Many writers have found great success through self-publishing, specifically self-publishing through Amazon. This does not pertain to a specific genre and one such writer, Carolyn Jourdan, has found great success through self-publishing her works and has even become a Wall Street Journal bestselling memoirist and biographer. “I’m a former Counsel to the U.S. Senate Environment Committee, a lawyer with a degree in Biomedical Engineering, and a four-time Wall Street Journal bestselling author,” Jourdan said. “So far, I’ve had six books make it into the top ten in the USA. I live in East Tennessee next door to where Dolly Parton is from and I have a strong local accent like Dolly’s.”
It was quite the journey Jourdan had to endure before she found her way to self-publishing. Her very first book was a memoir about her life, Heart in the Right Place, and what happened in her life after her mother suffered a heart attack. “I had to make a dramatic change in my lifestyle and leave a glitzy job in Washington, DC to come back home to live in my parents’ basement and work for free for four years to help keep my father’s rural medical practice open. He treated a lot of people who couldn’t afford to pay, so whatever salary I’d gotten would’ve come right out of poor people’s access to medical care,” Jourdan said. “Working for years as an unpaid receptionist in a doctor’s office destroyed my career as a high-tech environmental lawyer, which was a good thing, but it meant I had to find a new way to make my living.”
Since her first memoir, Jourdan has published many other works and has more on the way. One such book turned into multiple books and has since become a fun and informative memoir series any reader will enjoy thanks to a ranger she met while working for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Jourdan worked as the webmaster and social media person for the park for seven years and had only been working at the park for a few days when her boss told her there was someone she needed to meet: Kim DeLozier. “Kim is a terrific, brave, heroic, and also hilarious guy. In his thirty-two years as a wildlife ranger, he had countless extraordinary experiences, crazy stuff like a sedated adult wild black bear waking up in his office, in the back seat of his car, in the back seat of a helicopter! He’s been attacked and chased and trampled by a wide variety of animals. And it’s all just part of a normal day’s work for him,” Jourdan said.
Both Jourdan and DeLozier have a very similar sense of humor and came from similar backgrounds of being raised on small farms close to parks and taking care of variety of different animals. “Together, we were able to do a very funny book about his life as a ranger,” Jourdan said. “We worked together on it for several years and he had so many wonderful true stories, it ended up becoming a series rather than a thousand-page book. Our purpose was to do public education that would protect the eleven million visitors who come to the Smokies every year and the park wildlife – from each other. And we’ve been extremely happy to have achieved that goal beyond our expectations.”
If one has read either of the Bear in the Back Seat volumes currently available to readers, one will be able to experience the humor both Jourdan and DeLozier offer. Their collaboration is impeccable and will be enjoyed by many readers who pick up the books. Many of Kim’s stories are shared with readers through his series, but working for the same park DeLozier did for seven years, Jourdan has stories of her own to share. “I have no sense of direction. I got horribly lost once within sight of my office. It took two rangers to get me back to the building. The second one walked me to the door and waited until I got inside before he’d leave. I am also clumsy. I’ve fallen and broken my nose hiking,” Jourdan said. “I’ve been stung, slipped in creeks and gotten soaked. I am a fumbling, bumbling bushwhacker. When I do wildlife ride-alongs with Kim, I almost never get out of the SUV. When he makes me get out, I never get more than a few feet away from him. I’m pretty much scared of everything.”
“It’s harrowing to see the things naïve people will do. Visitors who don’t understand about wild animals will do foolish, dangerous things that will result in the rangers having to euthanize an innocent animal – that’s the worst. The only thing they hate more than having to put an animal down is a dead, partially consumed tourist. But a foolish tourist who is passing through for a couple of hours can teach a huge wild animal a deadly new trick by feeding it, to lure it closer for a blurry photo to take back home,” Jourdan said. “The funniest things I see when I’m with the rangers are the naïve questions people will ask, like, ‘Where are the elk?’ when the elk are standing almost in a circle around the family van ten feet away. Then they’ll follow up with, ‘Where do we pay to ride them?’”
When writing her first memoir, it took Jourdan fourteen years to complete it. Five of those years were consumed with the book being traditionally published after she found an agent. “Nowadays, with Amazon KDP, it takes a year or two of research and interviewing to write the book and a few hours to publish it! It is incredibly satisfying to be in total control of your work. And FUN,” Jourdan said. “Traditional publishing has a couple of good points, but it’s terrible not to have any control over something like, for example, the story of your own life. That’s harrowing and painful. Nowadays, there is much less domination of what’s available to buy being confined to certain styles or content. Every writer is free to speak to their own audience, no matter how obscure their niche might be. To me, that just screams AMERICA!!! With Amazon, you don’t have to run a savage gauntlet of gatekeepers who hold a monopoly on publication. You don’t have to endure years of subjective editing. You can publish immediately instead of waiting two years or more in a queue.”
Since she first began to self-publish her work through Amazon, Jourdan has never looked back. “If I can do it, anyone can. Old dogs (and young dogs) can learn new tricks. Amazon levels the playing field so everyone’s work can speak for itself. You can’t ask for anything better than that,” Jourdan said. Together, Jourdan and DeLozier have released two volumes of Bear in the Back Seat with many interesting stories to share from DeLozier’s thirty-plus years of experience as a chief wildlife ranger. They are currently finishing another book called Rangers and Poachers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which they think is “exciting, funny, and pretty darn interesting.” “It highlights the unusual local culture and the carefully-orchestrated relationship between the poachers and rangers – a type of mutual disarmament in their encounters. Running and hiding are okay, but shooting is not,” Jourdan said. “I’m also working on a book about Yellowstone wildlife with some bloopers in it that are simultaneously hilarious and terrifying.”