I met John Keeler when I joined a writing group and I was impressed from the very beginning. John is currently teaching creative writing to adults as well as works full time he is always working on dazzling us with his own stories and/or comments and critiques on our own.
I know you’ll enjoy reading this interview and feel like you are meeting John through this interview. Enjoy:
1 ) Do you remember the pinnacle moment in your life which truly began your writing career? Please share it with us.
I always liked writing essays and poems in school, but I never was encouraged to take writing seriously. Years later, I was at a conference for young people with diabetes in the UK. After getting to know some of them and being separated from them by the Irish Sea, we used to keep in touch by writing letters – snail mail was the only option back then! Anyway, I found with my personal experiences of having lived most of my life with Type 1 Diabetes I had a lot of experience to share. After writing numerous letters and magazine articles, I thought that I should really record my own experiences and compile them into just one book, which I did with Living Life With Diabetes.
2 ) How did you go about getting Living Life with Diabetes?
Should this have “published” in there? Let’s assume so…….I had my book written and was doing the usual routine of sending it off to publishers. Then by chance a friend of mine who is a GP and who also has Type 1 Diabetes said that he had been approached by Wiley’s in the UK to write a book. He put me in touch with them and suddenly my book was on its way to being published. A bit of right place right time, I suppose, although there was more to it than that…..
3 ) Are you seeing more popularity with your Living Life with Diabetes Kindle version or the printed book? Which format of any book do you prefer?
Don’t know if the Kindle version is more popular – or even if there is a Kindle version of my work, for that matter. Either way, I prefer the book version.
4 ) Do you plan more non-fiction books or is your focus now on fiction?
Right now I am focusing on fiction, but I am not ruling out more non-fiction I the future.
5 ) Any great secrets for someone trying to get published or marketing their published works?
There are no secrets besides writing well and being persistent.
6 ) If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your Living Life with Diabetes book?
How long have you got?……. I had to fight with the publishers to reinstall a piece that they had removed from the end of one of my chapters, which if left as they wanted it would have made the whole point I was trying to make unintelligible. Also, they didn’t launch the book, they more or less released it quietly, leaving all of the publicity up to me, which is not exactly something which is up my alley. Another difficulty I had was that the publishing company was based in the UK, and while it was in the final stages of being published I was by then married and had moved to the States, making communication even harder. I would liked to have had more say in how they produced it (for example, it reads as a story, but looks a bit like a textbook, not how I envisaged it at all). Also, in hindsight I would have liked to have been able to have a lawyer look over the contract before I signed it, as I made very little money from it, even after it had been released and translate into Vietnamese (I can’t fathom that either!!). All good experience for future projects, though….
7 ) If martians appeared and, in exchange for anything you desire, offered you any position on earth, what would you want?
Playing centre-forward for Liverpool (English soccer team) against Manchester United (another English soccer team) and scoring the winner in front of the Kop end in the last minute……. (Not very altruistic, I know, but this is fantasy…….)
8 ) If you were interviewing your favourite author who would it be and what’s one question you would ask?
Agatha Christie was always my favourite, even as a kid, so I’d have to say her. What would I ask her?……… Could you read my book and write the foreward or recommend it, maybe?
9 ) Do you have any advice for young emerging authors?
Keep writing, and when listening to criticism of your work, find someone/those whom you trust to be honest enough to tell you where they think your work needs to improve, and act upon that advice (even if acting upon it is deciding to leave it unchanged – sometimes one course of action will be correct, sometimes the other will be – the trick is knowing when to change and when to leave it alone!).
10) You’re a creative writing teacher. Do you believe people are born to write or learn to write and how do you balance your beliefs while teaching?
No, I don’t necessarily think that people are born to write. I think it comes more naturally to some than to others, and even those who choose to do it still have to work at it. As for teaching, I always try to encourage the good and point out the not-so-good in a way that makes it possible for people to improve, but it would be like me singing – I know most or all of the words, but carry a tune? I don’t believe any amount of practice or coaching would ever make me better than I am, which is not so good. (Hope that makes sense).
11) Are you inspired through teaching others and do your students teach you something? If so, what?
When I teach I do feel more like writing than at other times. Maybe it’s because I am in an atmosphere of like-minded people that I feel the need and the desire to write…….can’t actually put my finger on it. For example, I tend to get great ideas when I’m in the shower, but often when I sit down to write the words don’t always come, or at least not in the way I want them to. Do my students teach me?…….probably that there will always be stories to be told and there is always another angle where they can be told from. I really feel inspired when I hear a student read something back which takes my breath away through its sheer audacity, cheek, imagination, comedy, brilliance, whatever, and while it doesn’t happen too too often, it still does from time to time, and it delights and amazes me, and often makes me think “I wish I could have written that/thought of that!” As a teacher, that’s so inspirational. I suppose a dream I have is that I discover the next INSERT FAMOUS AUTHOR’S NAME HERE and that they acknowledge that I hel;ped them along the way – and with some of the people who have passed through my class and who are still passing and yet to pass through, it is possible.
10 )Is there any thing else you’d like to add, John?
Nope, except thanks for asking me these questions, and I hope that you continue to write. If I think of anything else I’ll let you know…….
John Keeler is the second author who graciously answered my questions and I know that you’ll enjoy following this series and will look forward, like I do, in meeting the next author.
Thanks for reading,
PS: Be sure to come back on May 10th, 2011 to meet Nova Scotian fantasy author A.F. Stewart and learn about her less than usual collection and her views as a writer.