Allow me to introduce you to Derek Miller. Derek is a good friend of mine who also happens to be one of my critique partners. His debut novel Divinity was released two days ago. Derek decided to self-publish his novel instead of going the traditional route and is excited for others to read his work. He is a talented writer who I predict will go far in the writing world.
This is one of my favorite author interviews I’ve done. Not only because Derek is *ahem* one of my critique partners and complimented me in one of the questions but because Derek provides such well-thought out answers.
Divinity is the first book of many that will follow the lost years of Jesus Christ. Please feel free to leave Derek a comment at the end of the interview wishing him luck and success. (Anyone who comments will be entered into a giveaway).
Hi Derek, thanks for stopping by Writing Like Crazy.
Thanks for having me.
Okay, let’s jump right into the interview.
Can you please describe in greater detail what Divinity is about?
Divinity is the first installment of The Lost Years of Jesus Christ, which is story of Jesus’ life between his twelfth and thirtieth years. This entire span is not covered at all in the Bible. The final story of Jesus in the Bible shows him preaching to the Pharisees and Sadducees outside the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Divinity picks up shortly after that. I don’t want to give away too much, but here is the description that will accompany the book when I release it.
Joshua of Nazareth, better known today as Jesus Christ, is about to celebrate his thirteenth birthday and become a man in the eyes of his people. After witnessing young Joshua’s charisma and speaking ability at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, a power hungry Sadducee priest named Moloch journeys to Nazareth hoping to recruit the boy for his own purposes. Unaware of the priest’s impending visit, Joseph prepares to divulge secrets that have been kept from Joshua since his birth, secrets that will change the course of his life forever.
What inspired you to write this novel?
I’d love to say that it was divine inspiration, but sadly that’s not the case. I’ve always been curious about the missing years of Jesus’ life. Even as a young child in Catholic school I couldn’t understand why so much was known about his birth and death, but nothing was known about the majority of the time in between. How could eighteen years of his life be completely unaccounted for? What was he doing? Who was he with? The answers just weren’t out there, so I decided to come up with my own ideas.
Do you try and stay true to the facts the bible has provided us with. Are all of your characters ones that have been mentioned in the bible?
I did try my best to stay true to the Bible whenever possible. The problem is that the Gospels are littered with inconsistencies.
For example, in the Gospel of Matthew it is claimed that Joseph is a descendant of King David. In the Gospel of Luke it is said that Mary is descended from David. I couldn’t keep true to both, so in that case I went with Matthew. Joseph being a descendant of David is a central theme in the story.
Another good example is Elizabeth, Miriam’s (Mary’s) aunt. If you look in the English translated Bible you will see that Elizabeth is referred to as Mary’s cousin. However, if you look at the Greek text the word is suggenes, which is a vague term that means relative. So I took the liberty of making Elizabeth her aunt in this story.
Luckily, most of the story deals with a time that the Bible gives us little information about, so I didn’t have to worry about it too much.
Many of my characters in my story are mentioned in the Bible as well as in the chronicles of history, these include: Jesus (Joshua), Miriam (Mary), Joseph, Elizabeth (Mary’s aunt), Yohan (John the Baptist and Jesus’ cousin), Joseph of Arimathea, Annas (High Priest during this time), Caesar Augustus (Emperor of Rome), Cleopatra (Last Pharaoh of Egypt), Herod the Great (Last King of Israel), and the list goes on.
However, there are several characters that I made up as well, these include: Moloch (Sadducee priest and brother of Annas), Amara (Lethal archer with a sordid past), Thea (Female bounty hunter).
You and I have discussed the possibility of controversy (readers may not have the same thoughts on what Jesus did or the situations he encountered in the eighteen years that are not mentioned much in the bible) how do you plan on handling this if it occurs?
First, I’ll remind everyone that this is fiction. I welcome a little controversy, and fully expect there to be some. I don’t mind if people disagree with me, in fact I welcome it. All I want to do is make people think.
This is the first book of many, do you have an idea of how many additional books there will be?
At this point I’d guess a minimum of five. When I first began writing Divinity I intended it to cover 1-2 years, but once I started writing I realized that would be impossible unless I wanted it to be as long as the Bible. Divinity only covers a few months, leaving over seventeen years to go. I’ll be taking a small break from The Lost Years of Jesus Christ to work on another story I have been itching to write. My plan is to write a piece of The Lost Years in between every other story I write. Since this one took me about a year and a half, you can expect a new piece of the story every 2-3 years.
Can you share with us the research you did while writing this book?
There was a lot of it. I read a few books on the history of Judaism because that is probably the most important aspect of this book. Jesus was Jewish. I had to be very careful to make sure my characters followed the proper customs. I’m sure I overlooked something, sorry about that. I also had to read up on the Pharisees and Sadducees, two major factions of Judaism. These two groups had wildly different belief structures, which I explain in the book. Most of the names for Roman officials and Hebrew leaders are real. Some of it I found online, some through traditional books.
