Monday, July 23, 2018

Indie Author Interview: John Egenes

Indie Author Interview with John Egenes - Author of the Travel Adventure Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America.

John Egenes has been a musician, a saddlemaker, a dog catcher, a cab driver, and a hobo, among other things. He travels his life as a highway, viewing it through a windshield full of squashed bugs. These days he makes his home in New Zealand.

Interview with John Egenes

Author John Egenes
Author John Egenes
Alan Kealey (Indie Author News): What is your (writing) background?
John Egenes: I’m mostly a songwriter but have written in various genres that are mostly short-form things like blogs, poems, academic book chapters and conference papers. ‘Man & Horse’ is the first long form thing I’ve written, except of course for my doctoral thesis.

Who are your favorite writers, your favorite books, and who or what are your writing influences?
This question is always a tough one to answer because there are so many writers and books that I love. I’m partial to those who can carry me along with their prose, no matter what the storyline is like; writers like Tim Winton, Ivan Doig, Leif Enger, Mark Helprin, Jane Smiley, Annie Proulx. And great storytellers like Steinbeck and Kerouac, and others like Neal Stephenson, David Brin, Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Patrick deWitt… the list goes on and on.

"I like to write because I’m a fanatic reader."

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
(laughs) That’s a loaded question. It could mean that either I wanted to write for a living, or that I simply wanted to write. The latter is true, though making a living at it seems to be more of an option these days. I’ve liked writing things since I was old enough to write… But moreso, since I was old enough to read. I like to write because I’m a fanatic reader. And I don’t think there’s such a thing as a good writer who doesn’t read a lot. Reading is the real key. A person who doesn’t read will have nothing to say.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Hmmm... the first entire story would have been when I was about seven or eight years old. I wrote a story about two young boys who run away from home and hitchhike to the ocean. The story wasn’t located in any specific place. All I knew was that the ocean was far away, and they hitchhiked to it. I think that’s about as far as I got with it.

"I’ve learned that you should just sit down and start writing as many times per week as you can."

Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?

I write when the muse hits me. I don’t have a real writing routine, but I try to write a little bit every day if I can, even if it’s just a few sentences or some rough ideas. I tend to write late at night. I often look at the clock to see that it’s suddenly four thirty in the morning and that I’ve lost yet another night’s sleep. I’m a songwriter, and songs come in shorter spurts, so I’ve learned that you should just sit down and start writing as many times per week as you can. It gets you in the groove and exercises that part of the brain. I use a pencil and paper to write songs, but I do use the computer for writing books and such.

Please, describe your desk/workplace.
A pile of junk scattered about the desk. Not neat at all. Wires from various music and computer gadgetry snaking all around. Guitar picks and piles of CDs, sheet music and manuscript paper. A room packed with 30-odd string instruments on their stands. Guitars, banjos, mandolins, steel guitars, fiddles, autoharps, musical saws, you name it. Microphones and amps, computers and hard drives, printers and piles of old scratched vinyl records. Shelves full of books next to me, for casual reading and for reference. And no music is playing. I like it silent. There is seemingly no rhyme nor reason to my methodology, but it’s there, hidden beneath the piles of paper, photographs, and used coffee cups.

What do you find easiest about writing? What the hardest?
I write my blog in spurts, and the easiest things are short pieces on subjects I’m interested in. Everything from capitalism and democracy to space travel and digital culture. Sometimes I write about my days as a saddlemaker. Sometimes it’s cowboy poetry. I am a university lecturer in music, and my main area of research is in digital culture and ecosystems. So, I write about that a lot, too.

"[...] it is truly rewarding to receive their feedback and to hear their own stories"

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I have been very pleasantly surprised at the reactions to ‘Man & Horse’, and how it seems to have touched people on so many different levels. I have no interest in being famous, so I don’t really care how well known my work is. But for those who do discover it, it is truly rewarding to receive their feedback and to hear their own stories about how the ride affected them, and especially to how they appreciate and love my horse, Gizmo. I’ve never felt he received the recognition he deserved, and now it seems as though he’s finally getting it, and I’m thankful.

John, please tell us a little about your Travel Adventure Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America.
The book is a memoir that describes a seven month journey I took with my young horse, Gizmo, back in 1974. We crossed the United States, from ocean to ocean, starting in California and finishing in Virginia. We crossed eleven states and traveled forty-four hundred miles. The book is a recollection, a reflective look back at a different time, an America that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a description of our travels together, but it’s really about a young man coming to terms with himself, and how a little Quarter Horse helped him do that.

Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America (John Egenes)
Click to Read an Excerpt

What inspired you to write the book?
I wrote a rough manuscript in 1975, the year after the ride, but it was a simple, episodic thing that just plodded down the trail from day to day. It read more like a long diary and wasn’t anything I’d want to publish. So, I put it in a box and left it there. Never looked at it again. Took me forty years to finally get around to sorting everything in my head and putting things down in a proper perspective. I’m glad I waited. It allowed me to digest it all, and made for a much better book.

Who do you see as your target audience?
The book can be read by any age group. You don’t have to have lived in the 1970s to get the most out of it. Many younger people have written to me to tell me how much they learned about those times back then, and how much they enjoyed the story. The writing is straightforward and not difficult to read. Interestingly, although horse people seem to love the book (it’s been #1 in Amazon’s “Horse” category for a while), most of the reviews I get come from non-horse people, who relate to the story itself, and then fall in love with Gizmo. So, the target audience, if there is one, is a reasonably wide demographic, I’d say.

