Martin Ball interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Dec 13, 2016 1:32:30 PM
Martin Ball interview with David Alan Binder
Please note that I interview all kinds of authors and do not promote anything, other than their interesting interviews. All opinions expressed below are those of the author (Dr. Martin Ball) only. In other words, I take no responsibility for the content, the content is the author’s words not mine.
His bio from his website: Martin W. Ball, Ph.D., is a writer, independent publisher, energy worker, visionary artist, and musician currently living in Ashland Oregon. In the spring of 2009 Martin underwent a profound energetic opening and transformation - the product of intensive work with entheogenic medicines and a year of profound self-exploration. The result is Martin's articulation of what he calls the "Entheological Paradigm," a Grand Unified Theory of all of reality from God to the direct experience of each human being, which he characterizes as an articulation of his view on “radical nonduality.” His approach is unique in that he sees the tension between duality and nonduality not as a spiritual or religious issue, but as an energetic issue that can best be addressed through the intentional use of powerful entheogens, such as [substance deleted]. As such, his approach is thoroughly practical, straight-forward, and free of metaphysics, speculation, and attachment to spiritual or religious ideologies and mythologies. The result is a view of the nature of reality and the self that is challenging, liberating, and powerfully transformative, pointing to the true nature of being and personal responsibility as an energetic being.
Martin earned his B.A. at Occidental College in Los Angeles in 1994 where he studied Philosophy and Religious Studies. From there he went to graduate school at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Religious Studies in 2000 with an emphasis on Native American traditions, Philosophy of Science and Religion, and the Phenomenology of Mystical and Shamanic Experience, as well as the role of entheogens in religious and spiritual experience. For his Ph.D. dissertation, Martin performed fieldwork at the Mescalero Apache reservation in New Mexico where he studied with a number of medicine people and researched the Mescalero Mountain Spirit tradition.
After completing graduate school and being frustrated with not finding work in his field, Martin began writing fiction, which resulted in the four-book fantasy epic, Tales of Aurduin, with the first book in the series, Orobai's Vision, written in 2002. The series was completed in 2005 with the final installment, The Fifth Temple. It was then that Martin had the idea that he'd included much of what he'd learned from [substance deleted] and Salvia divinorum in the series, and shortly thereafter produced Mushroom Wisdom, which was published in December of 2006. Following that came Sage Spirit and the POD release of Tales of Aurduin.
It was with the release of Mushroom Wisdom that Martin started his career as a public advocate for entheogenic reform and education. Since then, he has been a self-published author and public speaker and has become known internationally as an authority on [substance deleted] and for his uncompromising nondual take on entheogenic experience.
Currently, Martin works as an adjunct professor teaching Religious Studies at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, where he is also active on the local music and art scene. In 2008 he started hosting "The Entheogenic Evolution" podcast, and since 2014 has been organizer for the annual "Exploring Psychedelics" conference at SOU, held in the spring and open to the public in Ashland.
1. Where are you currently?
2. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
Writing is fun, and has real power to open minds and shift perspectives. Honest communication is radical, challenging, and extremely rewarding. Learning to trust myself to say what I need to say and saying it the way I need to say it has been empowering and transforming. Having confidence in knowing oneself and what one wants to share activates an audience in a way that nothing else does.
3. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
Perhaps interesting isn’t the correct word, but a common experience of mine when writing fiction is fairly persistent insomnia. This is something that only shows up with me when working on a novel, but not when I’m working on a non-fiction book. I think it is due to how consuming novel writing is with plots, sub-plots, major and minor characters, locations, etc. It is also related to how I tend to get novels worked out in detail in my mind before I start writing. Then, once I start writing, I write and write and write until the novel is finished. I can sit down and write for 5-10 hours a day – basically fill all the free time I have. I can never write fast enough to keep up with how the story is developing in my mind, so there’s something of a backlog. The result is that, especially for the first few weeks of writing, I can’t sleep. Even though I’m exhausted, I’m lying there in bed thinking of where the story is going, what the next chapter will be, what important plot developments need to take place, etc.
Writing non-fiction is a totally different experience. There, the focus on the writing is on the ideas, and my non-fiction expresses ideas that I routinely lecture and present on, so there’s a sense of just saying the things I’ve expressed many times already in other contexts, so there’s far less internal pressure and obsession than when writing fiction. It’s a totally different experience than writing fantasy and science fiction, and I don’t lose sleep over it.
