I'm thinking the next time I sit down and have a conversation with someone, I'm gonna try my hardest to pick up on the things that they don't say, as opposed to the things coming out of their mouths. Yes, I may just look like a soul seeker while I'm gazing into their eyes, but I just may find out something very interesting.
I was super nervous about interviewing this next author, primarily because he claims to be an excellent interviewer. He listens to what people are saying, so let's find out what he had to say.
Me: In your opinion, what makes a good book?
JC: I write non-fiction, so I'll speak to that. I am a journalist by profession and education, and I've always been fascinated by the human condition. I love to tell stories about people. When I set out to write my first book, I was at a place in life where I was looking for answers to some of life's big questions: why are we here; what is our purpose; is there really such a thing as heaven and hell; is there really such a thing as God?
So I decided to go out and interview people to find out what they thought about those things, and write about it. I figured if I was looking for answers to those questions, somebody else was, too. The result was, "Finding God: An Exploration of Spiritual Diversity in America's Heartland." And the thing that makes that book so interesting is that it turned out to be much more than just a bunch of people saying, yes, I believe in God, or sure, I think there's a heaven and hell. From the very first interview in tiny San Saba, Texas, when I asked people why they believe whatever they believed, these amazing stories of gut-wrenching tragedy and heartwarming triumph began to spill out, and I knew I was onto something.
So, to try and answer your question -- for me, a good book takes us deep inside the lives of its characters. And I guess that could apply to both fiction and non-fiction. One thing I have learned through experience is that people all over the world are pretty much the same, and want the same things: love, happiness, and security. That's all anybody really wants, when you come down to it.
And people everywhere go through the same hardships and heartaches, in varying degrees. Like that old song by the band R.E.M.: "Everybody hurts sometimes ... everybody cries."
A good book is honest, and looks deep inside its characters, warts and all. Because we're all the same inside, and we can identify.
Me: What’s your favorite quote that you've incorporated into one of your books?
JC: One of my most popular books, "30-Day Optimism Solution" is all about the power of positive thinking, and how to become a more optimistic thinker. It contains a whole slew of positive-thinking quotes from a variety of gurus and famous people, but my favorite is something a close friend told me a long time ago: "Live more; think less." Simple words, with a powerful message.
Me: What’s your favorite part of indie publishing? What’s your least favorite?
JC: I've been both self-published and publisher-published, and I'm forever grateful for my publisher helping my writing career take off. Now that I have eight books out there, I'm in the midst of my first major self-publishing project, with a new website and marketing plan and all that good stuff. There is so much to learn. It seems like such a daunting task, but it is also very exciting. It was nice when my publisher handled everything, but I'm ready to take what I've learned and make my own way.
Me: What’s your best marketing tip for indie authors?
JC: Marketing is key, and the toughest part of being an author today. First and foremost, though, you have to have an excellent product, an outstanding book. That is job one. I got way ahead of myself in this new venture, worrying about all these marketing strategies and technological things -- opt-in pages, website creation, auto-responders -- but none of that matters if you don't have a great product. Do your research, find your niche, and write a great book. Then worry about the rest.
Me: Was there something specific that drew you to your particular genre?
JC: Writing about people is what I do best. I am an excellent interviewer, and I can find an interesting story in anybody. Everybody, and I mean everybody, has an interesting story somewhere in their life. I had a newspaper editor tell me late one night, standing near the newsroom city desk: "I don't know how you get people to tell you the things they do." Mostly, it's a matter of listening. Too many interviewers have a list of questions ready, and as the person is talking, they are thinking about the next question they're going to ask, instead of listening to what the person is saying. Invariably, if you pay attention, the interviewee will say something unexpected, and take everything in a completely different, unexpected direction.
Me: Do you write full-time or do you have a day job?
JC: I masquerade now as a junior high school English teacher, but my love and passion is writing. It feeds my soul, and is all I want to do. I thought about this the other day, and I probably spend 25-30 hours a week in my home office, writing and promoting my books. I also blog for a growing website and write a weekly newspaper column, so time management is an ongoing struggle. I expect to launch my new website in a few months, and six months after that, I will be traveling the world, writing books and travel stories. Dreams can come true, if you work hard enough, believe in yourself, and put yourself out there.
Me: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
JC: All my books are available at http://www.johnhenryiii.com./my-books.html. To join my mailing list, go to http://www.johnclarkbooks.com./ And to all the writers and authors out there, as an old friend once told me, "Writers write." As long as you are writing, and not giving up the dream, you are a success.
I don't know about y'all, but as a Christian, I am definitely interested in finding out what John's books are all about! -AJ