"[...] it’s an historical look at an America that many of us still remember"

What makes your book special?
Well, first of all, it’s got a picture of a horse on the cover! You can’t go wrong with that (laughs). But seriously, it’s an historical look at an America that many of us still remember, but is now long gone. I didn’t set out to reminisce about the good old days, so it’s more of a comparative study of two very different times, seen through the eyes of a man and his young, inquisitive horse. It’s a study of isolation, of intentional separation. Unplugging one’s self from social media and the digital ecosystem is simply not possible today. It doesn’t matter if you have a smartphone or laptop, we are continually connected via other people who do have them. A person traveling today cannot escape that.

How would you describe the success of your self-published books so far?
Far more successful than I had imagined. I’m not sure what I envisioned at the time. I just thought, “Oh, I’ll write this book and see if I can get it out there in the world, and that will be that.” I never thought past the actual writing of it. So, to have so many people buy it and read it and take the trouble to send in their thoughts and feelings—well, it’s a bit mind boggling to me, to tell the truth. I’m very grateful for that.

"Just write."

Can you give some advice for other Authors regarding the writing process?
Just write. It doesn’t matter if you write badly. Doesn’t matter if you write crap, as long as you know the difference between good writing and bad writing. Don’t worry about it, though. Just keep writing. Eventually, it starts to get better and better. And edit. Keep cutting away things that don’t add to the story. If the book (or song) can get along without that paragraph or sentence, then it’s not needed. Leave it out. And remember—I’m just a newly published writer. I’m far from being any sort of authority, so don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what I, or any other authors suggest. Just do your own thing. And keep writing.

Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
Yes, I’m working on a novel. It takes place in Mexico and Texas in the late nineteen sixties, down along the Mexican border. There is buried treasure, along with hippies and bandits and bounty hunters, and even some surprise guests. It’s a bit like Tom Robbins meets Louis L’Amour. Lots of wacky characters and subplots and such. I hope I havent bitten off more than I can chew.

Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only eBooks and will book stores disappear like record stores disappeared?
Bookstores won’t disappear in 5 or 10 years, though they probably will someday (except for used bookstores). Frankly, I’m surprised that on-demand printing hasn’t overtaken the publishing industry already, and isn’t yet available on our home computers. My prediction: within a few years you will order a book online—the same way you do today—and the book will be printed and bound at home, much the same way that CreateSpace and IngramSpark do now. If there aren’t individual home printing devices, there will at least be local ones in your city, where you can go to pick up the book. Libraries would be a good place for these. It seems ridiculous to print a book and then ship it halfway around the world to the buyer when they could just print it on site.

What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have three Kindles—a Kindle Touch, a Fire, and an old original Kindle. I used them to make sure the Kindle version of my book was formatted correctly to read on all of them. I only read on my Kindle Touch. It’s black and white. It has no color, no usable internet access for browsing social media. It has a couple of features, and that’s it. That’s what I want in an eReader. I don’t want the constant diversions that “smart” devices give, with all sorts of icons and things to click on. I just want to read. I don’t like reading on a computer screen because it is backlit.. The Kindle Touch has no internal light, so you need available light to read, just like a print book. I prefer to read print books but the Kindle has saved me a fortune in shipping, since I live in New Zealand. I still order print books as well.

"I love to get away with a print book and a cup of coffee"

Do you write full-time or do you have a day job? When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I lecture in music at a major university, though that job includes lots of writing. So, I spend a lot of time on computers and such, which is why I love to get away with a print book and a cup of coffee in a café and just read.

How can readers connect with you?
Here are some sites:
John & Gizmo:
Personal Blog:
Facebook (personal site):
Twitter: @jegenes
Google + :
Amazon Author Page:

Thank you very much for the Interview, John.

About the Book Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America

Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America (John Egenes)
Click to Read an Excerpt
In 1974 a disenfranchised young man from a broken home set out to do the impossible.

With a hundred dollars in his pocket, a beat up cavalry saddle, and a faraway look in his eye, John Egenes saddled his horse Gizmo and started down the trail on an adventure across the North American continent. Their seven month journey took them across 11 states from California to Virginia, ocean to ocean.. As they left the pressing confinement of the city behind them, the pair experienced the isolation and loneliness of the southwestern deserts, the vastness of the prairie, and the great landscapes that make up America. Across hundreds of miles of empty land they slept with coyotes and wild horses under the stars, and in urban areas they camped alone in graveyards and abandoned shacks. Along the way John and Gizmo were transformed from inexperienced horse and rider to veterans of the trail.

With his young horse as his spiritual guide John slowly began to comprehend his own place in the world and to find peace within himself. Full of heart and humor, Egenes serves up a tale that's as big as the America he witnessed, an America that no longer exists.

It was a journey that could only have been experienced step by step, mile by mile, from the view between a horse's ears.

"Can you rate this 10 stars out of 5? This an AWESOME book written by a good friend of mine, Dr John Egenes! I had privilege to read and comment on an earlier draft of the book! This true story will make laugh, cry and make you think back over 40 years ago when life was simpler and in many way much better!" - Reader Review

Links to the Book

Link to the Paperback Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America on Amazon

Link to the eBook Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America on Amazon

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