It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to David Amerland, author of Intentional: How to Live, Love, Work and Play Meaningfully.
About David Amerland:
David Amerland is a Chemical Engineer with an MSc. in quantum dynamics in laminar flow processes. He converted his knowledge of science and understanding of mathematics into a business writing career that’s helped him demystify, for his readers, the complexity of subjects such as search engine optimization (SEO), search marketing, social media, decision-making, communication and personal development. The diversity of the subjects is held together by the underlying fundamental of human behavior and the way this is expressed online and offline. Intentional: How to Live, Love, Work and Play Meaningfully is the latest addition to a thread that explores what to do in order to thrive. A lifelong martial arts practitioner, David Amerland is found punching and kicking sparring dummies and punch bags when he’s not behind his keyboard.
Live your life the way you want to. Manage stress better. Be more resilient and enjoy meaningful relationships and better health. We all want that. Such life leads to better choices, better jobs, loving romantic partners, more rewarding careers and decisions that are fully aligned with our aims.
What stops us from getting all that is the complexity of our brain and the complicated way in which the external world comes together. The misalignment between the internal states we experience and the external circumstances we encounter often leads to confusion, a lack of clarity in our thinking and actions that are not consistent with our professed values.
Intentional is a gameplan. It helps us connect the pieces of our mind to the pieces of our life. It shows us how to map what we feel to what has caused those feelings. It helps us understand what affects us and what effects it has on us. It makes it possible for us to determine what we want, why we want it and what we need to do to get it.
When we know what to do, we know how to behave. When we know how to behave we know how to act. When we know how to act, we know how to live. Our actions, each day, become our lives. Drawn from the latest research from the fields of neuroscience, behavioral and social psychology and evolutionary anthropology, Intentional shows how to add meaning to our actions and lead a meaningful, happier, more fulfilling life on our terms.
Author Interview with David Amerland:
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- Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Neuroscience has proved that everything we do is motivated by emotional states. We then use rationality to explain our motivation. Our explanations don’t always tally with our emotions which shows just how much of a disconnect there is between how we truly operate and how we think we do. This now brings me to your brilliant question. Is emotional writing possible? I think even the dry prose of an encyclopedia is motivated by a strong sense of creating the kind of factual entry that is virtually unassailable in the logic of its existence. Writers are motivated by a need to communicate something they have felt which, they hope, will then allow their readers to also feel it. Whether that is something imaginary as in a work of fiction or a real-world problem as in non-fiction writing, is immaterial here. The primary point of origin of all writing is this need to communicate something that is new, fresh and exciting which allows those we share it with to see the world around them in a new light. Writing is a marathon. It is emotionally draining at times and it is a challenge to both the senses and the mind. If a writer doesn’t feel strongly about what they do then it becomes virtually impossible for them to complete the journey they’ve started and some may not ever start at all.
- Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
This is an excellent question I’ve pondered before. My writing is in direct response to the needs of my audience. It has evolved as search itself has evolved. Search is at the core of marketing and branding and it’s the subject that started my writing in business books for a broad audience. But marketing and branding in a world of social media radical transparency require authenticity. Authenticity, in turn, needs real beliefs and real values. While each of my books on social media, digital marketing, search, decision making and, with “Intentional” behavior, can stand on its own there is a thread linking each of them that can be summarized in one sentence: “What do I need to do in order to succeed in life and business?” So, to fully answer your question, without intending to from the start I have ended up building a body of work where each book naturally follows onto the next and each builds a fresh layer of understanding, meaning and capabilities to what I’ve written about before. To better make the case those who read “Intentional” understand a little better what drives motivation, beliefs and values at a personal level. This gives them a better understanding of themselves, obviously, but also potential customers. They then are in a better position to be more authentic and truer to their values which generates trust and reciprocity and makes for more honest marketing. This, in turn, affects the content they create and the way search engines see them. So, as you can see there is a definite connection in all this that leads back to primary principles.
- What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I start each book by summarizing what it’s intended to do with a basic question that it has to successfully answer. “The Sniper Mind”, for instance, I summarized as: “How do we make decisions under pressure”. “Intentional” was summarized as “How do we know how to behave in different circumstances?” – These are seemingly simple questions that have complex answers that are predicated around vast bodies of experimental and theoretical research. I start each book by collecting every bit of research, study and theory about the subject matter I can get my hands on. I then go through them all creating specific ontologies and taxonomies tha help me get the lay of the land. This initial structure becomes the bedrock for my book chapters. If necessary I follow up on some research with emails and, occasionally, voice interviews of the researchers and, where necessary I also go looking for original subjects to interview. My previous book, “The Sniper Mind”, for instance, made it necessary I interview active and retired snipers and I carried out 100 interviews and some 60 hours of taped material that had to be processed. “Intentional” required no fewer than 8,000 hours of research study. I spend up to two and a half years researching and structuring each book and also making notes and exploring ideas about each one.
- Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I love a good book review. The moment I read it I feel fully vindicated. By the same token a bad one virtually destroys me. This is a crazy way to deal with them so I had to sit myself down and reason with me. If a bad book review doesn’t matter, neither should a good one, I told myself. And if a good one is amazing a bad one needs to be. So I read both good and bad reviews very carefully these days. I seek to learn from both. I want to know what it is my readers like and what they love and also what turns them off and what they hate about my writing. That way I try to improve my understanding of my audience and my craft as a writer.
- How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Given the complexity of the subjects I tackle and the length of time required for research and structuring it takes me approximately three years to finish each one. It may take slightly longer when I have to make significant changes after the editorial comments come back from my publisher but three years seems to be the average at the moment.
- Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?
I’m a heavy user of social media. I share many of my thoughts as they arise from research I am going through. I often use social media to test some of my ideas. As a result I have an engaged audience. They are quick to respond to what they like. Very voluble with stuff they don’t like in my books and always ready with follow-up questions that often make me regret leaving some stuff out that I originally planned to include in each book. All this has turned, for me, the journey of writing which is an essentially lonely profession to a more communal, collaborative exercise. While I take full responsibility for any potential blind alleys my writing leads me down, I owe a lot of the best ideas I’ve explored to the interaction with my readers.
- How do you do research for your books?
I have access to a number of university libraries that publish original research in the areas I’m interested in: neuroscience, social psychology, behavioral sciences and physics. In addition I subscribe to some popular publications that carry essays from leading researchers in their academic field. These form the first layer I use to pull together material for my books. I also do my own reading of both popular and academic titles, analyze complex research papers on my own and carry out my own original interviews and polls. Because of the complexity of the subjects I write about and the need to then communicate clearly and effectively about them I need to intimately understand each point before I can successfully write about it.
- Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?
Writing is indeed a drain to the body and mind. Even when it’s going well it is stressful but, in every book, there will come a point where the writing will falter, fatigue will take over and there will be the dispiriting sense that what the book is about doesn’t matter to anyone, and stacking shelves in a supermarket may be a much more preferable career path. Resilience and self-belief are key to continuing to write and are key to learning to write well. So for every aspiring writer the lessons to remember are: believe in what you are doing. Keep on doing it to the very best of your ability. Your writing, over time, will get better. What makes you a writer however is the ability to plow through those moments when doubts assail you. Because those moments will always come, no matter what book you’re on, you need to be clear to yourself that writing is what you want to do, there has to be no other option and that this book is truly the one you want to bring to life.
- Have any of your books been made into audiobooks? If so, what are the challenges in producing an audiobook?
I have had both “The Sniper Mind” and “Intentional” produced as audiobooks. The former was possibly the easiest one to produce. I had to decide between three distinct voices who read for it and the one that most resonated with me was so far ahead of everyone else it was a no-brainer. “Intentional” was harder to cast. It had to be an authoritative voice that also made it sound really friendly and accessible. As a result I had to go over two dozen auditions and request follow-up readings. In the end I created a shortlist and had to pick the one that I felt most resonated with what I felt was required. There is no science to this. It is entirely subjective. So far the feedback from the audiobook has been good so my judgment appears to have been the correct one.
- How many bookshelves are in your house?
Zero. I have to explain this now because a writer who doesn’t read is not really a writer. I have a collection of some 4,500 books at the moment, some of which are out-of-print titles I paid good money to buy and paid even more money to digitize. I used to have floor-to-wall bookshelves to house them all but I kept moving countries. In the beginning I would pay the extra cash in crates and shipping to take them all with me, even when it was across continents. Each book evoked memories of places and times and people in a way that only physical books can evoke them. A few years back I moved into a house with enough living space for two people and two small dogs so the bookshelves had to go. Now all my books are digital. Is this the same? No. I miss the time I would spend browsing book spines, arranging and rearranging books in order of size or age or subject matter or spine color(!). I had to be practical and in being so I focused, instead on what I gained: my books are always with me, even on a plane, available from all my devices. I can search any title in my collection and, indeed, any subject. I can annotate any book and then go through my notes later. I can search for anything in a book. These are real benefits that have practical value versus the sentimentality of my previous set up. Because I have had the choice removed from me by my current circumstances I focus on what I have gained instead of what I’ve lost. These days I only ever buy digital titles and have found that I tend to buy more books per year than when I just bought paper ones.