Author Interview ~ David Gregory

David Gregory is the author of Dinner with a Perfect Stranger and coauthor of two nonfiction books. After a ten-year business career, he returned to school to study religion and communications, earning two master’s degrees. He is a native of Texas.

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

The sequel to Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, called
A Day with a Perfect Stranger, is due to be released on July 18, 2006. I hope readers will find it as interesting and engaging as they (well, many of them) found Dinner to be, but in a different way and with a different main character.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

I’m still recovering from waking up and finding myself to be a fiction writer. It was the last thing I ever expected. In the late 90s I had co-authored a couple of nonfiction books on Christian living. I was a writer for a Christian ministry, and I only thought in nonfiction terms. But I took a creative writing course at seminary and found that fiction writing was fun. I then took a course in creativity, and some material on comparative worldviews that I had previously wanted to work into a nonfiction format morphed into a story about Jesus talking with a modern day cynic.

I wrote Dinner with a Perfect Stranger off and on for a year and a half, self-published it, then sent it to the only two contacts I had in Christian publishing. Both expressed initial interest, but WaterBrook Press was the one who caught my vision for the book and ran with it.

I realize that my relatively easy entrance into a book writing career is atypical. All I can say is that it seems to have been God’s time for my first fiction book. My “years in the wilderness” were spent not receiving publishers’ rejection letters, but spending twenty-plus years figuring out what I wanted to do when I grew up—that is, what God had designed me to do.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

I didn’t experience much self-doubt with Dinner with a Perfect Stranger. No one was expecting it, I had no deadline, and I just had fun with it. The sequel,
A Day with a Perfect Stranger, engendered more doubts, but my deadline was short enough that I didn’t have too much time to dwell on it. I think doubts are inevitable, but they are alleviated somewhat if you are writing from the heart, writing a story and conveying a message that you are passionate about.

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

Write what God lays on your heart to write, not what someone else tells you or expects you to write. If God gives you a heart for a certain story or message, someone out there needs to read it. It may not be a blockbuster, but God doesn’t just work through blockbusters. I have been greatly touched by books that were mediocre sellers at best.

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

To find out what the market is looking for and write that. What the market is looking for may not be at all what God has laid on your heart, what He has gifted you to write, or how He wants to touch other people through you. If the writing is good, there will be a place for it, even if it’s never more than a niche book with modest sales. That may be exactly what God wants to do through you, to touch those people who will read it.

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

This isn’t directly related to the publishing business, but I wish I had known how important it was to understand and follow how God has designed you in regard to work. For a decade I pursued a career at which I had some success, but which followed neither how God had primarily gifted me nor where my heart was. Nevertheless, God has used even that to accomplish His purpose in me, so that time was not truly wasted.

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

For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:8, italics mine).

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

The Glory and the Dream, A Narrative History of America, 1932–1972, by William Manchester. It’s the best U.S. history I’ve ever read. The Phantom Tollbooth, a children’s book by Norton Juster. I Promise You a Crown: A 40-Day Journey in the Company of Julian of Norwich, arranged by David Hazzard—great on God’s love. C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy. Jurassic Park (I’m a pushover for Michael Crichton novels). Undaunted Courage, Stephen Ambrose’s history of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

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

My wedding vows. They captured for my wife and I the reality of Christ living in us and through us toward one another and the high calling to see the glory of God in our lives together.

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

So much excellent material, which could truly deepen people’s relationship with God, reaches a few thousand, while less useful books reach millions. But that’s the nature of any market-driven business. God often seems pleased to use niche books to deeply touch lives.

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

I am trying to establish my typical. I wrote Dinner whenever I felt inspired. Since no one was waiting for it, I had that luxury. I wrote Day over a brief time span, working days and nights seven days a week. I don’t recommend that. I hope to establish a happy medium with my next book.

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

I would choose to be more disciplined in my writing. Most good writers are.

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

I would love to be used by God to help people know the depths of God’s love in Christ, and thus be filled to overflowing with God, as the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians.

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

Not yet. Ask me again in a few years.

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

My favorite parts are at the beginning and end: dreaming up the story, and hearing how God has touched lives with it. My least favorite part is doing self-employed income taxes.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I am a terrible marketer. I’ve gone the self-publishing route and I know. For now, I simply try to be available for what my publisher’s publicity department recommends, such as interviews, and respond to other opportunities that present themselves.

I’ve heard of people beginning to use it as an evangelistic tool. How does that make you feel?

I wrote Dinner with a Perfect Stranger because I wanted a book that I personally could give to family and friends that presented the person and work of Jesus Christ in an engaging and entertaining way—a book that you could read in a sitting or two. For people to read the book and want to give it to others for that same purpose thrills me.

Were you worried that readers might not agree with the way you portrayed Jesus?

