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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

On a Spiritual Quest: Author Interview with Daniel Sweetnam

When did you decide to write The Chronicles of Malachai series – was it before or after you wrote the first book?
After I began writing The Gift, I realized fairly quickly that in order to tell the story I wanted to share effectively, it was going to take more than one book. So I then planned to write a trilogy but hadn’t considered going beyond three books or even what the series should be called. It wasn’t until I was finishing the second book, The Purpose, and realized I would probably need to write four or five books to tell the complete story, that my eldest son suggested I form a book series and create a series title for them all. Thus the Chronicles of Malachai was born.

Was The Gift your first novel? Or did you stop and start on others?
Yes it was my first, however, I have thought about it and made notes for writing it for years, while at the same time making notes on several other books I would also like to write some day; even some children’s stories.

What prompted the idea for this book?
I have personally experienced many unusual spiritual events, including encounters with angels and demons, and I have often had the opportunity to talk with other people from all walks of life about their own spiritual experiences as well. From a young age I have attended various churches and found the subject of angels, demons and the supernatural to often be a taboo subject to discuss, even being personally asked to not ask questions about it by teachers, elders and pastors. As a result I quit talking about my experiences and quietly searched for the answers on my own.

Along my journey God revealed many answers to me, as well as, brought many different people across my path that were experiencing similar things and had the same types of questions; while feeling just as alone as I did. The more knowledge I gained to deal with my experiences and the more I realized God was using me to help other people, the more confident I became to share what God was teaching me and that there is nothing wrong with them either but in fact God has given them their own gifts to be used to help other people too.

After many years of sharing about the subject of spiritual warfare and teaching the value of spiritual discernment within churches and with the various people who crossed my path, God laid it heavy on my heart that it was time to reach a larger audience that I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to speak with, encourage or help to understand what they were seeing, feeling and experiencing. Therefore, He put the desire within me to finally write about it through The Chronicles of Malachai.

How long did it take you to write this first book in the series?
I spent about six months overall to write and then edit & condense The Gift
Did it change much from what you first envisioned it would be?

Yes, it definitely changed a lot. The first draft was double the size with much more detail and many extra stories. But as I began to narrow the story down, the focus became more on the main character of Malachai and his own personal experiences with the angels and demons, as well as his own revelations of God and God’s purpose for his life. I found the end result to be much more personal than the original broader message I was planning to write.
 How many rewrites did you do on it? 

To cut it down and fine tune the story line I probably did four complete edits before going to print.

What do you want readers to take away from reading your book?
I hope that those who read my books gain a stronger sense of the deeper purposes of God. So many view God to be distant, scary, un-touchable or at times even like a genie in a lamp, that they don’t take the time to truly get to know His heart. My hope from those who read my books, whether they experience supernatural events or not, is they will learn how much God loves them and wants to be actively involved in their lives.

Each person has a gift from God to use to make the world around them a better place, but only when we let God teach us how to use the gift the way it was meant to be used, will we understand how valuable we are to his greater purpose overall. I also hope that those who feel lost, confused and alone because of the spiritual things they experience, will find some hope that there are others like them who have found a way to fight the darkness and learned why God gave them their gifts in the first place. If they will trust Him they will realize they are never truly alone.  

Did you write this book for the Christian market or more of an evangelistic outreach?
Originally I wrote The Gift to lean more towards the Christian market with the hope of having an evangelistic outreach to it; partially because of my own work within churches and my concern of offending those I know and work with. However, while re-writing the final drafts of The Gift, I realized God was putting a greater message on my heart that needed to be shared with others. Since the majority of my personal ministry has always been a more evangelistic outreach, I needed to write the series for a greater audience and let God touch the hearts of those who read it accordingly.

Have you received push back from readers that your book is too preachy?
Surprisingly I haven’t as of yet. I have actually had readers from many differing religious backgrounds comment back that they can relate to Malachai or one of his friends spiritual experiences and found my portrayal of God to be more in line with what they believe, or would consider God to be like if they did believe in him as I do.

How do you write? Did you do an outline first? Did you do individual character development before doing the full plot?
I find I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the overall point of my books and then just start writing. I do make a very simple outline of main ideas I really would like to add and what characters would help strengthen the story, but the rest basically develops as I write the story itself. I must add that I do also spend a lot of time praying for God’s guidance with the story as well.

