- GUEST AUTHOR -
Today, I interview an author from the USA who has written a book on bullying.
Welcome, Thomas ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I grew up in a small town in the United States. I was heavily involved in sports, but my journey into writing began in third grade when the class competed in a spelling contest for a week. Each day we played, and each day I didn’t misspell a single word. I was hooked.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
When I was in the fourth grade, my teacher was the first to encourage me to write. Of course, at that age, you don’t believe it. But I continued to write through school, until I found a job as a managing editor of a national magazine when I was 25. I had arrived...or so I thought. After six years, the magazine suffered through a recession, and I had to leave. My dream died soon after. 27 years later, after toiling in unfulfilling management jobs, I decided to write my first book.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
Whenever I decide to write anything, I make sure I write for an audience of one—me. If it passes my criteria, I pursue it. The biggest thing is to think of each story as a three part play. The first act is introduction of the protagonist. The second act is putting the character into situations where he/she faces some dilemma that must be solved. The third act is how the challenges are resolved. I know how the story ends even before I start. I just put the pieces of the puzzle together, allowing myself to be flexible as the story evolves.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I get satisfaction of writing something where people can read and be impacted by something I have written. I wrote my first book on bullying, and realized how it affected those who have suffered from being oppressed. You get a writer’s high sometimes where the words just flow. When you get to that point, you just think, “Wow, did I just write that?”
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
When you know where you want to go, and you just stare at the page and think, “Where are you going with this?” The biggest thing, however, is when you write a book, you want for the masses to catch hold of it. It’s not because of making money. It’s more that what you write is important. I don’t write for platitudes. I simply want to change people’s lives by what I write. It’s hard to get that message across sometimes.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I was in restaurant and convenience store management for more years than I care to admit. It’s just when you get stuck in the rut, you feel like that’s the only thing you will ever accomplish in life.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Most definitely it’s when I published my first book, “Finding Your True North: A Bullied Teen’s Journey of Hope.” That book was a culmination of dreams unfulfilled. I just got tired of the woulda-shoulda-coulda life I was leading. I just made a conscious decision not to quit.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
It is going to be a companion book to the first one on bullying. I am compiling stories from people who have been bullied in school, home, work, spousal abuse, narcissism, and even those who have bullied. It’s called “You Are Not Alone.” The stories I have received and the live interviews I have conducted have brought many tears. But at the same time, there’s a sense of catharsis for those who have the courage to share their traumatic stories. I am truly humbled by them to allow me to present their lives.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Being able to make a difference in people’s lives. Too often we get caught up in every day life and put blinders on. Can you imagine how our culture would be world-wide if each person stepped out of their comfort zone just to simply tell someone else that they matter? It doesn’t require money. I love to know that I can follow Jesus Christ’s edict to love they neighbor with conviction.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
My first two books were fiction, rooted in real life situations. The third book that I’m waiting to get published is a biography about a drummer from a Motown group. Of course, this next one is an anthology. The next one after that is a humorous true account of my life as a transport driver.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
If you want to pursue writing a book, a story, a poem, anything that is creative, you have to find your “Why.” Why do you want to write? Is it for fortune (good luck with that)? Is it for fame (rare)? Is it you just want to say you’ve written something? Once you answer those questions, just do it. Write for yourself, but at the same time, if you really want to get published, know your audience. If you write something that nobody wants to read, you’re just treading water. But if you write something that has some intrinsic value that stirs the mind of the reader, you will always win.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
When I get in the groove of writing, the words flow freely. With my second book, “Nowhere Man,” I wrote 40,000 words in a month. I was jamming. This anthology is a little challenging, merely because I’m relying on others to provide their stories. Still, I’m struggling with the context of this book. I don’t want people to read these stories and feel hopeless.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I like to write early in the morning or late at night. I seem to be the most creative then.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
I can write anywhere. I have to ability to tune out the noise.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
It is most definitely Jaimie Engle, a nationally renowned author in Florida. When I read her first book, “Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light,” I was hooked. She immerses her characters into situations that elicit emotional attachment. But her latest book, “Metal Mouth,” is probably the best book I’ve ever read. It took me a day to read, because I couldn’t put it down. I even took it into a restaurant and ended up crying like a baby when I got to end. Let me tell, when an author can write something so powerful that it makes you cry, it’s an amazing experience.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
Because my first book was on bullying, I heard many favorable compliments. But when I heard from someone who had considered ending his life until he read my book, I was floored. But at the same time, I felt a sense of responsibility to carry on my crusade to let people know they matter, that they have value.
