Interview with Patrick Dawson, author of Lessons in the Journey Plus book giveaway!

Hello Bloggers. Today I am interviewing  award-winning author Patrick K. Dawson featuring his new book LESSONS IN THE JOURNEY, which won a Bronze Metal with Readers Favorites this year. If you are looking for a gift for that someone special but don’t know what to get, check out Patrick’s book. It just might be what you are looking for. I have read the book, and my review is after the interview. I encourage you to read the interview and my review, then go to AMAZON and see what you think!

Giveaway Info

Oh and Patrick is giving away a signed copy of his book to one of my bloggers. So just leave a comment, and be sure to leave your email address and you will be in the drawing! We will run the giveaway through the end of the year, and give the book away on Jan 1st.

 

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1. Who or what inspired you to become a writer?

I think my first urgings that I had something to say came in high school while attending a Denver parochial school and having to study poetry, bible passages, song lyrics, and novels in a 1978 English class. I didn’t write at that age but learned about the power of words. Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Frost, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Solomon from the Book of Wisdom, and David in Psalms seemed to speak to me. (Surely it wasn’t Beowolf.) Then during freshman year of college, I had a Rhet teacher from Pennsylvania who was on sabbatical and teaching at Illinois for that one year. He had us write papers, and I kept getting D’s on my first assignments. This was not acceptable to someone who had over a 4.0 in high school, so I asked him what the heck was up with the grades. He said, “I can see you have more than what you’re giving me. You’re holding back. I can tell that you’re a writer. I want you to start writing a journal and just write, create some poems, take some of your song lyrics and tell a story.” So I did. And I ended up with an A or B (I can’t recall) and a new passion to write. I had stories to tell, but was now validated as a writer. Sometimes there are angels in our paths for a brief moment and they change a life. The odds that I had this one teacher in his one and only year at Illinois were a God-moment in my eyes.

2. Tell us about your mentors and how they have helped in your writing?

My first mentor came as a child…my mother. Today we all know about ADD/ ADHD, different learning styles, etc. Well, I probably had those issues and more. They kept me from liking school, and I was bored. Fourth grade meant writing book reports. I hated to read and couldn’t get the concepts of having to write a book report: what is a character, sub-character, plot, body, climax, resolution, etc. My mom spent countless hours helping me, patiently working through them with me. I finally got the hang of it, but I still hated to read. (I later learned my dislike was created because my eyes get stuck while reading and I have to get them to skip over words to continue reading…a learning disability that others may have too.) In Seventh grade, I was still getting D’s and didn’t care about school. I was always creative, so I would draw and dream. Then a teacher noticed that my answers in class discussions showed more intelligence, so she had me take an IQ test. I aced it and the seventh and eighth grade teachers got together and had other kids take one. They realized that many of the underachievers had higher IQ test scores…what gives? We were bored. They started teaching in different ways and some of us took off without looking back.

Those early mentors have given way to more recent mentors related to my writing. First, I would say my father, because he believes in me no matter what on the books, whether he likes them or even reads them. He is my best marketer by word of mouth. Everyone needs a champion. My mother and friends have since followed suit. Second, I would say Catherine Coulter. I met her at an author event in Denver. She discussed how any successful author requires the ability to tell a good story, must have raw talent, persevere, and lastly, have someone who is ‘their luck’. After the event I spoke with her, and she took a liking to me as we were discussing advice on my self-published novel and the second novel. She has been tremendous in giving me ideas on the publishing industry, agents, editors, and information that I never would have imagined. She made me come up with 25 word high concepts for each book. I thought, “I have to sum up each book in 25 words? No way!” It was harder than writing the books. But I did and she offered advice as I wrote them. Since day one, I have been riding the roller coaster of getting published traditionally and the emotional swing from reader’s reviews. Catherine made a comment that gave me the biggest motivation to keep up the fight, “Keep writing because a writer is who you are.” She saw right through that angst to my talent, who I am, and what I have to offer. Maybe that is what she saw the day I met her, because several people have told me that she normally won’t adopt an author…it takes her time and reflects on her. I hope to make her proud or being my luck on this journey. Not everyone will like my work, but I have to believe in myself and just enjoy writing.

3. What is the main thing you want readers to take away with them when reading your books?

Hope. I know every generation believes theirs is the worst of times, and the end of time is near. Today’s social media connection makes news about tragedies and angst travel at the speed of light. The net effect is that we feel the pain of countless others in ways we never did in the past. The magnitude of advances in technology also equates to the increase of tragic consequences from these advances…chemicals in foods, guns, bombs, car crashes, drugs, etc. All of this means we are more frequently faced with tragedy in our lives or that of someone close to us, and we feel it. My novels are meant to deal with different emotions and life circumstances and give readers hope through characters that have survived the battle. And through these characters, I hope readers see tidbits of themselves or those they know, and it gives them permission to face emotions and thoughts they would tend to comb over in daily life for lack of time, fear of having to cope, or some other reason. It is my desire to have left somebody and the world better off than if I wasn’t here and didn’t write.

