Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Mark Rawden.
Rawden is a first-time author who resides in Cheshire, CT, with his wife, Marcia. His book, I Am Mine (Good Comma, Incorporated, $14.99), was published last February and is available from Amazon. Rawden is currently concentrating his efforts on promoting the book through local channels and word-of-mouth. He is always interested in hearing reader feedback.
Reader/Amazon reviewer “tinkapuss” noted, “I enjoyed the research and synopses that went into each section of this extensive book about people's belief-systems and faith (or lack thereof) in a supernatural power. I loved the different and opposing voices and the shared humanity that came through in each chapter and each testimony…I found author Mark Rawden's sense of humour to be gentle, enjoyable and a really nice addition and link between each section. I truly couldn't put it down because I wanted to read what the next person had to say.”
From the publisher:
How do you want to be defined? By your job, your heritage, or your social status? What if you were defined by your family and friends? Would that be an appropriate depiction of who you truly are? Or would you want someone to dig deeper if they want to truly know you? Many people choose to avoid artificial labels and want to be defined by their beliefs. They want their faith to be what they see in the mirror. They want their ideals to be on display for all to see. I Am Mine provides a podium for these people to share their stories of who they are, and how they've obtained this identity. We may not all agree with each other, and these disagreements may turn violent and may never reach a conclusion. But that's simply because so many of us hold our beliefs above all other aspects of our lives. We are our ideals, not our 9-5 jobs. We are our beliefs, not our bank account levels. And while we respect each other's beliefs, and each other's personal testimonies, we know that nothing can touch our own. While some of us may be able to identify with one another, and may even pray together, we are still separate. You are yours. And I Am Mine.
Now, Mark Rawden shares what is his – and what is ours…
1) What first inspired you to write I AM MINE – and what is the significance of the title?
No one thing inspired me to write I Am Mine. The moment when I decided to dive into this project involved a violent collision of factors that seemed to hit me all at once, with one collective knockout blow.
I believe it was 2007. One night after work I sat down in my office chair and I looked at my life and wondered about its purpose and its value. I hated my job, hated where I lived, and I couldn’t identify any true value that I was adding to society. A rather harsh assessment for someone who rated as a middle class American, was a volunteer soccer coach, had a good education and had no criminal background, but that’s how I felt at the time.
As I thought for a few minutes about how I could improve my life and pull myself out of the rut that I fell into, I suddenly felt a strong pull towards spirituality. I wanted to know why I was an ignorant, aloof agnostic while it seemed like everyone else had some sort of passionate view on religion. Why was I different, and how did these people come to their beliefs while I struggled to even begin to formulate a concrete thought on the topic? Right then and there I decided to write the book.
2) Faith can be a divisive topic. Why broach it? Also, how do you feel that this book can be used to bring people together even with the understanding that we are all separate?
True, faith is very divisive. I understood this before even writing my first page. That view was validated by many of the responses that I received from potential contributors to the book. When approached via email or instant message to participate, some people couldn’t comply with the request due to the involvement of other faiths and beliefs.
Conversely, many others loved the idea and enjoyed being a part of a communal effort. I hope that most readers understand that I’m not comparing the different views, and no sect is considered to be bad or good. I’m not here to judge, just provide the forum for all to open what I hope will be an ongoing discussion that features understanding, patience, and acceptance. In my opinion, simply understanding that we’ve all been on long, difficult journeys to reach our current perspectives should be enough common ground for us all to willingly accept one another.
3) Tell us about the unique structure of the book. How do you think this enhances the overall reading experience?
I didn’t think that the book could be told through one continuous thought. It wasn’t going to be similar to a long, built-up story with a protagonist and an eventual climax and conclusion. I wanted to feature as many testimonies as possible, but also educate and entertain the reader through my own writing. Plus, I felt that my writing would serve as a break of sorts from the testimonies so that the format wouldn’t grow stale. The reader can read a chapter that I wrote, then receive a high level lesson about a particular faith community, and then read their related testimonies. While there is a format, it strays from the traditional format a book would use.
4) Publishing/marketing a book can be a daunting task. What have been the greatest challenges and rewards of this experience – and what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Since this was my first book, I didn’t have a clue about the publishing process. I was hit so hard with the idea that I ran with it before I even contemplated public interest and potential publishers. I just wanted to write the book and then deal with publishing it later.
Once I finished, I started Googling for potential publishers and started sending my manuscript, query letter, etc both in hard and soft copy formats. I received mostly rejections, but I also had 2-3 possibilities fall through for a variety of reasons. One of which was highlighted by the owner of the publishing company falling ill, and thus they had to cancel any plans of publishing my book!
Regarding advice, I’d say the biggest advice I can give is to seek out possible literary agents first. I reached out to a few agents AFTER submitting to publishers, and that was apparently incorrect since most if not all publishers do not accept re-submissions. So an agent would have been wasting his/her time by reaching out to them on your behalf. I had one agent very interested in my book, but she couldn’t help me because I already sent it out to so many publishers! Seems like a dumb, rookie mistake, and unfortunately, it was.
Also, manuscript submissions can be expensive, especially when you total up all final expenses and particularly if you had to submit full manuscripts like I did. Staples enjoyed my business to say the least.
Additionally I would recommend finding out what publishers and agents are out there for your genre, and what their submission requirements are before you even write the book. In some instances they only want the first chapter, or just a query letter. You may want to start submitting before you even write the book, just to try and gauge market interest and potentially look in an agent and/or publisher.
5) You were once an Examiner. What do you recall of this experience and how has it influenced your writing endeavors?
I loved writing for the Examiner, but I simply didn’t have enough time to write as often as I wanted to in order to be a valuable contributor to the Examiner brand.
I wrote about sports and unsurprisingly, my articles produced quite a few passionate responses. I think the responses helped me to develop a thicker skin and learn to stay true to my beliefs and maintain confidence in my writing ability. The positive feedback often served as fuel for the next article, and at times showed that not all sports fans are insecure crybabies ;)
With thanks to Mark Rawden for his generosity of time and thought.