When I was writing and publishing my first book, I was trying desperately to not take myself and the book too seriously.
John Edward Marszalkowski – photographer, videographer, podcaster, stay-at-home dad and now author – has already published two stunning books and rumor has it, is working on his third.
Prior to taking up the author mantle, this Milwaukee native Marszalkowski was a free-lance photographer and videographer – specializing in weddings but also family portraits. He’s also a musician, playing in The Everyday Motion
He is a winner of no awards and also quite possibly a burden to society, but he intends to improve himself somehow by writing books.
He currently cohosts a Milwaukee-themed podcast under the name of Who are We to Podcast with Steve Keiller (who wrote a chapter on one of Marsxalkowski’s books!). The podcast focuses on microbrews, off-the-cuff conversations and guest appearances by just about anyone!
Is John Marzalkowski an author whose writings are entertaining and captivating?
His mother says “YES,” and why would she lie to you?
His first book, Buy my Book: Not Because You Should, But Because I’d Like Some Money, is a hilariously atypical memoir – full of non sequiturs, ADHD-fueled tangents and truly unique musings. HOW TO PUNCH KIDS IN BATHROOMS, is a 32-page collection of essays, errant thoughts and ramblings.
I’ve read and reviewed both of his books and loved them! There is just something about his quirky sense of humor that gets me right in my funny bone. I was absolutely thrilled when he agreed to be interviewed and whew, it was tough to narrow down all of the questions I wanted to ask him! Without further ado, here’s Seven Questions on a Saturday with John Edward Marszkalowski!
1) What does a typical day of writing look like for you?
I like to write in very small batches. Usually around 500 words at a time, at least once a day. I know some people try to knock out 1700 words a day or something crazy like that, but I’m just not in a hurry. I have goals, but I don’t have deadlines. I have to fit in writing where I can, so I think that’s why I like to write in short bursts. I’m a stay at home dad to a toddler and a newborn, so writing has to fit in the cracks of my life.
2) In your latest book, How to Punch Kids in Bathrooms,which will be published on August 13th, is just 32 pages. Was it more or less challenging to write such a short book? Have you noticed any differences in your approach to writing for your second book?
This might sound stupid, but my thought process was “Hey, books for kids get to be short; That’s not fair! Why can’t there be books for adults that are only a 20-minute investment? I have really bad ADHD and I get overwhelmed by even the smallest tasks, so I tend to give up on an 80-thousand-word novel before I even start it. For HOW TO PUNCH KIDS IN BATHROOMS, I wanted to make the smallest book I possibly could. I wanted it to cost as little as possible. Is “literary minimalism” a thing?. I figured more people might read it if I made it as easy as possible to finish.
3) Your first book, Buy My Book: Not Because You Should, But Because I’d Like Some Money,was a fairly atypical venture – including many tangents and loosely connecting chapters. I had so much fun delving into such an unconventional story. Could you talk a little bit about your writing process for it? Were there any ideas that you decided to cut but later regretted?
It probably relates to how I answered your first question. Not only do I write in small bursts, but I also get distracted from topics pretty fast. When I wrote the first book, every time a thought popped in my head and I wanted to “vent” it out, I would start writing. Then something would happen that would pull me away from it. Later, maybe the next day, I would get a new idea I wanted to write about. Rather than force myself to finish the previous topic, I just left if unfinished and started a new chapter. On days where I wasn’t feeling inspired to start a new topic, I’d go back and try to conclude the chapters I started. That’s why a lot of the chapters suddenly switch from being nonsense to all of a sudden having a point, or a moral to the story.
I cut very little from the first book. Things that did hit the cutting room floor were random sentences or paragraphs, rather than entire subjects. I really hate motivational speakers, preachers, and those sorts of professions. Every now and then I would be venting an opinion and I’d get a little too preachy. I have no tolerance for know-it-alls, so I would scrap anything that had that vibe. That said, it’s pretty hard to write a book about yourself and your own opinions without coming across a bit arrogant.
4) Do you read your book reviews? Do you have any suggestions for new authors for garnering reviews and dealing with criticism?
I absolutely read all my reviews. An important lesson for new celebrities is to never read the comment sections on your work… but I’m not a celebrity so I totally google myself constantly, praying that anyone is saying anything about me.
You can’t be afraid of negative criticism. Just assume that most people don’t like you and won’t like whatever you’re making. The majority doesn’t matter. I always say that if only 1% of the world loves what you make and the other 99% hated you, then 75.3 MILLION people dig you. They just don’t know you exist. The hurdle isn’t figuring out how to make something that everyone will like; the hurdle is marketing to the people who love what you’re already making. Along the way, people will hate you and tell you about it constantly. But don’t forget that your 75.3 million people are out there. Okay, so those numbers are a bit crazy. But figure if ONE IN A THOUSAND people love what you do, then from English speakers alone, that’s 360,000 people. I imagine that’s enough book sales to make any author happy.