In book one, I have had readers tell me how my book helped them to deal with ‘why bad things happen to good people’ and struggles with their own faith journey. I have had people who used the book to speak with their spouses about marriage, sex, and intimacy. I have parents tell me they gave the book to their teen daughters on respecting their body, understanding the difference of love versus sex, and being more self-confident. It is these stories that help validate what I am trying to do. To the people my books speak to, I am grateful to have been God’s pen. And whatever people get out of my books, I hope they just enjoy them and feel like they are talking with their best friend. Down the road I can write action adventures or mystery books, but for now I want to offer something bigger to my readers.

4. Tell us five interesting things about yourself that no one would ever guess?

Well, in my bio I list several of them: I sang in choirs for Pope John Paul II twice; I have an undergrad and masters in architecture but now work in business and IT; I sing and compose music on piano and guitar for churches and some events, winning honorable mention in an international music competition for two songs; I’m an Irish-Italian American; and I’m a single and straight male without kids but yet write women’s fiction from a female characters voice. (The last one always amazes people, but if readers read the author’s note in my book, they soon learn how I can write from a woman’s perspective.)

5. Tell us a little bit about how this book idea came to you.

This is strange, because why it did, I can’t explain. Just like with my music, I think my creative juices are divine inspiration and I just am the channel. I was lying in bed and thought I wanted to write a novel. I actually had two distinct ideas at the time: one to write about airplane crashes that were occurring in the late 1990’s as a conspiracy novel of sorts and the other was to write about a woman in her early forties struggling with the tragic loss of her daughter, her marriage thrown into crisis, and wondering how could any God exist in the midst of it. I chose the second story.

Having so many female friends who looked to me as their straight male friend or brother, I had many occasions where I was their listener, their sounding board, and just a friend who cared. I would hear stories from these friends about their husbands or boyfriends not getting them. I’d watch some of my guy friends treat their girlfriends like dirt and the woman insisting they could see the potential in them to change a bad guy to a nice guy. I would hear about the differences between how men think about sex and sexy versus women. I would hear about the struggles people had with being Catholic or Christian and the interpretations of Dogma versus man-made rules. I watched friends and family struggle with what they believed and their faith because of tragedies. I would hear my male friends complain about their wives wanting to change them, commenting on married life, and the way women think compared to men. So the story seemed to unfold and then was validated with the Columbine shooting, 9/11, and other tragedies and stories through the first draft of the book in 1999/2000 until I dusted it off in 2010. The irony was that in rereading the novel to tweak and edit in 2010, I discovered I had endured some intense personal and faith challenges in that span and that the novel was a foreshadowing for how I would handle and cope with my life. We really are more alike than different, making fiction become reality and reality become fiction. (And, no, the book is not based on any real story or people…pure fiction.)

6. Is there another book in the making? If so, can you tell us about it?

Yes. It’s the standalone sequel, Miracle from the Ashes. I envision five novels in the series at this point. The 3rdis a love story about Liz’ great-grandparents in Italy, the 4th is a story about Liz’s best friend, Kate, and her struggle with Breast Cancer, and the 5th is about the family maid and friend escaping the terrible race issues in the south as a child. I am writing each to standalone for people who hate series or read books out of order. They can go back and forth without being impacted, unlike a Harry Potter type series.

The second book looks at the donation of Liz’s daughter’s organs from Liz’s perspective, but then from her omnipotent narrative, it primarily tells of a few of the people who receive their organs. The story shows the gift of organ donation, the issues many of us never think about in requiring a transplant, and the emotional struggles that accompany such situations. It is another book of hope, but for the readers who seem to be caught up on the first novel discussing God and religion, they can take a breath and not feel uneasy with faith discussions. (I guess I hit a nerve in the first book by discussing the taboo subject: religion.) I hope all my books make readers think, and I believe the books will lead to good book club discussions if people want to use that forum.

7. Since you brought the subject up, I noticed in your first book that it has a faith-based tone. Is there a place for faith-based books in the secular market?

