JOE EVENER: I FOLLOWED MY DREAM OF BECOMING A TEACHER
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Every journalist enjoys when he receives interesting answers to his question. I guaranty that! My Q&A with authors are very common, because the main idea is to present the writer and his works. I always add 3-4 questions, which are specially prepared for the individual, who must answer them. Often the answers are short or type of “10 minutes must done job”. This is why my interview introduction is quite compact.
I will not explain why Joe Evener deserved better presentation before you start to read his interview. You will see by yourself. Our theme will be his first book The Heart of Seras: Journey to Seras. The novel was very well received with only five stars reviews in Amazon!
– Joe, What is your first book Journey to Seras about?
– My book, The Heart of Seras: Journey to Seras is book one in a six part fantasy story. Julie Ayers is a normal fifteen year old living in the quiet town of Sunset, Ohio. Her world is turned upside down by the revelation that she is the savior of a medieval dimension. She must learn to balance life on Earth and start training for a battle against evil she knows nothing about. Her mentor, Marcus Campbell, a warrior from that dimension disguised as her high school English teacher. It was Marcus’s job to find Julie, take her to Seras and train her, all while keeping the fact that he has a dark past a secret.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– I started writing my book series in 2005 during my first year of college (I was 41 years old at the time), after being inspired by a freshman writing class which had the first three books of Harry Potter as textbooks, and Classical Mythology 101. The combination of the two classes fueled the flames of a couple of stories I had locked away in my mind. While I have always had a vivid imagination, I just had to put the idea I had to paper. I got inspired to the point that I could not not write this story. I started to put that together with my love of books, television and movies like Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Highlander, The Hobbit and many others. I came up with an idea in which a normal teenage girl is whisked away into a medieval time by a trusted teacher who has a secret and is really a warrior with an even darker secret. Early on I joked that if you could picture Buffy the Vampire Slayer being in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, you would get a good idea of what I was putting together. Julie is the combination of Buffy, and the experiences I have had coaching girls over the past twenty years. Marcus Campbell is in many ways Giles (BtVS)/Duncan MacLeod (Highlander) on Earth, and Maximus Meridius (Gladiator)/Angel/Wolverine in Seras.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– The biggest challenge has been and is time management. I have to balance writing with my other passions: family, coaching, and teaching. Plus, I type really slow, so getting my ideas from my head to paper to the laptop takes a long time. Finding time to sit down and write continuously is difficult. As a second year teacher, I spend a lot of my time making lesson plans and grading papers. I try to work in an hour or so of writing every night, even if it’s just a paragraph or two.
– Tell us something more about your main character Julie Ayers? Is she close to someone from your real life?
– Julie Ayers starts her journey as a happy-go-lucky fifteen year old girl. She is a freshman in the small town of Sunset, Ohio, based off of my hometown of Sunbury. Julie loves her family very much, and she is loved by others just as equally. She has an infectious attitude that touches nearly everyone she comes into contact with. Julie is very athletic, and enjoys cheerleading and playing basketball. Through the series we will watch her grow from a girl into a confident young lady. She is based on four central people, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Frodo Baggins, Harry Potter, and twenty plus years of working with high school track and field girls. Throw them all in a blender, sprinkled with my imagination, and there stands Julie.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– It took me seven years to outline the entire six book series, write my first draft, edit three times (during one edit I decided to change the main character from Marcus Campbell to Julie Ayers. That took a really long time), and get published. I found the second book much easier since all of the “leg work” was done. It took me a year to finish book two.
– Who are you?
– Who I am is a complicated question. On the surface I am Joe Evener, in my second year as a 5th grade Social Studies and Language Arts Teacher at Big Walnut Intermediate School in Sunbury, Ohio. I live with my wife of thirty-two years, Bronwen, in Central Ohio. I am the father of two sons, Joey and Jacob, and grandfather of two, Jacob and Jamison. I graduated from The Ohio State University in 2009 at the age of forty-four, and earned my master’s in 2011. I have been the head coach of the Big Walnut girls’ track and field team for 21 years. Besides writing and coaching, I enjoy reading, and traveling with family and friends.
Beyond that, however, I am a dreamer. I had the dream to change my surroundings, left cushy jobs at two different major companies to go to college and follow my dream of becoming a teacher. While there, I was inspired with my early developed love of reading classics such as Treasure Island, Ivanhoe, Robin Hood, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Robinson Crusoe, and Gulliver’s Travels; and in between being a husband, father, grandfather, working part-time jobs, coaching, and going to school fulltime, I chiseled out my own fantasy novel.
– What are your writing habits?
– My writing habits are pretty basic. I jot down ideas that pop into my head. Sometimes I writing out full chapters if I can’t get to my laptop. Then during the evenings, after grading papers and making lesson plans, I sit on the couch and type away while watching television or listening to music.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of the book?
– Am I satisfied with the sales? Hm…I’m not unhappy with the sales. I would be lying if I said I didn’t dream of being a best selling author, and The Heart of Seras was being picked up for a movie deal. I have a story to tell, a very good story in my opinion. I hope that I do it justice, and that the people who pick it up to read enjoy it. The feedback I have received has been positive, and the people who have read it, have been happy. That is all I can ask.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– I use social media to promote my book. I have an author page on Facebook, and have joined many groups on there, I have a Twitter account, and I am in Yahoo groups. I have spoken to three book clubs, and have had several local signings.
