Thursday, 21 April 2016

Author Interview | Steve Lawson | Giant Killers

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I was born and raised in Greenville, Texas. Greenville is a small town about 50 miles east of Dallas. I am a husband to the most beautiful woman in the world, father to three amazing girls, writer, speaker, pastor, entrepreneur and fitness enthusiast.

While in college, I taught gymnastics in the Dallas area and eventually opened my own gym. While coaching gymnastics, I began to sell equipment and eventually got into manufacturing. My company, Progressive Sports and Fitness, manufactured competition trampolines and tumbling floors which we sold all over the world. My tumbling floors are still used at every Power Tumbling World Championships as well as the USA National Championships.

After about ten years, my heart began to change as God began to call me into ministry. Through a series of events, God convinced my wife, Karen, and I to start a church (believe me, we put up a fight), and we planted Grace Community Church in my home town of Greenville, Texas in the spring of 1998. Just recently, after 17 years as the senior pastor, God began working on my heart again, and I stepped down to pursue writing and speaking full time.
My education consists of a bachelors degree in Business Administration from the University of North Texas. I absolutely hated school when I was younger. I managed to cram a four year bachelors program into seven years! I just told everyone that I was on the decade plan and got out early. Something must have changed, however, because after we started the church I went back to school and got a Master of Divinity (MDIV) from The King’s University, and followed that with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Amberton University and finally a Doctor of Strategic Leadership (DSL) from Regent University.

So, what have you written?

I am the author of the newly released book Giant Killers: Overcoming Obstacles and Seizing Opportunities.

Whoop! What the Church Can Learn About Values and Organizational Culture from Texas A&M
Journal of Strategic Leadership, Vol. 3 Iss. 2, Winter 2011, Regent University

When Vision Isn’t Good Enough: The Role of Organizational Design in the 21st Century Church
Leadership Advance Online – Issue XXII, Regent University

Where can we buy or see them?

You can find my book on Amazon -

You can find the articles on Regent University’s website -

What are you working on at the minute?

I actually have several books in my projects folder, but the one I'm working on right now is called The Prevailing Marriage. 

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.

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. 

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…

What draws you to this genre?

Honestly, I didn't think much about the genre that my book would be in. Of course I knew I was writing a Christian book, but my writing is driven by the things I'm passionate about, so that has determined the genre. I'm currently working on a marriage book, but it will still be in the Christian genre, and I imagine a marriage subcategory. I have a couple of others in the works that will most likely land back in the Christian/Personal Growth genre.

When did you decide to become a writer?

During my doctoral studies on strategic leadership (DSL) was when I really started writing. We were constantly writing academic articles, popular press pieces and consulting reports. For three years we wrote constantly, and our work was continually scrutinized. After publishing a couple of articles, I started to think that I may actually be able to something worth reading. I started to think I might actually have something to say. That was the genesis of my life as a writer.

Why do you write?

Honestly, the thing that drives me the most is that I want to make a difference in people’s lives. That’s why I write, that’s why I was a pastor, and that’s why I now travel all over the world (at my own expense) speaking at pastor’s conferences as often as I can, to train those that don’t have access to training or education. I believe deep in my heart, that God has given me a message to share with others. And it is my greatest desire to share that message with as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible.

Giant Killers is about breaking glass ceilings. It’s about discovering who you really are, who you are meant to become. But it’s more than just self-discovery, it’s about personal development and change. It’s a book that helps you develop the skill set necessary to face the struggles in your future with confidence.

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. But 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.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?

The concepts in my book are twofold; a study of emotional intelligence and how God’s grace informs and empowers emotional intelligence. 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.

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.
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. Then, as I began to rewrite and transition an academic paper into a book that the public could relate to and enjoy, and as I expanded each chapter and delved more deeply into each concept, I became even more excited at the possibility that something I wrote could actually help change lives.

Do you write full-time or part-time?

I would have to say part time.

There are several things that seem to keep me busy. In addition to writing, I also coach a few CrossFit classes every week. I have a separate company that specializes in emotional intelligence and leadership training. In addition, I do five or six pastor’s conferences around the world in with an organization called Global Advance.

I have always fairly passionate about personal health and physical fitness. I have lifted weights since high school, and about four years ago began CrossFit training. Being the father of three girls, I've always said that I want to be in better shape than any of the boys they bring home. So I have had some extra motivation to stay in shape. 
I tried out CrossFit a few years ago because my workouts and stagnant, and I was no longer pushing myself. After trying it out I got hooked like many people do, and now I'm a certified coach and even compete in Masters (a polite term for old people) competitions once in a while. CrossFit is not for everyone, but it definitely helped me increase intensity of my workouts, and at 50 years old I'm in the best shape of my life.

In researching for my book, Giant Killers, 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. Following a discussion with a friend of mine a few months ago, I decided to start Leadership Transformation Inc., a company focused on emotional intelligence and leadership training. Right now still in the launch process, but I've already done several seminars, and as the company grows I plan to limit my seminars to no more than two or three a month.

Last February I stepped down as senior pastor of the church my wife and I helped start 18 years ago. One of the reasons that I stepped down was to have more time to write. But another passion that I would really wanted to pursue more fully was the pastor’s conferences that I had done with Global Advance. 

Twenty-five years ago Global Advance by Dr. David Shibley to train pastors in the remote areas of the world where the pastors don’t have access to formal training. So Global Advance began sending pastors from the United States to do training conferences as well as more in-depth training for these men and women.

As a senior pastor, I really only had time to do one conference a year. This year I will do six conferences, and plan to add three or four more next year. These trips are solely at my expense, so obviously there are financial constraints, but I have had a few people committed to helping me cover my expenses, which is allowed me to take more trips. 

