As an aspiring author, it’s always good to hear stories of other people’s success. They inspire us to not procrastinate, and reassure us that there is a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.
This week we hear from Joe Gaines, author of Zachania and father of six, who shares his story of rising above a poor education, leaving school illiterate at age 15, and a difficult life to give his children a better life than what he had and write a novel on the side.
Name: Joe Gaines
Location and one thing you love about living there: I live in London England, Love the history and Chelsea football club but hate the weather, our summers are terrible!
Author of: Zachania
Tell us a bit about yourself: I am brand new to self publishing but I have always loved to write. I am what some people call 'a jack of all trades' or a bit of a cheeky cockney if you come from London. I was once a professional boxer and I am now a boxing promoter but would love to work full time as an author. writing novels allows me go and do whatever comes into my mind, it is a shame we only have one life to live as we all want to do so much but unfortunately not many of us can make all our dreams come true but with writing I suppose it gives you a small experience of what some dreams might be; you can be a hero, a bad guy, a spiritual guy or just about anything else that your mind may take you. its a form of escapism for me.
As the book progresses you will discover many new realms, races and secrets as well as feats of heroism, cruelty and love, the style of writing includes many of the frailties and traits that we all possess upon the characters, revealing many of their hidden thoughts and fears as the story unfolds.
Zachania is very much a book that tells a story about a boy who grows into a man as it is about action and storyline. I have tried to put the characters feelings into script where you can feel their trials and tribulations and rejoice at their successes.
What sparked your passion for books and the art of a good story? It is difficult to name one thing that got me hooked. I can remember writing as a child where one of my Christmas presents was a small desk. I would spend hours drawing underwater worlds and writing short stories.
Is there a particular book that changed or affected your life in a big way? To be honest I am not a big reader, I love to write rather than read. I should read more but I am scared it might influence my writing in a negative way. I know it’s a strange outlook but I like my stories to flow or to gather momentum and then crash all the action starts.
What was the seed of inspiration for your latest book? I began writing Zachania for my wife who was then my fiancé. She was working nights as a croupier at a casino so I would write a few pages for her when she came home, at first it was five or six pages but then the story kind of formed a life on its own and I started to write every moment I could.
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? It’s a fantasy book but if there is any message then I would say it is about humanity. The feelings that we have and how consequence can turn you upside down and inside out. It’s a style of writing that features in all my literature, I think I place myself into the characters and I can sometimes see what kind of frame of mind I was in when I wrote a certain page or chapter.
What challenges have you faced in your writing career? My main challenge is my grammar and punctuation. I had no education so I find it very difficult at times, I can write a page in ten minutes and then spend thirty minutes editing it. Sometimes I think my style of writing is also open to criticism but it is my style rather than bad punctuation! Especially when writing dialogue. I also believe that as writers we are all different, I am not trying to get a degree in Shakespeare so why should all books be written the same, why should we be restrained or shackled?
What has been your best moment as a writer? I would say seeing my wife’s face when she had enjoyed what I had wrote and when I got my first copy of Zachania through the post.
Who is your author idol? Very difficult to say as I have only read a handful of books, I am more a lover of quotes or dialogue. Kipling’s ‘IF’ left a big impression on me and I love some of the speeches in Shakespeare 'once more to the breach’
Do you see yourself in any of your characters? Yes definitely, in nearly all my characters I see some part of my nature, (even the baddies)
What challenges did you face self-publishing? The formatting for Kindle was at first very difficult for me. When I first had a go at it I gave up for a couple of months until I found some time and then just knuckled down and somehow I got a version which looked OK. I must have two dozen files on my computer from trial and error. I am still finding the odd mistake but at least with kindle you can go back and correct it. Self-publishing can also be so time consuming. If there is one down side it would be that the marketing takes me away from my writing.
Do you feel like your dream has come true or is there much more to do? My dream has always been to escape the life I was born into and to give my children a better life, if writing helps this then my dream would come true.
What does your workspace look like? Bedlam! I have a shared computer in my living room with a TV, Xbox and five children!
Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer? No…compared to what else I have done in my life writing is very safe.
Have you ever had a day when you just wanted to quit? Not quit but I frequently get distracted and get certain days when I couldn’t write a shopping list! Some days I can just write and write on others I struggle to find the words I need.
What do you do when you’re not writing? I have a very colourful life; I am a boxing promoter and an actor, my children also take up most of my time.
What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer? If you love to write then you're doing what makes you happy. Sometimes you can get into character and start walking around the house talking to yourself though as your acting out a scene.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school? How to play cricket and rugby! My education was terrible and I left school illiterate aged fifteen.
Did you have a moment when you realised you were meant to be a writer? I would have to say it is because of my passion and some of the things I have been through in my lifetime which made me put pen to paper. My real name is not Joseph Henry Gaines and someday hopefully I may be able to reveal who I am but at this moment to reveal who I am would be a hindrance, if you Google my real name it reveals a page of results where never would anyone associate me with writing fantasy novels.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors? If you love writing then write and don’t worry about what others say, criticism comes in two guises, constructive and harsh. Use the constructive advice to better yourself and pay no attention to the harsh, most of the time harsh criticism comes from people who themselves have been criticised and it has turned them bitter.
I was criticized lately by another author who wrote a book about ‘chess strategy’, now I am not generalising here but it is not hard to imagine what someone who writes a four hundred page manuscript on what chess looks like. I would imagine this kind of person could find fault in Dickens or Twain.
Personally I could not criticize anyone who is trying, it’s a pet hate of mine where I see some people being horrible to other people who are trying, it is a side to the human nature which I dislike, as I say in one of my poems ‘it takes a big man with heart to sympathise and a small man to criticize’