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I don’t consider it a bad comment, but one reader didn’t like how my second book ended. She wanted everything wrapped into a tight bow, but I convinced her that life doesn’t always end positively.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
The genesis of my first book came because I volunteer as a mentoring coach for an organization. We teach these kids these five core values: sacrifice, integrity, respect, responsibility and courage. I wanted to write a book that focused on those values. Working with these kids for the past 12 years has changed my life. This organization has taught me to pursue my dreams and not give up.
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I love my wife dearly. She’s always been my biggest supporter. I’m also an avid sports enthusiast. I was a very accomplished athlete, so my love for sports is off the charts.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
I made the mistake not to find an editor for the first book. Although I worked with the publisher directly during the editing process, I found mistakes that I missed. It is maddening. With my second book, I made sure I had someone edit my book. She did a fantastic job. With the biography, I worked with an editor on the app FIVERR. He did an incredible job. If there’s any advice, never, ever skimp on finding an editor. That will make or break your book.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Waking up next to my wife, and not have to worry about doing anything for a whole day.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
It would have to be Jesus Christ. I would never consider it being stuck, that’s for sure. I would love to hear His sage words and to show me how to live my life.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
I would say, “What’s the point of you doing everything you can do to make everyone feel you are superior over others?” It serves no purpose. “Why don’t you just accept the fact that we all have differences?” It’s not the matter of who is right and who is wrong.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Continue writing until I die.
26. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
I’m not sure how to answer that, mainly because I’ve never been involved with book trailers.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Oh, yes. The 14-year-old teenager in the bully book had elements of my life in there. I went through my share of bullying at that age.
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
I don’t focus on the negativity of publishing. You create your own destiny. Being a self published has it’s drawbacks, of course, but the idea you can create something from the very beginning and to see it to the end is the most gratifying thing.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
When I was younger and felt I wasn’t good enough, for sure. But when I turned 52, I said enough is enough. There is no turning back. Ever!
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
It would have to be the first one, “Finding Your True North.” When I finally made the decision to write the book and saying that I would not give up, that had to be the most empowering thing I have ever done. I just realized that the only thing that stopped me before was me and not the fake circumstances that bogged me down.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
Success is not making money. Yeah, it would be great, but when yourself finally see your name on the front of the book, you can honestly say you have done something that the majority of people will never do. You published a book. If doesn’t matter if people don’t read it. It would be nice, but you just won the literary lottery.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
That there is hope. You can go through life playing the victim, but eventually you have to understand that you have to empower yourself. I want people who read my books and finish saying, “That’s one of the best books I have ever read.”
I would love to see my first two books, “Finding Your True North” and “Nowhere Man,” made into movies. Bullying and homelessness are subjects that needs to be addressed. I have never written a screenplay, but I would love to write one.
34. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
You always hear the phrase, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover,” but in the publishing business, a book cover will make or break you. You have to research other books in a similar genre and come up with something that will catch the reader’s eyes.
35. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
To get my first book in the hands of Dolly Parton.
36. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
The hardest thing when you self published is the onus is on you. You have to be very creative, tenacious and willing to hear the word, “no” many times. But you have to be relentless. The worst that could happen is for someone to say “I’m not interested.” So what. Move on. If you are passionate about what you wrote, soldier on and never give up.
37. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
All of my books were self published, although the first one was through a hybrid publisher, Worldwide Publishing Group out of Houston. The publisher, Eddie Smith, was incredibly helpful in getting my book out. I highly recommend him.
38. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
I am not a quitter
39. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
40. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
“Metal Mouth,” by Jaimie Engle. Best book I have ever read.
41. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
Make a difference in someone’s life. Every day.
Clancy's comment: Thanks for sharing your world, Thomas. I have also written a book about bullying, so good luck. Sadly, bullying has gone to a whole new level today. Keep writing.