Interview with Don Ake, author of “Just Make Me A Sammich”

Why did you want to write this book?

My book is a collection of my best blog posts (with a considerable amount of added material) from my Ake’s Pains blog. I started writing the blog in 2011, but at no time until October 2013 did I ever think I was writing a book.

Then I realized I had enough material for a book and the blog was very popular, so I began the arduous process of compiling and organizing the posts into a book. If you would have told be in 2011 I would be an author now, I would have laughed at you.

What is the book about?

My blog has no theme, so my book has no theme.  It is about anything and everything I consider humorous or worthy of ridicule.  There are personal stories, cultural observations, satirical social commentaries, etc.

I organized the posts by subject, so there are chapters on: relationships, celebrities, sports, economics, work, home life, and politics, etc.

People say the book is like the television show Seinfeld.  It is a book about “nothing”, but still hilarious.

What is the story behind the title and the cover?

Guys want their partners to make them sandwiches and women don’t want to make the sandwiches, unless they properly loved and respected. I find this highly amusing and it is a running joke throughout the book. The man on the cover (me) has requested a sammich in an inappropriate way, and now it is flying through the air at his head. This is all in fun.

How would you describe your sense of humor?

It is bizarre, off-the-wall and weird. My writing is unpredictable; you seldom know where I am going until there is that unexpected left-hand turn. My writing is not intended to just make you smile, but to make you literally laugh-out-loud. That’s how I engage my readers.

To whom would you compare your writing style?

I think my writing resembles a Midwestern, middle-class, David Sedaris. I am a story teller, a weird story teller. Some people say I remind them of Dave Barry, I agree but I am probably a bit weirder.

Who enjoys your humor the most?

Baby boomers like it the best because they understand the cultural references and can relate to it most. Men enjoy it because they understand where I am coming from, but women also love my writing because I am honest and try to be fair.

Are the personal stories in the book fact or fiction?

Most of the personal stories in the book are 80-90% true and are slightly “enhanced” for comedic effect. However, the most bizarre narratives are completely true, because that stuff you can’t make up. There is a story about me finding myself in the middle of a group of swingers at a comedy club. That story is too weird to add anything to.
There are a couple stories that are pure fiction, but those should be obvious. I refer to these as the “fantasy pieces”. I wondered what would happen if I ever dated Taylor Swift, so I wrote an essay about it. However, a Chinese woman recently asked me if I had actually dated her.

Where do you get the ideas for your essays?

I have an overactive, weird brain. I can see the humor in many situations and many things.  I can take something simple, rice cakes for example, and write an 800-word post about it.  And make it very humorous and entertaining.  I am a keen observer and people-watcher, so I will never run out of material.

I see the world full of humorous situations, concepts, and people.  The triggers can be personal experience or off-beat news items.  I could probably write an essay everyday if I had the time.

When do you know that a story is good?

There are times when I am writing a post that I crack myself up. I will have to stop and literally laugh out loud at what I have just written. When that happens, I know I have a winner.

Why do you write your blog, which turned into your book?

I love to write humor; it does come very naturally to me.  I want to make people laugh and to make them literally laugh out loud. That’s why my humor is outrageous and a little brash.  I do clever, but I don’t do cute.

I tried stand-up comedy for a while, years ago.  That is the toughest form public speaking there is.  Your timing and delivery must be impeccable and I never had the time to really develop my act properly.  You don’t have to worry about that when writing, although you still have to set up the jokes.

How has your writing style changed?

My formal writing training was all journalism.  You can see that style in many of the stories in the book, they resemble “funny” news articles.  When I decided to write the book, I joined some local writers’ groups and the members encouraged me to express more of my feelings in my writing.

This change has improved my writing and allowed me to connect better with my audience, and especially with women readers.  “The Wedding Chronicles” chapter in the book is all about a father writing about his feelings (in a humorous way) regarding his daughter’s wedding.  Women just loved these posts and now I have more women readers than men.

Will there be a second book?

If I take the good blog posts that did not make it into Just Make Me A Sammich, because they didn’t fit into a good category, and combine them with what I have written after the book was finalized, the second book is over 70% completed.

And as funny as Just Make Me A Sammich is, the second book will be better, just because of the changes in writing style previously mentioned.  But I still want to get this first book established and popular before even thinking about a follow-up.

What is your biggest challenge as an independent author?

When you are independent, all the marketing and promotion efforts are your responsibility. With social media and other tools, there are literally a hundred things to get done and it’s difficult to find the time to get everything done because I have a full-time job.

What is that job?

I am an economist and forecasting expert in the commercial trucking industry.  It sounds odd because this is very analytical work and the book is highly creative.  My friend says I’m unique because I’m not left-brained or right-brained, but just one huge integrated brain that can process all this information at once.

People in the trucking industry think it’s great that someone they know has written a book.  The book actually has two chapters of humorous essays on economics.  These however can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of your educational background.

What is your opinion of editors?

I hate editors, I hate them so very, very, much. The best thing about writing a blog, is there is no editor. Of course that is the worst thing also. But I had been blogging for over four years without any editor interference at all.
However, I realized I needed to hire an editor for the book. The adjustment was very difficult. Fortunately, my editor is a great person and a friend. She understood what I was trying to do, she did a great job, and it turned out very well.

What is your policy about including family and friends in your essays?

My wife is never mentioned unless she is doing something that makes her look good or makes me look stupid. The same holds true for my daughters, I will ask their permission before including them in a story.

I will put friends in my stories, but I will change their names when needed. If there is no reason to, I use their real name. My friend Bob is mentioned 22 times in the book because whenever I’m around him, weird things happen to me!

What are your personal standards when writing humor?

I attempt to be funny without being obscene or vulgar. However, it is for adults and is very culturally relevant. I tell people it is rated PG-13. It is often naughty in the same vein as Benny Hill. Again, I have culturally conservative and liberal readers, so I do have standards that I try to adhere to.

Who doesn’t appreciate your humor?

Woman who are socially progressive usually don’t find me very funny. They don’t get the jokes and take the writing far too seriously. No one should take anything I write too seriously. I write to make people laugh, not to upset them.

Is the book politically incorrect?

Yes, because life is not politically correct. It is written from the perspective of a middle-aged guy. I write things as I perceive them. I describe things as they are, not as they should be. I do not try to offend anyone and it does not disrespect any group.

What is the most challenging thing about writing a politically incorrect, humor book?

My audience is so diverse. It includes men and women, all races, all sexual orientations, and a wide range of ages. It is impossible not to offend some readers at some times, but I do make an effort to write in the least offensive way possible – and still be funny!

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