Interview with Dennis Stevenson

What motivated you to become an indie author?
I realized that I had a lot of things I wanted to say. I didn't want have to play the games with publishers to get them to produce my thoughts. It just seemed like a lot of work and I didn't think I wanted to give it that much time and effort. I also had a suspicion that the publishers wanted authors who would bring readers with them - which in the beginning I couldn't do.

Indie publishing seemed to be the logical, common sense path forward. It felt kind of rebellious to be an "indie" author. Sort of like I was breaking the rules and getting away with it. I liked that.

Now that the honeymoon is over, I'm getting comfortable with the work that has to go along with being an indie author. It's not all glamorous writing time. There's a lot of work to come up with ideas and covers and editing. I think that I'm just now (years later) settling down to really understand what it means.
When did you first start writing?
I think I really hit a breakthrough about 10 years ago. I started a blog. I've been writing on it for over 10 years now, more than 1,000 articles posted. Writing in that kind of volume, whether I felt like it or not forced me to come to grips with what I think about writing.

I've found that I like to write things as a way of clearing my head on a given topic. When I finally understand something important, if I can write about it, it brings a nice focus to my thoughts. So in many ways, writing has been a chronicle of my own journey of understanding.

When I gave others my written works, as a way of explaining my thoughts on something, they always came back and said how well it communicated to them. So that was an encouragement to take what I was doing for myself and start to do it for others.
Describe your desk
I'd almost rather not. Most of the time my desk is a complete disaster area. It's not something that I'm exactly proud of.

The desk itself is a huge wooden one that I was given as a hand-me-down. It has almost no storage, but it seems like it has acres of surface area. This means that it collects every little thing that makes its way into my office.

I have a "pile management system" that lives on my desk most of the time. Piles of paper that are organized in a way that makes sense to me. The biggest pile is usually the bills I need to file in the filing cabinet. I hate doing that so they just pile up until I can't bear it any longer. I also have piles for the various projects I'm working on, reference books or Bibles I'm using and the different studies I'm in.

I use my desk as a reminder system. There's an area where I put things I want to remember to do or work on later. Everything makes sense to me, but I recognize that the desk is often very messy.

I write on an old laptop. it's good for word processing and internet browsing, but not much more. It sits front and center. with a keyboard and a mouse.

Every once in a while, I get the cleaning bug, and I'll tear through my office putting everything away. Then the desk is clean for a couple days. But it really doesn't last very long. Clutter comes back fast.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a big iPhone. For the longest time that was how I read my books. I remember being on the train into San Francisco when I ran out of reading. It was amazing that I could just buy another book right there and keep reading. On the train, even! I love having ebooks on my phone because it's always with me, and I always have something to read.

Lately I've been exploring my online public library on my phone. I loved the library as a kid. This has given the library a renaissance in my experience.

A couple Christmases ago, I got a Kindle Fire. That's been a lot of fun to have as well. It's bigger than my phone, and is obviously connected to the Amazon ecosystem. When I got it I had been really quiet on the writing front. In addition to being good for reading, it really inspired me to start writing again.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
These days it's been quite varied. I like to read, so I try to do that as often as possible. I like Science Fiction and Fantasy novels. But I also like non-fiction books. The mos profound book I've read recently was an archaeological review of the Exodus out of Egypt (David Rohl's Exodus). Fascinating to see what archaeology tells us about that story in the Bible (archaeology supports the biblical record).

I also like to listen to podcasts. For the last several years I've been really captivated by European history (beginning with Mike Duncan's excellent History of Rome podcast). At any given time, I've got a half-dozen of them that I'm listening to. I think it's fascinating to learn about the present by studying the past.

I'm also trying to be a cyclist. Last year I rode just over 1,000 miles. It's a good way to get exercise in and stay active.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a pastor's home. This meant that I was always surrounded by the Bible and Bible teaching. Discussions at dinner were often about theology and what the Bible had to say on a given topic. I drank this in from my very early years.

My dad has an absolute love of learning. He's got more degrees and certifications that I probably even know. But as he went through all his studies, the rest of the family got to hear about what he was learning. So even though I wasn't in school with him, I think I probably have a couple "shadow degrees" just by osmosis.

