Wow, two tree guys in one week! A mere 48 hours after catching The Lorax at our local theater, I have the pleasure of introducing debut author Brian Holers, an arborist by day. Brian’s first novel, Doxology, was published in October.
Name of book: Doxology
Book genre: Literary with religious theme
Date published: October 2011
Publisher: Self published
What is your day job? In my day job, I am an arborist, also known as a tree guy.
What is your book about? Fathers, sons and brothers reconnecting over tragedy in a blue-collar, Southern tale of love, loss and the healing power of community and family.
Why did you want to write this book? The story in Doxology is entirely fabricated, and I was several drafts in before I really figured out what story I wanted to tell. All I knew when I started was I wanted to write a novel about men, set in small-town Louisiana, as they dealt with tremendous loss and all the emotions that went along with it. And whatever the outcome, I wanted them to do a great deal of reexamination and discover how much God has been with them all along, through their struggles. I wanted to write a story of characters who, through their lives and despite their losses, remain grateful for all the good things.
What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? That it is a lot harder than it looks. To really get yourself into the mind of an imaginary person you are creating, to get to know that person yourself and then to draw that person well enough to make him or her convincing to the reader is a real challenge. Every little thing you change affects everything else. Writing a book is a giant undertaking.
Did you conduct any kind of research in order to write this book (visit certain locales, etc.)? Though I haven’t lived there in 22 years, I grew up in small town Louisiana and still carry so much from that experience with me. I go down once or twice a year to see family, and this helped me continually improve the flavor of the scenery and the dialogue.
What motivates you to write? I go flat-out crazy when I don’t write. I walk around talking to myself. I alienate my family and friends and become miserable. So, self preservation, I guess.
Did you experience writer’s block? I rarely experience writers’ block. Usually, I have too many things to write about and may have a hard time sorting them out. But at times when nothing is coming, the worst thing I can do is push. Take a walk, sit by the fire, do something simple. It’s all in there, just waiting to get out. But you can’t force it.
Was the self-publishing process easier or more difficult than you thought it would be? I waited a year for my agent to sell the book, but that went nowhere. When I decided to self-publish, I discovered there were a lot of steps involved, but as long as I took them one at a time it was fine. I paid a consultant to help me figure out what all the steps were and put some of them in place, which was well spent as it helped me avoid a lot of problems.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about writing a book? If you’ve never written a book, you have no idea how hard it is. People say all the time, “I’ve thought about writing a book.” I sometimes say, if you want to know what it is really like, I will gladly tell you. But a lot of people don’t really want to know how hard it is – they just want to have a fantasy that one day they’ll write a book, which is totally fine. The greatest misconception is that it is fun. It is NOT fun. It is very painful. But totally worth it. Roy Blount Jr. once said that the joy of writing is much like the joy of eating a well-done steak with loose teeth. The experience is savory, yes, but can be very painful.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? Finally getting some feedback from readers about how much the story touches them. It makes this whole six-year ordeal totally worth it.
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? As a writer, your job is to create a quality product, which is your book. Unless you are a marketing expert, you will probably need professional help with the packaging, meaning the book design and layout, plus the synopsis and blurbs a potential reader will consult before buying the book. Once you have a quality product with quality packaging, it’s all a numbers game. Get the message spread far and wide. There are lots of ways to do that on the internet. Once you really find a captive audience, take the time to relate to them. This isn’t the old days of writers who hide away and write and expect someone else to sell books for them. You’ve got to be out there, and you’re responsible for everything. It’s a business, just like any other. Pay someone to help do things you don’t know how to do.
How has life changed for you since the publication of your book? My life hasn’t changed yet. I hope it does, with fame and adulation and more money than I could possibly spend in one lifetime. Meanwhile, my son still needs a ride to school, my grass keeps growing, and somebody’s got to make dinner. So I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon.
Do you find yourself obsessively checking sales stats? I am just getting this book out there, but I don’t see myself as a stat checker. I suppose stats are valuable to if you are trying a different marketing or advertising plan, to see what effect that has in a given week or whatever. But I’m not there yet.
Do you plan on writing another book? In the year I was waiting for my agent to sell Doxology, I wrote two good drafts of my next book, which is patiently waiting for me to return. Like Doxology, it is also set in north Louisiana and explores similar themes of relationships between men and their accompanying discoveries of how much they need God.
And now for my favorite last question: Oprah once famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? The luckiest people are almost always the ones who work the hardest. Sometimes we read or hear of a new writer or musician or artist and say, “Wow, this person really came out of nowhere, this person became successful overnight.” Of course, we have no idea how many overnights the artist spent preparing to be ready for the big lucky break.