Derek Keeling is a man of many words. So many in fact, that he started writing as a teenager and hasn’t stopped. He turned this love of words into an award-winning journalistic career. His writing has also been featured in numerous books, magazines, blogs, websites and more.
Now that I’ve introduced you to Derek let’s get to know him a littler better.
Hello, Derek, and welcome. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.
Thank you for having me.
What inspired you to be a writer?
It actually began years ago, when I was a young teen. I had to take summer school for a class to receive my Certificate of Initial Mastery. For some reason, I had failed the English test and had the option of either taking summer school or being held back. During that class I learned how to craft a story and created a short story called, Matchbox Zombies.
The teacher thought it was such great writing that she had me stand up in front of the entire class and read it, of which I was the only one to do so. The class was enthralled by my story. That single seed of writing is what has bloomed my passion for it to this day. For note, I did end up passing and receiving my Certificate of Initial Mastery.
Is writing your full-time profession?
I am thankful to have been able to have writing as my full-time profession for quite some time. I am currently the content writer and social media coordinator for a prominent senior living company.
Before that I was the editor for a newspaper in South Dakota. Even further back I wrote for a magazine and an online music review website. It’s been quite the blessing to have been able to take my love of writing and make it into a career.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing in a serious capacity for 18 years, since I was 14 years old. There have been stints where I focused on music and other things, but I would always write. Even if it was just in a journal or song lyrics.
Can you tell us about your experiences as a journalist?
Being a journalist was a really great experience. I began as the featured writer and photographer, but soon after was promoted to editor-in-chief.
I worked for a weekly newspaper, so it was a little more laid back than your typical daily newspaper. I am thankful for a really great run as editor. I won an award for best featured article in South Dakota in 2015. All in all, it was a great experience.
How has being a journalist influenced your work?
Being a journalist has a weird way of pointing out your shortcomings as a writer. It really helped me hone my craft and brought out my innate ability to research. That has really helped in my writing a lot.
How many books have you written?
Technically, I have written a total of three books. The first one I ever wrote was a very short collection of poems and photographs. It is however, unavailable anymore.
The second book, or what I refer to as my first book, or novel rather, is a book I wrote and published in 2010-2011 called The Umbras. You can find it on Amazon.
My current novel, and that of which I am most proud, will be officially available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and select book stores on March 2, 2019.
It’s called, Nomad’s Island. This book was written between 2016 and 2018 and is my most accomplished work to date. I have never been more proud of an inanimate object.
Which genre do you write?
This may sound a bit pretentious, but I don’t like to constrict my writing down to a single genre. However, I have come up with a term that seems to be sufficient with readers and does tend to lend itself quite well to my style. I am a “twist-writer”.
Meaning, my books attempt to have a very intense twist within them that catches the reader off-guard. The Umbras had a twist that people still comment about to this day. Nomad’s Island has a couple of really big twists that may just blow reader’s minds.
I like to have the freedom to dabble with mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, action, adventure, romance, or whatever else hits my inspiration. I honestly am not sure I could ever tie myself down into a single category. I like to write the story that I would want to read and that inspires me.
What do you find most challenging writing for these genre?
Because I do not limit myself to a single genre, I find nothing challenging about it. I mean, there are lots of challenges in their own right, but I have never been wanting to write a story but couldn’t because I am only a romance author. I think that kind of categorization could really limit an author’s ability to tell a great story.
What are you working on now?
At the current moment I am in the process of getting ready to write a two, maybe three part book series. There’s always a lot of planning involved, so it’ll be a while before the pen hits the paper, so to speak.
I have been working heavily on marketing and promoting my upcoming novel, Nomad’s Island. That is a lot of work itself. Thankfully, with my background, marketing is easier than it would be without it.
Where do you find inspiration for your characters?
That’s a great question. I would have to say my family, friends, and the ether. Sometimes I just create a character and they tend to develop a personality of their own, sometimes they are reflected from people close to me.
In the case of Nomad’s Island, the main character is named Damon. He is actually mimicked after a younger version of myself. I wanted to do what Damon wanted to do years ago, which is travel to an island and live off the land.
Unfortunately, my experience failed within a week. His, while also failed, lasted for a considerably longer time. However, Damon’s experience on Nomad’s Island was not really all that pleasant.
What has been your most rewarding experience since publishing your work? Hearing or reading about people talking about my book. Seeing the shear excitement people get. I was surprised by how many people can’t wait to read Nomad’s Island. That is such a cool feeling. As with any author, I hope it lives up to the hype.
What advice would you give to authors or journalists just starting out?
They’ll hear it all the time, but it’s honestly the best advice: keep writing. The more you write and practice your skills, the better you’ll get.
Write for fun, write for free, write professionally, and learn everything you can about writing. I’m still learning and I’ve been doing this for many years.
When writing a novel, stick with it. As long as you’re moving forward, you’ll get to the end eventually. Edits, drafts, and other things will all happen soon enough. Just get your story on paper.
Is there anything else you’d like your readers to know about you?
First off, thank you! When you read my story it helps to fulfill a dream of mine and I am deeply thankful. I love writing and I am always trying to improve my abilities and broaden the worlds which I create.
I welcome feedback from anyone that reads my stories. As of recent, I have been inspired by a new person, my daughter, Daphne. She is almost two years old and is full of life and spunk.
It’s amazing what a tiny little human will do to you. Between my wife and my daughter, I am rich in love and life. They are my inspirations to keep moving forward with my writing.
What message are you sharing in your books?
With Nomad’s Island I am trying to convey the message of adventure and the power of the human mind and its will to survive. There are tons of stories of human survival that baffle me.
With Nomad’s Island, I tried to add in another angle, however. Another human stalking the lone survivor from the jungle’s edge. I find it best summed up with this saying: what was lost, has been found.
What are your favorite books/authors?
I’ve always been a fan of adventure books. Nomad’s Island has some roots in old pirate books and their ilk. Specifically, The Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall has been a favorite of mine for many years.
A kid’s classic, A Ghost in the Noonday Sun by Sid Fleischman is a short, amazing book that has such a cool storyline. I’ve also enjoyed more recent novels, like Into the Wild and The Final Frontiersman.
Both amazing stories of survival and adventure. Being a journalist, I also found a weird home with Gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson. His writing is so fluid, natural, and raw.
What are your favorite movies, TV shows?
There are also a lot of shows that I enjoy. A decent amount of research was done for Nomad’s Island by watching Survivorman.
I’m really into older TV shows, like Cheers, Frasier, Newsradio, and Married With Children. However, I do enjoy a lot off cooking shows, like the Great British Baking Show, Chopped, Good Eats, etc.
When you’re not writing where can we find you?
Probably sleeping. Ha! No, but considering I write from 8-5 p.m. and then write on my free time, too, chances are I’d be sleeping. But, I also like to enjoy relaxing at the beach, eating at a restaurant, or enjoying a latte at a local coffeehouse.
Do you have a website/Facebook page, etc?
I do have a website, however it’s not quite done yet, and as you can see I haven’t even purchased the domain yet: https://keelingderek.wixsite.com/derekkeeling
My Facebook page is the best place to see what’s going on with me and stay updated. http://www.facebook.com/keelingderek
I’m also pretty active on my Instagram page: http://www.instagram.com/derekkeelingauthor
Where can we find your books? You can find both Nomad’s Island and The Umbras at my Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/derekkeeling
You’ll also be able to find Nomad’s Island at Barnes & Noble and other select bookstores.
Thank you for your support. I truly appreciate it.
You’re welcome, Derek, thank you for spending time with us and sharing your story. We wish you continued success and lost of luck!