I think this environment really shaped my intellectual skills. It gave me the ability to think clearly and logically about topics. It also drilled a deep knowledge into my brain. Not just "Sunday school" knowledge, but a structural knowledge of the Bible and the times and cultures in which it was written. I rely upon both of these when I write.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is Devotion - Men of the Bible. It's really a derivative work from my first book Bible/Man Circles.

I spent five or six years developing a men's Bible study. It used a very specific methodology to engage the Bible and it generated really phenomenal results in the lives of the men I was leading. That led to my first book. But as I thought about it, I realized that the same approach could be used outside of a group setting. So I tweaked the steps a little bit and put them in a format that could be used in a daily devotional.

The devotional approach isn't as heavy-duty as the men's group. It's a really nice balance of process and engagement. I think it stays true to the spirit of what was done in the men's group, but I think it has a much broader appeal, since a guy can do it by himself without needing to organize a whole group.

I'm really happy with Devotion. A number of men at my church have gone through it and shared good things that came from it.
What are you working on next?
My current work in process is a book on how to study the Bible. I was in a small group that was doing a Bible study, and we were really struggling. People were getting lost and confused. It didn't really make sense to them how to engage in the study we had all agreed we were going to do.

So we stopped the study and I spent about 6 weeks working through the framework underlying studying the Bible. It didn't have to be really complex. In fact it wasn't complex. It used just a few key principles and some techniques that everyone learned (and then forgot) when they were in school.

When we went back to the Bible study, it was a completely different game! We didn't have the same difficulty or confusion. Everyone was able to engage in the study and the discussion so much better! Some folks who had been reading the Bible for decades said this was the first time that they were really able to dig in and know what was going on.

I want to capture that experience in a book that anyone can read. I'm focused on making it simple and easy to understand, as well as giving practical instruction so that they can feel confident at the end. It's hard converting what was a very interactive session into words on a page, but I think the result will capture the essence of what we did together and give the reader a real solid foundation for Bible study.
What is your writing process?
I like to have a pretty good idea of what I'm going to write before I sit down. I want at least an outline of what I plan to say. From here its pretty straightforward to put it all down.

I generally edit as I go. When I get to a rough draft, I want to have worked through the major issues before I finish. I think this is because I want to know that the draft covers everything properly. Going back to make big editing changes feels risky that something will get left out or missed.

That all sounds pretty easy, but it's not. Trying to find the best words to say takes some effort. Often I won't figure out what tone I want to use until I'm about halfway done. I generally start out too serious and academic. Once I see what I can do to fix it I have to stop my writing until I can go back and fix the tone for everything I've written. Sometimes when the tone changes, it means that different transitions are needed, or that certain point don't even fit at all.

When I write I really want to feel like I'm chatting with my readers. I want them to enjoy reading and get a lot out of it all at the same time. Depending on the topic, this may take several attempts before I get it where I'm satisfied.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Writing has two really big payoffs for me.

The first is when I'm able to say something in writing that was lurking in the back of my head. I know that I feel a real rush of happiness when I look back on a writing session and know that I said something well. When I can get that thing that I've been sitting on, and put it out there on the screen in black and white. That's an important rush that brings me back to the keyboard again.

The second rush happens when I see that someone has read what I've written. It's a really vulnerable place. I just laid a little piece of myself out on the page (or screen) for them to see. I don't know if they liked it or if it really moved them. But I feel like they've embraced ME. It's doubly fulfilling when they contact me and say that they really enjoyed it. I want to interview them, grill them, so that I can burrow into their experience with what I've had to say.
Published 2018-01-27.
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Books by This Author

Men in the Bible - Small Group Study Guide
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 14,250. Language: English. Published: February 3, 2018. Categories: Nonfiction » Religion & Spirituality » Christian Life / Men’s Issues, Nonfiction » Religion & Spirituality » Biblical Studies / Bible Study Guides
The Bible is loaded with stories of men in situations just like you. Through the stories of their lives you can learn powerful lessons, gain clarity on situations or circumstances and see what God wants for your life. As a group Bible study, this book is a game-changer! In this how-to guide you'll get a step by step plan to lead an 8, 12 or 16 week study.All the tools you need will be provided.