JD DeHart is a writer and teacher. He blogs at dehartreadingandlitresources.blogspot.com. DeHart's first book of poems, The Truth About Snails, is available on Amazon. He is currently at work on another book.
Interview with J.D. DeHart
Welcome to Roxana’s blog!
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I was born in a small town and have been on a continuing academic career for the past decade. I have a background in theology and Biblical studies, as well as teaching. Right now, I’m working on a PhD in literacy. I enjoy writing poetry, among other genres.
Q: Do you think that your school years have had an impact in your writing career? If so, what were you like at school?
Definitely! I went through a few stages at school. For a while, I was the quiet kid in the corner. Then I tried the class clown part out for a bit. My breakthrough in school came in the 8th grade. I had a teacher who read some what I wrote and believed in me. She really encouraged me. All of this has shaped me as a writer and as a teacher.
Q: Were you good at English or like Einstein you excel now in a field that was a nightmare for you as a student?
I excelled at reading on my own. I didn’t always connect with what I had to read at school, or what I had to write about. But I was always a reader, always loved books, and always wrote – even when it was just my own simple comics in notebooks.
Q: What are your future ambitions for your writing career?
I would like to grow as a blogger, a role I am really embracing. I have some research writing that I would like to pursue. I’ve also got some other stories in me that I want to tell, either in poetry or prose.
Q: Which poets have inspired you and how? What was their impact on your work or your literary perspective?
James Tate was the first poet I read who really challenged me beyond the wing/sing version of poetry I knew from school. When I read his poem, “An Eland in Retirement,” I got a glimpse of what poetry could be. Poetry could be strange and alarming and not apologize for it. I also enjoy Billy Collins’s poems. Many of them are just about ordinary occurrences, but told in such an interesting way.
Q: So, would you mind telling us what you have written so far?
Oh, my. I’ve been writing since the 1990s and currently have over 1500 pieces in print or online. I have a collection of poems on Amazon, published by RedDashboard. It’s called The Truth About Snails. I would love to put together another collection soon. I’ve been nominated for Best of the Net once. I continue to write and blog at dehartreadingandlitresources.blogspot.com, where I celebrate what other writers do too.
Q: Where can we buy or see them?
Check out The Truth About Snails at Amazon, and visit the blog at dehartreadingandlitresources.blogspot.com. My poems are posted around the web, many at The Poet Community and Poems and Poetry Blog, but also in other places.
Q: What are you working on at the minute? What’s it about?
I am working on a series of poems that are more personal and reflect my growing up. I’m also working on posting interviews and book reviews at the blog. And I’m in the midst of a demanding PhD program and gearing up to teach some writing courses this fall. Busy times.
Q: What genre are your books and what draws you to this genre?
I am drawn to science fiction sometimes because I like the creativity authors have to use for that genre, but I also enjoy literary fiction and poetry. I like reading poetry because it is concise and really celebrates what’s beautiful about language.
Q: What was the name of your last book? Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? What’s it about?
My last book is really the only one around at the moment, the poetry collection. I also have some work in the Biblical Legends series, published by Garden Gnome Publications.
Q: Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
I would cast Christian Bale or Gary Oldman as anyone or anything. I’m pretty sure they could do it.
Q: How much research do you do for your books?
I’m always reading and actually write research articles from time to time, so lots of research goes into that. However, when I’m writing poetry, the only research I’m doing is reading widely so I can be inspired. I read anything from New Yorker articles to other poets’ work.
Q: Have you written any other novels/novellas in collaboration with other writers? Why did you do decide to collaborate and did that affect your sales?
I did feature in the Garden Gnome anthologies, as well as some poetry anthologies. The sales were those were really just token payments. I enjoy the challenge of writing to a particular theme in a particular way, so anthology work can be interesting.
Q: When did you decide to become a writer and why? What was the principal reason for taking up a pen (metaphorical speaking) and write that first sentence?
I decided to become a writer because I couldn’t and wouldn’t stop writing. I was also encouraged by family members, including my wife who is a constant support for my work. I think the voices that speak positivity to us about what we do in life are the ones we have to treasure.
Q: Do you write full-time or part-time? Do you have a special time to write or do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
Most of my time is focused on teaching for most of the year, but I carve out time to write and read and have breaks now and then where I can really focus and get things done.
Q: Where do your ideas come from? Or is it just the spur of the moment, a special feeling you experience or a specific conjuncture that offers you inspiration?
I journal about words that interest me. Sometimes I make notes in my phones. From those words or phrases, I build. When I’m ready to work on an article, I usually have a direction and make myself an outline. I consider the outline a set of guideposts instead of set in stone commands, and then I proceed to research and fill in the blanks.
Q: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I used to try to write like Kurt Vonnegut and David Mamet because those are the people I read. I started reading widely, and I’ve also grown as a research writer – which is a whole other set of skills.
Q: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I’m an outliner. Otherwise, crazy things happen. They might still happen with the outline, but at least there’s a direction to keep me moving page to page.
Q: In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about writing?
Pushing past worries about the critics or how your writing might be perceived and just getting words on the page. It took me forever just to do and stop trashing my rough drafts.
Q: Now, what about the easiest thing about writing?
I’m finding it easier to just hit send when I’m ready to submit. No more fear about that – just knock on the door and see if it will be answered kindly.
Q: Do you ever get writer’s Block and if so do you have any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
There are times I run out of steam. I usually take a break, get away for some time, maybe even write in another genre. I also find authors I like and read their stuff and then I’m usually refreshed again.
