Inspired by Amazon’s focus on indie authors this October, Ken sat down to write out a little bit of his journey. Like many writers, it started in childhood.
My career as a writer began when I was ten. My maternal grandfather, T. H. Evans, decided to become a poet in his retirement years. He wrote mostly about family and memories of growing up in England. He and his family immigrated to the U. S. in 1911. He was 64 when I was born. Since my mom worked as a nurse, I would go to my grandparents’ house after school, and I watched him writing and illustrating his poems. When I was ten, I decided to emulate him and produced some childish verse. He encouraged me to continue with writing, and I did so.
At West High School in Phoenix, a course in creative writing was offered for juniors and seniors. After showing some of my poems to my guidance counselor, he got permission for me to take the class as a sophomore. During high school and college, a number of my poems and short stories were published in school literary magazines. One of my poems was also published in the Phoenix Gazette newspaper when I was 14.
After college, I went on active duty in the Army and continued to write poetry, including a large number of poems relating to my experiences in Viet Nam. When my military career was at last behind me, I wrote poems in response to my experiences as an insurance investigator. My work involved the saddest parts of life, as I handled claims for disability, accidental death, suicide, mysterious disappearance, homicide, provider and claimant fraud, and more. Much of my subjects came to me from interviews with disability clients and from the surviving family members of people tragically killed.
Inspired by Michener
During this time, I also began work on a biography of James A. Michener. I taught myself research methods in those pre-Internet days of the 1970s and gathered a huge amount of material about Michener. I spent a week at the Library of Congress going through his papers and manuscripts and visited him at his home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania for a face-to-face interview.
Following four years in the Army (Military Intelligence branch) and nearly 8 years in the insurance industry, these accumulated experiences with the dark side of human life led me to enter seminary in order to come to terms with the classic questions about the meaning of life and the nature of God. I had not finished my biography of Michener when I started seminary and had no time to work on it while in graduate school. John Hayes, who had been a research assistant for Michener, began work on a biography of Michener, and in the course of his research, my name came up repeatedly from people I had interviewed and corresponded with. Hayes lived in Philadelphia and I was at Pittsburgh Seminary at the time, so he called me and came to visit. I gave him some of my research on Michener’s early years, which he had very little on. When his book was published, he acknowledged my contribution to his research.
After ordination, most of my writing involved sermons, but I still wrote poetry. After shifting from parish ministry to denominational administration, I began writing articles for professional journals. Eventually, I published a book (The Pastor’s Survival Manual) which has been used in seminary classrooms since the late 1990s. I won an award for an article I wrote about collecting Indian cents.
Joining the Ranks of Indie Authors
In 2003, an urge came over me to write what I imagined as a spiritual autobiography. That is, I planned to focus the narrative on the mystical, spiritual, paranormal, and religious inclinations of my life that led me to pursue the world of ordained ministry. This would be a heterodox account. After outlining the book and reflecting on what should be included and left out and recognizing the chronological gaps in the story, I decided that it would be not only boring but a self-serving exercise. However, there were sufficient interesting details of my experience to form the germ of a novel. Starting with the out-of-body experience I had when I was six, I outlined a narrative that explored what it would be like if a person could replicate such an experience at will.
Little by little over the years until my retirement from church administration in 2009, I worked on that novel, which grew into a trilogy of nearly 375,000 words. In retirement, I rewrote and refined this epic and published the first volume, The Floating Boy, in 2012. The Floating Boy allowed me to join the ranks of indie authors and taught me a lot about the process of self-publishing. The other books in the series, now called Heretics in Occupied Eden, were published over time, followed by four additional companion novels.
Check out this exclusive excerpt from The Floating Boy.
Read Ken’s advice for indie authors looking to market their books.