The Writing Life with Donald Joiner, Author of 'The Antioch Testament'

Donald Joiner, a Georgia native, is a veteran who served during  the Korean War era. He is a retired public school superintendent who a lifetime student of history having once been a history teacher. He is a father and grandfather and has been married for fifty-two years. He has also authored two previous books about antebellum churches in Georgia.

His latest book is, The Antioch Testament. 

Thank you for being a guest on As the Page Turns, Donald, and congratulations on the release of your latest book. Tell us, what’s inside the mind of a historical fiction author?

DJ: You better get it right. There are many historical fiction readers out there who pride themselves on knowing much about the various historical eras. The author may be writing historical fiction, but he can count on his readers knowledge about the historical times surrounding the characters in the novel. If he gets dates wrong or mishandles historical characters or events, the reader will be sure to share this information with others and cross him off the ‘must read’ list.

What is so great about being an author?

DJ: The sense of accomplishment when you have completed the story. It makes all the long months’ and years’ efforts seem finally worthwhile. Your characters have been developed and have completed their performances and the author’s times of frustration and ‘writer’s block’ are at an end.

When do you hate it?

DJ: When you go for extended periods without inspiration and your mind is blank. When you have no idea how to continue with the story and are tempted to abandon some or all of what you have written. And then there’s the marketing process which requires you to fulfill some functions you are uncomfortable with.

What is a regular writing day like for you?

DJ: Reviewing the section of the work recently completed to climb back in to the story, perhaps doing some editing of yesterday’s work. Reviewing the notes you made for the next section, then finding the right words to begin. Sometimes I already know how that section will end so I begin at the end, then work backwards toward the beginning.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?

DJ: Perhaps ultra-successful authors have big egos. If so, they’ve earned them. It helps to have some measure of ego in order to face the frustrations and impotent periods that are so frequently present in writing and in weighing and responding to criticism and editorial advice. 
I don’t think I have a big ego, but then I’m not (yet) an ultra-successful author.

How do you handle reviews?

DJ: Take comfort in the good reviews even when they’re not completely accurate. Try to honestly analyze bad reviews for they represent how some readers actually perceive your work. If you can be objective, you can then decide whether the reviews are valid. 

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

DJ: I’ve learned that you can’t force inspiration. Sometimes it’s helpful to work on other sections of the book, either rewriting or editing. I’ve found that often inspiration returns while you work on other sections. At other times it’s better to go do something else completely divorced from your writing.

Any writing quirks?

DJ: I prefer it to be completely quiet when I write. No TV, radio or people talking to me. A phone call can be completely distracting, causing me to lose my train of thought which might not return for a long period. 

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

DJ: No. I think you write because you believe you have something to say. There’s a satisfaction in completing your work that is unrelated to money. Of course, it’s always nice to have your satisfaction with your work endorsed and sealed with an infusion of cash, but your work is your baby and its completion is a reward in and of itself.

What had writing taught you?

DJ: I have a much greater appreciation for those who write than I did before becoming an author. It’s hard work! You’re either up in the heaven of inspiration or down in the pit of frustration because inspiration has deserted you. But nothing equals the feeling of satisfaction you have when you complete your work for you had something important to say and you said it!

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

DJ: Be prepared for rejection. What you write is important to you, but it might not appear so to the casual observer. Never submit a manuscript to a potential agent or publisher unless it has been professionally edited. Write, write and re-write! You’ve got to convince others (potential agents or publishers) that what you’ve written deserves their attention. If you elect to self-publish, be on your guard.  Evaluate self-publishing companies rigorously. Some will say or do anything to get your money. There are ratings and reviews of these companies on the Internet for your convenience.