I first started writing in 2014, when my students at the high school where I taught for 11 and a half years started having relationship problems. I originally planned to write a blog on health, wealth and relationships but I didn't organise it very well and it didn't get many readers! I had to cancel the web hosting provider and take the site down but not before I moved the articles I had written to Ezine Articles, which still hosts many of them. I found that my articles on one particular topic were more popular than any other, so I decided to write a whole book on that topic and published it on Amazon. The book didn't sell very well but it started my career writing e-books. Later I got my students to write wordsearch puzzles, which I also published as a book on Amazon and that has sold more than the first book! It's now on its Third Edition, which I hope to publish on Smashwords soon!
What is your writing process?
Right now I'm writing non-fiction, so my main method is to break down difficult concepts into easily-understandable chunks, put things into the right order from easy to hard, then explain enough for the reader to be able to comprehend everything, then move onto the next step. For my puzzle books, I either put my puzzles in order of difficulty from easy to hard or else in alphabetical order by topic. Writing introductions is easier and conclusions almost as easy as that but the middle stuff, the real content, takes time to get good - but it's worth it!
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I am very busy, holding down two English-teaching jobs in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with more private students at home, plus I go to church every day, take care of my wife and son and a whole lot of other things! However, I remain cheerful and I feel interested and enthusiastic about my life! It's better than sitting at home doing nothing!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story I ever read would probably have been maybe a "Mr. Men" book by Roger Hargreaves when I was very small or else a Penguin publishers hardback kids' book, a fairy tale story or maybe even one of the "Billy Blue-Hat", "Roger Red-Hat" learn-to-read books I studied at primary school! I don't exactly remember which book it was but I remember that learning to read allowed me to move into a dramatic, new world that fired my imagination and swept me away into a different place, a different time and a different life, which was an exciting experience for me.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Actually, no, I don't! It was probably some kind of very early story scratched out by pencil when I was 5 or 6 years old in big, loopy handwriting with the "g" letters all backwards and all that kind of stuff. It was a very simple story, I'm sure but I think I had fun writing it!
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
So far I have only self-published print books on Amazon, Createspace and Gumroad and just informed all my friends and students on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, simply having books on Amazon seems to be the most effective way to sell online at the moment (although, now I'm on Smashwords, that will probably change very soon!) I also encourage my students to buy my books face-to-face and that is how I have sold the most number of books - just offline, taking advantage of the fact that there are 2,000 of them and only one of me! However, I hope to get more high-tech with Smashwords soon and hopefully sales will take off!
How do you approach cover design?
So far I have made my own, although I seem to have a small amount of talent in this - I usually find a stock image that looks quite classy, then place the title and author over it using PicMonkey. The most difficult issue is in upgrading the quality of the image to the recommended 300dpi. I have to get this huge picture, then condense it down to the right size to ensure the quality. Overall, though, making book covers is a creative process and I quite like it! I can decide what I want it to look like and make executive decisions on the final look that makes me feel like it's my own creative endeavour.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Haha! I just use my laptop! I'm kind of low-tech and I haven't really made the switch yet from laptop to mobile. I would like to get Instagram, SnapChat and Musical.ly happening but they're all mobile apps, so it looks like I'm going to have to make the switch soon. Currently, I'm planning to buy a new laptop (my current one is about six or seven years old). However, I think I'm going to have to go mobile if I want to be a successful author and be able to update social media on the go. I don't want to have to drag my laptop everywhere, although, if I get a new one, it will probably be a lot lighter than the one I have now. Overall, though I read e-books on my laptop because I can keep everything on the same hard drive, so they're easily accessible any time I want to read them!
Describe your desk
What desk? I don't even have one. At work, I'm a teacher, so I'm not important enough to have a desk of my own but use the teacher's desk in every classroom to dump my bag and do my stuff; at home, I use my son's homework desk for online work and writing or else move my laptop onto one of the "student desks" I use in my private home classes - you know, one of those collapsible, fold-up things with the bit of wood on the side that acts as a small desk for a single student to use. Other than all that, I have no desk at all!
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I feel excited and exhilarated to be living this life where I can love God, my wife, my son and my students! My working life is all about my students, helping them to believe in themselves and giving them a better life. So for that reason, I get up every morning to try to find new and better ways to give them the life I want them to live and part of that is writing books that I can sell on Smashwords, so I can fund my plan to help them make their dreams come true!
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.