This is a very special edition of 20 Questions with author and blogger Max Ivey. Although he lost his sight at age 12, he has gone on to have a very interesting and inspiring life with a need to help others.
Please enjoy this edition of 20 Questions where we here about his interesting life, his inspiration, and his work.
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Wanting to be a writer kind of snuck up on me. I have always been a good writer. They taught us how in junior high school. I was good even then. But I went along for years not appreciating this or trying to make a living from it. It was only after I started blogging and doing other things to promote my business that I was reminded just how much I love to write.
A lady named Eve Koivula invited me to be part of an online summit. This was only two years ago. She said that in order to take part in the summit I needed to have a book or some other product. This is how I started writing my first book, Leading You Out of the Darkness Into the Light. The summit fell through, but the writing went on. And in January of last year it was live for sale on Amazon. I like to tell people that my first book came from a good friend double dog daring me to write it.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
I have no real sense for how long it has taken me. I do know that it often takes longer for me to be satisfied enough with my work to send it off to my editor than it does to do the actual writing. I am now convinced that no matter how successful you are you will always hear from the gremlins, “you’re not good enough” when you get closer and closer to sending that work out into the world.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I often get asked about my working or writing schedule. I tell them that I really should be more organized. However, I think this helps me to be more productive when I do write. I don’t tell myself I’m going to write a chapter or write for an hour. I tell myself to write for at least five minutes. I find that getting the subject or topic clear in my mind and then writing for five minutes is the best way to write for two hours. But I do write every day. It could be a blog post, ride description, an email newsletter, an online submission, etc. I also find that when I am ready to write it really doesn’t matter where I am, what distractions are about, or even whether I am sitting up or lying down.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
It’s not a quirk, but it is something different caused by the fact that I am a totally blind author. When I write, I use a screen reader. I can check what I’m writing by telling the screen reader to read something letter by letter, line by line, or sentence by sentence; but I rarely do this. I generally judge all my work by how it sounds. My last step is to let the computer read the text back to me and listen to how smoothly the words flow together. This is why I think that all writers should finish their editing by reading their work out loud. To me this is the best way to judge readability.
Q5) How are your books published?
My books are self-published on Amazon, CreateSpace, and Selz. I use three sites because they each bring something different to the sales process. Selz is much simpler to submit to, so I was able to get my book out there generating income while completing the process of submitting to the other two sites. It doesn’t have the reach of Amazon, but the author receives a higher percentage of the revenue. Then we submitted to Amazon which is the king. They have so much more traffic, but your book has to be visually appealing and meet their submission guidelines.
Even with the help of my talented editor Lorraine Reguly, (check back later this week for a 20 Questions session with Lorraine) it still took longer to do this. Finally, we submitted to Create Space so that I could offer autographed copies of my books. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many people not related to me have wanted an autographed copy. And there is more profit in them. At least that has been my experience. We used all three services because it gave us a balance of getting the book out there quickly as well as getting it on to the top services in a visually appealing marketable format.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
The ideas generally come from experiences in my own life. I am a nonfiction self-help author for lack of a better description. The idea for my latest book, It’s Not the Cookie Its the Bag, came from watching a bunch of holiday TV last year and realizing that I had as much as if not more to share about losing weight and keeping it off as the people running those ads about diets, fitness centers, exercise equipment, etc.
The title came from the first chapter I wrote where I talk about its not what we eat but the quantity and a lot of the problems with portion size and quantity come from the packages the food comes in. This is different than my first book in that with Leading You Out of the Darkness, I wrote the book and then tried to come up with a good title. People think this title is so much stronger. I’m hoping that picking a title and creating an informal chapter structure before starting the writing will result in a stronger more financially successful book this time.
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote it in the summer of 2014 and it was live by January of 2015. I was 48 at the time. The book could have been published so much sooner if I hadn’t had to struggle through the is it good enough, will they like it, who do you think you are gremlins.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to read pretty much anything. I’m not much of a magazine reader, but I will read over 50 books a year. I also have many favorite TV shows. I enjoy comedies a lot. I love old time radio shows. Since they were created to inspire the imagination, they are perfect for a writer especially a blind one. I love football, basketball, baseball, and hockey watching or that is listening to it not playing. And I really love to sing. I have even started to get requests to sing during radio and TV interviews. People say I sound great. More than a few people have told me that I made them cry or gave them chills. I just love doing it. And I get a real charge when I can help someone realize what their passion is and how to go after it.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
If I had to pick one, it would be The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is a complete book with complex characters who grow throughout the story. It has rich, vivid descriptions. It has good and evil and even though the forces of good win out their world isn’t a perfect happily ever after place when they return home to it. There are many great series of books such as The Hunger Games, the Twilight series, the Stephanie Plum series, and J. D. Robb’s excellent series of future based detective thrillers featuring the detective Eve Dallas. When I find out there is a new Eve Dallas I can’t wait to download it and sit up all night listening to it.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by their reaction. My first business and primary income comes from helping people sell amusement equipment. Most of my family is in this business. However, when I write about it or even when I make a sale; it’s like it’s no big deal to them. But when I write a post about something that happened to me and how it could inspire others to take action they are excited.
They were impressed and thrilled with my first book, even when they found out that it cost me money to get it edited, formatted, and available for sale. Most of my friends and clients in the amusement industry look forward more to my posts on the blind blogger than they do those on the midway marketplace. And my videos of me singing get even more praise and encouragement.
