preserve the African elephant:

About the author

Vicki Young

The Young Company is a proven marketing communications resource offering effective and award-winning advertising, graphic design, branding, and public relations.
Based in Dallas, Texas, the company serves local, national, and international clients.