Interview with David Gates, author of “924 Miles: Thoughts on Finding God and Living a Meaningful Life”

  What inspires you to write?

I have learned over the years that life is always trying to teach us something. There are lessons to be learned all around us. I hope that through my experiences, whether they are successes or failures, someone else might learn from them. Also, life is about connecting with the people around us, and writing is a way for me to connect with my readers.

How often do you write?

I aim to write at least three days a week. There was a time where I wrote daily, but I learned that good stories are not forced. They have to be inspired. I usually split my sessions between blog post and making headway on my next manuscript.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

A year ago, I wrote at 5:30AM, every morning. I would wake up, make coffee, and aim to complete a five hundred word session. Most of those sessions were thrown out. However, I did find it good practice and it helped me become more consistent with my writing.

How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?

When I first started writing, I thought each session had to be well crafted and polished. So, when I first started writing, I rarely completed a session. Now it is easy. The first draft is just for generating ideas and getting a start.

Do you think writers have a normal life like others?

I think that most writers do have normal lives. I know I do. I have three children, a full-time job, and a to-do list that is never done. A lot of people think that once you publish a book, things become easy. My friends thought I sat around in my boxers, ate cereal, and pecked away at the keys each day. That’s not it at all. I work, raise my children, and write as often as I have the time.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I read as often as I can. I absolutely love anything by Donald Miller. His work inspired me to start writing more seriously.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I had to learn that the first draft is never be the final draft. I spent entirely too much time trying to polish each chapter before starting a new chapter. Now, with my new book, I wrote the book in its entirety. Then I edited it half a dozen times prior to sending it to my editor, and after receiving the edited copy, spent another month or two making corrections and adjustments. If you rush your work, it will come across that way to the reader. Writing requires patience.

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

I generally proofread my work and make adjustments throughout the writing process. After completing a work, I edit again. However, I have learned the importance of professional editing. My first publication, I edited myself. My second, I used professional editing services. The difference between the two manuscripts was night and day.

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?

Speaking specifically of a non-fiction work, there was to be a connection between the author and reader. When I send out review copies of my work, I always ask that the reader let me know if they feel connected to me through reading my work. If they do not, then I reexamine my writing.

How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?

People often have a misconception of what being an author means. It is not that glamorous. If nobody shows up to a book signing, it does not mean you are a terrible author. If a thousand people show up, it does not make you a professional. I have learned that the payoff in writing for me is through the letters I get from readers. It is when people say that something I wrote changed their perspective on a major issue. That is what matters to me.

Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?

Yes. As I said before, making a connection with the reader is important. Just as I try to connect with my readers through what I write, I also want the author/reader experience to be personal. I want them to buy my next book because they see that the writing is genuine. I want them to see that I am genuine.

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

It is not going to be easy starting out. There is a lot of work without reward. You have to believe in your work before anyone else is going to believe in it. So at what point are you a real writer? When you decided that you are. If you do not believe you are a writer, you will never convince someone else that you are.

Which book inspired you to begin writing?

Blue like Jazz by Donald Miller. This is the book that changed everything for me. I connected with Donald Miller through his words. I felt like I was there, in the book, experiencing the same things he was experiencing. It kind of set the standard for books for me.

Are there any books that you are currently reading and why?

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. I have spent the last season of my life doing too many things. I juggled jobs, writing, parenting, and volunteer work. I wanted to feel like I was making a difference. I was reach for the perfect life. Recently I learned that the big moments in life, the moments that truly matter, usually are not big at all. It is the time we spend with the people we love that makes life good. It is about being present with those people rather than trying to make everything perfect.

If given the opportunity to do it all over again, would you change anything in your books?

I would change how impatient I was to publish my first book. I skipped over a lot of importance steps in the process. The book tells a good story, but it could have been polished better. My new book, which is awaiting production, is the product of patience and learning that a book takes time.

People believe that being a published author is glamorous, is that true?

It has its moments. Mostly it is hard work with reward scattered throughout. Every now again I hear from a reader that has truly gained something from reading my books. That makes it worth it to me. If you are writing for money or fame, there are better avenues to obtain both. If you are writing for the love of writing and to connect with people, then its worth the effort.

Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?

If it is true, I would like to meet that author. I typically go through a half dozen drafts prior to sending my manuscript to my editor. After editing, I have to run through the manuscript a couple more times before it is ready for the publisher.

If you were to rate your best work, how would you rate it?

My newest work, which is still waiting for the production phase, is solid writing. My latest blog post are solid as well. My earlier work was the work of a aspiring writer. I did not understand the rules of writing non-fiction, or much about the publishing process. I have learned most of what I know now from my editor, and from reading other books that I consider good reads.

Subscribe to our book recommendations