Many of my friends and family still don’t quite understand what I’m doing but they encourage me to keep doing it. And if they didn’t, that’s where being part of a great online community helps. I like to say that if more people knew how supportive and loving the blogosphere is more people would have a blog. If you need someone to inspire, motivate, and encourage you; then I hope you will visit my site.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That I had so many words in me. Even with an eBook you wonder if you have a big enough story inside you to justify a book. My first one ended up being 80 pages. I thought it was too small. A friend pointed out to me that as a motivational book it was perfect because it provided just enough helpful advice and exercises while still being small enough to fit inside her purse. That sold me. My second book It’s Not the Cookie… is 30,000 words and will probably be between 150 and 200 pages. Hard to believe I had it in me. And, as I started writing down stories for my memoir, I accumulated over 50000 words. I am actually worried that I may have to decide what stories to include and which ones to leave out. Who knows, there may even be two books there. That is an incredible thought for a guy who didn’t even know he wanted to write one book two years ago.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
I have a hard time with the word hate. I’ve actually been made fun of because I don’t get angry enough or hate much of anything. I feel like every experience, event, and person can teach you something if you keep an open heart and mind. That being said the one thing I could really do without is all the social media networks that you have to be on to promote your book. I don’t mind the promotion. I grew up in a family of carnival owners and like to think I have some blood from P. T. Barnum, Colonel Parker, and Justin Timberlake in me. But social media isn’t fun for me.
There are so many networks, and these sites are constantly changing. The worst offender in my opinion and that of many others is Facebook. However, as a blind computer user my frustration with them is different than that of sighted users. My problem is the constant changing of their site layout for no other reason than for the coders to justify their paychecks. I like to say it’s like living in a house where they rearrange the furniture every day. In a recent interview I told the host that if I had money to hire only one new employee and had to choose between a driver and a social media manager I’d have to just keep taking taxies and begging for rides.
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written two books so far. I’m not going to tell you that each is my baby and you don’t choose between your children. To me each was a different experience. One was written on a dare. I found out a lot about myself in the writing process. The other started by realizing that I have value and can speak to the subject of weight loss. If anything my favorite will always be the one I am working on now or that I have just finished. I’m really a forward thinking kind of person. I’m always more focused on today or tomorrow than yesterday.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
Never write anything thinking it’s routine or easy. In sports most errors come on routine plays. It was recently pointed out to me that I don’t write to my usual standards when posting on social media. A friend pointed out that this could make people wonder about the quality of my books. So, I am making a better effort to use proper punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph breaks when posting on face book and others. Always give your best effort because you never know who will be reading it. How would you feel if you found out a famous publisher didn’t sign you because of how you answered an email in reply to his assistant? You don’t always know whether or not you are speaking with famous or influential people.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
I have a group of about ten people who I trust to read my work while it is in progress. I take their suggestions seriously because they have known me for a while and earned the right to give me feedback. I also sometimes post a chapter as a guest post or rewrite a past blog post to make it a more detailed chapter. I don’t care how good you are, it helps having a few trusted people who will encourage you.
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
I’m looking for those hard-working, honest, sincere people who have a goal or dream and who are struggling to get there. I mean everyone has a dream. They don’t all tell the rest of us about them, but they have them. Often its past failures that keep them from sharing their visions with us. It can also be past failures that keep them stuck where they are. I love hearing that something i wrote inspired them to face their fears and do something brave to move forward on their journey. I’m a sucker for a happily ever after stand up and cheer kind of ending. And I want to be part of these stories. These are my favorite people the ones who are close to their goal and just need a little extra help to get there.
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
A great story has to have hardship. There has to be something to be overcome. We want the good guys to win but not too easily. This is why epics like the Dark Tower series are so compelling. I also believe characters need to grow. It’s not as much fun if the hero is fully formed as the hero. Some of the best heroes have been flawed individuals. Victor Canning talked about the immortal wound that most heroes have in their personality. And it seems like those stories that we just can’t get enough of have a large cast of characters. And the story has to have humor. We don’t want or read a story that is serious all the way through. And while it’s not critical to a story being great I love one with at least one take away. I’ve recently started using Yoda’s line about there is no big or small there just is. I remind myself of this any time I worry about how many people will read an article or watch or listen to an interview. Yes, I would put the Star Wars novels up there with any of the other great epic tales.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to run the family carnival, and I was lucky enough to do that for over a decade. I worked alongside my best friend, my dad. We probably drove over a million miles together getting the carnival from one town to another. He drove, I rode talked, listened, sang, and learned. When he died, I got off course for a while. I was so happy when I started to find new dreams. Now, I’m wanting to be a best-selling author and help the people of world become who they were meant to be. Now, I want to sell a million-dollars-worth of amusement equipment and at least one new ride a year. And then I want to be invited to share my experiences and lessons learned on national and international radio and television.
Q19) Where can we find your books?
You can find them on Selz, Amazon, and CreateSpace. But to make it easy you can go to the books page on my website. www.theblindblogger.net
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
I get all my books in audio downloads from Audible or the National Library Services for the Blind. I don’t know just how I would share an excerpt with you. I’d love to. It would be a difficult choice. But I love what Tom Sullivan said in his book Seeing lessons about how true independence only comes from interdependence. He talks about this myth of anyone being able to do it all. And he reminded me of one of my dad’s favorite sayings. He used to say a one-man band doesn’t play too loudly for too long.
About Maxwell Ivey
Maxwell Ivey is known as The Blind Blogger.
Born into a family of carnival owners in Texas, USA, Maxwell Ivey lost his sight at age 12.
Having a natural gusto for life, Max graduated college and became heavily involved in the Eagle Scouts. He also worked in the family business for years, until his dad died. Faced with his own mortality, Max made some life-altering changes.
He underwent gastric surgery and lost over 250 pounds. He started his own business, buying and selling amusement rides, and learned how to blog using software for visually-impaired people. Max then began another business: personal coaching.
He is also an author on a mission to help others become successful.