Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
At heart, I am a personal mentor. I’ve mentored since I was a teen and have never stopped. I would venture to say that I’ve had personal mentor relationships with over 1,000 people by now. And I’ve seen lives changed over and over again—not temporary change, but lasting change. Change that people are still living and talking about decades later.
At first, I mentored teens and young adults. But soon I found the call for life change extending to parents. Parents asked me to host parent groups—with the same advice I’d been sharing with their kids. (After all, as I often say, adults are just kids in older bodies.) Soon, I found the calls for real life change extending, and I was asked to speak to colleges and businesses, to do Ted talks.
Along the way, I began to realize that as wonderful as live mentoring and even speaking are, they are inherently limited. That is, there are only so many people I can mentor or address in person. The next natural step was to begin writing, so that I could share with more people what I describe as “all the real life stuff that works—but that no one seems to talk about.”
Really, I’ve always been a writer. But I did not begin to publish until the last few years. I’ve published two books so far, with another three in the works presently. The most rewarding part of the process has been reading the reviews, which affirm that my primary goal in writing is being achieved. The theme running across all reviews has been that people don’t so much feel they’ve read another book as that they’ve had a conversation with a real person who cares about them, and that the books have caused them to make real changes—often big, “scary” changes—sometimes for the very first time.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest release is called “TRIED & (Still) TRUE.” I explain the inspiration in the book itself. But in short, I began to find it unsettling just how much “good information” people see scrolling up their computer and phone screens every day—thousands of beautiful pictures with inspirational words that they “Like” or “Share”—but that don’t stick. That don’t ever make it inside to where choice and change happen. I think the modern world has become obsessed with “new,” always chasing the next “new” thing. Yet all the while, we’ve got a treasure trove of time-tested advice that’s bolstered generations through the worst of times with grace and cheer, all going by the wayside simply because it isn’t “new.” So I set about to reintroduce a new generation to the best of “old” wisdom in personal, practical, current ways that show that if something is true, it stays true. And that means it still works just as well today as at any time in the past.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Much of what I write, not surprisingly perhaps, is inspired by real encounters with people. So I’ve always found that I do my best writing while I’m out where people are. Often, I’ll break from writing and have a conversation with a stranger (this happens a lot), and what we talk about will infuse what I’d been writing, or will perhaps become the basis for another chapter.
The pandemic of 2020-2021 has created challenges in this regard. But I’m still having conversations around my writing, whether with readers who email me, through blog discussions, on phone calls and the like.
If I’m not around people, I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and listen to the ocean. One piece of advice I share often (in person and in my books) is to make room for constructive stillness. This is as vital a part of inspiration for me as engaging with others. Conversations let me know others better. Constructive stillness is the only way we get to know ourselves on deeper levels.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Oh, gosh. It’s hard to list them, if only for the fear of leaving out someone. There are many, though I don’t feel they’ve influenced my writing style or content as much as the writers themselves have influenced me: their work ethic, their empathy, a turn of phrase, an observation about life. And that happens across genres, not just in my main category.
Here are just a few:
“Made to Stick” and “The Power of Moments” by Chip and Dan Heath
The Rose Shield tetralogy by D. Wallace Peach
“A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller
“One Man’s Meat” by E. B. White
If anyone were to read all of these, they’d wonder what the common thread could be. They are all extremely different. And yet they each get at real facets of the human condition and the stuff that matters, conveyed in novel ways.
What are you working on now?
The central advice from my first book—”The Best Advice So Far”—and the central theme of everything I speak or write about is this: “You ALWAYS have a choice.” My present WIP is so titled: “You Always Have A Choice.” It will be divided into five sections, each based on one single word form the title. (Yes, there is that much to say even about “A”!)
The book dives even deeper into the nature of choice, recognizing that many of the choices we each face are very difficult, excruciating at times. My goal is to acknowledge that difficulty, extend empathy, bolster courage and offer strategies for navigating these toughest of times life brings—all while gently reminding the reader of that one central truth: that no matter what, you ALWAYS have a choice. Choice is power. The lack of it (or perceived lack of it) leads to victim mentality and inaction, which only extends the pain.
Somehow, even with these deep, real topics, I seem to manage to approach the topics without things feeling morose. All of my writing is based on stories to which people can relate, rather than just doling out information.
“You Always Have A Choice” has been the most difficult book to write thus far, and it will likely be the longest. But I’m very proud of it thus far and look forward to sharing it with the world. (Those with whom I’ve already shared chapters or passages have had strong, positive reactions, which certainly keeps me going strong.)
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Engaging with other bloggers (in genre and out) has opened many doors, both ways. I’ve made good friends across the country and the world, some of whom I’ve never even met. I’ve found that one of the best marketing tools is a genuine, thoughtful, REAL review from someone who read one of my books and loved it, and who then shared that with their own readership.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Marketing takes work. It’s never finished. I think we all start out with dreams of having our book on Oprah’s list; and I’m all for pursuing dreams. But most of the time, being a writer is real work. So learn to love it. And when you stop loving it, step aside to refresh and remember how to love it again.
And if you’re doing it solely for the money (i.e., “passive income”)… quit now.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Well, if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably gathered that the entire content of my first two books is to deliver the best advice I’ve ever heard. I mean, my first book is literally entitled “The Best Advice So Far.” So I’d direct you to the book for a full answer on this one. However, I’ll share a few pieces of central advice shared in that first book of mine:
“You ALWAYS have a choice.”
“You have to start from where you are, not where you wish you were.”
“Kindness still works.”
“Don’t color the present with the past.”
“Apologize less and mean it more.”
“Learn to listen as well as you speak.”
What are you reading now?
Honestly, I’m doing a whole lot of reading of my own WIP. In between, I’m reading a fantasy novel for complete escape.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Again, I’ve got three books currently in the works. I’d like to complete the audiobook version of “TRIED & (Still) TRUE” in between, as well as potentially starting a podcast. (As if I didn’t have enough to do, right?)
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