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01 Jun

Writing is all about patience & persistence. Hear what Donte M McNeal has to say…

JR: Tell us about yourself, and how would you describe yourself?

Donte: Hey there, I’m Donte. I’m a 23-year-old writer and I love reading, writing, and gaming (with a dash of anime viewing sprinkled on top). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked for recommendations for good books or anime, but when you consume as much of either of those as I do, I guess it’s to be expected. I don’t mind at all though, because I get to gush about my favourites often.

I’d describe myself as a fan of the art community, be it books, drawings, music, or any other creative venture. I like to dive deep into the various forms of media out there, in different countries as well. It’s fascinating to see the worlds others create.


JR: When did you first realise you want to be a writer? Who spotted that talent and what was the first thing you do knowing that?

Donte: The first time I realized I wanted to be a writer was when I was about 12 years old. I had an assignment to describe cooking a meal (I think it was a hamburger) and my teacher praised the assignment so much I was able to play on the computer for the remainder of the class. After that, I just knew I wanted to keep writing things that made others feel something, whether it was pride, warmth or even sadness.


JR: Do you have any formal education in creative writing? Do you think formal education in writing is necessary?

Donte: I don’t have any formal education in creative writing. I’ve thought about it more than a few times, but I don’t find it necessary to be a good, even great writer. That’s not to say you can’t learn from education in creative writing, because you can, I just don’t think it’s something that needs to be done.


JR: Are you a full-time author? Do you have other activities as main source of income? How do you organise your schedule and time in writing a book?

Donte: I’m not a full-time author yet; I’m just starting out. I have a full-time job, so I have to carve out time to write. I usually write during my lunch break and when I get home from work for a few hours. Saturdays, I read and/or write the entire day.


JR: What made you decide to start writing something? What or who influences you?

Donte: Reading so many good books got my interested in creating a world of my own for others to get lost in.  I’ve lost count how many times I’ve said this or that book was my favorite; it just goes to show how much someone’s writing can affect a person.

I’d say the other author friends I’ve met influence me. To see them push so hard and write such amazing and diverse stories prods me to do the same. A little healthy competition.


JR: What is the greatest lesson you have learned and/or greatest achievement you have reached as a writer?

Donte: I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned as a writer is that patience & persistence go hand-in-hand. You can’t expect overnight success, nor can you give up when things don’t go your way. And if you do succeed, you can’t get complacent in that success; you have to continue pushing yourself to new heights.


JR: Do you have habits in writing? Any specific time and/or place to write?

Donte: I don’t know if I have any habits in writing, but I do love putting white-haired characters in each of my stories. I just love the way it looks haha. I write in my living room in the evening and late-night time, when everyone else is out for the night. Solitude helps keep the creative juices flowing for me.

JR: How long do you normally finish writing a book? What is the hardest part in the process?

Donte: How long it takes me to finish a book depends on the book. Like for my debut novel, I started writing a handful of years ago. After endless changes, I finished it last year, but the next book I wrote was done in as little as two months. The third one I have in the pipeline took me a couple of months as well.

JR: Do you have professional editors to furnish your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

Donte: Oh yes, professional editors are the way to go. I’ve seen too many self-published novels forgo professional editing and it shows. That’s why there’s that stereotype that indie books are good: a lot of authors don’t take the time (or spend the money) to have their stories edited. As much as we all like to think we edit our books enough ourselves, it helps to have a professional set of eyes that can be objective and critical.

JR: How do you think you have evolved creatively?

Donte: I think I’ve evolved creatively in that I’m able to write in a wider range of genres. I was once focused on a sole genre, but now, I like to mesh them together, and I feel I’m able to write complex books instead of stories shackled by genres now.

JR: Do you ever face Writer’s Block? If you do, how did you overcome the situation?

Donte: I do. I usually overcome WB by stepping away from whatever I’m working on. I work on something else, or play a video game, or even watch a movie or tv show I enjoy. It helps give my mind a break, and when I come back to what I was stuck on, the story usually begins to flow again. Easy peasy, huh?

JR: Do you have professional designer to design the cover and/or interior of your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

Donte: For my first book, I used fivver.com for my book cover. I didn’t go that route for my second novel, but I was satisfied how my first one turned out. Fivver is a great place to find freelancers and artists, as is DeviantArt (where I found the image for my second book, purely by chance). Most of the artists on DeviantArt are willing to sell you there art if the price is right.

JR: How do you involve in promoting your books? Any marketing technique you can share?

Donte: This is an area that I am sorely lacking in. The most I do here is the Amazon Marketing Services, which are pretty useful. I’m doing research into more ways to market since this is something that I’m a novice in. Never hurts to ask others what they did to get to where they are (which is what I did with Jerry Jenkins, Joanna Penn and Mark Dawson). I recommend all three of them.

JR: Give your thoughts about traditional publishing Vs. self-publishing?

Donte: Both have their pros and cons. I think if you can get published traditionally, then go right ahead. I just think that with self-publishing, you learn more about the business of writing and not just the art of it. You must learn to market research and target the best markets for your book, you have to learn to market in general and you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone. I believe this helps you grow as an author.

JR: How many books have you written (published and non-published)?

Donte: I’ve written about four books (one published and the others soon to follow) and most of them are the first in their respective series. My plan is to release at least one book annually, two if I can.

JR: What genre that you normally write, and what draws you to this genre? Do you always write in the same genre?

Donte: I usually write YA, fantasy, and urban fantasy, all with dark themes throughout. I’m a big fan of dark stories.

JR: Of all the books that you have written down, which book that you think the best one? And what do you think readers will find most appealing about this book? What’s the “real story” behind this book?

Donte: Well, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Like, really hard, but I’d have to go with my debut, ‘The Family’. It started as a passion project for me, and evolved into so much more. It’s something I find myself incredibly proud of. I think readers will find the believable tensions and character drama the most appealing.

The real story behind ‘The Family’ is what I saw growing up. I saw families and friends turning on one another just because of cliques or gangs, and while things never really got as bad as things do in ‘The Family’, it stayed with me my entire life. So, I used what I saw and created characters that were essentially who I wanted to see emerge and clash, but still have them be more than simple-minded gang members/leaders. And I say gangs, but its more than that. They’re more like actual families, and I love that.

JR: Any other works in progress?

Donte: I have three (four really) more books in the pipeline. My next one is off with the editor now, and it’s one I’m really excited about. It’s about demigods fighting for the right to become full gods. The other three are being written and are in various stages of completion.

JR: What advice would you want to give to an aspiring writer?

Donte: This is a cliché, but: Keep writing! The only thing that stops a writer from being a writer is them not writing. At least, that’s what I think. The worst thing someone who wants to be a writer can do is not write.

JR: How can readers discover more about you and your works?

Donte: Easy, I can be found at my website, or on Wattpad, Facebook and Twitter.