As a writer and communicator, I very much enjoy the experience of writing. But novel writing taps into my more creative side, and there I’m a bit more caught by the whims of the Muse, so to speak. My creativity can be almost obsessive – whether is it writing fiction, making art, or recording music. There’s a satisfaction that comes from creative activity that I can’t get from other forms of expression and activity. I have such a strong desire to keep working and create the project I’m working on that I don’t rest until it’s done.
4. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
The first book of mine that became available to the public was actually my fifth written work. The first four were novels, and when I wrote them, self-publishing websites were just starting to get off the ground and become a viable option. I tried getting those novels into the hands of formal publishers, but generally didn’t get more than a “thanks but no thanks” response. Then, in writing a non-fiction book, I sent it out to two publishers, and one responded with a yes immediately, and the other didn’t get me a response until after the book was in print by the other publisher.
However, there were some issues with the publisher that made me not want to continue working with them for future books. By this time, I’d discovered how to self-publish, and went ahead and released my first four novels via self-publishing and POD websites.
Probably the hardest part of self-publishing novels is then connecting with an audience. As someone who self-publishes both fiction and non-fiction, I’ve found that non-fiction, based on the subject matter, generally sells itself and there’s a self-selecting audience out there for my subject. However, finding readers for novels is far more difficult, and would probably be much more successful via a publisher.
Currently, only one of my books has been published by a publisher (as mentioned above), and the rest are all self-published, though I’ve made more attempts to get books published through traditional publishers. Several of my self-published books have been reasonably successful, with regular monthly sales, though my audience for my fiction works remains relatively small.
With self-publishing, I think if you have a topic that has a ready audience, then you have a good chance of getting your work noticed. Even better is to have something original to say about the subject. For myself, I write about entheogens (psychedelics), and my approach is nondual in nature. In the field of psychedelic publishing, my perspective is generally considered radical and highly unique. So in some respects, I’ve cornered the market on nondual approaches to psychedelics as there isn’t anyone else out there writing from a comparable perspective. The result is that people who are interested in this subject seek out my books, and many people who read one of my books want to read the others, as well. So self-publishing has worked for me, at least as far as non-fiction goes. My fiction remains relatively obscure as self-published works, by comparison.
Also, I’d note that several of my self-published works of non-fiction have been taken by foreign publishers and translated and published in local languages, so there’s always the possibly that a self-published book can be noticed by traditional publishers – again, especially when the viewpoint expressed in the book is unique and worthy of attention.
a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?
My book, Mushroom Wisdom, was published by Ronin Books in Oakland in 2006.
5. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I think eBooks are fantastic. Personally, I really enjoy being able to have a library of books available on my iPad and have completely switched from print to eBooks for my own reading pleasure. As someone who has published all of my work as eBooks as well as POD, I receive a steady income from both sources and overall, sales are probably fairly even between eBooks and paperback. Though some people are fond of physical books, as we continue on into the digital era, this audience will probably become smaller and smaller with digital audiences growing. The same is of course true for music. As a self-produced musician, I sell far more music via digital downloads than physical CD sales, which are generally limited to audiences at live shows. Digital is clearly the way the market is going.
6. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Ha! – No.
7. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
No idea . . .
8. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
People often ask me about how to go about writing a book. The advice I give everyone is simply to start working on the book. Just start writing! I think many people get hung up on the idea of how much work it is going to be, or perhaps they don’t know where their story is going, or how the book is going to end. They’re intimidated by the process, and it feels daunting to them.
However, simply starting to write can get things going. Rather than thinking about the whole thing or the end product you want to produce, just work one chapter at a time, one page at a time, one sentence at a time. Get an idea of what you want to say, and then just start saying it. Once the gates are open, you can get into the flow of writing and expressing yourself. Just start! Don’t be attached to the end product and enjoy the process of creating and writing.
Some people like having an outline or a road map to work from. Personally, I don’t. I like seeing where the text and ideas will take me as I write, and I like being surprised (at times) by where it all goes. I don’t think it’s necessarily helpful to have everything figured out before you start to write. Having everything “right” before you start can be an impediment.
9. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
For me, the biggest surprises have been with writing fiction. Writing non-fiction is fairly straight-forward for me: these are my ideas and this is how I want to present them. No real surprises there. Writing fiction is very different, however. I’ve had minor characters become central characters, and accidental or casual plot events become major pivots in the story in ways I didn’t understand when I was first writing them. Characters can take on a life of their own and I think it’s important for the writer/author not to hold them back or try and fit them into one’s pre-conceived notion of who the character is or what his or her role in the story was intended to be. Let your characters and events surprise you.
Along similar lines, I’ve found that in writing novels, it’s important for me to have an idea of where the story is going and a general understanding of how I’m going to bring the story to a conclusion, but I don’t need to know all of the details between the set up and the conclusion in order to get the story written. I find that in writing fiction, there’s a lot I don’t know about the story or characters until I get there, in a sense. This makes writing like a voyage of discovery. I don’t need to know all the details because the necessary elements will reveal themselves when I get there in the story. This makes writing fiction a unique pleasure as both the creator of the story and as one who is encountering it for the first time as it develops – both director and witness, simultaneously. In short, it’s a great deal of fun and very satisfying, creatively.
10. How many books have you written?
Six novels, three art books, nine non-fiction books.
11. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?
Have something to say, and don’t be self-conscious of how you say it. Don’t be thinking about how your audience will respond to what you say. Say it in a way that is authentic and real for you. There’s way too much BS available out there in the world, and audiences respond to authenticity. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Writing is about communicating and expressing yourself. If you hold back, or mold your writing to be acceptable, readers will know it. It’s up to you to allow yourself to be free in your expression.
12. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
Along the lines of what I wrote above, don’t be afraid of not knowing all the details of where your story is going or what your characters will do. Leave yourself and your story open to possibilities, and when you see an opening, even if it wasn’t what you planned, go for it. If you surprise yourself, there’s a good chance you’ll surprise your audience as well.
13. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
Having something unique or original to say that moves the discourse on a topic into new areas is always a plus. As I mentioned above, I mainly write about entheogens/psychedelics, and what makes my approach unique is that I look at the phenomenology of psychedelic experience from a nondual perspective – one that is thoroughly grounded in my own personal experience and practice. In the field of psychedelic research and writing, my take stands out in many profound ways. The result is that my books are viewed as being radical, challenging, and provocative – and that’s in a field that is already generally considered radical, challenging, and provocative. In my case, having a different viewpoint than what most are accustomed to has proved instrumental in getting my books read, for interview offers, for requests for papers and comments, etc. As a result, I have a global audience that knows if you want to understand psychedelic experience from a nondual perspective, my books are about the only thing available out there. So uniqueness counts for a lot, at least in my publishing area.
14. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I’ve hosted a podcast for the past nine years, which is regarded as one of the most popular and respected podcasts in the field of psychedelic research and culture, so I’ve got a large global audience that I can communicate with directly whenever I have a new release. I generally read portions of my new books on the podcast, as well as make promotional YouTube videos, and simultaneously promote the books on social media, such as Facebook.
Additionally, I regularly give public talks, both locally and internationally, at conferences, festivals, and other events. There are also both print and online media that will publish sample chapters from my books when they come out. It definitely helps to be aware of what media sources and events are available in one’s subject area, and then sharing material with them. Many websites are looking for content, and if you can provide it, then you should.
I also give countless interviews. In my experience, this has been very easy, given the unique nature of my approach to my chosen subject matter. I’ve never had to seek or request an interview – they just come in all on their own from YouTube channels, podcasts, print and online media, radio, even community TV stations. A high-profile interview is probably the biggest boost to book sales that I could recommend.
Making at least some content available for free is significant as well, especially if you don’t have a publisher or people backing your work. Put it out on podcasts, blogs, or other forms of media. Don’t hesitate to write an article for a source that doesn’t pay. Getting your work out there should be a higher priority than getting paid, at least to some extent (don’t need to give everything away for free!). I’ve found that people who consume some of my content for free will generally come back for more that they are then willing to pay for, now that they know the value of it.
15. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
16. What saying or mantra do you live by?
The process is all that matters . . . and ALWAYS keep it real! Be yourself, be authentic, and be bold.