Thursday, April 14, 2016

Interview with Steve Lawson, author of 'Giant Killers: Overcoming Obstacles and Seizing Opportunities'



A former small-business owner and church planter, Steve Lawson recently stepped down as the senior pastor of Grace Community Church in Greenville, Texas, to focus on his writing, speaking, and leadership training activities.

He holds a doctor of strategic leadership degree from Regent University, a master of divinity degree from The King’s University, an MBA from Amberton University, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of North Texas.

Lawson owns Leadership Transformation Inc., providing emotional intelligence training and consulting to organizations of all sizes. More information on his consulting services is available at www.leadershiptransformation.net. An avid blogger and writer, Lawson is available for speaking engagements in churches, seminars, and conferences. You can contact him at www.stevelawson.us.

He and his wife, Karen, live in Greenville, Texas. They are the parents of three grown daughters.

His latest book is the Christian/Christian living/personal growth book, Giant Killers: Overcoming Obstacles and Seizing Opportunities.
For More Information
About the Book:

Title: Steve Lawson
Author: Giant Killers: Overcoming Obstacles and Seizing Opportunities
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 144
Genre: Christian/Christian Living/Personal Growth

It seemed a lopsided battle. On one side, a small shepherd with a sling and five stones. On the other, a heavily armored ten-foot giant whose taunts and challenges immobilized an army of seasoned warriors. The story of David and Goliath has become an almost universal underdog story; but in reality, Goliath never stood a chance.

In Giant Killers, emotional intelligence speaker, consultant, and author Steve Lawson identifies the five vital emotional and social skills David possessed: identity, discipline, graciousness, action, and hope. When combined with the power of God’s grace, these strengths made it possible for David to defeat Goliath, build a mighty army out of social rejects, and establish the greatest kingdom in the history of Israel.

Identity. Discipline. Graciousness. Action. Hope. These five important emotional skills establish how we perceive and express ourselves—and how willingly we seize the opportunities God provides. Who better to demonstrate these powerful traits than David, who slew his own giant?

We all face giants in our lives—challenges and obstacles that intimidate us, limit our potential, and keep us from moving forward. It’s easy to feel like David fighting Goliath. And that’s good—because David won. Like David, we can overcome any challenge, seizing with confidence the opportunities God places in our path. Giant Killers teaches you how to do so, providing a foundation on which you can build success after success. It all begins with you—and your willingness to trust in God’s grace.

For More Information

  • Giant Killers: Overcoming Obstacles and Seizing Opportunities is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

The concepts in my book are twofold; a study of emotional intelligence and how God’s grace informs and empowers emotional intelligence. So the research for my book really evolved over time. As a former pastor, I found myself continually speaking about grace; what it is, it’s transforming power, how it changes the way we treat people, and how it changes us. As the topic of grace continually popped up in various messages, my understanding of it and realization of how much I did not know continued to grow.

For several years I toyed with the idea of writing a book on the subject of grace. But as I pursued the idea and talked with several friends that were authors or in the publishing world, I pretty much gave up on the idea. Grace has already been written about by many different authors and several big name authors. So for me, a small church pastor in a small town, to expect to be able to publish a book on grace that had any hope of gaining traction would be an exercise in futility. But it became my life message, and my passion for sharing that message grew. Consequently, I was continually researching, studying, and reading books on the subject.

It was during a leadership conference that I first heard of the subject of emotional intelligence. One of the speakers mentioned emotional intelligence and its importance almost as a side comment rather than one of his main points. But it peaked my interest and I began to see it referred to in a variety of sources. During my MBA several of the leadership and management textbooks devoted entire sections on emotional intelligence. This stimulated my interest in the subject even more, to the point that I began to buy various books on emotional intelligence.

