DL native a man of Self Convictions
For Detroit Lakes native R.J. Hamilton being a writer is "something that I've been wanting to do, pretty much forever."
When he was in eighth grade at DL Junior High School, Hamilton came up with the concept that would become the premise of his debut novel.
"I've always thought about how fascinating it would be to be able to look at something and will it to move," said Hamilton, 34, who now makes his home in Topeka, Kansas.
But it would take nearly two decades before that germ of an idea was finally developed into a full-length novel.
That novel, Self Convictions was released nationwide on May 31 -- a few weeks after its sequel, Self Consciousness, was submitted to his publishers for review. A third book in the trilogy, Self Conclusions, is still in the works.
"I wrote Self Convictions while on my second deployment to Iraq," said Hamilton, a U.S. Army veteran who received his discharge in December 2009, after 15 years of military service that included two tours in Bosnia as well as in Iraq.
While stationed in Iraq, Hamilton found himself with a lot of off-duty time on his hands, which he put to good use in typing the first draft of his novel.
That novel centers around a protagonist named Brandon, who tells his story in first person narrative. Brandon has telekinetic abilities, but has problems controlling them due to the interference of an outside force known as the Voice.
Brandon's story begins with his birth and continues through his first meeting with the love of his life, Sarah, who has similar mental capabilities to his. The second book deals with the birth of Sarah and Brandon's twins, Bennett and Brielle, who are being hunted by the same secret society that had attempted to take control of Brandon and Sarah's lives.
Though they were both released to the public within a relatively short time frame, Hamilton said that the first two books in the trilogy represent about three years of work from concept to publication.
"The third book is about the sibling rivalry between Bennett and Brielle," said Hamilton.
Since his first book was released, Hamilton has moved away from working with the publishing house that printed Self Convictions, into the world of self-publishing.
"I am now publishing through CreateSpace, an affiliate of Amazon.com," he said.
After the first book was published, Hamilton said he ran into some difficulties with the publishers he was using, "so I dismissed (i.e., fired) them."
These days, Hamilton is marketing his books via his own website (rjhamilton.webs.com) and on Amazon.com. They are available in both hard copy and e-book form.
"The self-publishing route has gotten really mainstream," Hamilton said, as traditional publishing methods decline in popularity.
Hamilton struggled to find a market for his books initially, "because marketing is a learning process."
But gradually, as Hamilton learned the ins and outs of Internet marketing, book signings and other avenues, sales have begun to pick up.
"I can't complain about it too much," he said, adding that currently, sales are "about average."
As for the third book, Hamilton said it may take a little longer to finish than he anticipated. Between his job at Prairie Band Casino and Resort, marketing and promotion of his first two books, being a dad to his four children, and gearing up to return to college this fall, he doesn't have as much free time for writing as he used to.
"I'll be attending Washburn University in Topeka this fall, majoring in English with an emphasis on writing," he said. "I think it's going to be fun."
Though he hasn't been back to Detroit Lakes in about six years, Hamilton said most of his family still lives in the area.
"Once I get enough vacation time saved up, I need to get back there," he said. "My whole family is there, minus my children."