What made you decide to self-publish rather than going the traditional route for publication?
It might be silly, but the thought of dealing with agents and publishers fills me with dread. The book is finished, and I’m working a new project. I found it impossible to concentrate on the new story while this one remained in limbo, so I decided to self-publish. Many people have questioned my decision and said that I might not make as much money doing it this way or it won’t reach as many people. The money doesn’t matter much to me, and I think if it’s good it will get recognition. I just want my story out there for people to, hopefully, enjoy. If I make a few bucks in the process, woohoo!
What is your writing process? Some of us need coffee in order to write, others do it with a glass of wine. Do you have any necessities you need in order to sit down to write?
I have no rituals for when I write. No special foods, drinks, or places. I hate writing in coffee shops, but other than that anything is fair game. I’ve written in cars, on airplanes, at home, and even on my tablet while out for a walk. I do tend to get a lot done when I write on my lunch hour at work because my brain is already in work mode. One thing I do is I try to write an entire chapter whenever I write. It doesn’t matter how long it is, it just has to be a full chapter.
There are many writers out there struggling with the idea of self-publishing, can you offer any advice or tell them some of the steps that need to be taken when deciding to self-publish (eg. Is it expensive? How do you get your book out there? Do you get to choose your cover?)
Deciding whether or not to self-publish is a big deal. I can’t say yet whether or not I have made the right decision, but I’ve enjoyed every step of the process.
Self-publishing is more for people who like to do things themselves. I’ve run a few small internet businesses over the years, and always did everything from accounting to marketing to manual labor myself.
Here’s a small list of the things I had to do on the road to self-publishing:
1. Design a cover – I purchased a custom cover from an online service. I won’t use the name, but most of them are more or less the same. They created the cover, but I had to tell them what to create. Not as easy as it seems.
2. Learn e-book formatting and conversion – I wrote the book in Word for the most part, and there are many features of Word that don’t convert properly to e-book formats .epub (Nook and I-books format) and .mobi (Kindle format). I had to watch several tutorials and practice to get it right.
3. Editing – I had to rely on friends and family when deciding what edits needed to be made to strengthen my book. I was lucky. I had some really good editors helping me out, people who didn’t sugar coat the truth to make me feel good, including you Maribeth. Be very careful about who you allow to edit for you.
4. Marketing – See below
Do you have a marketing strategy?
Since I don’t have a publisher, I will be relying mainly on social media and word of mouth to promote my book. I have a Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr that I will be maintaining for the book. I’ll also be going around to popular religious message boards and posting descriptions and links to my book. My mom has probably done a better job of marketing it than I have thus far. She’s already talked about 20-30 of her friends into buying it when it comes out. Thanks Mommy!
Do you plan on offering this book as a hard copy as well as an e-book?
It’s a possibility, but it really depends on the demand. If the book is successful I will certainly try my best to also offer a printed version so that people who don’t have access to or, as in the case of my grandparents, have no idea how to use a kindle. I hope eventually I can make it available to anyone who wants to read it.
Okay Derek, it’s time for some rapid fire questions. Are you ready?
What book are you reading right now?
Little house on the Prairie. I bought the first five novels as one leather bound book at Barnes and I’m working on that right now. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt the show was better than the book.
Do you have a thinking spot?
The shower. My poor landlord has to pay the water bill too.
Who is your favorite author?
Stephen King, but if not for George R.R. Martin I never would have become a writer. I got so annoyed waiting for him to come out with the next Game of Thrones book that I decided to write my own story!
When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
Not until two years ago. I always enjoyed writing, but I wrote a really bad short horror story in eighth grade, and my teacher crushed my hoped and dreams by telling me it was garbage. I’ve always had ideas that I wanted to develop into stories, but the truth is I never gave it a shot until I met you Maribeth. You encouraged my ideas and gave me the strength to give it another try. So any success I have is thanks to you and George.(AAh, I’m blushing over here.)
Do you have a favorite genre?
Fantasy in general, specifically anything dealing with medieval or magical elements.
Finally, I always end my interviews by asking what your favorite word is and why? Mine is Believe.
Balance. It is something I strive for in every aspect of my life. Whether it means trying to keep an even temperament, not drinking too much (or too little), or trying to stand on one leg for prolonged periods of time (I take Kung Fu).
Can you please share with my readers where they can find you? Twitter, Facebook, Website etc.
Where can we purchase Divinity?
Divinity will isavailable for purchase right now on the Kindle, Nook, and Ibooks.
I mentioned above there would be a giveaway for one commenter. If you leave Derek a comment you will be entered into a secret giveaway (Okay, secret sounds fun but the truth is I haven’t decided what the surprise will be yet, but I promise it will be well-thought out).
An extra added bonus, Anyone who comes back and tells me they purchased Derek’s book will also be entered into another giveaway. Come on guys, let’s rally together and help Derek sell some books.
Derek, thank you for giving such detailed answers. I wish you nothing but luck and success.