My advice for writers looking for initial reviews is to do what you were probably going to do anyway, which is to ask close friends and family to read it and review it. Friends and family will probably review it positively. I did that for a few reviews, but I convinced myself that everyone was being supportive and polite. You need some complete strangers to review it too if you want unfiltered honesty. That’s when I started looking for book reviewers. Miranda, you were one of my first book reviewers who didn’t know me. The fact that you said what you didn’t like made me believe you when you said what parts you did.
General advice for getting book reviews would be to google book review websites that review books like yours. Then message those reviewers, following whatever submission guidelines they list on their site. The success rate for me was very low. Miranda, you were one of the few that emailed me back. After you posted your review to Goodreads.com, that’s when I realized that you are kind of a big deal in the world of book reviews. So after you reviewed it, I started reaching out to other active book reviewers on Goodreads, and that method has worked well. I sure could use some more, though. I hear that when you hit 50 reviews on Amazon, the Amazon algorithms kick in and start suggesting your book to potential customers. That would be neat. But getting reviews is hard because it’s a lot to ask of someone. Asking someone to spend hours, unpaid, reading and writing about your crap, is asking a lot. Be very grateful to anyone who does it for you.
5) Some authors work on one book from start-to-finish, while others have multiple projects going on all the time. Which one are you (and why)?
I’m a one-book-at-a-time person. I know a lot of fiction writers will write a series, and that requires thinking about the big picture the whole time. I write collections of short stories and essays, so for me, it’s like ripping off a piece of a never-ending roll of toilet paper. I judge how much I need for the mess I’m working on, and then I tear off an amount that will get the job done.
I have another book coming out this November, called UNCREDIBLE THOUGHTS (Essays, Spiels, and Poppycock). It’s already written but in the final stages of editing.
I’ve begun writing whatever my next book is going to be after that. No title set yet. I’m strongly considering looking for an agent and going the traditional publishing route for that one. Just to see what that’s like. Self-publishing is very easy. Not everyone can finish their book (that’s where most authors fail), but once you write the damn thing, self-publishing is so easy any dummy can do it. But, as one could expect, there is a stigma with being self-published because there are a lot of crappy books that get made that way. There are no gatekeepers knocking bad books out of existence in the self-publishing world. I think, for no other reason than my ego, I’d like to try to get past the gatekeepers of the book industry, to prove something. I don’t know. I might end up self-publishing that one, too.
6) What is something surprising that you discovered when writing one of your books? What was the weirdest thing you’ve had to research for them?
I couldn’t believe how many school shootings we had in America until I looked up the numbers. I was writing about a school shooting that had just happened, and I wanted to reference how many shootings had occurred so far that year. At the time of my first draft, it was the eighth shooting of 2018. Later, when editing, I added a footnote that as of May 25th, 2018, it was up to 23 shootings. Crazy, that in the time it took for me to edit my manuscript, there were 15 more school shootings. I just looked it up now, and the total for 2018 was 23. That’s 23 shootings where people were shot. Not counting guns firing in schools where people weren’t hurt.
Then I tried to make jokes about guns and gun control. It was hard.
7) You have an active social media presence, a music career and a thriving Podcast – have you noticed those aspects influencing your writing career?
I’m always making something. Before books, it was music. I’d encourage anyone reading to check out my pop-rock stuff, called The Everyday Motive. I won’t encourage anyone to dig any farther back… do not look for anything called Orphonic Orchestra. Is this me attempting reverse psychology? It’s embarrassing, but I do make some pennies when you stream it… I actually have no idea what I want you to do in this situation. Just check out The Everyday Motive. It’s on Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, YouTube, pretty much any streaming service.
Who Are We To Podcast? is what kind of pushed me into writing my first book. I had a bucket list, and starting a podcast and writing a book were both on that list. I started the podcast first. A handful of people liked listening to me talk about random stuff. We even got a few sponsors. That gave me the fuel to start writing my first book. I was chasing a weird placebo high called “people MIGHT give a shit what I think!” We mainly just drink Wisconsin beer and talk about whatever we want to, but because it’s a podcast that makes it a creative project and not just alcoholism.
I’m currently trying to deceive everyone on Twitter into thinking I’m a big deal. Follow me and I’ll follow you back, and maybe that will impress someone. But either way, I respond to any and all tweets you send my way. My username is @JohnnyMarsz. As for Instagram, I don’t know how to convince you kids that I’m cool. But if you’re interested in my lame cellphone photos, I’m @barfbag.publishing.
Links to whatever I’m doing should always be available at http://isthis.work/? …or as long as I don’t forget to renew the URL.
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