During my doctoral studies on strategic leadership, emotional intelligence became my focus of study. I began to see it everywhere; especially the need for emotional intelligence in people’s lives. As a pastor, I deal with a lot of people, many of them on a deep level. I would help them as they dealt with various struggles, how they interact in relationships, and how they chose their careers and then experienced successes and failures in those careers. In doing so, I saw even more how an understanding of emotional intelligence, and the necessity to improve in the skill of emotional intelligence. This growth would make a huge difference in not only the quality of people’s personal lives, but their relationships and professional lives as well.

Because our doctoral program was an applied doctorate, we were able to customize and focus our work. As I continued to research and study emotional intelligence, I began to see the correlation of various aspects of God’s grace with the five main components of emotional intelligence. So for my final doctoral project, I wrote on the interaction of God’s grace with emotional intelligence. This became the foundation for Giant Killers.

Because this was for a doctoral project, my research intensified even more. So not only did I refer back to the books that I already owned on the subject, I downloaded scholarly articles from academic journals as well as several interviews from experts in the field. In addition, I became certified as an emotional intelligence consultant and trainer. This enabled me to not only teach a course on the subject, but also administrate the EQ-I 2.0 emotional intelligence assessment developed by Multi-Health Systems Inc.


Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

The first difficulty in writing any book is simply the discipline of writing. For some writers they may find it easy to find time to sit down and write, and the words flow easily onto the page. For others, and I am definitely in this category, writing is a discipline just as much as it is an inspirational or creative process. This means hours staring at a computer screen and feeling like you have nothing to say. Or it may mean writing for hours, only to highlight all of it and hit ‘delete.’ But I found that I still have to sit down in front of my computer every day and ‘work’ at my writing.

What I found most difficult in writing Giant Killers was the transition from an academic document to a book that people would actually want to read. I didn’t want to simply produce information, I wanted to produce a book that people would want to read. I also wanted my book to be one that would be easy to understand and relate to. So with my doctoral project as foundation, I began the re-writing and revising process to turn an academic project into a book.

But I didn’t want to just change the language and the use less syllables in my words, I wanted my writing to have a certain feel. When someone reads one of my books I want them to experience it. As they read each paragraph, each page, each chapter, I want them to do so with a sense that they are sitting in a coffee shop with me talking. I spent an extensive amount of time editing, sometimes down to words and phrases, with that single thought in mind. I want people to read my books and feel as if they are talking with me. I want them to feel as if they know me, who I am as a regular, normal, everyday person, rather than an impersonal collection of opinions and information.

It’s important to me as a speaker and as a writer that I connect with my audience. Even as I just wrote that sentence I really don’t like the word ‘audience.’ It’s too impersonal. I never want come across that way. I had a saying as a pastor that I wanted to do everything within my power to “decrease the distance between the platform and the chairs.” Too many times there’s a disconnect between the speaker or author in those with whom they are attempting to communicate. And one of my main goals has always been to present myself in such a way that people can identify with me as a person and connect with me as a regular, normal everyday guy, rather than some expert who has said or written something that they need to hear.

So my advice to a new writer would be to first of all find your voice. Decide the way that you are going to communicate, and spend time developing that. Don’t try to emulate someone else. And don’t be afraid to experiment and learn. It takes time and practice to develop the unique way in which you are going to communicate. Be yourself, find your voice. After all, it is your name that will be on the front cover.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I chose to self-publish. When I originally published Giant Killers early last year, I was still a small church pastor from a small town in Texas. I was essentially a nobody in the eyes of the publishing world. I did not have a national platform or really any way to market and sell books. So even if I went through the work of sending out hundreds of book proposals and dealing with hundreds of rejections, I saw little hope and actually landing a publishing deal. So I chose to forgo the process altogether and went straight to self-publishing.

