Author: J. PETER YAKEL
Author: J. Peter Yakel
Author’s website address: www.lulu.com/yakel
Published books by the Author: The Legend of Juggin Joe; The Autograph Memories of Mary Yakel; The Jackel, Jeckel, Jaeckel, Iekel, Yakel Family History Book
Books in Process: An unnamed sequel to The Legend of Juggin Joe in the works
Author Background: J. Peter Yakel is a freelance writer and author of three books. His articles have appeared in publications such as OGS Genealogy News, Communications Technology, The Pipeline, and Army Reserve Magazine, and have been highlighted on numerous Internet websites. The retired Army Chief Warrant Officer is a former instructor at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He is a member of the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) and the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE).
Welcome, Joe, and thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
1. When and why did you begin writing?
Well, Kaye, first let me say thank you for inviting me for this interview. It’s always a pleasure to share some thoughts about writing and literature.
I've been writing, off and on, for most of my life, though I didn't actually publish anything until about 1997. My first "book", so to speak, was written and illustrated when I was about seven years old. At the time, dinosaurs were my favorite subject, and I dreamed about someday becoming a paleontologist or an archaeologist. So, I decided to write a dinosaur book, with my own illustrations, which was great, because I loved to draw too. I didn't publish that little gem, but thanks to my mom, I still have the original at home. Now that publish-on-demand (POD) technology is available, who knows? Maybe I’ll bring back my debut effort, and publish it as a children’s book.
2. What inspired you to write your first book?
The inspiration for writing my first genealogy book was due to a fascination with history. My family roots are in Germany, and we still have relatives in the old country. Some years back, we received a package in the mail from a cousin, which contained a handwritten history of my maternal grandmother's family. The whole booklet was written in German, but the amazing thing was that it contained copies of birth records dating to the 1700's. Up until then, I hadn't given much thought to my lineage. But, after looking through that booklet, I was blown away, reading the names of ancestors who lived hundreds of years ago, and contributed to the person I am today. After seeing all of that, I was hooked on tracing my roots, and documenting my research. The two genealogy books are the fruit of that effort.
3. How did you approach writing your first book?
Well, after years of researching and collecting data, (which included transcribing and translating both German and Latin text) I had all of this stuff in hard copy, as well as electronic files in several different programs. I decided that it was time to arrange all of it into a logical manner – a timeline of events and individuals. The book writing process began…
My approach to writing is mostly intuitive. In other words, I've developed my own way of doing things to take an idea and put it into print. While I've looked at other books to get some general bearing on layout and format, essentially I don't try to work within the confines of any rigid writing rules. I pretty much do as I please, and if I'm happy with the result, then I've accomplished what I set out to do. I have relied on a sound background in education (English Composition was always a favorite class) and my experience in professional writing as the basis for my book efforts, having written plenty of reports and plans for the military over the years, and having published an assortment of articles on genealogy, military history and leadership.
4. Who or what influenced your writing?
I don't know that I can point to any one individual as being an influence on how I write. In general, I like science fiction, and I’m a big fan of military history writing. For example, I just recently finished, 1776, by David McCullough…great book, and exceptionally well written. He's got a fine writing style, but it's his. I don't consciously try to follow anyone's example. I tend to write about what I like, and things that make me laugh.
5. Why do you continue to write?
Well, I enjoy writing so much, there's no reason why I’d want to stop. I have a lot of fun with the things I work on, especially the Juggin Joe humor. Rarely do I think of writing as a chore – maybe there's a little bit of an idea block now and then, and sometimes that's a challenge – but I find writing is enjoyable. When I’m "in the zone" on a subject, I feel really driven to keep working it, to develop the piece to its full potential…sometimes there's just not enough time in a day to do it all.
6. What do you hope to accomplish through your writing?
That depends on the material. With something like the fiction of Juggin Joe, I’m looking to make people laugh and give them a humorous distraction from the stress of everyday life. If they take more away from the book than just a smile, that's an added bonus. That's what I think is one of the great things about Juggin Joe – the story can be as important or meaningless as it needs to be, depending on the person who is reading it. With my genealogy books, or articles on leadership and military subject matter, my focus is mainly on education and information. The fiction writing is more geared toward entertainment, while the factual writing is more reflective. Still, I think both can be equally thought provoking.
