World of Writing - Author Interview
Jeff Rasley is the author of eleven books and numerous articles. He has appeared as an expert guest on over 100 podcasts and radio shows (including our former talk radio show!). He is the founder of the Basa Village Foundation and co-founder of the Jeff and Alicia Rasley Internship Program for the ACLU of Indiana. He currently serves as an officer/director of 6 nonprofits. Jeff is a lawyer and has taught classes at Butler and Marian Universities about philanthropy and community development.
Jeff is definitely one of those connections that we have a strong networking connection with. Back when we ran a talk radio program he appeared as a featured guest to talk about the Basa Village Foundation and his work with the Adventure Geo-treks LTD back in 2012. Later, he appeared on our blog in 2014 for a World of Writing interview. Today, Jeff joins us once again - for an interview about today's world of writing and his experiences with his latest release:
Q: It appears, Jeff, that you are one prolific writer! I recall speaking with you about a few of them, and I recall reading a few including Island Adventures. Let's start with the very beginning of your career - what, or who, inspired you to pursue a career in writing?
A: I've been surrounded by writers my entire life. My mom was a journalist and newspaper editor, as was her stepfather. My brother is a writer and editor. My wife is a writer, editor, and English professor and writing centre instructor. So, it's difficult to pin responsibility on one person, but... I'd have to say my mom inspired me and my wife has supported my efforts.
Q: Writers are often advised to develop a 'thick skin' - like all artists, they must learn how to deal with critique, unsavoury reviews and unkind remarks. How do you deal with literary criticism?
A: If it's simply negative, I can't help feeling a bit hurt and angry. On the other hand, if the critic catches a flaw, suggests how the book could be improved, or points out some shortcoming, I appreciate it. And, I try to learn from helpful criticism. The vast majority of reviews and comments on Amazon and Goodreads about my books have been positive, so, of course, it is gratifying to know that a reader enjoyed my book and found it worthy enough to take the time to post a review or comment. It's especially interesting to read something about one of my books that I had not thought of. Once it's published a book takes on a life of its own. One of the cool things about that is to learn how readers respond to it.
Q: How many unpublished or half-finished writing projects are sitting on your "to-do" shelf?
A: None, insofar as I've finished every book I've started and each one is published. I've also had around 80 articles published, but I have to admit a couple pieces I wrote did not find a publisher. Those were niche articles with very few potential publishers. After the possible publishers declined, I just had to let go and move on to the next project.
Q: You raise a good point about choosing the market you are writing for, and also the point about having to let things go if they aren't working right now. I've learned that writers can always go back to a project after they have had a chance to grow as a writer, evolve as a person, or learn of new opportunities. Can you offer advice to new authors re: query letters, grant application, sponsorship or project proposals?
A: I teach a memoir writing class for the Indiana Writers Centre, and most of the students are working on their first book. I end the class with a mini lecture on "how to get published". I explain the traditional process of querying agents and publishers - the gatekeepers. But I strongly encourage the students to learn how to direct publish as their fall back, plan B. Amazon kdp is getting more user friendly every year. So, set a time limit on your efforts to get a literary contract, and then move on to direct publishing, if plan A didn't work out within your time limit.
A: Lately, I play a lot of pickleball. It's the one sport and social activity that resumed fairly early during the pandemic-lockdown.
I'm addicted to exercise and the outdoors, so every day I'm bicycling, rollerblading, skiing, kayaking, running, hiking, or swimming.
The addiction keeps me fit and energizes me to keep on writing.
Q: Ok - I have to admit that I had to look up pickleball, I had not heard of it before. The name had me imagining there was, uh, a lot of drinking involved. (She laughs). I see now it is a combination of tennis, badminton and pingpong. Writing about cultural differences, impacts of historical events and delicate maneuvering around sensitivities... it seems like it must have been a difficult writing project. What gave you the idea (inspiration) for this new book?
A: In 2013, I visited the Pine Ridge Reservation and Wounded Knee and was upset by the poverty of the Sioux people. I wrote an eBook memoir about the road trip that included my visit to Wounded Knee. But, bubbling in the back of my mind was a desire and idea about taking on a research and writing project that was more focused on the unjust treatment and plight of the Sioux people. An ancestor of mine was a 7th Cavalry officer at the centre of the 1890 massacre of Sioux at Wounded Knee. Another was given a "friendship gift" by the Potawatomi for helping them avoid starvation during "a hard winter". So, the book relates their personal histories with those two Indian tribes as the starting point for a wider exploration of the fraught relations among White Americans, Native Americans, the USA, and Native nations.
A: The first challenge was finding primary sources to learn what happened at Wounded Knee on Dec. 29, 1890, and why. Much of the history is well known and verifiable, but there are disputes about the "why", who fired the first shot, and how many Sioux died that day. So, I recount the battle, or massacre, from three different perspectives, the 7th Cavalry's, the Sioux's, and the pop culture version. Another challenge was deciding how far back into history, and how up to the present, the book should consider relations between the USA and Native nations.
Q: How much time do you devote to marketing, and what kind of marketing do you recommend?
A: Like many authors, I would prefer to devote zero time to marketing, but my usual approach is to start by sending a personal email to the 2,500 people in my address book. Then, post in free social media and contact podcasters and bloggers with whom I have a history. Next, I would ordinarily try to arrange some speaking engagements with organizations that have an interest in the book's subject matter, but that's a bit weird now, because of the pandemic. Finally, I decide whether it's worth paying for any ads in social media or Amazon. Creating effective ads is an art form I have not taken the time to master, so it's tough to figure out whether it's worth buying ads.
Q: ...That is so true, Jeff... Dave and I were talking recently about why some authors have success with FB or Instagram or Amazon ads, one will work for them while the other don't, or different ones work for different people. Dave stated that we don't know the details - such as: did the author design an enticing ad for that audience, what time of day and what days they chose to advertise on, whether the link took them to a site that converted well, or how long their campaign was. These details really do matter when it comes to the success of an online ad. Why don't we close by having you share some links for our readers?
A: Links are my website: http://www.jeffreyrasley.com/
and Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004Q3D6B2