I self-published initially through Westbow Publishers. I later left Westbow and went with a new publisher who gave me much higher royalties, and promised a fairly involved marketing plan. I discovered within a few months that this publisher was not up to the task (I could write a book on stupid decisions, but that story is for another time…and kind of long…), and eventually landed with Create Space - Amazon’s self-publishing company. Create Space has done a fantastic job and I couldn’t be happier with them. However, for my expanded distribution I am using Ingram Spark.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Because I decided to self-publish, and because I had never done this before and really didn’t know who to turn to for advice, I was surprised about how much work is required before, during, and after your book is published. As I stated in the previous question, going from relative obscurity to a career that requires a much larger platform takes lot’s of time and work.

I have been a little bit surprised at how long it takes. In addition, trying to find the key to turning fans into customers has been more than a little frustrating. I had a recent Facebook ad that reached almost 20,000 people, received over 500 likes and 40 shares, yet book sales were barely affected. I have 40 reviews on Amazon with an average of 4.6 stars so people obviously like it, but translating that into book sales has proven to be very difficult for a new, self-published author.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I actually have several books in my projects folder, but the one I’m working on right now is called The Prevailing Marriage. It is my opinion that marriages are not intended to merely survive, but to prevail. It actually is possible for your marriage to improve every year. You can be more in love, more passionately in love 20, 30, 40 years later than you ever thought possible. It takes a lot of hard work, but it’s possible.

The Prevailing Marriage outlines some of the foundational steps that it takes to go from a mediocre or even good marriage to a great marriage. I’m very excited about this book. My blog posts on marriage are consistently the most popular ones, so I’m excited about the potential this book has. Right now I am working hard to get this book finished in the next month or so, and have it published by the summer.

After I finish The Prevailing Marriage, I have a few other books in the conceptual and outline stage. I have one on what it takes to make those really hard choices that we are often faced with; decisions that will save the day for some and possibly ruin it for others. That book is currently titled Spear Decisions. I have another one about the power of forgiveness and what it takes to become free from bitterness - currently titled The Mulberry Tree. Both of those books are fully outlined with working chapter titles and descriptions. I have a leadership book I’d like to write one day, but I’m still in the conceptual stage on it, as well as a couple of others I’m toying with. Needless to say, in my career as a starving author, I have job security for the next few years. Hopefully that will change as I publish new books and my platform grows. I’ll keep you posted…

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

Facebook still remains one of my main places to catch up with what’s going on with a few of my friends and surf for interesting articles. I get tired of the ranting and arguing that often typifies Facebook, but I just block those people as they come up and my news feed is continuing improving.

I also have several blogs that I follow as well. Most of them have to do with blogging, writing or marketing. I have had to exercise some self-discipline with those, because I can easily start reading one article only to click on a related article and next thing I know a couple of hours have gone by. This, if left unchecked will steal from my own writing and rob me of any significant productivity.

I’m also very fitness oriented – specifically Crossfit – and I follow a few blogs and online magazines in that genre. Being an older Crossfit athlete (I’m 50), as well as one of the coaches at our local Crossfit box I also belong to a couple of Facebook groups related to fitness and the over 40 crowd.

Q: What’s your nightly ritual before retiring for the night?

My wife and I will usually watch a TV show or two and maybe read a little before going to bed. Then, unless it’s been an unusually late night, we will spend some time cuddling before falling asleep. Of course I usually try to get her to do more than just cuddle, but you’re going to have to wait for The Prevailing Marriage to get more information than that.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

I’m very passionate about the message of Giant Killers and its ability to be transformational in someone’s life. All of us face obstacles. All of us deal with struggles that we can’t seem to overcome. And all of us, at one time or another, have had opportunities pass us by because we weren’t prepared or confident enough to take them on.

I believe that can change. I believe that we can develop the skills and character qualities necessary to take on both obstacles and opportunities with confidence. And I believe with all my heart that God’s grace has tremendous power that we have yet to understand. And I am convinced that He is not only willing and able, he wants us to experience that power more than we ever will. And I believe that the combination of the skills and character qualities found in emotional intelligence combined with the power of God’s grace have the potential to make us an unstoppable force.

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

I really appreciate this opportunity, and the work that you do to help new and self-published authors like me get their message out.