Peace at the Edge of Uncertainty. Read through to the end to see how you can win a paperback or electronic copy of Neil's book.
Neil lives and works in Colorado. Peace at the Edge of Uncertainty is his first book. He blogs actively and writes articles for periodicals. He is an avid outdoorsman, passionate about hunting and fishing. He spends a great deal of time bicycling the roads and trails of Colorado, and backcountry skiing in winter. His passion for gardening spills over into a joint venture with his oldest son, where they operate a landscaping and construction company in Colorado.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Neil. It's wonderful to have you here. When did you begin writing?
While I've loved writing all my life, it's only in recent years that I've decided to start publishing. Writing not only comes easily to me, it's also something that brings me great satisfaction. As each year goes by, I find myself looking for ways to spend more time writing.
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
I've got creative energy in the morning, so that's when I prefer to write. However, I'm getting better at "making due" with whatever time the day gives me to write. I'm definitely a "zone" writer, so don't have the ability to just sit down and write (or at least not anything good). I need to have "quiet" around me so I can fall into a writing zone.
What is this book about?
This question I've not yet learned to answer well. An author is supposed to be able to answer this question in 25 words, and I've already burned my 25 words making this excuse...
More than anything, the book is about the important relationships we have in our life, especially spiritual relationships. It's about ways that mystical spiritual presence might peek around the corner into your conscious life. It's about finding ways to use the strength of the spiritual presence to open your heart to the most important people in your life. And it's about the regrets that occur when we fail to do so.
Depending on where a person is in life, the book will feel like it's about different things. Folks who read it at a point of great spiritual seeking in their life will say the book's about a spiritual quest and connection. Folks who read it at a point of loss and suffering in their life will say the book's about finding peace in loss.
I believe that the title is really the heart of what the book is about. In our lives, in our relationships with others, in our times of loss, in our search for spiritual meaning, in all these things there is great uncertainty. If we make it our goal to eliminate the uncertainty, then we're unlikely to find the peace we seek. If we find peace with the uncertainty, more doors to understanding are likely to open.
The story is based on events in my life. It's told in the form of a letter to my father. For many years, as I've considered expanding my career and publishing my writing, it's been very clear to me that before I could publish anything else, I needed to figure out a way to tell this story. While I've told it to groups of people many times, I'd never found a voice that worked well to put it down on paper.
This story is that voice.
Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?
I'm not a member of a critique group, though I do belong to a local writer's group and a fantastic independent publishers group (CIPA) here in Colorado. I get feedback at a lot of different layers, and getting honest feedback is tough. Folks always assume we (as writers) have our ego attached to our work, so they're hesitant to give honest feedback. I don't know about most writers, but I do know that in my case, I just love to write, and I know that lots of times I write stuff that isn't all that good. When I know that, I pitch it or revise it. If I ask someone for feedback, it's because I really can't tell if it's good or not (in the eyes of someone else.) I really do want to hear honest feedback.
Because here's the deal: I love to write! If you tell me I wrote something that stinks and few people will like it, or that nobody will be moved in any way by it, then that's really great, because I'll quit spending time on that project or piece. It frees me up to write something else, or to improve what I wrote, and remember - I love to write! Saying it's good means less writing, and might mean the hard work of deciding what to do with what I wrote.
I think blogging is a great way for me to get feedback on what moves people and what doesn't, what they like and what they don't. It's easy to put up a post, and I hear from folks when I hit a nerve one way or the other.
And of course, when all those layers are done, the REAL feedback comes from the editor, who should be brutally honest!
Who is your favorite author?
This is very tough. I have a few. I LOVE the epic stuff that Ken Follett has been doing - Pillars of the Earth, World Without End, and Fall of Giants. Karen Armstrong is one of my favorites for religious history stuff, though Bart Ehrman is one I like a lot too. In terms of classic authors, I think Mark Twain has to be my all-time favorite.
Do you have an agent or are you looking for one?
