18 June 2017 - MIKE KOWIS - Guest Author




MIKE KOWIS

- Guest Author -

G'day folks,

Today, I interview a man who has written a book that you writers might be interested in.

Welcome, Mike ...


1.      TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.

Howdy!  I grew up in the piney woods of East Texas.  A small town boy with big dreams of someday becoming an auto mechanic, master chef or corporate lawyer.  I couldn’t decide which to choose, so my parents wisely suggested that I pursue a full-time legal career and do mechanic work and cook as hobbies on the weekend. Thanks to their sage advice, a little hard work and a lot of dumb luck, I’m now enjoying three careers as an in-house tax attorney for a Fortune 500 company, a part-time college instructor at a large community college and an award-winning author.  I got lucky.  Or as they say in Texas, even a blind hog can find an acorn every once in a while.

2.      WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?

I give full credit to Mrs. Judy Webb, my eighth-grade English teacher at Woodrow Wilson Junior High in Dayton, Texas, for being the first person to recognize the potential writer in me.  She signed me up for her UIL Ready Writing team (a school-sponsored writing competition for nerds like me!) and encouraged me to express myself though creative writing.  Without nurturing teachers like Mrs. Webb, many writers would probably never develop their craft and share their ideas with the world. Thank you teachers!

3.      DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING SURPRISING WHILE WRITING YOUR FIRST BOOK?

I learned there is a difference between legal writing and book writing.  After two decades of practicing tax law, I consider myself to be a fairly competent legal writer.  Sloppy legal writing can have dire consequences, especially when drafting a contract or legal opinion involving a multi-million dollar transaction.  It’s critical for lawyers like myself to draft precise language that is often repetitive, tedious to read, overly detailed, and leaves nothing to the imagination of the reader. 

While drafting and editing my first book’s manuscript, I quickly discovered that my legal writing style is too technical and boring for book writing purposes. With the help of my talented editor (Geoff Smith of Brooklyn, NY), I learned how to write prose in a more natural style and let the reader make logical assumptions based on the language.  This resulted in a more free-flowing style that is much more fun to read.



4.      WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?

I love hearing from readers who say that my book helped them in some small way and/or entertained them.  It is rewarding to know that my writings somehow made a difference in others’ lives, even if it was just to give them a few simple tips to try or bring a smile to their face.

5.      WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?

The biggest challenge I face is promoting my books so that others can read and learn from them.  It saddens me to think that my books could potentially help thousands of aspiring authors and future college instructors, but many folks will never have that opportunity because they haven’t yet heard about these helpful books.

6.      WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?

I felt honoured when my debut book, Engaging College Students: A Fun and Edgy Guide for Professors, was recently selected as the solo Medalist Winner in the Education category of the 2016 New Apple Book Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing.  To me, that award provides much-needed validation of my writing chops by a third party.  More important, it has given me the confidence to write more books.

7.      WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?

Both of my books are non-fiction and intended to help others achieve their professional goals of becoming a published author or an engaging college instructor.  I hope to write more non-fiction books to help others.

8.       DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?

Write what you love.  If you stick to this advice, you are more likely to finish writing the book and (more important) your passion will bleed through on the pages to inspire, educate and entertain your readers. 



9.      DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?

Sadly, yes.  While writing my first book, I came down with a severe case of writer’s block not once, but twice.  When I say writers’ block, I mean a full-blown “I can’t type another word” brain fart.  Writers’ block left me feeling frustrated and hopeless because I had never endured this problem in my legal career, which requires me to write daily. 

Both times this happened, I sought help and developmental edits from my muse and trusted editor, Geoff Smith of Brooklyn, NY.  Without fail, he was able to unstick my keyboard and give me fresh ideas to write about.  Without his inspiration and sage advice, my first book and dreams of becoming a published author would have died on the vine long ago.

10.  WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?

My greatest joy in the book writing journey is the day of the book launch.  After staring at a computer screen for many months or years, it is fulfilling to finally hold the finished product in my hands. 



11.  WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?

When I finished the manuscript for my debut book about college teaching, I asked my favorite former college professor, Dr. Timothy Clipson of Stephen F. Austin State University, to be a beta reader and give me his feedback.  Since my college days, I have looked up to Dr. Clipson as a mentor and role model.  In fact, I try to mimic his lecture style whenever I teach because he is so effective in the classroom.  So it meant the world to me to receive his response as follows:

“I really, really, really love the book.

I am certain that you are an outstanding teacher and that you not only enjoy teaching, but your students also love coming to your class because they know:
1. that you care,
2. that they will actually enjoy the learning process, and
3. they will leave with something that will benefit them.

