Author Interview: Eric Wilson

Plug time. What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

I’ve already written the first two books, Dark to Mortal Eyes and Expiration Date, in a supernatural suspense series following the five senses. I’m working currently on a mystery series with an edgy protagonist named Aramis Black. He is wrestling with deeply rooted issues of bitterness and forgiveness, facing the principle from Romans 12:21 that you should not “let evil get the best of you, but get the best of evil by doing good.” Thus, my working title: The Best of Evil.

How long had you been writing seriously before you got “the call?

I had dreamed of being a novelist from the age of ten, I’d written a 300 page book in high school, had magazine articles published in college, then raised a family while working on a novel off and on for a number of years. I tried sending out the novel, with over fifteen rejections. Talk about depressing! My “call” was an email from an agent.

Tell us about “the call.”

My agent discovered me through my reviews on Amazon. He noticed in my profile that I was working on a novel and contacted me. Six months later, we had serious interest from WaterBrook Press. The book went to committee on a particular Tuesday, but when my agent called with the results, he said he had bad news. “I’m prepared for anything,” I lied. “They don’t want a book,” he said. After a long pause, he added, “They want two!”
I’ve never, in the same moment, wanted to hug and strangle someone like I did then.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

I was a perfectionist as a kid. I’d rewrite the same pages over and over. My mom finally told me to take the correcting ribbon out of my typewriter (yes, I’m old enough to remember those!) and “just write.” That freed me to finish my first book while still in high school. I still have the manuscript lying around somewhere.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?

“You’ll have to get a real job.” Hey, I know that, thank you very much. I still work at Fedex Kinko’s, despite two novels in print. But writing is my real job, in my mind. The other job just pays the bills. Any hopeful novelist must write as though it’s a real job or it’ll never get done. Think of yourself as self-employed. Turn off the phones, the TV, the Internet (gasp!), and get to work.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier on that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I’m still learning as I go. It’s a business, bottom line. That’s the hardest thing for me to deal with since I’m not a businessman. Trying to tell good stories in a Godly fashion while dealing with the financial end of all this is a constant struggle for me.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

I’ve been reading through the Gospel of John recently. Every chapter blows me away with insights into Jesus’ life and love for people. I have been convicted afresh that “All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent me [Jesus], because there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end.” John 9:4 NLT

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

Before my first book was accepted, I had extreme interest from another publisher who later turned it down because it was “too secular for the Christian market, but too Christian for the secular market.” My goal is to reach those on the fringes of faith. I felt like I’d pursued God’s plan for my writing, yet nobody understood. I walked out in the rain to the edge of a lake and vented (ie. screamed at the top of my lungs). Of course, God hadn’t abandoned me, but from my self-centered narrow perspective, it sure felt like it at that moment.

What are a few of your favorite books?

I loved Dale Cramer’s Bad Ground and John Dalton’s Heaven Lake. Books that influenced me earlier on include: To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, The Bourne Identity, and The Shoes of the Fisherman. Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies has been a frequent inspiration.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

I’m most proud of what I’m working on, usually. I try not to look back and judge the things I’ve done, once their completed. My perfectionist side would pop up and beat me over the head. Recently, I had a poem accepted for a magazine. I don’t consider myself a poet at all, so that was nice. Ironically, the poem has to do with humility.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

Personally, I get tired of hearing “Oh, you need to get your book on Oprah,” (she doesn’t do modern novels anymore, thanks!) and “Maybe we can have coffee sometime, because I have an idea you can use for a book” (actually I have more ideas than my publishers want to pay for, okay?).
Professionally, I get worn out by the marketing aspects, the idea that I must fit in a box and be a “brand.” I understand the reasons for all this, but any talk about money and promotion drains me. I’d rather put my creativity into my characters.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

I write in the mornings before going to my other job (Fedex Kinko’s). I send my daughters (ages 11 and 13) off to school, grab some coffee and read my Bible, try to ignore the TV and Internet and bills, then plant my backside at the table with my laptop. I read over what I’ve done the previous day, and in the act of editing, get the creative juices flowing again for the next scenes. If any other thoughts pop up, I write them down in a working notebook for this particular novel. Usually, at the last second, I save everything I’ve done before throwing together a PBJ sandwich, chips, and an apple as I run out the door to make it to my other job on time.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

