This is from an online interview by Packt Publishing. I answered the same questions as for my previous book, just with a new perspective regarding TikZ.
What is/are your specialist tech area(s)?
After studying mathematics, I decided to work in the IT. After years as IT Officer on cruise ships, I specialized in network engineering. Currently, I’m working as a senior consultant for the network team of a cruise line.
How did you become an author for Packt? Tell us about your journey. What was your motivation for writing this book?
At the university, I learned LaTeX and loved using it. I had a LaTeX blog and was a frequent writer in LaTeX forums. So I came in contact with an acquisition editor at Packt, and we talked about the idea of writing a LaTeX book for Packt. That was in 2011, and now I got my 5th book contract, with a publishing date of January 2024.
What kind of research did you do, and how long did you spend researching before beginning the book?
Because of many years of support in online forums, I knew what topics would be good for beginners, and I knew the common challenges and frequently asked questions. I chose the most important things to start with that would fit into a single book.
Once I made a concept of the book with topics per chapter, it quickly happened that we made the contract. The research was rather during writing, checking references to ensure everything I said was correct and to come up with good, short, and motivating code examples.
Did you face any challenges during the writing process? How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was finding enough time to write and deliver chapters on time. That’s because of a challenging day job and a family, even more with the second edition of the first book since I now have three kids. So my writing time was usually at the weekend and in the night. The contact with the content editors through the writing time helped push forward. Especially in 2021 and even more in 2023, I worked with very motivating editors and project managers for the last two books.
What’s your take on the technologies discussed in the book? Where do you see these technologies heading in the future?
TikZ is very popular for creating graphics in mathematics and other sciences, but also in further fields. It evolved over time and is now probably best choice for creating graphics.
Why should readers choose this book over others already on the market? How would you differentiate your book from its competition?
The LaTeX Graphics Companion is a great book. It deals, for example, with MetaPost and PStricks, however it’s not touching TikZ, even in the latest print. That’s probably due to the age of the book, still I strongly recommend it. After I bought the latest and improved print and missed TikZ in the content, I thought I shall write a book myself. Quite at the same time when my TikZ book appeared, the LaTeX Companion (to be clear, that’s not the LaTeX Graphics Companion) got a 3rd edition that comes with a TikZ chapter, I heard. I ordered it because I expect it’s a great book, still wait for delivery.
But back to this TikZ book. It uses up-to-date tools and practices, and it comes with a website with integrated LaTeX compiler so readers can edit and compile the book examples with a single mouse click or touch on their tablet or phone.
What are the key takeaways you want readers to come away with from the book?
TikZ is understandable and usable also for non-programmers. We can get excellent results quickly. As TikZ users are a very active community, it’s easy to get help in online forums. If you post some code with a problem or a question in a web forum, you usually get working code as an answer.
What advice would you give to readers learning tech? Do you have any top tips?
Just start learning and working with it. Visit online forums and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Help others if you see questions that you may answer.
Do you have a blog that readers can follow?
Can you share any blogs, websites and forums to help readers gain a holistic view of the tech they are learning?
How would you describe your author journey with Packt? Would you recommend Packt to aspiring authors?
I work with Packt since 10 years, and the experience improved. The print quality significantly improved since they now could work with scalable PDF images, not only bitmap images. The templates improved, and the workflow, and with communication and overall it was the best experience with the third book. That’s why I would recommend Packt to authors.
Do you belong to any tech community groups?
What are your favorite tech journals? How do you keep yourself up to date on tech?
While I’m reading the TeX Users Group and DANTE journals, I’m keeping myself up to date by visiting forums every day and chatting and emailing with TeX developers.
What is that one writing tip that you found most crucial and would like to share with aspiring authors?
I would recommend to plan enough time. Writing can take much longer time than expected. Also be aware that, in the current Packt workflow, once you are half through with the book, you get the chapters back one by one for revisions based on recommendation by content editor and reviewers, that takes additional time while you are still writing the remaining chapters.