I’m glad you asked that. Sadly, we have become a country afraid to say or discuss the wrong things for fear of hurting somebody else. What happened to listening and respectively sharing our beliefs and opinions? We’ve suppressed a huge part of people’s true character by these topic-run-amok fears, religion being one of them. Studies have shown that over 88% of Americans believe in God, and Muslims, Jews, and Christians centrally believe in the same God…that’s the vast majority of the world population. Being politically correct has robbed readers of stories. Look back at authors who 100 years ago were not afraid to show a character’s faith, flaws, struggles with their beliefs and the institutions that exist. They had real novels based on real characters. Granted, religious institutions and zealot believers have led to this divide by being exclusive and showing little compassion. Priest scandals and phony evangelizers have further eroded the idea of organized spirituality being an “in” thing. But that doesn’t make every person who believes in God or their faith bad and taboo, as the mainstream media would have everyone believe. I know what I believe and respect others may believe differently.

Now, readers focus on si-fi, vampires, and other escapes from reality. This is not always a bad thing to want to escape with a no-brainer story, but I think underlying faith-based characters have a place in the secular book market. Challenging issues have a place in novels: Anne Frank, Schindler’s List, etc. are tough topics that need to be heard. Also, when the chips are down and death hits a household, there are two choices: either there’s a God and a place for our loved one to go or not. Readers who have not buried their head in the sand about such faith matters are better equipped to cope when the inevitable tragic situation arises. Wouldn’t helping people to learn they are not alone in their fears, questions, and frustrations make more sense before a tragedy hits?

In addition, publishers are leaving a lot of money on the table ignoring these ‘touchy’ and taboo books by authors, and some Christian books can run into the cookie-cutter mold of ‘all is good with God and a persons faith’ when even strong believers like me run into faith crisis. They lose the reality of the true human condition and faith based development.

So I guess my first novel is a trendsetter stuck in the middle, where it’s okay to mention a realistic character that makes mistakes and is based in a particular faith without trying to convert readers to that faith. My character, Liz, has her faith struggles and is trying to understand what she chooses to believe. Liz is not trying to judge other reader’s faiths but rather just come to grips with who she is and what she believes. In her story I use the priest and Liz to play opposite ends to stimulate thought and discussion from readers.

Faith is a very intimate and personal area, and stories with real characters can hopefully help each of us to grow deeper and less hypocritical in our beliefs. I’d be interested to hear what readers think about this subject and other such taboo subjects dismissed in today’s world. Have we eliminated or water-down God in stories and why? Do we want God back and how do we get it? An Amazon reader I alluded to in your last question obviously doesn’t like a book that includes faith and her review tells people my book is poorly written for doing so when only 30 pages focus on that. I guess she wouldn’t like reading The Shack.

8. Having mentioned the bad review from a reader, what impact do you think readers have on your books when posting reviews on their blogs, Amazon, Goodreads, and other places around the web?

Although all authors wish they could ignore the bad reviews, they can’t hide. We’re human. How many people wake up and say,“I hope somebody hates me or my work today.” Being creative means putting yourself out there and people attacking your work can make a person feel personally attacked. We shouldn’t, but we do. My father would say, “If they could do any better, then they should write a book.” Others will say the same about book critics. So, I’m human and have feelings, too.

Readers have a huge impact on an author’s success or failure. First, if you don’t buy, then we can’t afford to write and publish books. Even self-publishing a book, marketing, etc can run a few thousand dollars. It is magnified ten-fold for publishing houses hitting a larger market with the risks, costs, and inventory of a new book.

E-books, print-on-demand, and social media are dramatically changing the landscape of publishing for authors and readers. For example, libraries are fighting to get content from publishers who are not too eager to assist, yet. How will changes occur for libraries going forward? Next, publishers are seeing Amazon, self-publishing, and e-books alter business models away from brick and mortar storefronts like B&N, Borders, and local bookstores. Authors and agents now have to impress more than the traditional handful of newspapers and periodicals for reviews and reaching readers. Many new authors are bypassing traditional publishing.

This aside, Amazon, Goodreads, blogs like yours, and even, book awards are huge in getting exposure to a book and author. Amazon’s ‘Customers Who Bought This Also Bought’ has led to a huge jump in sales linking readers of Diane Chamberlain and other big authors to my Kindle books. The big name authors may take all of this for granted because their reputation is in place. But for me, it has been the reason for my sales success or failure.

I don’t think people realize that a bad and nasty review can really hurt new authors by distracting some readers with comments that may not be deserved. New authors can hope that readers see past those few negative reviews to see the gems. The more good reviews received, the better to brush aside the negative ones as an anomaly. For some harsh raters a 3 is a solid review and for others a 5 is a solid review. In any case, it helps to have people rate and review books for other readers and authors to know if they hit the mark. There are lots of new books from self-publishing and e-books, so how can readers determine ‘what is what’ without other readers assisting? It takes time and word of mouth to garner reviews, expose the gems to friends, family, book clubs, and church groups, and hopefully see the success of a novel. You are all key to my success and spreading the word about enjoying my novels is what will determine if I can be like Nicholas Sparks, Diane Chamberlain, Jodi Picoult, Wally Lamb, or other best sellers in my genre. You all decide if someday I quit my day job to write.