Q: Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors? For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I read voraciously. I just read a great book by Raymond Benson, a new poetry collection by Chelsea Dingman, and I’m currently reading a book by Anne Rice. My favorite author is Ray Bradbury. I prefer to read either on the older Kindle that doesn’t have backlighting or paperback.
Q: What book/s are you reading at present?
Rhamses the Damned by Anne Rice. I just finished a book called Dangerous Stories for Boys by Christopher Bernard.
Q: Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
My academic writing is definitely given the shuffle through by many hands and eyes. It has to be. But my personal writing is usually just my own editing process.
Q: Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
Sometimes. It depends on how engaged I am in the project. Sometimes I’ve seen the words too much and I have to step away.
Q: Who edited your last book and how did you select him/her?
I do most of my own editing. Academic publishing is a different animal, and usually editing comes in working with colleagues and then receiving comments in blind review. I do, incidentally, like blind review and wish poetry journals would use it more frequently.
Q: Tell us about the covers of your books. How did it/they come about?
The cover for The Truth About Snails was commissioned by the publisher. It features a snail, which is predictable, but the little guy is dressed up like a superhero because comic books have inspired my work.
Q: Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Sometimes. If I know a book is by an author I like, it would be wrapped in a brown paper bag and I would read it.
Q: What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
Self-publishing can be lonely, and the promotion is largely on you. Being published by another person or entity usually takes time, and there are more steps involved legally. The nice thing about being published by another entity is that I see it as a kind of rubber stamp from someone else, or vetting.
Q: How do you market your books, if you do the marketing yourself?
I use blogger to get the word out, and also tweet. I also rely on sites like this one to share information about me and my writing.
Q: Would you or do you use a PR agency?
I would explore a PR agency as an option, especially with recommendations from people I trust.
Q: Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
I think marketing is a process of putting yourself out there. It’s taken me a while to really do that and feel comfortable about it. So, my advice would be, writing something that is well-done and then don’t be afraid to share about it in any venue you can.
Q: What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
This is becoming an increasing amount of time as of late. I would say, however, that up to the past few months my writing time has been just writing. I’m now working on a blog that I enjoy, but it does take time to put together.
Q: What do you do to get book reviews?
I’m in the process now of searching out readers through the various places I’ve published with over the past few years to write reviews.
Q: How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
So far, I’ve had some success with this. There is still more work to do.
Q: Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?
I stick with sites that have published me for years and inquire that way. I’m also in the process of finding journals that publish in the genre of the book and making inquiries at some of those publications.
Q: What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
I think you have to be willing to allow people to have their opinions. No one experiences life (much less a book) in the same way. If a reviewer offers something solid that I can use in a critical sense, then I try to appreciate that.
Q: Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?
I’ve had more interesting situations come out of submitting articles for academic publications. There is generally at least one reviewer that is harsher in their feedback than others. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem that the harshest authors do the reading.
Q: What are your views on social media for marketing? Which social network worked best for you? Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
I enjoy Twitter, which seems to be built for marketing. I also like Blogger. I’m not adept at many of the other platforms.
Q: Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work?
I just recently started exploring a giveaway on Goodreads. Again, this is an area I am growing in and exploring further.
Q: Did you get interviewed by local press/radio for your book launch?
No such luck – but I would be open to that.
Q: Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?
Well, I’m not exactly raking in the cash here, but I would say that writing a good query when publishing with magazines and journals can help that process along nicely.
Q: Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
No real mistakes, I suppose. I am definitely interested in exploring more with marketing.
Q: Why do you think that other well written books just don’t sell?
I think that books are a tough market and they sometimes have to hit at just the right moment. There is a lot of competition.
Q: What do you think of “trailers” for books?
I’m a movie fan, so this makes sense. I also used film in my classroom to engage students with reading. I think a visual can help.
Q: Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book/s?
(* please provide a link to trailer if you have one)
Hmmm. An interesting thought. I don’t have one, but maybe that’s something to explore.
Q: Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
I have found more interest when I advertise free books through Twitter. The challenge is then getting readers to take the next step and write reviews.
Q: How do you relax?
I read. Sometimes, yes, I even write. I switch genres. Sometimes writing poetry is very relaxing and cathartic for me. Occasionally I see movies.
Q: What is your favorite motivational phrase? What is your favorite positive saying?
“Without contraries there is no progression.” – William Blake
Q: What is your favorite book and why?
Probably Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury was poetic, even in his prose. It’s also a book that celebrates what is best about reading and literature. The newer edition features a lovely introduction by Neil Gaiman, as well.
Q: What is your favorite quote?
Q: Where can you see yourself in 5 years-time?
Hopefully continuing to do what I love – write and teach, and exploring more opportunities to do both.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Keep at it, submit more. Believe in yourself. Wallow for exactly one minute about any failure or rejection slip, allow yourself that space of a minute, and then move on. Wallow, wallow, move on.
Q: Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
I don’t really have a list in mind here, but I’m sure it would an author. Maybe a room full of them.
Q: If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
The Day the Crayons Quit. It’s a children’s book, true, but a really interesting concept and a great title. It’s also a quick read, being a children’s book.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Use Every Writer’s Resource, Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest, and find your favorite contemporary authors then see where they publish.
Q: Where do you see publishing going in the future?
I would like to explore more research publication, but then again there are these books I would like to get out of my system and into the hands of a publisher. I can definitely see myself focusing more on book-length projects in the near future.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
I think you’ve done an excellent job of covering it.
Q: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/JD-DeHart/e/B00ILLY91Q/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_4?qid=1502323695&sr=8-4
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
Born sometime in the past century, living in the 21st century.
Sometimes I have good ideas... (what do you think?)
Sometimes fascinating guests!
(that for sure!)
Sometimes I have to share some of my frustrations,..
(not too tempting, huh!)
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