Donald Joiner, a Georgia native, is a veteran who served during the Korean War era. He is a retired public school superintendent who a lifetime student of history having once been a history teacher. He is a father and grandfather and has been married for fifty-two years. Before The Antioch Testament, he authored two books about antebellum churches in Georgia.
Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about your writing background?
Well, I’ve been a Sunday school teacher for more than 40 years and have written lessons all during this time. As a history teacher, I was intrigued with the role churches in Georgia played during the Civil War. After retirement, I began to research those buildings built before the War that were still standing and developed a pictorial history that was published entitled Antebellum Churches in Georgia. This collection of ancient churches was later greatly expanded and I published another book called Faith of Our Fathers.
When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
As a young history teacher during the Centennial of the Civil War, I attempted to find data on the many Georgia churches that served as regiment recruiting grounds, hospitals and other uses for military purposes, but could find only bits and pieces. I decided to gather the available information and centralize it in book form for those who were interested in this period in Georgia history.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
Yes, I’ve always loved to read. I remember taking the Hardy boys mystery books to bed after lights out and reading under the covers with a flashlight. As a teenager, I discovered C.S. Forester’s Napoleonic era naval character, Horatio Hornblower, and I read a biography of Napoleon that tilted me towards biographies of historical characters.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
As a Sunday school teacher I had always been fascinated with the twelve men Jesus chose to be his first disciples. Most of them as far as we know were simple, unlettered fishermen; one was a despised tax collector, and all save the one who was to betray him were natives of Galilee. Yet Jesus chose these men to carry on his message of the Good News after his short earthly ministry. Why would he choose such unlikely disciples?
What happened to them? Where did they go? What did they do? The Bible only tells us these things about two of them: James the son of Zebedee who was beheaded by Herod Agrippa and Judas Iscariot who hanged himself in remorse after betraying Jesus. The rest left no testimony that has come down to us. They were far more concerned with spreading the Good News in accordance with Jesus’ instructions than they were in leaving an account of their own lives. They lived and worked in total obscurity.
How successful were they? Within three centuries the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as the official state religion. Theirs was a story that needed to be told so I compiled the legends and traditions that have come down to us and from these a novel came forth.
Who is your target audience?
Those who have curiosity about what transpired in the Christian movement after the resurrection during the first century; those who are interested in the history of the revolt of the Jews against Roman authority; those interested in the complete transformation that occurred in the lives of those men who originally thought Jesus would drive out the Romans and recreate David’s earthly kingdom, and those who just enjoy historical novels.
What will the reader learn after reading your book?
The book is a work of fiction, but the historical events, characters, and conflicts are based on historical facts and the traditions handed down to us from early Christian historians.
Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?
I usually concentrate on writing a chapter, then I go back over what I have written that day and edit. The following day or when I next return to the manuscript, I review the recent chapter and continue to edit, sometimes severely.
Are you a disciplined writer?
If being disciplined means setting a target for number of pages completed at one sitting, I don’t meet that criteria. I write when the mood strikes, sometimes for an hour, sometimes all day. Most of my writing takes place in the morning.
Do you have an agent? How was your experience in searching for one?
I spent much time contacting prospective agents and found that most of them are literately covered up with manuscripts. Several indicated an interest, but failed to connect with me. I reluctantly elected to abandon the search for an agent and investigated self-publishing. There are dozens of self-publishing establishments out there so I tried to be very selective. From what I considered to be the top three or four, I selected the one that had a distribution system similar to that of traditional publishers. I would advise self-publishing only if the author realizes he/she will do most of the marketing and only if he/she has adequate financial resources available.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?
Yes, everyone does. When it happens (and it can happen frequently) I leave it until I feel inspired to take up the pen again. Just sitting there being frustrated is a waste of time.
How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?
Virtually all traditional publishers only accept manuscripts from agents. Here’s one piece of advice I feel is very important for budding authors whether seeking an agent or self-publishing: always have your work professionally edited before submitting it. The operative word here is ‘professionally edited.’ Your mother or girlfriend may truly love your work, but they are not unbiased professionals.