You may be upset, but I have little to say in terms of suggestions for your book. I loved it, your humor, the easy read, and the message.”

12.  OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?

You might say that I have the heart of a teacher.  I love teaching and helping students reach their educational goals.  As I see it, writing non-fiction books is no different than teaching.  In both roles, my goals are the same - to connect with the audience, impart a little wisdom and levity, and leave them a little better off than they were before our paths crossed.  



13.   WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FUN/HOBBIES?

My favorite hobby is cross-country racing in All-Terrain Vehicles or Side-by-Sides.  My love for the sport goes back to my adventurous youth when I spent my free time exploring the wooded trails and river-bottom areas of East Texas on my 1984 Honda three-wheeler.  For those unfamiliar, cross-country racing is an hour-long race set on a three-to-four mile course through tight woods, open pastures, muddy creek crossings, steep hills, and other treacherous terrain.  Whoever completes the most laps in the least amount of time is the winner.  It’s a real challenge just to finish.  The best part is that my teenage son rides along as co-pilot and we tackle the course together.  Yee haw!


 DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?

Absolutely.  Professional editing is required even for someone like me, an experienced lawyer who writes and self-edits legal documents on a daily basis.  It never hurts to have a fresh set of eyes review your work to provide perspective and catch minor errors that are easily overlooked after you have read the same sentences ten times. 

In fact, Step One of my new book, 14 Steps to Self-Publishing a Book, strongly recommends having your final manuscript professionally copyedited along with other practical tips like having it reviewed by beta readers and obtaining written permission to use other’s likeness, quotes or photographs in your book.  These are all critical steps towards producing a high-quality book that actually sells.

14.  WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?

After retirement from my legal career, I plan to focus my efforts on teaching college classes and writing books.  I’ll be honest.  If teaching and writing paid as much as my legal career, I’d retire today!



15.  DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?

In my humble opinion, the process of getting a book published by a traditional publishing house takes way too long and results in giving up too much control over the final product. 

Before I self-published my first book, I decided to forego finding a book agent because that process can sometimes take several months or years to find a willing agent.  Instead, I pitched my book proposal directly to three dozen traditional publishing houses and university presses simultaneously.  

Waiting three months to receive responses from these publishers was painful.  Not receiving any acceptances was heart-breaking (one traditional press expressed initial interest, but only if I was willing to censor some of the language in the book). 

Luckily, I had a back-up plan to self-publish the book, and it worked out well for me.  I learned a lot about the publishing process, how to run a small business and this experience ultimately led to writing my second book, a self-publishing guide for aspiring authors.  Furthermore, self-publishing allows me to retain full control over my books (cover design selection, language choices, etc.) and keep a bigger share of royalties as compared to the traditional publishing route.
  


16.  HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?

Success is a funny thing.  It means different things to writers depending on their particular goals.  For me, I have different goals for each of my books. 

For my first book, I spent four long years and thousands of hard-earned dollars in an effort to write a published book that I could be proud of – a long-time personal goal of mine.  The day I finally saw my debut book listed for sale on Amazon meant success to me regardless if it sold one book or one million. 

For my new book, my goals are simply to reach as many readers as possible with the hope of helping aspiring authors realize their dreams of publishing their first book.  

If I ever reach a point where I’m writing to earn a living, success will mean selling enough quality books that help my readers and also result in a decent profit for me.  But I’m not at that stage… yet.



17.  DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.

Funny.  Supportive.  Problem-solver.  Adventurous.  Christian.

18.   WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D LIKE TO WRITE?

And THAT is how I became rich and famous!  Just kidding.  I hope my last sentence adequately expresses the true love I feel for God, my family and friends.

19.   WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?

I wouldn’t mind if one of my books became a New York Times Best-seller, but I’m not picky.  I’ll settle for a few million bucks in the bank and a summer home in Hawaii to share with friends and family. 



20.   NAME SOMETHING YOU WANT TO TRY, BUT ARE TOO AFRAID.

I love making people laugh.  In fact, I often use adult humor and crazy stories during the three-hour college classes that I teach so that my students pay attention and retain the information covered in class.  As much as I’ve always wanted to try stand-up comedy, I’ve never had the balls to perform at an open mic night in a comedy club.  My lame excuse is that I’m funny by college professor standards, but not funny by professional comedian standards.  But who knows.  Maybe one day I’ll give it a try and see if I’m as funny as I look.





Clancy's comment:  Thank you, Mike. Well done. Keep smiling and cracking jokes.

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