– When we will see your next novel?
– I just sent out book two, The Heart of Seras: The Elders to the company that published my first book. I hope they pick it up, and start the process all over. I would love to see it released by late spring. I also have two smaller projects coming soon. One will be an anthology of works done by my Language Arts students, and the other is a work in a different genre.
– How you decide to start writing a book? Did you have some previous experience in writing?
– I didn’t have any previous writing experiences. My mom always encouraged me to read classical books. I had read Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, Treasure Island, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels and a little Shakespeare by the time I was thirteen. My best friend, Willie, my brother, David, and I were always creating some kind of story, making our own comic book superheroes/villains, and using our imaginations. I wrote my first story in 4th grade, a little story called “Super Joe” in which I was a superhero and I was protecting the President of the United States. I got a pretty good response from my classmates and the teacher, so I wrote a sequel. In 10th or 11th grade I wrote a western (I wish I still had a copy). After that I thought a lot about writing, I even penned a movie script that never got picked up, when I was in my twenties, but I usually just left the stories in my head.
– You are a track and field coach. Your personal opinion about the amazing results by Usain Bolt–huge talent, great PED or a mixture of both?
– I like to think the good in all people. Usain Bolt is an amazing talent. He is so much fun to watch, and his success is good for the sport. I hope and pray for his sake, and the sake of track and field that it is natural. Too many times our sports heroes have been tarnished. I hate seeing that happen, and I would hate to see that happen to him. Track and field is a purist sport. There is something for everyone. The Olympic Games is my favorite sporting event to watch, especially the summer games, and especially track and field. We need Usain Bolt and others like him to succeed, and be clean.
– As a wrestling coach do you think that USA could be the strongest national Olympic team if so many talents weren’t taken to football, pro-wrestling and MMA?
– That’s a great question. I don’t think pro-wrestling or MMA hurts the sport, many pro-wrestlers and MMA fighters come from the true wrestling ranks. Football is another story, to a point. The thing that holds USA back in the world level is the perception it has at the middle school and high school ranks. Add that to the current idea of wrestling is “gross” or worse to the high school student, and you have a very limited recruiting base. Then, too many times good wrestlers are chased away by bad coaching, not just bad wrestling coaches. The current state of high school sports mentality for parents is “how do I get my son/daughter a full ride scholarship?” This mindset is so dangerous, because parents force this idea on the child to only participate in one sport year round, and ignore potential success in other areas. Then other sports coaches, football, soccer, etc. pick up on this and monopolize the young athlete’s time, not allowing them to try other things. So if a boy is a average to good football player, mom, dad, and football coach convinces him to do year round activities to prepare him for football, ignoring any potential in wrestling. Then you have poor wrestling coaches, who lock into a certain way of coaching that may not suit the athlete, but won’t let the athlete expand their knowledge. Other coaches are just meatheads who don’t mind chasing away younger athletes with drill sergeant mentality, and ignore potential for future success.
– Would you compare the motivation in sports and in writing? What is the difference and where is more difficult to focus-in trainings or in creative part of literature?
– Yes, I would definitely compare the motivation in sports and writing. Preparation is everything. The great Dan Gable once said, (and I am paraphrasing) “I work until I envision my opponent in the shower, and then I work some more.” To be a good writer you must work just as hard as your contemporaries. The planning, the research, reading good works of literature, trying to write better and better. I would say focus in writing is much more difficult. In training in sports, you do have teammates, coaches and the motivation of an opponent to push you through rigorous workouts, and guide you through step-by-step instructions. In writing, it is all self-motivation. There is no one sitting beside you pushing you to write better or to not get distracted. No one is going to say, “aw, Joe, I know you can make a better sentence than that.”
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– If I could ask myself one question what would it be? That question would be, who are my heroes and why do I look up to them? My heroes range from sports and literature and beyond. In the sporting world, my heroes are Dan Gable, Alexander Karelin, Kurt Warner, and Jesse Owens. They each represent someone who rose up from humble beginnings and achieved success in their chosen field. Dan Gable, to me, is the ultimate coach. Pushing athletes beyond what they think they are capable of doing, and his intensity. Alexander Karelin was so good at wrestling that he made it an art form. I was mad…no, angry is the better word, when Rulon Gardner defeated him. Kurt Warner, is there a better sports story anywhere? It doesn’t hurt, that he played for my favorite football team, the St. Louis Rams. He never gave up, he never stopped working, and his faith in God is inspiring. Jesse Owens, being an Ohio guy, and a track and field enthusiast makes this a no-brainer, but what he accomplished in difficult times, and how he embarrassed Hitler in 1936. Wow!
Then, you have my literary heroes: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Joss Whedon. Storytellers that inspire writers for generations, and generations to come. They are the masters. I only hope to capture a smidgeon of what they did and have done, and (for Joss) what he is still doing.
Finally, Walt Disney. The ultimate dreamer. He rose from troubled times, fired, his character taken from him, and yet, look at what his vision has accomplished. A true visionary.
Take a look at his book
The Heart of Seras: Journey to Seras