Welcome to today's guest, author and president of the Christian Authors Guild, Eddie Snipes.
A: In 2009 I attended a meeting for the Atlanta Writers Club. The first hour was an author talking about her memoirs and journey to publishing. The second hour was a song writer. I have no interest in song writing, so I didn't plan on staying for the second hour. My wife and I headed out during the intermission. On the way down the hall, I had a sudden urge to stay. We headed back in and listened to a few songs and the two song writers discuss story telling in lyrics. They performed a song called, Dancer. It was interesting, but not my cup of unpasteurized whole milk.
Without warning, one of them said, "We have been trying to get someone to turn this song into a novel."
I looked up and saw an anvil hovering. Just as I said, "I wonder what that is," it hit me. My head vibrated for a few seconds, then I realized, this is something for me. I should write the story. In an instant, my mind raced through the plot and I saw the dancer as clear as cheesecake hiding behind cellophane. I saw what happened to the homeless man in the song, how his life played out, and how the song would end.
To make a short story long, I met with the two song writers, Tralena Walker and Tom Webster. They sent me the lyrics and gave me feedback on the novel. Two years later, it was published.
Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
A: When I was a child, I got my first book. I flipped through the pages, then tore it apart. I didn't know it at the time, but that's exactly what you do when editing a manuscript.
I hated writing when I was younger. I only did what I had to do, and sometimes not even that. Writers block was more like writers dementia. My mind didn't return to me until after... hmmm. What were we talking about?
In 1998, I became active in prison ministry. Many of the men I ministered to were eager to learn. Someone asked me if I had my studies or notes on paper. I agreed to write out the next study and then my writing career was born. The problem wasn't that I couldn't write. It was that I didn't have something to say. Or didn't realize I had something to say. Over time writing transformed from a task to a passion.
Q: How does your faith impact your writing?
A: As a Christian writer, I am constantly presenting a Christian world view. Even when I'm not writing on a religious topic, I'm still influencing others in some way. Presenting a secular work in a wholesome way, undergirded by God-given values is a testimony in itself. Even when writing or speaking about a non-religious topic, people will perceive you are a Christian if you hold to what you say you believe. The absence of foul language, sensual focus, and the values spoken will tip off readers.
Ultimately, anything that has no eternal significance has no value. Even entertaining works should ultimately point to the Lord.
Sometimes people underestimate the power of story to teach truth. Jesus used two methods of teaching through his words. To the masses, he taught with parables. They were fictional stories that presented a spiritual truth. To those who sought a deeper understanding, Jesus taught doctrine. So he used a two-tiered teaching approach that included both fiction and non-fiction. Clearly both methods of communication have an important role in reaching our culture.
Q: How do you deal with writer’s block?
A: I hook wires to my earlobes. If I fall below 20 words a minute, I get tazed.
Another effective method is to just write. I believe it was Hemingway that was stuck in writers block for days. He broke the barrier by writing about the wall behind his desk. Write about anything. A lot of this depends on the style of writer someone is. I write like I speak. I have no idea what's coming until the words start. So when I sit down to write, I don't have anything in mind. This can be a big demotivation for me. If I can uncurl my rebellious fingers and start writing, my thoughts begin to flow.
Reading helps as well. My biggest problem is not writers block, but motivating myself to start writing. When I read a good story, I feel inspired to write.
Q: How long does it take you to complete a novel? How many drafts do you go through?
A: For fiction, my method for a first draft is quick. Some think I'm obsessed, but I like to call it focus-surplused. For both my full length novel manuscripts, I finished the first drafts in six weeks. The number of drafts I go through would require a supercomputer to calculate. For my book, I Called Him Dancer, I have over 500 files with that name. So that should give you an idea of the number of saved revisions. On the advice of a publisher, I rewrote the novel completely, hated it, and rewrote it again. At one point I saved my manuscript with 'final draft' in the file name. When I hit final draft 29, I decided to name it something more realistic. It wasn't close to being final.
When everything was complete and perfect, I gave it to my editor. I received it back with needed corrections on nearly every page. This is where flipping through the pages and tearing it apart came into play.
