I was immediately hooked by the title and great cover design. Picking up the book, I could see it was a quality production, and I flipped it over to read the blurb.
As I read the book, I was approached by Dan himself! I had to do a double take at him as he looked so familiar but I couldn’t remember from where….till I recalled seeing his face was on the cover! (I blame the sugar induced state I was in due to the amount of cake I was eating at the Festival!).
I had a really good chat with Dan and was totally intrigued by his story which ended up being his memoir.
Dan uses his personal life story to talk about rare diseases. He suffered from a very rare condition called Wyburn-Mason syndrome which is a vascular condition and has left him blind in one eye.
The book is an insightful and hilarious memoir. As a result, I invited Dan to be interviewed for the blog.
He has a great story and is also a savvy author in that he has used some brilliant and different ways to produce and market his book.
Dan’s book has also gone on to help raise awareness of rare diseases, and this is what I love about the power of words and books. They can change lives.
Dan, tell us why did you decide to write your memoir at this point in your life? (considering you are quite young!)
Thanks for the compliment!
I never had any intention of being a writer. I’d written plays and sketches while at Uni but music has always been my life and I had never even considered writing a book. Then one night, when I was about 36, I was telling my life story to a few people over dinner.
It all went quiet at the end while the previous fifteen minutes sunk in and, out of the blue, somebody said “you should write a book!”. And that was it; the spark was lit.
I knew I had a story to tell (judging by the reaction of those sat around that table), but I had to consider whether it would be of interest to a wider audience. It didn’t take long for me to realise that it would be.
What was your writing process? Do you have a writing routine?
The first thing I did was to create a timeline. As this was a memoir, I wanted to ensure that I had everything in the correct order, so that meant liaising with my family to fill in some of the blanks. I also got all of my medical records from the various hospitals I had attended to clarify more of the chronology of events, and also to lift some quotes for the book. That was a bit of an eye opener, and it was great reading letters from the 80s that had been physically typed!
I then mapped out a rough structure of the book, placing key events into certain chapters. Whilst that helped shape the book, it fell apart during the writing process as I started to develop content. Something I had listed for Chapter 2 now found its way to Chapter 5. But I was fine was this – it was an organic process, and the shape had to develop naturally.
As for a routine, I would try and write for 15 minutes in the morning, with no interruptions. Sometimes this worked, other times I couldn’t be bothered. I don’t believe in forcing creativity. I wrote most of the book on the 8:00 am Bristol to Birmingham train. I could type straight into Word Pad and then copy and paste it into Google Docs. And there’s something about working on the train too; it’s relaxing yet focused. As I approached the last few chapters of the book, I treated myself to a week in Turkey and wrote those by the side of the pool. I think I deserved it.
Some people who write a memoir or autobiography work with a Ghostwriter. Did you do this?
I contacted a Ghostwriting company based in Brighton. I was confident that I could write it myself, but I wanted to work with someone who could review my writing, make suggestions, notice mistakes, etc. After some discussion, they paired me with a guy in Amsterdam, and we hit it off immediately. We had a very similar sense of humour and, after sending him a couple of chapters, he said that my writing was absolutely fine.
Because of the geographical distance, I suggested that I write the book in Google Docs. This meant that he could have access to the text as soon as I had written it – or even whilst I was writing it! We then used Comments to highlight words, phrases or sections and a dialogue took place until it was either rewritten or agreed that it was OK. This was invaluable. Google Drive also stores Revisions and highlights edits to text, so it was clear to see what had been edited.
My editor would then review my changes and approve them. This working methodology meant that the book was written within two years. There’s no way we could have done that had we been sending Word documents back and forth.
You have media integrated within the book to make it an interactive read. How did you come up with the idea and did it make your readers more engaged?
As with all of my best ideas, it popped into my head whilst brushing my teeth. I was pacing around the flat thinking about all the pictures, medical records, music and videos I would like to include. I knew that printing images was costly and there was no way of putting music or video into the book too, and suddenly it became clear: make an app!
Then, in the footnotes, guide people towards the content (to look at family photo’s, medical documents, scans and more). I thought about using QR Codes but figured this may be too complicated and possibly a technology that wouldn’t be around forever.
Feedback on the additional content has been mixed.
Some people love it and stop reading to go and engage.
More purist readers don’t like having their flow interrupted, so will simply ignore it.
Some may return to it later once they’ve finished a chapter or the book, and almost all would agree that it offers a unique insight into my story. Either way, it’s a unique angle to the book, and I’m proud of it, particularly as it’s never really been done before.
Why did you decide to crowdfund and how easy was it to do?
There were a couple of reasons for Crowdfunding the book. Firstly, I knew that it would generate lots of interest and publicity and, for those that contributed, it would help them feel part of the project. It also meant that I could get advanced copies to people before release which in turn ensured I had Amazon reviews on the site within 48 hours of it going live.
The second reason was pure economics. I had to pay for the Copywriter, put funds towards the first print run and then cover other costs such as the website/app design, eBook/iBook and promo materials (postcards, bookmarks and an ironic hand mirror). We raised £3,501, the £1 coming from a friend of mine who wanted to upset my OCD (it didn’t work).
Running the campaign got me an interview on BBC Radio Bristol, a feature on Made in Bristol TV and a full page article in the Bristol Evening Post. Did that raise more funds? It’s hard to know, but being in the public psyche can’t hurt. Plus it’s content that you can then share on Facebook and Twitter. Every Little Helps, as they say.
For anyone considering the campaign, my advice would be to work with someone to create a catchy crowdfunding page. Demonstrate some of the writing, so people know that this is a finished book with potential. You can’t always expect people to fund an ‘idea’ or to pay for your two months off to write the book. By sharing samples and exclusive content, people felt that they were a part of something special.
My final tip would be: cost everything. I underestimated what postage costs would incur (plus buying the envelopes!), and this impacted on the final funds received. Also, remember that companies such as Kickstarter take a fee, so work that out too. But don’t let all of that put you off; it’s well worth doing.
Any new books in the pipeline?
Nope! This is my one and only book. I don’t think I could face it again.
Dan, can you let us know where we can find out more about you and your books?
The dedicated book website is www.memyselfandeye.co.uk where you can access the additional content.
My personal site is www.twatdj.com, and here you can find out how to buy the books, chapter and audio samples and some of my music and other projects too.
You can click here to get a copy of the book here.
Dan uses his personal life story to talk about rare diseases. He suffered from a very rare condition called Wyburn-Mason syndrome which affects your eyesight. He mentioned to me that he grew up not knowing anyone else with the same condition…till he published his book and other people with the same condition reached out to him all over the world!
It just goes to show how there is always someone out there who can relate to what you are also going thorugh. And your words can have a huge impact on others and help to support other people.
Has Dan’s story inspired you to write your own memoir? Please share in the comments below.
Also published on Medium.