I do not have an agent. I had an agent for a short time when I started trying to market the manuscript. I think the agent was a fine one who did a fine job, but as I came to understand more about the publishing business, and how traditional publishing was imploding on itself, it just seemed to me that the "most right" way for me to proceed was to become my own publisher. Plus, this was all in early 2008 - during the time that traditional publishers were trying to figure out how to survive in the new world, and were taking on no new authors.
So, I terminated my contract with my agent, and pursued publishing on my own. I would certainly entertain the notion of traditional publishing through an agent moving forward - it would all depend on how we were able to put a plan together.
One of the things I realized about the traditional publishing arrangement was that the author was simply a money-making tool for the publishing house. I've run businesses all my life, and have always been served well by the notion that business happens best and most profitably in the long run when both parties are happy. As I discussed next book projects with my agent at the time, it was clear that "next book" projects would be heavily influenced by what the publisher thought would sell, and not much influenced by what I wanted to write.
Remember that I write because I love to write. Sure, I'd like to make a living at it, but making the living isn't the reason I write. While I would greatly respect the opinion of an agent or publisher about building a career, being a successful writer, and making them some money in the bargain, I don't want to give up my "freedom" to make decisions about what I write about.
Having an agent would almost certainly increase my ability to sell way more books, so from that perspective I love the idea. If I could find an agent who built partnerships with authors that allowed the author to explore and grow as their spirits moved them, it could be a great thing.
Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?
I wouldn't make it past tense - the road IS bumpy in many respects.
But I love learning new businesses, and this is a fun one to learn.
I will say that my next book project will be dramatically more smooth than the first one, based on all the learning I’ve been doing. I can be taught...
If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?
I would spend more pre-release time building the network of bloggers and reviewers that's necessary for an independent to be successful. I'd also enter all the writing contests I could - I only entered one and won several awards - I think those awards are important.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
If they're Amazon folks, they can purchase it at Amazon. Also available at other online outlets such as BN and Indiebound. They can email me directly or leave a message on my website and I'll send them one - I discount books I sell directly. It is available through local bookstores everywhere, and I'm a big supporter or local bookstores.
Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?
I blog actively, and can be found at http://neilhanson.com/
What is up next for you?
I have several next projects that I'm working on.
• I just spent 3 weeks riding my bicycle down the coast of California, turning left north of LA to ride across the mountains and deserts of the west, then riding north through Navaho, Hopi, and Ute lands, and back across southern Colorado to home. Last summer, I rode from Trinidad, CO east across eastern Colorado and southern Kansas. Next summer I hope to complete the ride across the eastern part of the country. Either in sum or in parts, these rides will become a book project. (They actually already have - I just haven't decided on voice and form for how to publish them.)
• Related to the above, I'm just putting the finishing touches on a short piece on minimalist bicycle touring, and should have that available electronically in a matter of weeks as I write this. By the time this is posted in September, the piece should be available on my website.
• For many years, our family practiced and evolved a Passover tradition in the spring. As a Christian, this beautiful and meaningful holiday took on great importance for me. Each year, I'd write a new Haggadah for that year's celebration. I'd like to write one and publish it for Christians, though I'm still debating the form as well as content/message internal debates I have.
• I hunt and fish quite a bit, and would like to find the time to write stories on hunting and fishing.
Thanks for spending time with us today, Neil. We wish you much success.
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Release: May 2010
Paperback buy links:
Barnes & Noble
Ebook buy links:
Kindle - $2.99
Nook - $2.99
Smashwords - $2.99
Peace at the Edge of Uncertainty Giveaway information!
PAPERBACK GIVEAWAY (U.S. only)
Neil will give away 1 copy of the paperback version of the book to the FIRST person who leaves a comment on your interview along with their email address.
EBOOK GIVEAWAY (International)
Neil will give away a copy of the ebook version of the book (in the format of their choice) to EVERY person who leaves a comment on your interview along with their email address during the month of September.
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