Boy, that’s a wild question which could lead down lots of paths. Most simply, after reading John Dalton’s Heaven Lake, I told my wife “if I had the talent, that’s the book I would’ve written.” It deals with faith and sin, loneliness and love, revealing God’s grace in a beautifully believable way. If I can even scratch the surface of such things, I’ll be happy.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I would love to have the sales and backlog to free me to write the things the Lord has put in my heart. I want most deeply to reach nonbelievers and struggling believers, and I suspect that I’ll do so in ways that will be fairly edgy. I need the courage to do so.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Do you mean besides today, yesterday, and every day before? I’m not planning on quitting tomorrow, so I guess things are looking good.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

I love the fame and fortune, but loathe the obscurity and poverty.
Seriously, I love the creative process. Published or not, I would have the need to create. The chance to struggle with my characters, with Biblical concepts, and with life make the writing process a highs-and-lows experience that I wouldn’t trade.
The hardest part, for me, is that few people understand the process. Eyes glaze over when you try to explain. Affirmation from readers goes a long way, but a writer receives very little of this. A musician, for example, might perform before a small crowd and receive instant feedback and affirmation. A writer works alone and rarely sees the reaction of the reader. That’s why reader emails mean so much.

Parting words?

Jesus is the Author of Life. Whether or not we play our desired roles in his story is not as important as interacting with and knowing the Author himself. If I can keep this in perspective, I’m more likely to go where his story intends. It may include some cliffhangers, but the Author is good. He loves his characters even more than I love mine. Good thing–because I can be quite a character sometimes!

Author Interview: Deborah Raney


Plug time. What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

Over the Waters releases this Saturday, October 1 from Steeple Hill. It was inspired by my parents’ twenty-five years of work with an orphanage near Port au Prince, Haiti.

How long had you been writing seriously before you got “the call?”

Well, I’ve written since I could hold a pencil, but I didn’t start work on my first novel until New Year’s Day 1994. It was the last resolution on my list that year, but sounded like more fun than “lose 10 pounds” so I started right in! I finished the novel at the end of May and got the first of three contract offers that September, signed a contract with Bethany House a few weeks later. I’m still trying to lose those ten pounds, so I guess it was a good call!

Tell us about “the call.”

Well, the first call with a contract offer wasn’t the publisher I ended up going with, but it’s the most exciting story, so I’ll tell that one: I witnessed a murder—a young man shot his adoptive father after accusing him of abuse—in our local grocery store on a September night in 1994. The next morning amidst a flurry of phone calls from reporters, police, and family members, the phone rang again. I picked it up fully expecting to tell my story one more time. Instead, it was a publisher in New York City offering me a contract for my manuscript for A Vow to Cherish. Talk about your highs and lows!

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

I think the best advice came from Francine Rivers who advocates simply writing the book of your heart and letting God worry about the promotion. I still can’t avoid reading reviews the way she does, and I do some promotion of my books, but she helped me change my attitude and quit trying to be responsible for getting my books on the bestsellers list. If that happens, great. If not, then God must have a reason. I’m learning to ask for nothing more than the next contract.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?

Going along with the above, the worst advice is from those who are so gung-ho about promotion and numbers that they lose touch with the importance of taking time to seek the Lord about the next project, do the necessary research, and write a quality manuscript.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier on that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I wish I’d not wasted so much time checking my numbers on amazon.com, searching the Internet for reviews, worrying about whether or not my books were selling like hotcakes (they weren’t). If I’d spent those hours instead on studying the craft, honing my skills and seeking God about what to write, who knows what I might have accomplished by now.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

Psalm 128 has had very personal meaning to me the past few months. My husband and I came across it again a few days ago in our morning prayer time and it brought me to tears, thinking about this summer when all four of our kids were home for a few days. Verse 8 says “And look at all those children! There they sit around your table as vigorous and healthy as young olive trees. That is the Lord’s reward for those who fear him.” Oh, how true! Our kids are a blessing beyond belief to us. The three grown kids all live out of state, so our time together is too rare. And then there’s verse 6 which says “May you live to enjoy your grandchildren…” Well, if we live till December, that will come true for us as well! Life is good.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

It has always been traumatic when I’ve moved from one publishing house to another. Even though it’s always proven to be a good thing—a God thing even—still, I grow so close to my editors and others in my publishing houses that it makes me feel a little disloyal to move on—even when it’s not necessarily my choice to leave.