Not really. I knew that some people would disagree with some things I did with the Jesus character, like having him drink wine. I did that intentionally, not only because he did so in the gospels, but also to challenge people to venture outside the extrabiblical boxes we construct for ourselves. The goal of the book is to present Jesus. People who aren’t Christians yet aren’t offended by Jesus drinking wine. Why should I hesitate to present a Jesus to them that they can relate to. , Especially especially a biblical Jesus?.

My goal was to make Jesus’s character, words, and action match as closely as I could to the biblical narrative. In fact, the book’s website, www.dinnerwithaperfectstranger.com, lists over 250 Scripture references that match to specific statements Jesus makes in the book.

Parting words?

Despite my experience, it’s hard to break into the publishing industry. Having a contact, as I did, is much more effective than sending in an unsolicited proposal or manuscript. If you think you have a great book, consider attending a good Christian writer’s conference, like the annual one at Mount Hermon, California. Talk to acquisitions editors and agents about your project. That’s an effective and enjoyable shortcut through the submission process.

Read a review of Dinner With a Perfect Stranger by clicking here.

Win an autographed copy of Creston Mapes’, Full Tilt!

To be entered to win one of two autographed copies of Creston Mapes’ ~Full Tilt, enter your name in the comments below this review! The winners will be announced Saturday.


Full Tilt
Creston Mapes
ISBN:
159052506X
Format: Paperback, 400pp
Pub. Date: March 2006
Publisher: Multnomah Publishers, Inc.







From the Publisher:

What Good Can Become of Psychotics, Meth Users, or the Mob? In this sequel to Dark Star, rock star Everett Lester is eager to share the redeeming power of Christ’s love with the world through his music. But reaching his family in their twisted lives is another issue altogether. His gambling-addicted brother, Eddie, and the rest of his deteriorating family greet Everett’s attempts with disdain and hatred. When the Mob gets involved, dangerous threats become a haunting reality. And when Eddie’s son, Wesley – who blames Everett for his brother’s death – hooks up with psychotic Tony Badino, the two meth-using antichrists will stop at nothing to bring Everett down and secure his demise!

Reviewed by Gina Holmes

In this sequel to Dark Star, Creston takes us on a thrill ride. Everett is still rocking but the born again believer is now doing it for the Lord and not everyone is happy that the wildly popular group, Death Stroke has disbanded.

Everett wants to begin a new life with wife, Karen, but they are plunged into danger again and again, first by their Meth addicted nephew, then by Everett’s gambling addicted brother who is in deep with the mob.

Murder, drugs, rock n roll and redemption. This book has it all. It also includes a fair amount of prayer, ministering, and scripture quoting as well.

You do not have to have read book one to fully understand and enjoy Full Tilt.

Creston’s writing is even better in this novel. He doesn’t shy away from tough issues and once again proves that no one is beyond redemption. I recommend Full Tilt to anyone who has suffered from addiction or knows someone who has and to those who have sowed some wild seeds before coming to Christ.

Author Interview ~ R.K. Mortenson

RK Mortenson is a Navy chaplain who has served in the Persian Gulf, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Hawaii, Brunei, Indonesia (Surabaya and Bali), Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia.

In 2004, Mr. Mortenson and his family moved to Jacksonville, Florida. Randy currently serves as a Protestant staff chaplain at Naval Station Mayport. He serves the sailors assigned to the base, as well as the civilian employees, and their families, and he also ministers to the congregation at the Chapel by the Sea.

Landon Snow and the Shadows of Malus Quidam is his second book.

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

The second Landon Snow book came out in March 2006: Landon Snow and the Shadows of Malus Quidam. Reviews have been posted at here , here, and here.












Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

My publishing dream started in the summer of 1994. It was a dark and stormy night (it really was) when I felt inspired to write a poem, which I later titled “The Auctor’s Riddle.” That same night I wrote in my journal about my dream to become a published author. The dream included a house on the New England coast (though I’d never been to New England), where I sat on my large balcony looking out at the slate-like Atlantic, wearing a cable-knit sweater and sipping a certain beverage that was sipped at a certain wedding in a certain place called Cana (see: “Jesus’ first miracle”).
Of course, I hadn’t actually written a story yet to support this dream, let alone a novel.
A few months later I wrote “Landon’s Tale,” a 70-page fantasy inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I reworked it for a couple years and then put it away after garnering several rejections from editors and agents. In June of 2004, I dug the story back out and rewrote it, doubling its length. I then took it to the Christian Writers Guild’s Writing For the Soul conference at the Cove (Billy Graham Training Center) in Asheville, North Carolina and pitched it to three editors. The editor from Barbour said my pitch worked and she was intrigued. Three months later I received a contract.
Most of the communication happened via email, including word that a contract was officially forthcoming. When the contract arrived, also via email as a pdf attachment, I was at a (non-CBA) Florida writers conference in Orlando. That same night “Landon’s Tale” won first prize in the Royal Palm Literary Awards in the young adult, unpublished division. When I accepted the trophy, I got to announce that I had just received a contract. It was surreal. Dreamlike. Cool.

