Joseph Schneller served as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and holds a Psychology degree from Whitworth. He is an alumnus of the Christian Writers Guild. His publishing credits include Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family, Clubhouse, and Focus on the Family; LifeWay’s Stand Firm; and Walk Thru the Bible’s Indeed. He writes nonfiction and humor for adults, and fiction for children, youth, and adults. He and his wife, Kippi, live in Colorado with their two young boys.
Q: Thank you for this interview, Joseph. Can you tell us what your latest book, Your Average Joe: Unplugged, is all about?
Your Average Joe: Unplugged addresses the tension between faith and experience, belief and “the real world.” With great personal transparency, it acknowledges tough issues like job dissatisfaction, unemployment, and fear. And, without inhibition, it digs into Christianity and asks, “Can this faith really help me through the splinters, pitfalls, and disasters of life?” This is a gritty, honest, guy-speak book.
But it is also seasoned with humor. Included throughout are Dave Barry/Erma Bombeck-style humor articles, generally on the foibles of marriage.
The pairing of comedy with faith-grilling is an odd one, I know, but hopefully it’s like peanut butter and chocolate: delectable goodness. Reader feedback includes thanks for the honesty and applause for the humor.
Q: How did you come up with the idea?
The journey of faith is no easy path. Yet many believers suffer from the false assumptions that Christians are supposed to have it all together, that the walk of faith should be one of comfort and ease, that faithfulness and prosperity skip hand-in-hand through rolling fields of daffodils. That is categorically certifiable nonsense.
We don’t need pretty answers wrapped with sparkling paper and frilly bows; we need real ones. When we’re down in the pit amidst the muck and grime, we need real light, real insight, real deliverance.
I have found that when you write from behind the façade, you can speak directly to readers’ doubts, wounds, and anxieties. We are all real people; we share a broken humanity.
Fortunately and unfortunately, my research included a couple of semesters in the School of Bone-Crunching Knocks: I was unemployed for six months, then vastly underemployed for three. And all this with a wife and son at home, and another on the way.
Besides that, I spent time digging around in the Bible. And you know what I found? Not one significant character who didn’t either pass through major life turmoil or profoundly screw something up. Not one. “Hmm,” I thought, “maybe I can relate to this.”
I also read a bit—Philip Yancey, for example, the author of Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church. That dude is a spiritual cowboy; he doesn’t let any manmade fences keep him penned. So, at least in part, I learned from him the value and courage of candor.
Q: If a reader can come away from reading your book with one valuable message, what would that be?
God can walk you through absolutely anything.
Q: Can you give us a short excerpt?
“That period of unemployment and underemployment represents the greatest struggle of my marriage and one of the greatest struggles of my life. It was a time of fire and flood. Regardless of my Christian walk of faith, the trial and turmoil brought me egotistically barren before my belief in an invisible God. Without financial stability, without personal success, in painful knowledge of my family’s need and in full awareness of my inability to provide, I had to decide if I still believed in the God of the Bible.
“I, like Jacob, wrestled greatly with the great I AM….” (From the Introduction)
Q: In your own experience, is it hard to get a nonfiction book published today? How did you do it?
I think it’s hard for an average Joe or Jane to get any book published. In my case, an acquaintance referred me to a publisher. With breathtaking fireworks and exuberant panache, I presented my author marketing strategy, thus encouraging them to publish a title which includes the word “Average.” I’m sure it helped that my work has been nationally published through various magazines.
If someone were to ask, “Which requires more perseverance, ultra marathons or the road to publishing,” I would say that runners are wiener schnitzels and should just hand over their milk money.
Q: What’s a typical day like for you?
Wait, do you mean before or after the spa?
During the first six months of 2011, when we were editing the manuscript and designing the cover, I generally worked a minimum of 50 hours per week at my finance job, plus a nearly 2 hour daily commute. I sold about 20 articles to nationally published magazines, and strived to be a good husband and a good father to our two young boys. During part of that time, I also served as the president of a small non-profit organization.
So, a typical day has me running from 5:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., when—yes, I’ll say it—we watch “The Bachelorette.”
Q: What’s next for you?
Assuming my “American Idol” dreams go up in flames again, I’m going to pitch a young adult novel and another non-fiction book of serious hilarity and uproarious insight.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Joseph. We wish you much success!
Thanks! And if you find the T.V. remote, please let me know. We’ve been stuck on C-SPAN for a month.