Today’s Faith Song is a duet with guest Eddie Jones. Eddie claims he can’t carry a tune, so we’ll settle for hand-clapping and foot-stomping in the “joyful noise” pew. 🙂
I met Eddie at the 2011 Montrose Christian Writers Conference. Couldn’t help but love the humor-filled, down-to-earth way he lives out his passion for the Lord and for the written word.
Eddie is the author of eleven books and over 100 articles. He also serves as Acquisition Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He is a three-time winner of the Delaware Christian Writers’ Conference, and his YA novel, The Curse of Captain LaFoote, won the 2012 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award and 2011 Selah Award in Young Adult Fiction. He is also a writing instructor and cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries. His “He Said, She Said” devotional column appears on ChristianDevotions.US (not “dot com”). His humorous romantic suspense, Bahama Breeze, remains a “blessed seller.” When he’s not writing or teaching at writers’ conferences, Eddie can be found surfing in Costa Rica or some other tropical locale.
Now, try to imagine Eddie answering the following questions with a grin and a charming slightly-southern accent:
Eddie, Dead Man’s Hand, your new book with Zondervan, is scheduled for release October 23. Congratulations! Tell us about it.
First, it’s a fun, fast read aimed for middle school boys, but we’re also getting nice reviews on Goodreads from teachers and mothers. My aim is to give boys a book they can enjoy, one that taps into today’s fascination with the occult. This is the first book in the Caden Chronicles Series, and each story involves one element of the supernatural. Book One explores the concept of ghosts, spirits and what happens to our souls when we die.
Ghosts? Spirits? Isn’t Zonderkidz a Christian publisher?
Yes. The paranormal aspect might be surprising, but I added it because I want parents and youth to struggle with eternal questions. We’ve created such a culture of blood-letting through books and movies involving vampires, zombies and survival contests, that the reality of death doesn’t carry the sting it once did.
In high school my youngest son lost several friends to driving accidents. When another friend recently died, we asked how he felt and he replied, “I’m numb to it.” I fear that’s what we’re doing with our youth: desensitizing them to the horrors of death. In Dead Man’s Hand, Nick and his family discuss spirits and ghosts and the afterlife because I think it’s important for teens to wrestle with these questions before they’re tossed from a car and found dead on a slab of wet pavement.
Clearly you’re passionate about getting boys interested in books, Eddie. Why do you feel it’s so important to get boys reading fiction at an early age?
I fear we’re on the verge of losing the male reader. I don’t mean men and boys won’t learn to read: they will. But the percentage of males who read for leisure continues to shrink and this could be devastating for our country.
Why? Because reading forces the mind to create. With video the scene and characters are received passively by the brain. There is very little interaction; it’s all virtual stimulation, which is different from creation. So in one sense the allure of visual gratification is robbing future generations of our ability to solve problems.
I believe Americans only possess one true gift: creativity. Our Yankee ingenuity is a gift from God. If we lose male readers and fail to develop the creative connections necessary for the brain to conceive of alternatives when faced with unanticipated problems, then we will lose our position as the world’s leader.
What advice would you offer to parents to get their children interested in reading at a young age?
If your child shows any interest in reading, reward the activity with trips to book fairs. But you can create an anti-reading environment if you push too hard. An alternative for boys is reading comic books, graphic novels, or simply cartoon books.
You’ve spent the last few years dedicating yourself to helping others get published. Tell us a little about your publishing company and what motivated you to take on such a huge endeavor.
We started the publishing arm to publish devotional compilations for Christian Devotions Ministries. There is a big jump from unpublished author to “three-book contract” author and we wanted to serve as a stepping-stone for those writers. We currently have forty authors under contract, have published over thirty books and distribute around four thousand dollars a month in royalty checks.
I get jazzed when one of our books launches or sells well. I know what it feels like to see your book growing legs and garnering positive reviews, so I get excited for our authors. Sometimes I think that’s how God feels when we’re doing the thing He’s called us to do. When we’re in our zone, doing the thing we love, we feel His joy.
But the only reason I’m able to publish books and write full time is because four years ago I told God I’d work for Him full time. I may not make a lot of money, but he says there’s plenty of work and not enough laborers, so to me, that meant job security. I took a blank sheet of paper and signed it one day during my devotions and said, ‘Okay, God, I’ll do whatever it is you ask me to do, because I’m tired of working for other people. I want to work for You.’
Wow! My readers will wonder if I wrote that section myself! I left my full-time career five years ago to fulfill an exciting covenant with the Lord: I write what he assigns me, and he uses my work to make that “eternal” impact you mentioned earlier. I can’t say I’m making money from writing, but I haven’t missed a meal yet!
Okay, I’m going to be really nosey now. You’ve been married a long time. How did you and your wife meet?
I met my wife at a stoplight in West Palm Beach, Florida. She was in the backseat of the car behind me and my buddy. The driver honked and I crawled out the passenger window, a brown Pinto. The door didn’t work so it looked like I was a NASCAR driver getting out on pit road. The car behind us was full of girls from Meredith College. They asked where I went to college and I told them I went to Meredith, too. “It’s a girl’s school, you dork,” one of them said. I told them I was taking Old Testament that semester, can’t remember the professor’s name now, and one of the girls yelled, “Hey! You’re in my class!” I explained we’d been surfing all day and didn’t have a place to stay and needed to hose off and asked if we could borrow their showers. They led us back to their hotel, my buddy and I washed off and left.