Q: There’s been a lot said about the future of publishing and the possible death of the print book. What’s your take on eBooks, self-publishing, and such?
A: The popularity of eBooks will continue to grow. People have the mistaken idea that there is only so much pie to go around, so if you give extra to one, you have to take a slice from somewhere else. Statistically, this has been shown to not be the case.
While eBooks continue to grow in popularity, printed books are selling more than ever. It may not seem that way since bookstores are fighting for survival. The problem isn't that books are not being printed or sold; the problem is how consumers are buying books. More consumers are buying online than ever before. Amazon is changing the way consumers buy books, but the printed book isn't going away - at least not any time soon.
Q: Why did you decide to self-publish?
A: I'm a tinkerer. I like technology and trying things out on my own. Several factors went into my decision. I did manage to get my manuscript in front of a publisher. They liked the story, but didn't think there was a market for this type of book. The title does create a challenge. Someone told me, "I normally wouldn't read a book like this, but I was truly surprised." Yet I still feel it is important to link the novel to the song.
There were things I wanted to communicate in the story that may not appeal to the masses. It is not churchy in the traditional sense. It also has a strong spiritual message. This is my vision for the book and I didn't want to lose that. I also don't want to 'spruce up' the romantic side of the book. I wanted a wholesome story without foul language and sensuality, but would tell a story that reveals what true love is. And what it means to struggle, ask honest questions about God, and show the difference between shallow faith and true faith. I’ve gotten much feedback and no one has complained that it isn’t steamy enough. Maybe a love story doesn’t need a peeping Tom approach.
Q: Have you been happy with your decision to self-publish?
A: So far I've been very happy with it. The quality of my book is outstanding, and the story is getting high reviews. I wouldn't rule out going traditional in the future, but I like the freedom of independent publishing. I created my own imprint so I could minimize the cost. It's a lot of work, but it has been worth it.
Q: What’s the biggest obstacle for a self-published author? What’s the biggest blessing?
A: There are a few obstacles to consider when self-pubbing. Editing is a must. Regardless of how great your story looks to you and your mother, it is filled with errors. Your eyes can't see it. Get it edited.
Anyone considering self-publishing should count the cost. It's a lot of work and garners little respect. Your book can be a best seller, and still will not be welcomed into the literary inner circle. I'm a member of several large writing guilds, and they don't acknowledge books unless they are published through approved companies. If respect is important to you, stick to the traditional road. If you don't mind taking care of the editing, cover design, printing, marketing, and all the other tasks that fall on independent authors, self-publishing is a good option.
A word of caution. Don't use any publishing house that charges thousands of dollars or can't get a novel on the market for under $10. The farther away from ten dollars you get, the fewer buyers you will have. Research. Either start your own imprint or find an honest publisher with reasonable costs.
Thanks, Eddie. A fun interview and lots of great information to boot!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eddie Snipes is president of the Christian Authors Guild (http://www.christianauthorsguild.org/) and founder of Exchanged Life Discipleship (http://www.exchangedlife.com/), a teaching and discipleship ministry. He has served as a pastor and interim pastor. Eddie also contributes to several online resources including OnePlace.com. He’s a member of ACFW and the Atlanta Writers Club.
Over the last two years, Eddie has won five writing contests and in April, his first novel, I Called Him Dancer was released. I Called Him Dancer is a story about how one woman's enduring faith and unconditional love drives her to reach out to a homeless man who has given up on life. He has two other books in the process of being published. Watch for an upcoming release called Simple Faith.
ABOUT THE BOOK - I Called Him Dancer
For a moment, Michael danced on top of the world, but one bad choice turned his life upside down. The once promising Broadway star now washes windshields for tips and lives among the homeless. When his former dance partner recognizes him behind the fray of whiskers, shame drives him away from her. Angry at God and the world, the Dancer refuses to allow anyone into his life. When everything is stripped away, three things remain: faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.
I Called Him Dancer is a story about how one woman's enduring faith and unconditional love drives her to reach out to a homeless man who has given up on life.
WIN THE BOOK
If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of I Called Him Dancer, just leave a comment on this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on Monday, June 6th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.)