Please make welcome Neil O’Donnell to my blog. Good morning Neil and welcome. Take a seat and tell us, your audience, what you want us to know about you and your books. Please introduce yourself to those reading this blog post.
I am an anthropologist, a certified professional career coach (CPCC) and a certified anger resolution therapist (CART) serving as an Academic and Career Counselor with twenty years of experience helping college students and professionals in managing their academics and navigating their career journey. I am also an award-winning writer with credits including novels, short stories, non-fiction, résumés, curriculum vitae and cover letters. My expertise is in helping clients from around the world secure employment suited to their career interests and personal strengths.
Has writing always been part of your life and when did you “know” that it was time to start writing your first book?
I started working on my first book when I was around 12; I was attempting to create my own choose-your-own-adventure book. I mapped out multiple actions and wrote text, but that fizzled as my brother introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons. A few years later, in 1986, I started writing text and designing characters and a fantastical world that year. I drew a map for the main continent – I still have that map. I finally produced the book in 2009, PEOPLE OF THE SWORD. It took me years in my teens and twenties to figure out a title, then I just used time after a surprise layoff to finish a good portion of the ultimate book.
In addition to fantasy, I write sci-fi and historical fiction. Most recently I added humor to my portfolio as I wrote a book about a pesky chipmunk, based on the chipmunk who lives under my deck. He’s not a “pet” yet he lets me pet him and my wife and I easily cave into giving him birdseed.
How difficult was it writing your first book?
Very difficult. A lot of naysayers weigh you down, particularly those who tutor or teach writing. I was fortunate that my college writing professors were amazing and supportive along with most of my pre-college English teachers. I’ve battled OCD my whole life, so that certainly played into distractions and obstacles. Losing my job as a museum curator a week before my wedding ultimately gave me the push and time I needed. I was not anticipating an end to the grant that funded my position, so when the director informed me that I would be out of a job in a month (last day was literally a week before the wedding), I was freaked out beyond belief. The book instantly became a motivator.
Have you ever wanted to give up and what stopped you?
I had written smaller stories, but after drawing the map in the 1980s, I knew I would eventually complete the first novel. To this day, I am motivated to write every day even if it’s just notes, a blog post or resumes for others.
Who is the most supportive of you and your dream to be a writer?
My wife, my parents and my siblings. My parents died before seeing the book completed. I feel fortunate that my Dad got to hear me read parts of the unfinished book. Yeah, he is not a fantasy fan. My parents encouraged us to read, and my wife is also a reader (she’s also a museum curator who writes a lot between exhibit scripts, articles, grants, etc.). As for my sisters and brother, they have always supported me in whatever I did. Thank you Moey, Sandi and Ned!
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
If you like Fantasy – read books by David and Leigh Eddings. If you don’t like Fantasy, still read David Eddings’ work. Write every day if you can, even if it’s just to develop a character profile for a character you know will likely not exist beyond the day you write down the character’s description and bio. Also, don’t let naysayers get you down.
What is the best advice given to you (book or otherwise), and by whom?
Best writing advice was from David Eddings through his notes in his book, THE RIVAN CODEX. He was a brilliant writer, and he was hilarious. I love that he said “start with a map,” which I read in the Rivan Codex in the 1990s-2000s. I felt an amazing connection in that moment as I had started with a map in 1986. That said, his advice for writers was to write every day. I don’t write every day, but it’s damn near close. As for days I don’t write anything? I’m usually researching to make characters, landscapes and other components of my novels more realistic.
What is your target audience and what aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?
Adolescents and above. I like tackling heavy subject matter. My chipmunk book, DON’T CALL ME CHIP, was a fluke. I wanted my chipmunk to have an adventure. I also wrote a small book called HOPE IN A BOTTLE, which was about a priest stuck on a deserted island who puts messages of hope in plastic pop bottles that end up on shore. Most of the book covers the events surrounding those who find the bottles and the hope the messages bring. A younger audience might find that okay, but the older audiences is what I am writing for.
Did the cover evolve the same way, or did you work with someone to make it come together for you?
I evolved. I evolved from a writer constrained by the limits of the English language and the pessimism of doubters to a writer who realized that writers make and adapt language. Changes to languages generally occur at the hands of writers. So, the so called ‘rules’ of English, as messed up as they can be, became guidelines. I learned by my 30s that most authors BROKE rules because they wanted to write things a certain way. If readers don’t like what changes they made to the rules, most writers don’t care if someone is displeased with our alterations. We are driven to tell OUR tales – and any language cannot handle a complete tale with its often restrictive boundaries.
What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt?
SLAVER’S BANE – a novel about a group of 7 goblins and one human huntress who are seeking to free friends and relatives snatched by slavers. It’s my take on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Just with goblins, all of who are highly intelligent, industrious in their own ways, and lawful good. I hate that goblins have always gotten a bad rap – I wanted to change that.
Any last words before we wrap things up?
If you read a book, please consider posting a review on Amazon. Especially for independent authors and authors like me who are with small publishers. Those reviews mean a great deal to our getting our work out there.