What are a few of your favorite books?

I loved Catherine Marshall’s novels—Christy and Julie—and also the novels of Eugenia Price. My favorite novel of all time is Cold Sassy Tree, a first (and only ) book written by Olive Ann Burns while she was dying of cancer. What a loss to the literary world! Favorite contemporary novelists of mine are Ann Tatlock, James Scott Bell, Jan Karon…oh there are SO many!

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

My last novel, A Nest of Sparrows, is one I’m especially pleased with. That book was such a struggle to write because of the incredible research involved. I would have never taken on the subject had I known in advance how difficult it would be to find the information I needed, and then to make it fit with my storyline. I think I’m most proud of it because I’ve heard from so many people in the social services field who have commended the book for its accurate portrayal of child welfare issues. I’m also pleased with the eight different writing awards that book was a finalist for or winner of.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

I think my pet peeve (and this probably proves that I still have a long way to go in really taking Francine Rivers’ advice to heart!) is that the bulk of marketing dollars at any given publishing house are spent on authors who are already guaranteed to shoot to the top of the bestsellers lists. I still don’t quite understand why they don’t use those funds instead to promote a new and promising writer—or me!

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

I love my life as a writer. While some days are difficult and I have to force myself to stay planted in my chair, I honestly cannot think of anything else on earth I’d rather do.

My mornings begin early (usually 6 a.m.) at my computer catching up on e-mail and reading a devotional. Then I make breakfast (usually hot cereal) for my husband and daughter, and Ken and I spend about fifteen minutes in the Word and praying for our children, extended families, our church, our careers.

Once they leave for work and school, I put on some music to write by, light a few candles, make a pot of coffee and head for the computer again. My iBook laptop is my only computer, so I often take it out on the deck or porch to write, or even just move to the kitchen table or the living room sofa. It’s amazing how a change of scenery helps the words flow better.

I try to log at least half of my word count for the day before noon (1,000 words a day is my goal, until about a month before a book is due, then I step it up to 2,000 or more). I take a break for lunch and to answer e-mail. Since the bulk of my correspondence with publishers, editors, speaking venues and readers happens online, e-mail is a big part of my work as a writer. I also use this break time to update my Web site, check out other authors’ blogs, etc.

Then in the afternoon, I finish my word count, read research material if that’s where I am in the process, and work on any speaking events or writers conference workshops I have coming up. One thing I love about my job is that I can decide on the spur of the moment to take off shopping with a friend, have lunch with my sisters, or just take a nap. Sure, I have to make the time up in the evenings or on the weekend, but I love the freedom it allows me. I am NEVER bored at my job! Ever!

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

I wish I had Angie Hunt’s ability to write thousands of words a day yet still find time to study extensively, keep up a great blog and Web site, and stay sweet and thoughtful through it all!

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

One of my dreams right now—because I’ve had so many requests from readers—would be to write a third book to complete the “saga” begun in my novels Beneath a Southern Sky and After the Rains. Those are two of my favorite books, but they almost seem incomplete. There’s another Camfield and Hunter family story to tell, and though it’s been a while since the first two came out (2001 and 2002) I’d love to have the opportunity to bring them out again with a final book to wrap up the tale.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

The only time I ever gave quitting a thought was when I finished a contract and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to sell my next project. I ended up with several publishers interested, and I’ve never considered the prospect since. I’ll quit when God tells me to quit and not a day sooner! I’m having the time of my life!

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

My favorite part is the letters I get from readers. That’s when I realize that my stories have affected others the same way they’ve affected me, and that is extremely gratifying. My least favorite part is dealing with the ego that comes with being a writer. It’s such a contradiction sometimes—being humble, yet promoting my book through speaking, book signings, promotional ads, etc. I have a real love-hate relationship with the attention being published has earned me.

If people suddenly quit coming up to me and telling me how much they enjoyed my books, I’d probably get all depressed. J Yet sometimes it’s embarrassing to be singled out, and I long to just be with my family or my close friends who are completely unimpressed by what I do. Sometimes in a situation where I’m meeting new people, I want to keep my occupation a secret, but then if I do so for too long, I feel like I’m harboring a deep dark secret because being a writer is such a huge part of who I am.

Parting words?

These were such great questions, Gina! Thanks for making me take a good look at what I’ve been called and privileged to do, and to appreciate the privilege all over again!