Later that night I went to Barnes & Noble and “talked to” the C. S. Lewis books, asking the great writer for help.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

This goes in waves. I’ve just finished writing book 3 in the Landon Snow series, and I feel like I’m getting better. I’m more confident in my ideas and my ability to write them and to get them down more clearly the first time around.

(Wait. Did that make any sense at all? Will people wonder how on earth I got published – writing a paragraph like that? How long can I get away with this charade?)

I may feel like a genius-writer one night (come on, we all do, don’t we?). Then the next day feel completely opposite, wondering if any of what I’ve written deserves to be published or, if it is published, if anyone will actually read it or think it’s any good at all.

When my wife likes something I’ve written, I drive myself batty, not to mention her, with my seemingly infinite need for affirmation. “Really? I mean, is it really good? Or are you just saying that?” It’s insane. I don’t know how she puts up with me. I’m thankful she does, though. Eventually I let it go and move on.

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

Go to a writers conference.

I say that simply because that’s how it happened for me. Had I not gone to that conference, I’m pretty certain I’d still be in the aspiring/waiting/hoping-to-be-published-someday group. Along with that advice goes this: be prepared to pitch your project. And pitch it like you know it’s a winner.

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

This is really subjective, but I’ll give you one common piece I don’t follow. That is, “Write every day.”

I don’t write every day. In fact, while writing both book 2 and book 3 of Landon Snow, I had a 2-3 week lapse where I didn’t write at all. I was on vacation and traveling and doing other things and it didn’t work. But lapses don’t frighten me. In fact, I feel fresher going in 5-10 page bursts every few days rather than trying to grind out something every day. I like to spend a lot of time thinking about scenes and images between writing times. I’m also a believer in letting one’s subconscious “work” on things. This takes time.

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

As your site name states, it’s a journey – going from dreaming and writing to becoming published. During those eight years where Landon was in a box in my closet, I was reading and studying tons of books both on writing and about publishing. I also wrote two other full-length adult novels (unpublished), and perhaps a hundred other starts or ideas for stories. It took me time to learn the craft and I’m still learning.

Saving time is beyond one’s control. I mean—a writer simply isn’t going to find a publisher before the work is ready.

Saving frustration lies more within a writer’s control, however. We can know and accept that it will probably take a long time to get published, so we take a deep breath, write, submit, learn, grow…take a deep breath, write, submit…
The best thing is to accept the journey for what it is—to enjoy it—and keep climbing despite the inevitable obstacles and moments of discouragement.

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

“Fear not.”
Why not, Lord?
“Because I am with you.”
No matter where you are on your writing climb, God is with you and you can rest in him.

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

The biggest wind-out-of-my-sails experience on this journey was when I failed to make the 20 semi-finalists in the Christian Writers Guild’s “Operation First Novel” contest in 2004. I had submitted an adult suspense novel, and I was so sure, so sure that I had a good chance of winning, that I set myself up for a big fall when the news came. Honestly, I was stunned.

(Say, I had shared this story a while back on The Writers View, and I think you, Gina, posted part or all of it here on your site. I called it “A Gift of Failure.”)

The thing is—and this is such a huge, huge thing now I can’t get over how glad I am that I “failed”—it was my losing that contest that prompted my pulling “Landon’s Tale” back out of my closet and rewriting it. Today, rather than having one suspense novel published, I have a series of five books coming out.

In hardback.

With great covers and illustrations.

I feel so blessed.

And that adult suspense novel? It wasn’t close to being ready for publication two years ago. I’m rewriting it now, and my agent thinks the new version has a decent chance. We shall see.

Walt Disney said it was important for everyone to have one big failure in life. It’s the only way to see some things. And big failures often point us toward future successes.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)

The Hobbit
Watership Down
Mere Christianity
The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers

I’ve read each of those books three times.

If your authorial self was a character from The Wizard of Oz, which one would you be and why?

The Great and Wonderful Wizard of Oz!
Ha-ha!
It is fun playing with the switches behind the curtain and causing bookcases to open and books to speak and turning a chess knight into a horse and chasing eerie shadows around the room and down a winding staircase and—
Ahem. Yes, it is fun to play the wizard as author.

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

I have to say Book 3, Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum, which I just finished (it’s in the editing phase now) and which will come out in the fall.
I’m proud because I went after some things that were challenging for me to write, and I think I pulled them off, growing and gaining confidence in the process. I really like this book and I believe and hope it will propel the series to a higher level.