Driving home a week later we came upon the same car in the slow lane of I-95. The girls were afraid we’d fall asleep driving home, so they agreed to put one girl in our car to keep us company. She’d get in, tell her life story and at the end of the hour, another would get in the car. Our last passenger was this cute girl wearing a funny Gilligan hat. She never said a word, not for the whole hour. We put her out, the girls drove off and I finally got home, exhausted. The next week I invited that shy girl to a Warren Zevon concert. Four years later, I married her.
People have been known to assume your wife is Cindy Sproles. After all, “He Said, She Said” sounds like something a married couple might co-write.
No, my wife is Bennie Carroll Jones. Cindy Sproles and I don’t even live in the same state!
Then how did your collaborative ministry, Christian Devotions, get started?
Cindy and I started the ministry years ago to help authors publish their devotions. We’d go to writers’ conferences and on the last day find all these writers in tears because no one wanted their work. Cindy had been writing devotions every day for two years, partly as a commitment to God and partly because of something Alton Gansky said at a Blue Ridge Conference Cindy and I both attended. The odd thing was, Cindy and I didn’t know each other at that first conference but we both wrote down Al’s words. It was like God spoke to each of us separately to work together.
I had a web business and knew how to build web sites so I put up a home page, ChristianDevotions.US, and invited contributing writers. We figured we could at least give new writers a byline, even if it was only on the web. For months Cindy and I were the only writers on the site, then slowly God grew the readership. Now we have:
- Thousands of readers
- A ton of subscribers who get the devotions daily in their email
- Subscribers who get the daily devotion on their Kindle e-Reader (99 cents a month)
- Teen ministry on iBeGat.com
- Kids’ web site, DevoKids.com
- InspireAFire.com, our mission-oriented website
- Radio ministry
- Prayer team
- Finances ministry
- And of course the book publishing
We didn’t set out with a marketing plan to do what we’re doing. We simply responded to a need in the marketplace, walked the mountain with God and asked how we could help.
You’ve answered my nosey questions. Now, what’s one thing you wish I wouldn’t ask you? Pretend I asked you that question.
How I became a writer. I started my sophomore year of high school when I told my English teacher I wanted to write for Cat Talk, Millbrook High School’s newspaper. Mrs. Hough said, “Eddie, you can’t spell and you’re a terrible grammarian.” But I wrote a couple of articles, and she seemed to like the way I could put words together, so I won a spot on staff. My senior year Mrs. Pollard begged me not to major in English. In fact, she was shocked I would even consider going to college because I’d never be accepted. She was right. NC State rejected my application.
A few days later I made an appointment with the admissions office. The day of my interview I wore a pair of red and white checkered polyester pants my mom made me, a white shirt and a red tie. State admitted me into Industrial Arts, which I thought would be pretty cool since I thought Industrial Arts meant I’d get to paint buildings. I flunked English 101 twice before passing with a D. I graduated from N.C. State four years later with a degree in English/Journalism and four years of writing experience for the Technician. I’m still a lousy proof-editor but I learned long ago storytelling trumps grammar.
You certainly overcame your (red and white polyester) checkered past, Eddie. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!) Among other things, you’ve freelanced writing newspaper columns on boating for the last few decades.
The boating column began in the late eighties when an editor read a couple of humorous essays I’d written about trying to sail a boat with my wife. Turned out that someone on the staff had mistakenly sold one ad too many for the next issue, so the publication was in need of some copy to balance out that page. I didn’t know this at the time. I thought he was genuinely impressed with my writing abilities. I’ve been told I still suffer from this delusion.
The editor told me my column needed a catchy name. I purchased a few sailing publications and knew all boating columnists were subject matter experts. The only thing I was an expert on was running off the boat ramp, running aground on clearly marked shoals and running into the dock. I decided I would become an expert on making the best of tough times, so Hard Aground was an appropriate column title. I eventually collected the columns into two books, Hard Aground and Hard Aground… Again.
When you run aground in a boat – or in life – you have two choices. You can cuss and complain or you can grab a good book, kick back and wait for the tide to float you off. I usually wait for the tide.
Besides the upcoming Caden Chronicles Series, what are your dreams for your writing future?
Each day I walk around my yard reciting the Lord’s Prayer. This is my conversational time with God. Part of that prayer time is me putting on the armor of God. When I’m about halfway fitted out I say, “Lord place across my chest your breastplate of righteousness that my thoughts may be pure, honorable and good and my dreams secure: my dreams of sailing around the Caribbean, writing a best selling novel and surfing reef breaks.”
Eddie, when the Lord assigned me to publish my hymn collection Songs for the Lord as a Kindle book, I dug out material you presented at Montrose Christian Writers Conference. You advised writers to consider e-books as a way to self-publish small works and books with a niche audience. You’ve taken your own advice, publishing helpful e-booklets for writers, for example. Do you have any other advice for aspiring authors?
- Write devotions, don’t focus on the praise, book sales and reviews.
- Forget about trying to find an agent and editor. Once you’re successful, they’ll find you.
- Explore the wounds in your life and minister to others through your writing. If God allowed you to be hurt, you can speak to that with authority. The rest of us cannot.
- Ask yourself where your passions lie. I love surfing. If I could do anything, be anywhere, I’d be in a hut on a beach surfing a point break alone. I love playing and hate work. This is reflected in the types of books I write. I love pulling for the underdog, this comes out in the ministry God gave me.
- Only you can write the stories God dropped in your lap and if you do not, they will die.
Where can we find out more about you?
Please come find me on www.Eddiejones.org.