Monday, August 5, 2013

Preacher Samuel Ben White shares how he balances writing, his family life, and his mission to share the word of God

As my blog readers know, I am a huge advocate of indie writers because they have the passion and ambition to open doors when traditional outlets ignore them. Because indie artists are that--independent--they all have unique stories and tips on how to succeed and what to watch out for in the murky terrain of self-publishing.
Samuel Ben White (photo courtesy of author)
On Twitter, I have had the pleasure of connecting with many independent writers, and I was very happy to connect with Samuel Ben White (@garisonfitch). He is an author, minister, family man, and newspaper cartoonist; and he was kind enough to give me an exclusive interview.

TL: You're a prolific writer. Can you tell my readers a little bit about your background?
SBW: I grew up in west Texas, and I loved to read, write and play baseball.  I was never any good at baseball, so I threw myself into the other two.  As soon as I learned to spell, I  was fascinated by the idea that I could string words together and use them to tell stories like the ones I read in books.

Beginning in seventh grade (or thereabouts) I tried my hand at writing novels and submitting them to publishers.  There followed thirty years of rejection slips, but I believed in my stories, so I kept writing them, re-writing old stories, combining pieces of faltering ideas, letting friends and family read them and always trying to get better at the craft.  Finally, thanks to self-publishing and ebooks, I’ve been able to put my books out there and get them read by a few people.  All the while, I’m still writing and trying to become both a better writer and better storyteller.
"There followed thirty years of rejection slips, but I believed in my stories, so I kept writing..."
TL: I think it amazing that you serve your community as a minister, have a family, and still find time to write so prolifically. How do you manage to do it all? Do you have any tips for readers out there who struggle with their own time management?
SBW: I am blessed with a very short attention span!  Honestly, I enjoy all the things you mention (plus, I draw a comic strip for the local newspaper).  I am not good at sitting still, so I am very thankful for the things on deadline (sermons, comic strips), but then when I get stuck on one of those, I’ll work on writing some fiction just to “get the juices flowing.”  As I go through my days, I am constantly getting ideas that I can use in my novels, my comics, or my sermons (and, sometimes, I’ll recycle an idea and use it in all three.)

Above all, I have a wife and two sons and I make time for them every day.  That would be my advice to anyone looking for time management help: prioritize.  I have found that if I get the things I have to do done first, I have lots of time to do the other things.
"My advice to anyone looking for time management help: prioritize."
TL: You have written fiction in various genres, including western, sci-fi, fantasy, detective, and Christian. Did you find it difficult to switch genres, or is there a thruline between all of your work and if so, what is it?
SBW: The line that runs through all my novels is: average people who make their way through extraordinary circumstances.  Other than Garison Fitch, the heroes of my novel don’t necessarily change or save the world, but they wake up every day and face the life that comes at them.

The hardest thing in switching genres for me are the fantasy stories.  I have some license there in that wild and miraculous things can happen, but I still want it to be believable.  In the detective stories, for instance, everything has to follow logically and you don’t want a clue dropping out of the sky, as it were.  In fantasy, something can drop out of the sky, but there still needs to be a reason it dropped then and there.

TL: Do you have any advice for writers who would like to break into fantasy or sci-fi?
SBW: Be prepared for criticism.  Science fiction and fantasy are some pretty broad fields and your first thought may be that “I can get away with anything here” but that’s rarely the case.  If you write a novel with a Newtonian view of the universe, some sci-fi fan will write a scathing review about how that view of the universe has been discredited.  Then, someone else will write a response about how the Newtonian view is the only one that works but you’re still a moron because you did such and such here.  Fantasy fans can be just as meticulous, jumping all over you because you gave a fairy six wings instead of two.  (Don’t get me wrong: there are many wonderful sci-fi and fantasy readers, but there are some very passionate, very vocal … I’ll let you insert your own word here.)

So, my advice is: whatever logic you follow for your story, stay with it.  For example, when writing my Garison Fitch novels (“First Time”, “Saving Time” and “Lost Time”) I researched ideas about time travel.  One of the hypotheses held in the world of time travel fiction is that there are multiple timelines in the universe, so what happens on this timeline may or may not effect what happens on that other timeline.  I decided that I would write my time travel novels as if there were only one timeline and all events that happen in the story are logically consistent with that idea.
"Whatever logic you follow for your story, stay with it."
TL: Anything you would like to add?
SBW: Tom Bodett (known mostly for his TV commercials but also a very talented and funny essayist) once wrote that his greatest goal as a writer was to have someone read one of his essays and then say to themselves, “Yeah!  Life’s just like that.”

I don’t think any of us will ever travel through time, and I hope very few of us are involved in murder investigations, but my highest goal is for someone to read one of my books (or all of them) and, when they think of a character, think to themselves, “Yeah, I know that guy!”

For more information on Samuel and his books, check out his website: www.garisonfitch.com 
or his  Amazon author page http://www.amazon.com/Samuel-Ben-White/e/B003WQH0J

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Should I self-publish?

I'm a huge advocate of Do-It-Yourself, and I'm looking for other DIY-ers to share their stories. If you're a self-published writer, blogger, independent filmmaker, Youtube star, whatever, tweet me and I may feature you on my blog!

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