Dan Gheesling on Writing and Books + A Giveaway!
Hi, everyone! If you followed my Tweets from this past summer, you’ll know how much I love watching the reality show Big Brother. My favorite aspect of the show is how it is about people, and how they interact with others when put in an extreme environment.
My favorite houseguest in Big Brother history is Dan Gheesling, the winner of Big Brother 10 and runner-up of Big Brother 14. He has a masterful way of interacting with other players in the house and convincing them to do what he wants. (This ability has jokingly been referred to as “Dan’s Mist.”) His game play was phenomenal, most notably the moment when he “hosted his own Big Brother funeral” as a ploy to remain in the house, and succeeded in his plan.
When I heard that Dan was also an author, the first thing I did was check out his book, How To Get On Reality TV: How A Normal Guy Got Cast On Reality TV. The book details his four-year journey to getting cast on reality television, so if you’re considering applying for reality TV (or if you’re just interested in learning how the process works from someone who’s been through it), you’ll definitely want to check it out! (At the bottom of this post, you can also enter to win the Kindle version of Dan’s book).
I was lucky enough to be able to chat with Dan about his writing process, what he enjoys to read, and how an interest in writing and reading helped him in the Big Brother house. I was happy to discover that Dan is super nice, and very down-to-Earth. As the title of his book says, he really is a “normal guy!” It was such a pleasure talking with him, and I hope you enjoy hearing what he had to say. ☺
Have you always enjoyed writing/known you wanted to write books?
It’s a catch 22 for me — growing up in high school, I enjoyed writing, but I got turned off to writing because of what we were forced to write about in school. Whenever I thought of writing it was like, “I need to write a 10 page paper about why pine needles fall off of evergreens” and it’s like, “Who really cares.” There was maybe 1 out of every 20 assignments where you got to pick your subject, and I always enjoyed that. But I found when I was writing about subjects I was passionate about, whether it was how to get on reality TV or motivating people, it became easy to me and I enjoyed it.
When I got off Season 10, I looked back at everything and noticed there was a common question people asked me in every email: How did you get on reality TV? I like to think I’m one of the few “normal” people on reality TV. When you watch TV there are a lot of crazy personalities, and that’s not necessarily me – there are a lot of things I had to do to play up my persona or character to get in the house. I went through four years of pain and struggle to get there, and I wanted to help other people get through those four years of pain and struggling. I figured that writing a guide was the best way to do that.
What is the biggest challenge for you when you are writing?
The hardest thing for me was getting started. I had an outline, so I had the approach mapped out, but getting started and saying, “Today I have to write 3,000 words,” was difficult. Then once I got started, it was even more difficult to quit. I’m the type of person who once I get put into a situation or I’m doing something, I take it all the way. So I’ll be writing for hours on end, and then I’d hear my wife Chelsea get home from work. Normally when she gets home from work I’ll come down and greet her and we’ll hang out for a while, but I would get so wrapped up in writing it was hard for me to walk away at times.
What kind of books do you enjoy to read? What are some of your favorite books?
In education, everyone is forced to read and write about things they don’t want to. So by the time you’re out of high school or college you can be burned out. For me, my growth started once I was finished with the school process. After I won the money the first time, I didn’t want to be one of those winners who had nothing to show for it. I come from humble beginnings, and I got this gift at age 25, and I didn’t want to let that go to waste. I knew there was a way to make that money work for me. So I was at a charity event in Oklahoma — a poker tournament — and I was playing with a guy who wanted me to read the back of a book called The Millionaire Real Estate Investor. Discovering I could learn new things by picking up a book or listening to an audio book opened up a new world to me, specifically the world of real estate. If someone had told me when I was 21 that I would be involved in real estate, I would say, “No way.” But I was able to do that by reading.
Generally, I like to read things that help me achieve something or help me learn about something I’m trying to do. There are always ways you can better yourself. The book 48 Laws of Power helped me get ready for the Big Brother house. A book like that was exactly what I needed, and you can also apply those rules to your real life. I also read Hunger Games — I loved it. I haven’t read the second and third ones yet, but it’s on my to-read list. I saw the movie, and there were so many parallels between Big Brother and reality TV in general.
An important attribute of most writers is that they are observant, especially of people around them. Do you think your interest in writing and reading helped your game in the Big Brother house?
Definitely — that’s a great point. When you write about things in detail — some of the things come from your imagination — but some come from experience. If you’re running your mouth and not observing people, you may not notice fine details. As a coach, I was looking to draft people who were observant as well. The person I noticed who was most like that was Kara. In those first couple days in the house, there are so many type A personalities who want to talk about themselves and how great they are. I might have been asked 30 questions the entire time I was in the house about myself, and I probably asked 30,000 questions to people in the house.
There’s a book called How to Win Friends and Influence People, and that book helped me be successful in Big Brother house because it discusses how when you talk to people and show a genuine interest in them by asking questions, it makes you seem more interesting and it creates a bond of trust. I saw that quality in Kara. From day one, she was sitting back, listening to people and observing people. That immediately drew me to her as a player, because that’s so rare. It’s amazing, the simple things you can do in life to show that you genuinely care about someone and want to get to know them.
In the Big Brother house, players are not allowed to read books (other than the Bible) or watch movies/TV. Was it hard for you to not be able to do those things for three months?
It was a little difficult, but for me it was more difficult having no idea what was going on outside the Big Brother house. I’m still finding things out today about news I missed while I was in the house. As far as entertainment in the house, it’s such a blessing and a gift and a unique opportunity to get in the house, one thing I never do while I’m there is complain about a lack of entertainment. I would try to do things to have fun, because there are so many people who would kill to get in the house. To complain about how boring it was is insulting to the people who tried to get into the house.
Why did you choose independent publishing over the agent/publisher route?
My inspiration came from a blogger who shared his entire writing process and how he conducts his business online. I saw how much success he had self-publishing and not going the traditional route. When you put your heart and soul into something, there can be lots of hurdles you run into. Some of them can be out of your control, like waiting for someone else and getting their approval. I decided to find a way to get it done on my own accord. There’s a level of control and satisfaction knowing that you made it on your own.
Thank you, Dan, for taking time to chat with me!