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Interview: Joe Niehaus, Author of Shadow in the Reflection

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Joe Niehaus is the author of six book and numerous articles in police and martial arts magazines, using his career as a police officer in Ohio as inspiration. He is a graduate of Tiffin University and is an adjunct professor at his alma mater, Ashford University and Sinclair Community College. He also has certificates in fraud examination and clinical and forensic hypnosis that help him in forming an engaging plot.  

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

There are many aspects to writing that create difficulties along the way and each draft presents its own problems. In the first draft there were issues with character development and ensuring that each character remained true to who they were.  The plot also needed to keep moving forward and not fall into a typical fantasy story of sword and sorcery.

As we progressed through the drafts other issues became apparent and those had to be dealt with. Setting for instance, were we true to the times and places that we selected for the story to take place.  We did mix history with fiction in the book and so we had to check facts–Mary even went on a historical journey of her own tracing her family back to England–so some of that got in the book as well!

Ultimately I think the hardest part of writing a book is when we get into the book about 100 pages or so and you sit at the computer and look at the blank document and think–where am I supposed to go next?  Once you overcome that hurdle each day, the rest seems to fall into place.

When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

Actually the book Shadow in the Reflection, has had quite a journey. The Viking part of the story was actually written years ago after my first book, Fukatsu: A Novel of the Ninja, was published by University Press. However when I sent the story out fantasy was not doing well with publishers and there seemed to be no interest. 

As things go time goes by and my development in hypnosis continued.  Mary and I worked on several other books, Hypnosis Unveiled and Beware the Whale’s Wake, when she came up with the idea of using a story with a past life regression in it. One thing led to another and we merged the Viking story with updated work into a modern day story of past life regression.

The interesting thing that sparked the story was an actual past life regression story in which a therapist was treating two different people, and he discovered that they had the same past life memory.  Seems they were married during the late 1800’s, took a riverboat cruise on their honeymoon, he fell overboard and was drowned.

So that helped to spark the idea. Once we started working on the story we would send out portions to get opinions and such.  But then other projects would appear and it would get placed on the back shelf, only to return again.  I think the whole process for this one took maybe ten or so years to complete.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (if any)?

Oh, the first book was definitely a learning curve. I sent the book to agents, got some very nice rejection letters but no one seemed interested.  So I kept at it–persistence you know–and began submitting it to small presses.  Again, I got some very nice responses but no takers. Thinking I was way off the mark I attended the Antioch Writer’s Conference in Ohio.  I presented some of my writing at the workshops and found that my writing was developing and not awful like I was beginning to suspect.  So I went back and revised the story, sent it out again to a small press and they accepted it for publishing. Did not make a fortune, made very little, got very little notice–but hey, it was published!

Have you written a book that you have not been able to get published?  If so, can you share a little about it with us?

Doesn’t every writer have unfinished manuscripts about the house–or now probably on a hard drive or disc somewhere. I have a couple of mysteries that I realized the plot and story were not working–a couple non-fiction ideas have not developed well, even a children’s story called “Astronaut Matt and his Mom,” when I was reading a lot of children’s stories when my kids were young.

How did you come up with the title?

That was also a journey, Shadow in the Reflection, was not the first title.  We had things like the Midnight Sun, Time Journey, Timeless Journey, and between Mary and me we would just call it Hrothgar–so there were many names but none of them fit the book.

As we were working on the final draft I really began to look at the story and I thought of someone looking into a mirror and them not seeing themselves but them in another life. The hypnosis link comes into play here and I began to think of someone seeing themselves in the mirror but in their eye they see this reflection of who they were in another time – so that led to the current title.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

I would tell anyone who wants to write, who wants to tell a story, to never give up.  Be tenacious about it.  I have met a lot of talented writers who gave up and we are all the poorer because of it.  There are so many methods to get published now, to have the opportunity to tell your story, get your characters to come to life for someone else–that you should keep working towards your goal.  In the end it is not the most talented writers who get published or their work read–but the most tenacious!

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About Tracee Gleichner