David: I began writing for publication when I was 19, writing magazine articles of rock music publications. I interviewed America, when they had one hit – “Horse With No Name” and Christian guitarist Phil Keaggy – who Jimi Hendrix referred to as “the best guitarist in the world.” I have to say, I was very focused. I knew what I wanted to accomplish, which was to break into publishing at a fairly high level, so even as a young person I wrote and rewrote, and took direction from amazing journalists and editors. I did not let fragile ego get in my way.
By staying open to instruction I found myself in the company of a man named Dallas Kinney, a former editor for the Miami Herald, who took interest in my drive and determination and taught me how write with power, in an economy of words, for a targeted audience. I listened to him closely, and rewrote and rewrote articles until I got it right.
As for book publishing, I was fortunate to meet the four founders of Chosen Books, a highly successful, small publishing company with an astonishing track record for releasing multi-million bestsellers. The principles of the company were writers, and aging, and looking for a young man to train in publishing – with their writing success secrets, the coaching know-how, and their publishing acumen. It was truly a “preparation meets opportunity” event. I count myself very fortunate to have stepped into this company as Editorial Director in my early twenties. (I often wonder, “What were they thinking?”)
Demi: Your book Blood Brothers brings to life the story of a Palestinian peacemaker, striving for reconciliation between Palestinians and Jews in Israel. When did you first interact with Elias Chacour, then a village priest and now Archbishop of the Melkite Church?
David: I chanced upon a very brief article about Chacour in the Sojourners magazine, a publication put out by a Christian community in D.C. that is focused on social justice. They referred to Chacour as a “Palestinian Christian,” and at that time Americans had only heard of Palestinian “terrorists.” The juxtaposition of those two words, “Palestinian” and “Christian” stuck in my mind. And reading about the plight of Palestinians in the Middle East in general and Israel in specific, moved me to investigate more.
I started making phone calls to political and religious leaders around the U.S. and Europe to vet him. Every person I talked to, from rabbis to ministers to priests, from our State Department, from people who had worked with Chacour – they all said the same thing. “He’s gold. You need to write the story of how he is building community centers, high schools, and a university to be shared by Palestinians and Jews – and how he became a man of peace in a land of war.”
I called him finally, introduced myself, and his first challenge was, “Are you coming to write about the holy stones and sands here – or about the living stones?” I loved his boldness. And when I met him, I loved his fire and compassion.
Demi: What was the time-span and influence of your book and his three subsequent Nobel Peace Prize nominations?
David: Blood Brothers spread rapidly around the world. It’s now published in 39 languages. I am told by several reputable sources (i.e., founders of international relief missions, who have high-ranking connections), that it was handed to members of the Nobel Committee. I don’t know by whom or when. So until I have facts, I’d have to say that its direct influence on Chacour’s nominations is hearsay. Believe me, I’m trying to verify the facts, and would do so before I make any statement about this.
I do know for certain that Blood Brothers influenced Secretary of State Howard Baker to get on a plane and meet Chacour – and later to write a Foreword for an updated edition of the book. I know, because I was stunned one day to receive a personal phone call from Baker, thanking me for my work.
Demi: Over the past 38 years, you’ve been helping authors discover the strongest way to shape their books for bestseller potential. Can you give us a quick tip?
David: KNOW your audience. Know what their most vital interest is in your subject – whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction.
Start by understanding their questions, and what would motivate them to keep reading.
Also know their potential resistance to what you’re writing. (In novels and memoirs, having no plot energy creates a resistance; having a lead character with low or no motivation creates a resistance. Writing cliche’s and without imagination creates drag and resistance. In non-fiction, failing to motivate your reader by showing them ‘what’s in it for you’ creates resistance.)
Bottom line: Study and know your audience interest; bring fresh material to light; make us want to read you.
In 2007, David Hazard founded ASCENT, an organization that hosts creative-writing schools, workshops and retreats from coast to coast in the U.S. and internationally. A published author, David has helped launch and develop the careers of nearly 250 writers during his 37 years in the publishing field. His success in coaching writers comes from his method of training, which engages the whole person, mind and body.