Today I get to interview fellow LDStorymakers member and writer, Abel Keogh, who has a new book out. He's a copywriter by day, and a creative writer by night (or by free time, as the case may be).
At the age of 26, Abel Keogh unexpectedly found himself a young widower. When he decided to starting dating again, he looked in vain for resources that could help guide him through the dating waters and open his heart to someone else. He found nothing. As he began blogging about his experiences, women dating widowers began emailing him asking for his thoughts on their situations. As the numbers of emails increased, Abel started writing his own dating a widower advice column. In Dating a Widower Abel shares the knowledge he’s learned from his own experience and the most common issues he’s seen from hundreds of emails from women dating widowers.
Abel is also the author of the memoir Room for Two—the story of the year of his life following his late wife’s suicide—and the novel The Third. He and his wife Julianna are the parents of three boys and two girls.
Since I get this a lot, before we get into the interview, let's start with his last name: It's pronounced KEY-OH.
Here's our discussion about Dating a Widower:
AL: Professionally you’ve worked as a technical and marketing writer for hi-tech organizations. You’ve also published a memoir, a novel, and now you have a self-help book. What is your favorite type of writing? Why?
AK: I really enjoy the challenge that comes with fiction. Creating new worlds, believable characters, and complex plot is fun but difficult. Non-fiction is easy for me to write. I’m not sure why—maybe it has something to do with my professional background. But being able to write a good novel is an absolute thrill. I’m in awe of those writers who can do it well.
AL: What prompted you to write Dating a Widower?
AK: I’ve received hundreds of emails from women dating widowers over the last five years finally and realized that there really was nothing in the market to help these women—especially form a male point of view. I started to meet the demand by writing a weekly column but my readers kept asking for a book so I took a couple weeks and wrote one.
AL: You’ve published two books traditionally with a small press and received a publishing contract for Dating a Widower. Why did you turn down the contract and decide to self-publish this book?
AK: Turning down the contract was a difficult decision—one that took over a month to make. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had a corner on the market and a fairly big audience that was eager for the book. I wasn’t sure that a publisher could reach the audience any better than I could, so self-publishing seemed like the best option. I knew going at it on my own was going to take a lot of extra work but had the potential for lots of reward that wouldn’t come going the traditional route. As of now, I’m happy with my decision.
AL: What is your typical writing schedule like?
AK: Most of my writing is done at night after the kids are in bed. On the weekends I can usually sneak in a few more hours early in the morning. I wish I had more time, but there are responsibilities that come with being a husband and father that take priority.
AL: What are some of the differences you’ve found in writing a book of non-fiction versus fiction?
AK: Unless you’re writing a memoir, there are a lot of things you don’t have to worry about when writing non-fiction. For example, you don’t have to worry about plot twists or whether there’s enough tension in the plot to keep the reader turning the pages. At their core, however, fiction and non-fiction both need a solid outline, clear concise writing, and meet the needs of the target audience in order to succeed.
AL: What challenges does self-publishing bring with it? What are the benefits?
AK: The biggest challenge is producing a product that just as good, if not better,than a regular publisher. From what I seen most self-published books still have a lot of quality issues such as typos and other mistakes any competent editor would catch. In addition most have poorly designed, amateur-looking covers. If you’re going to self-publishing and want to succeed, the packaging and the product has got to be first-rate. The biggest reward, so far, is seeing the final product and being very pleased with it. I believe I did as good a job as any publisher could have done with it. The final verdict, of course, will be up to the book’s target audience. After looking at the sales numbers in a couple months I should know whether the packaging and content did their job.
AL:What's been the biggest surprise about the self-publishing process?
AK:The amount of work involved. I knew it was going to be time consuming but I didn’t realize how time consuming. I had to put a fiction project completely on hold for two months in order to get Dating a Widower done right. AL: What are the most common questions you get from women dating widowers? AK: The two big ones are 1) how long does it take for a widower to move on? and 2) when will he take down all the pictures of the late wife? (The answers to those questions are 1) It varies from person to person, but when the widower finds the right person, he’ll stop grieving and 2) as soon as he’s really ready to make room in his heart for you, the photos will come down.)
AL: Which authors are your biggest literary influences in the national market?
AK: Lee Child, Michael Connelly, and Robert Crais.
AK: Tristi Pinkston, Gregg Luke, and Orson Scott Card. (Yes, I know Card publishes nationally, but in my mind he’s never stopped being an LDS writer.)
AL: Any advice for aspiring authors?
AK: There’s never been a better time to be a writer. The number of options and opportunities that are available to authors today are simply unbelievable. Authors can go the traditional route, self-publish and still get their books distributed through the world’s biggest bookstores, or do both. The eBook world has also revived the short story market—something I’m personally glad to see. How the new world of publishing will sort itself out remains to be seen, but I’m optimistic that, for authors, it’s only going to get better. Read the first chapter HERE.
What an interesting topic and very helpful to the targeted audience, I should think.
I published one of my books with a famous publishing house, one with a little known publisher, and one by myself.
I made more money on the one I self-published, and I enjoyed the creative control, too.
Great interview! Hope the book does well. Best of luck with it, Abel!
Congratulations, Abel! Great interview.
I really love memoir, and it seems that self-publishing -- the extra work notwithstanding -- is the best way to go with most books of that genre. Congratulations on finishing your project! It would be great to hear from you a year from now, letting us know how the self-pub thing paid off.
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