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

My pet peeve is not with the publishing biz, but with the world. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but I wish more people would turn off their television sets and read. There are so many good books to stimulate the mind and heart and soul, yet many or most of these books sit unopened on shelves while people fritter away their minds and hearts and souls on other things.
Sigh. Ah well.

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

It’s good you have the qualifier “of your writing life”, because a more typical day sees me not writing at all. (I’m a full-time chaplain in the Navy as well as husband and father. Writing, though now much more than a hobby, remains a part-time avocation for me.)
If you could see me right now, you’d see the typical shot of my writing life.
I’m sitting at a table in the Borders bookstore café, my laptop plugged into the outlet in the wall. Sipping my vanilla latte and occasionally glancing in annoyance at a person talking on her cell phone as if she was alone at home.

This café is where I’ve been coming to write for about the past year. Today is Saturday, late afternoon. While in the thick of writing the previous books, I would come here two evenings a week around 7PM till the store closes at 11. And perhaps on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

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

I read your interview with the awe-inspiring Karen Kingsbury not long ago. She doesn’t sit down unless she’s going to write 10,000 words.
And she apparently sits down a lot.
I heard the thuds of jaws dropping around the world as aspiring writers read that outrageous “quota”.
Karen, mother of five (I think)—that is profoundly prolific.
Okay, what was the question again?
Oh yes.
I would choose the strength of Karen Kingsbury to plunk out 10,000 (good, usable) words at a sitting.

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

I dream of owning a house on the New England coast with a balcony overlooking the rugged Atlantic. I’m wearing a cable-knit sweater…
Seriously, getting to do the Landon Snow series is a longtime dream fulfilled that I’m still wallowing in. I’m dreaming of seeing the books “translated” to the big screen some day. That would be awesome. And I dream of Landon Snow books being in print even after I’m gone, which I hope is still several decades away! (I’m 38.)
Beyond this series, I dream of getting more contracts and publishing more books. I’d like to get the suspense novel published. I’d like to publish some nonfiction. And of course I do dream of reaching a level where I could write for a living and support my family. I’m not sure I’d want to give up being a minister, but having the option to “only write” would sure be nice!

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

I did have one time, and perhaps some of you have experienced something like this, about four years ago when I asked God if I was never going to be published, would he please—please—remove the strong desire to write and to be published from my heart?
The journey had already been long at that point. I was tired. And I figured I could focus my energies elsewhere if the publishing dream would forever be merely a pipe dream.
The next day, it seems, I was writing like crazy more than ever.
For those of us impassioned with this fever, trying to quit writing is like trying to make your heart stop beating. It kills us.

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

Favorite part of being a writer: Writing “in the zone” and then coming out of that dreamlike state to a café that has mysteriously emptied from being full four hours earlier.
Least favorite part: Realizing I haven’t done a scene “right” well after the fact. Usually this happens several days after writing it, perhaps after I’ve written tens more pages. I want to move on with the story, but one scene rises from my subconscious and haunts me until I fix it. Then I can move on with the story.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

Recently I’ve visited and spoken at local schools, to grades 3-8. For children’s books, this is a great way to promote and to meet your target audience. Getting your book to “catch fire” among groups—schools, churches, book clubs, etc.—is one of the best ways to ignite word-of-mouth promotion.

For Book 1, I’d also visited three churches and sold over 50 books at each. With groups there’s built-in buzz and synergy that doesn’t often happen with individual sales.

Since Landon Snow has not been picked up by Barnes & Noble, Borders and other non-CBA stores, I do book signings at these stores simply to get the books on their shelves. They order books in for the event, and I try to invite people to make the event a success. Even if not a lot of people buy the book the hour or two I’m there, at least another store and a few more people become aware of the book’s existence.

As a still new and unrecognized name, I’m willing to do all I can to get “Landon Snow” and “R. K. Mortenson” out there before the public. To very loosely paraphrase a passage from Romans: How will they buy and read a book unless they first hear about it? And how will they hear about it unless someone tells them?
Blessed are the feet of those who tell others about Landon Snow [or insert your title here]!

Parting words?

Thank you, Gina, for this great opportunity to blab about writing on your growingly renowned site for my favorite kinds of people—readers and writers. You’re providing a wonderful service to us all.

Finally, fellow writers—Fear not. The Lord Jesus will be with you always, to the very end of the page.

Get Ready to Rock!

Thursday we are giving away TWO AUTOGRAPHED COPIES of Creston Mapes’ just released ~FULL TILT!

I’ve just read it and can testify that it’s even better than his first novel, Dark Star!

Upcoming interviews include: Zondervan acquistions editor and novelist, Karen Ball, R.K. Mortenson, David Gregory, Donita Paul, Denise Hunter, Kathy Fuller, Diann Hunt, Lars Walker, Paul McCusker, and many more!