What do you think you learned from writing your first novel that helped you in the second one?
One of the biggest lessons was I learned writing The Gift, was that trying to be very descriptive and sharing every detail doesn’t necessarily make for a good story, just a long one. I was definitely a lot more focussed on the main story line while writing the second book and only included details that helped create a deeper experience for the reader to get into the story itself.

Your book is self-published, what made you chose this route? Did you first try to go the traditional route?
I did consider going the traditional route for publishing and had talked to others who had, but because this was more about fulfilling my own dream of finally writing a novel and not about becoming rich & famous, my family encouraged me to go the route of self-publishing so I could accomplish my dream.
One of the added benefits of choosing to self-publish as well, was my entire family had the opportunity to help with the final creation of both books. My two sons, Josiah and Samuel, photographed and designed the cover pictures and author profile pictures for both books. My wife Daphne helped edit and proof-read both books. Plus, my mother Lorraine and son Josiah also helped with proof-reading. So the whole process has been quite a family production and has made it much more fulfilling over-all.

Since there are so many publishing choices out there for self-publishing, what made you chose Friesen Press?
Being new to the whole author experience I did research many different companies and contacted several. Each had their own pricing and package deals and each lowered their price and offered better deals as time went on. When I was close to finishing my original manuscript, I had narrowed my choice down to two, and chose Friesen Press in the end because they offered options that fit better with my direct needs; allowed greater control for me as the author over the final product; were a little lower in price; and closer to home for gaining support.
However with my second book, even though I had already signed up to publish The Purpose through Friesen Press, I had connected online with several others groups of authors who then told me about Createspace through Amazon which offered a better online presence, similar publishing packages, and more affordable book printing. So, I decided to print The Purpose through them and will continue the rest of the series with Createspace as well.
How much does social media play in your promotion of your books?

Because I own a business and live in a small town in BC, Canada, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to go on big book tours or spend lots of newspaper ads, etc., so most of my promotion is done through social media. I originally started with a Facebook page but found it was more limited to my friends and family, and trying to branch out to other groups ends up spamming a lot of my friends/family who didn’t appreciate it much.
I joined up with Google Plus, Goodreads and Twitter on the advice of others, and have found them to be much more effective for promoting my books. I do have a blog as well, but find it takes a lot of time when trying to keep up with some of the other social media sites as well. I definitely have a lot to learn still with using social media for promotions, but have learned to balance my time with using them so I still have some time to do what I love and that is writing my books.

What suggestions do you have for enhancing a writer’s social media platform? 
Definitely joining sites like Goodreads, Amazon and Google Plus. Google Plus has a lot of groups you can be a part of that match your writing style, interests and target audience. Taking the time to connect with these groups and sharing your work through them definitely helps spread the word.

What type of publicity do you do to promote your book?

Mostly internet through Goodreads giveaways, Amazon and Google Plus Communities; but I also rely heavily on word of mouth and have promoted through write-ups in the local newspapers.

What has worked best for you in generating sales?
Overall, my sales have increased much better by getting on Amazon and their Kindle edition. Also, by offering promotions through the Goodreads giveaways, I can refer people to Amazon and have increase sales as well.

What do you know now about writing/publishing now that you wished you had known sooner?
There are many free resources and groups on the internet that can help you accomplish your dream. It doesn’t have to cost a small fortune either. I was very hesitant on going with self-publishing as well because I thought it would mean I wasn’t a true author because I didn’t publish the traditional way. However, I’ve learned that to be an author you simply need to accomplish your completed work, and whether or not others like or even buy it, you have completed a great task by putting your thoughts and ideas into a collective place and created your own distinct addition to the world of literature.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
The story you write will not be for everyone, so don’t expect everyone to like it or read it. Whether a person offers criticism or praise listen and learn from what they say, try not to take it personally but instead remember, they took the time to read your book over thousands of other choices available to them. Therefore, write something you can be proud of and passionate about, then those who do pick up your book will feel your passion and know it is more than words, it is a piece of your heart written for the world to see.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Whether it takes a month or forty years to write your book, if you believe you are meant to write, then you need to fulfill your dream and write. However long it takes and whatever hurdles you have to overcome to make it happen will be worth it when you hold your story in your hands and know that dreams do truly come true.

If you would like to know more about Daniel's books, here are some options.
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