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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Pre-qual to the Bible? Author Interview with Donovan M. Neal

My interview today is with suspense novelist,Donovan Neal. He is an ordained ministry as well as a prolific songwriter and singer having written over 50 different songs of praise and worship for his local church, and has performed in various schools and churches in the Ministry of Christian rap. Let's learn about his intriguing story

The title of your book, The Third Heaven: The Rise of Fallen Stars caught my attention. What drew you to writing this story?
When I conceived of the book it was after reading Frank Peretti’s, This Present Darkness. I wanted to read more fiction about angels and their work. When I looked at the time all the books and TV shows really didn’t portray what I imagined was a serious look at the subject of the fall of Lucifer. After thinking more about it, I really thought this story was a powerful one that serves as the back drop and also the context of a lot of what has happened in the Bible. There is betrayal, innocence, war, corruption, sin did not originate on Earth is originated with Lucifer’s desire for power. It was such a compelling story to me so I decided that in my audacity I would write about it myself.

Some might be shocked in hearing you call it a prequel to the Bible. Do you consider yourself like one of the great prophets from the Old Testament?
Me? A prophet? Lol...hardly. But when I did think about the phrase, ‘prequel to the Bible’, there seemed to be a ring of truth to it. Lucifer’s fall predates Adam and Eve. If the serpent is the Devil as many in Christendom believe. How then did he come to be in the garden? How is It that such a malevolent creature would even have access to humanity right at the very beginning of its creation? The story about the fall of Lucifer seemed pretty “prequelish” to me. I thought the moniker fitting. I’m just a story teller who hopes those who read the novel enjoy it for what it is: good Christian fiction.

What do you hope readers will learn in reading your book?
I don’t pretend to have written the book to expound or preach some moral truths. That was not my intent, Undoubtedly, many readers will and can devise them from my work. One of the few lessons is that God is sovereign. He’s in control. Our actions are not surprises to him, and that even in the best of circumstances evil lies ready to rear its head. But good will ultimately triumph, and that there is always a cost to subdue evil.

How long did it take you to write that book? How many rewrites did you do on it?
It took me seven years of off and on writing to finish the first draft. The first draft was finished July 4th 2012. Afterwards I had some beta readers read it, which had me revise some things. I did editing myself, and then I paid an editor. All in all it had about 4 to 7 rewrites. And if the resources were there I would have done another edit. But there comes a time when you have to release your work into the world. I felt that I had done the best work that I could and felt the release in my spirit to make it public.

This is your second book. Your first book was the Gospel Explained. What did you learn from writing your first book that helped you with this one?
I think the biggest thing I took away from that first small book was that it was possible. I learned that there was more to publishing that writing the actual book. There was the cover design, the layout, finding a printer. It helped me to realize that fiction was far more intense and difficult in my opinion to write than a non fiction book. I found it also gave me the realization of how much it would take for me personally to complete it.

How did you go through the process of finding a publisher?
Well, I struggled to determine if I wanted to self-publish vs trying to traditionally publish it. But when I seriously looked at the Christian fiction houses that were out there, and looked at the book stores. I didn't get the impression my work was something the gatekeepers would want. Speculative Christian Fiction is not a large portion of the work that I see on book shelves in stores. Marcher Lord Press recognizes this trend, and seems to “get it”. 

Most Christian publishers cater to the predilections of the standard “CBA reader” (mainly: females who like romances and female-oriented thrillers). I happen to agree with them and that the audience described isn't typically the one who reads the Lord of the Rings, or similar types of books. I realize I am generalizing, of course, but when I go to the bookstore, the offerings seem to bear me out. My book doesn't really cater to that audience. 

So I only pitched it to one agency, they rejected me, and I just said I’ll do the first book myself. I created my own publishing company, Theoneustos Ministries(Theoneustos means "god breathed") and then I asked myself did I want my book in stores? The answer was yes so Lightningsource was my printer of choice because of their association with Ingram. I also decided to use Createspace as it provided me another avenue to sell directly on Amazon, and I also found their process much easier than Lightningsource.

How do you write? Did you do an outline first? Did you do individual character development before doing the full plot?
Wow, that’s a great question. You know, I think I’m still figuring that out. I think I do a bit of both. I actually lay out the order of the scenes I see in my head on an excel spreadsheet. It's easy to move the cells around that way. Again it's not so much something that’s done chronologically (i.e. outline first then character development.) it's connected I think, organically. When doing the character development, I might think of something that should be in the plot. Or as I’m writing certain aspects of the character's development, it's fleshed out more. It’s like a seed that is planted, then sprouts leaves, and grows upward in various directions until you have fruit that someone can pick from and say “oh wow that tastes good” or “ugh that fruit it too tart”. That’s kind of how I see the writing process; as an organic growth that happens over time.

How much does social media play in your promotion of your books? What suggestions do you have for enhancing a writer’s social media platform? What type of publicity do you do to promote your book? What has worked best for you in generating sales?
For the author its all about exposure. You can’t create that if you’re not on social media. So to me that’s a given. My route is to increase my presence on social media, and using certain networks until traditional media takes notice. Then exposure will kick into promotion, which is really different than advertisement. I have been featured on the Christian author show, An article written about me will be coming out in February on 

Currently I am doing a lot of giveaways to promote reviews and am starting a month long blog tour on the Virtual Book Tour CafĂ©. I’d encourage new authors to do things like Goodreads and Librarything giveaways. Email lists are still king, and authors that can take advantage of building that list to send information blasts out to prospective buyers will go a long way. What’s worked best? Good ole fashioned word of mouth, and the excitement from such.

I understand that you also are a songwriter. Which artistic expression do you prefer the most – writing music or writing stories?
Oh that is so not a fair question! Lol. I enjoy both, it’s not an either or to me it’s more like a both and. They are the same in many respects to me. A song is simply a lyrical story. Songs are easier for me to write. But I have several stores I want to tell. And I think I look forward to telling those stories more than I look forward to writing songs at the moment.

What do you know now about writing/publishing now that you wished you had known sooner?
I wish I knew more then about the importance of establishing a platform when I first started. I also wish I had put a bit more away to help my work further as editing is probably the most costly portion for me of the whole publishing process. I’d encourage people to never skimp in this area.

What is the best advice you've been given about writing or that you've learned that you would like
to pass along?
There are two things I've learned. One is that reading is not writing, studying is not writing, outlining is not writing. Only writing is writing. You don’t finish a novel by not writing. You only finish by writing. Secondly, some authors say they hate promoting. But I say that writing a novel without wanting to promote it is like wanting a child without wanting to raise it!

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about Donovan's writing and his thoughts. If you would like to buy his book or learn more about his next book, you can check out his website or his blog

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for hosting me Christine! It was a pleasure chatting with you!