Breaking through the traditional publishing circles is where average readers can make the biggest impact for a new author. It is what made The Shack take off as a self-published book. I have had several readers tell me that my book kind of reminds them of The Shack with the spiritual discovery. Some even like mine better, which is flattering. (The irony is that I wrote mine before that story. I only read it after all the comparisons.)

I can only hope that my books take off. Reader’s Favorite selecting my debut novel, Lessons in the Journey, as a Bronze Medal winner for “chick lit’ and your amazing review as their random reviewer for the contest have helped my sales on Kindle jump. Thanks to all of my readers and you for your efforts to help make me a successful author. Keep spreading the word by mouth, social media, and even, airplane banners; write to Oprah, Ellen, and anybody else who has a big book club if you believe in the novel and meJ It only takes one big name to make the novel soar.

9. What’s this journey been like as a published author?

It sometimes feels very surreal. I have to pinch myself and find the will to believe in my abilities. I made a comment once to a friend that I am no Ernest Hemmingway. He replied, “Ernest Hemingway wasn’t Ernest Hemingway until after he died and his books and style were considered classics.” So a support system is critical. It has taught me how those around us influence our paths and whether we commit to a project or not. Simple words matter. Had friends not asked to read my novel and then pushed me to get it published because it was like an Oprah book, I would never have pursued it. Had I let the early rejections get me down without somebody mentioning Amazon and Kindle as an alternative to publish, I would have stopped. Had I not received good and honest reviews supporting the novel and my writing talents, I would have lost hope to keep pushing and self-marketing. Had Catherine not taken an interest I would have wondered if I belonged. What you say to those in your life matters. It’s a Wonderful Life is true; you impact the world around you for good or for bad.

I told my friends I feel like I’m on American Idol and received my gold ticket to Hollywood from the initial sales, reviews, and author event invites, and then with the Readers Favorite Award, mentoring from successful authors, and feedback from editors in NY, I feel like I have made it to the  top-twenty. So now I belong, but I have to gain the audience’s vote and the judges to make that big step. You are all those voters and hold my success in your hands. I hope to make you all proud of the vote.

10. And, where can readers find out more about you, and get in touch with you?

First, thanks to my readers, and you, for this chance to share some thoughts. I’d love to hear from anybody on my books et al. Readers can email me at PatrickKDawson@gmail.com or check out my website, www.patrickkdawson.com and post a comment there, read my random blog postings on Goodreads or as shown through Amazon and the website…even follow me on Twitter @PatrickKDawson. They can read the preview of my second book on the website under the Upcoming Novels Tab that I hope will be out in 2013…trying to pursue the traditional publishing route is slower. I am working with Hilary Ross as my line editor. She edited some of Catherine Coulter, Ken Follett, and Stephen Kings earlier books. I’m oh so close to being discoveredJ Thanks to all of you.

And as we’ve mentioned, Lessons in the Journey won a Bronze Metal Award with Readers Favorites. Check out these pictures of Patrick receiving his metal at the Readers Favorites Award Ceremonies in Flordia a few weeks ago.

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MY THOUGHTS ON THIS BOOK

lessons-in-the-journey[1]For pediatric surgeon Elizabeth Finch, life is not always perfect, and throws its punches hard, sometimes because of the choices she makes, but sometimes it just happens. We start following Liz’s story when she finds out that her daughter has been shot. And we continue as she seeks to find help in the journey she is facing as her life keeps unraveling before her eyes. Patrick Dawson captures the hearts of his readers in his book Lessons in the Journey; a provoking, moving and heartwarming story that will draw you into its pages and won’t let you go until you finish reading. As with all of us facing difficult issues in life, Liz was definitely not ready for what life brought her way, and she seems to ask the question, Why do bad things happen to good people?
We get to know Liz through the flashbacks into her life, meeting the important people in her life along the way. I enjoyed reading the story this way since it gave me the overall feeling of what her life was like: the emotions, the fears, and the pain and suffering she went through. And I could feel the struggles Liz had with her faith throughout her life as well, not at all easy for her. We can take many things from this beautifully written story. Having a strong relationship with the Lord, and trusting Him during our difficulties, and learning how He can take the difficult things and make something good out of them are all very valuable lessons. And the fact is that bad things happen to everyone, in similar ways to some, differently to some others. The important thing is how we handle the situations.
I highly recommend this book to everyone. And for me the most fascinating thing about this book is that it is written by a man. You will wonder how he writes a story so beautifully that it captures the hearts of women. This would be a wonderful book for a book club to read and discuss!
 
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