When I started writing, The Legend of Juggin Joe, I believed that I would be breaking new literary ground in contemporary fiction. I'm not saying that to boast, but I knew that I was creating something completely unique and atypical, as far as mainstream writing was concerned. I just haven't seen, nor am I aware of, any book written like it. For those who are new to the tale, I’d like to share the "hook" of Juggin Joe: the entire dialogue - and I'm talking cover-to-cover - is written in a mountain-type dialect that I call "country-speak". I think this writing approach is unconventionally fresh, and the story has the ability to let readers experience a wide range of feelings as it unfolds. As you turn the pages, you'll feel joy, sadness, amazement, shock, anger, bewilderment – you name it – the story is a roller-coaster ride of emotions. That's what I aimed for in this particular book, so I'm hoping that others see Juggin Joe as something completely novel and interesting.
7. What has been your experience as a published writer?
Hmmm. That's a pretty open-ended question. I'd say, in general, my experiences have been very good. I've met plenty of interesting people along the way. Writing is a continuous learning process, so for me, it's continually evolving. There's a certain excitement when people read your articles or books, and offer thoughtful, constructive comments. Most of the time, it’s very satisfying and personally rewarding. Reviews are quite interesting, because they can run the gamut, from incredible to horrible. For example, my writing style has been referred to in the same vein as Mark Twain; the love story in Juggin Joe has been called something of a modern day Romeo & Juliet; Joe's persona has been equated to that of Forest Gump; and I’ve been told by many that the book would be fantastic as a movie…that's pretty heady stuff, and great to hear…and then, you might read that someone thinks the book is no good. So, part of my experience has also been to recognize that if you’re going to publish, you need to develop a thick skin if you don't have one already.
8. How do you promote your book(s)?
As you can imagine, for self-published authors, promoting your writing is a big challenge. Obviously, there is no traditional publishing house backing you, and working to get your writing out to the public. And, because there are literally tens of thousands of books being published each year, it’s that much more difficult to be heard above the rest. That’s the hard part.
But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. For me, it's cyberspace. The Internet is one of the greatest technology advances of the 20th century, and it works wonders getting writers out to the world. Take this interview with you, for example. Thanks to the web, this conversation is available to potentially millions of readers, and some of them may be interested enough in what I have to say, that they'll give my books a chance. So, while I lack a traditional publisher, I’m keying off of this new cyber tool to fuel my literary aspirations. That's awesome!
Aside from the book listings and chapter previews on my Lulu Storefront, at www.lulu.com/yakel, I'm on Amazon.com. I’m also trying, for the first time, a small book cover advertisement on www.myshelf.com, which will be listed in April. In addition, I've found that other Internet sources, like Froogle, and a variety of free or low-cost press release and article websites, like EzineArticles and PRWeb, also help to circulate interest in my writing. I also post book flyers in coffee shops, and other public gathering places, to promote the local flavor of my writing, and I’m in a handful of brick-and-mortar book stores around Capitaland, NY. Of course, book reviews and author interviews like this one help to build interest as well. Truth be told, promotion is a constant struggle – it’s not my favorite thing – but it comes with the territory of being a "one-man show"…not that I wouldn’t entertain the notion of distributing Juggin Joe with a traditional publishing house, or consider a movie deal or some other media outlet for the book, but for now, I’m doing things this way, because it’s the road I’ve chosen to take with my writing pursuits.
9. What advice would you like to share with other writers?
Find your own niche or specialty, and write about the things that excite you; the things that you find personally satisfying; the things that you have some expertise in. Look for ways to express yourself in your own way – sure, there are writing rules and etiquette, but Juggin Joe is my proof-positive that the rules can be bent…Sweet Jesus an' Cornbread! Why not bend the dadblame rules tah yer own satisfaction? Dare tah be diff'rent! I've said muh piece, an' ther jes' ain't no more tah say on it!
10. Any other comments you would like to add?
Sure. I'd like to encourage people to support their local authors, by visiting their libraries, independent book stores, and the larger chain stores. Take a look at the local author section. Chances are, there's a variety of reading selections in almost every genre. Don't see a local author's book on the shelf? Tell the proprietor to stock it! Give your homegrown writers an opportunity to satisfy the reader in you. For about the same cost as a movie ticket, you can probably pick up a great read written by someone in your own community, and you might even grab an autographed copy to boot!
Thanks again Kaye. It was great talking with you.
Thank you, Joe!
Interviewer: Kaye Trout - March 29, 2006 - Copyright