So far I have traveled to Columbia multiple times, Brazil, Peru, Turkey, Moscow, Mexico, and later this year I’m helping with the conference in Nepal. But that’s only a few of the places where we go, so the opportunities are virtually endless. Having the opportunity, privilege, and the honor to invest in these men and women, who have given up everything for the sake of the gospel, is truly one of the most rewarding things that I do.

Where do your ideas come from?

The ideas from my books come from life. They come from my interaction with people as a pastor. The come from my observation of people’s struggles and successes and greatest needs. The information comes from lots of reading, lots of research, and lots of prayer.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
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.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

My doctoral project took about four months to complete. Because my book was originally my final project for my doctoral degree, it read way too much like an academic document to be anywhere close to ready for publishing. In addition, I had to find an angle that would appeal to a larger audience. I mean a book on how God’s grace informs and empowers emotional intelligence isn't the most attractive of concepts to the general public. So in a moment of inspiration, I chose the story of David and Goliath as my launching point for the book, and continued to use David’s life as a great warrior and King as my running metaphor.

I wanted to show how important it is to develop the skills related to emotional intelligence and how they impact everyday life. I wanted to show how they not only enable us to overcome difficulties, but also how they set us up for success. In addition, I see so clearly how an understanding and acceptance of God’s grace brings supernatural power to the process. So the story of a teenage boy killing a giant seem like a good place to start. It is a story familiar to many, and is very inspirational to those of us facing our own giants in life. 

So I basically rewrote the entire book and revised as I went. I imagine that I am similar to most authors in that I revised, then revised some more, then edited, then rewrote, then revised again, and eventually had to simply declare it “done.” This process took about 6 months.

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.

Wow, the answer to this question could be a long story filled with false starts, wasted money, and stupid decisions. I chose to self-publish my book and actually went through three self-publishing companies (insert long story here) before landing with Amazon’s Create Space.
I actually began with a company called Winepress. According to their website and several review boards, Winepress had been in the self-publishing business for decades. They actually designed my cover, and that is still basically the cover that I'm using today. Unfortunately, they suddenly went out of business before we got much more done than the cover design. 

It actually turned out to be good for me that they went out of business, but I'm going to leave that in the “stupid decisions” category and let that story remain a mystery for now. However, I like the cover that Winepress designed. So when I teamed up with the designers at Create Space, I sent them the photo used in my cover. They then sent me two options, one of which was with my photo and some improvements on the cover. I really like their improvements and stuck with my original cover design.

How are you publishing this book and why?

I chose to self-publish. 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.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

Because of my history, the first thing that comes to mind is doing your research in choosing who will publish your book. Check the history of the publishing company. Check the reviews. Contact several of their authors if possible. Compare their royalty rates with several other companies. Be sure and check their track record with other books similar to yours. Then choose the company best suited to help you reach your goals.

Secondly, develop a marketing plan. I didn't do this at all. I had no clue how I to market my book. I didn't know what a pre-launch was, or what I was going do after the book was published. Honestly, I'm still a little fuzzy on all of that. It’s quite possible, depending on your experience or lack thereof, that the development of your marketing plan will take just as much time and effort as it took to write and publish your book. But however long it takes, put in the work. It will save you time, money, and a lot of stress if you do.

Third, make sure your online presence is on point. Have your website, blog, social media, etc. ready to go in sync with your launch. If they all exist and you’re well-established online, that’s even better. But you still need to be ready to sync them up with the theme of your book so that you have a coordinated approach to your online marketing.

Then, after your book is released; work the plan. Follow through with your marketing plan. Continue to develop your website, blog and social media. And continue to research different ways to market your book. And while doing all of that, start your next book.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

When I finally published my book through Create Space, I enrolled the Kindle edition into Amazon’s Kindle Select program. I have done one three-day giveaway, and almost 2000 people downloaded my book. It seems to have made very little difference in terms of book sales. It would be nice if it would have; but at this point one of my main objectives is getting my name out there, and the giveaway has at least helped with that.

In what formats is your book available?

Paperback and Kindle

How do you relax?

My wife and I love to travel. When I was pastor, I maximize my vacation time, and we usually ended up going somewhere. In addition to vacationing in the US, we have had the privilege of touring parts of Italy, spending a little over a week in London, and we go to Mexico and spend a week on the beach at least once a year.

I'm also a bit of a fitness nut, so you can find me in the gym for five days a week. I have always fairly passionate about personal health and physical fitness. I have lifted weights since high school, and about four years ago began CrossFit training. Being the father of three girls, I've always said that I want to be in better shape than any of the boys they bring home. So I have had some extra motivation to stay in shape. 

I tried out CrossFit a few years ago because my workouts and stagnant, and I was no longer pushing myself. After trying it out I got hooked like many people do, and now I'm a certified coach and even compete in Masters (a polite term for old people) competitions once in a while. CrossFit is not for everyone, but it definitely helped me increase intensity of my workouts, and at 50 years old I'm in the best shape of my life.

I also still love to hang out with my girls and son-in-law. Our girls are grown now, but we have a great relationship with all of them. So we make an effort to spend time with them whenever their home or close by. That may take the form of a daddy/daughter date night or family game night. They will even go to the hunting ranch with me. It doesn't really matter what we do as long as we get to spend some time together.

Most importantly, I love hanging out with my wife. I happen to be married to the hottest, most beautiful, most amazing woman in the world. We've been married for 27 years and we’re more passionately in love and happier than we've ever been. And, surprisingly enough, we actually like each other and like spending time together. So whether it’s our weekly date night, going out with friends on the weekend, or take a couple of days off do a quick trip somewhere, we have a great time.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

The main thing I would say is, 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.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

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.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website Address:

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