7 Hours … What Will You Choose?

James Andrew Wilson was inspired
by the magic of good storytelling from a young age, and started writing his
first novel when he was sixteen. He married at seventeen, became a father at
twenty-one, and lives now in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and their
three boys. James enjoys hiking, Italian food, board games, and celebrating the
joys of a simple life. When he grows up, he hopes to be a respectable hobbit
and not have any more adventures, thank you very much.
Tell us about your new project:
7 Hours is a collection of seven novellas written by seven different authors.
Each story is based on the same “what if” question—which is a secret that I
can’t reveal to you yet. But I think I speak for everyone when I say that we’re
thrilled with the idea and can’t wait to share it with the world.
Though each story is based on the
same initial concept, the collection as a whole features seven very different
stories, representing each writer’s style and imagination. Think of it as seven
condensed novels, each one giving you a complete story that you can consume in
one evening, and that will give you a sample of an author that you may not be
familiar with.
Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment to spark this idea?
Did it originate with you or with an editor at Tyndale?
The idea grew out my own personal
frustration at not having as much time to read fiction as I wanted to. Being a
father of three boys, maintaining a work-at-home business, and pursuing a
career in writing, I just couldn’t find much time to read.
I thought about weekly television
shows such as Lost and 24, and how they delivered a story every week, but in
one-hour chunks. Why couldn’t novels be like that?
Over time, I came up with the
concept of shorter novels (about a quarter the length of full-size novel), but
something with enough meat to encompass a full story. I think this length is
perfect for the busy modern reader—you can really sit down and read one of
these stories all the way through in a single evening. 
How did you bring together the team of writers?
I first approached author Travis
Thrasher with my idea. He was generous enough to offer his involvement. That
gave me a huge boost in confidence. Together the two of us ironed out the
details, then I started sending out emails to the authors we thought would work
well with this project.
Everyone I wrote to was intrigued
by the project, but some of them simply didn’t feel that they had the time to
commit to it. Finally we had our team of seven, and now that we’re all together,
it feels right. This is a diverse, creative, fantastic group of authors, and
I’m deeply honored to be in their company.
Tell us who they are.
Mike Dellosso, Rene Gutteridge,
Ronie Kendig (writing as Veronica Kendig), Robin Parrish, Tom Pawlik, Travis
Thrasher, and me: James Andrew Wilson.
These are all amazing writers, and
if you haven’t already, then I highly encourage you to go out and buy all of
their novels. Right now!
Is it a true anthology in the sense that the stories all
connect somehow, or a collection of short stories with a central theme?
Both, actually. There is a very
important and mysterious character that connects all of the stories. Again, I
can’t give away much at this point, but I can tell you that with these stories
we are exploring the big questions. Life. Death. Time as we know it.
How has the process worked?
After the team was assembled, we
discussed the details of our story. Then I gave everyone one month to put
together a synopsis and some sample pages. I gathered everything, put together
a proposal, and my agent started shopping it around. About two months later, we
had an offer.
I’m a writer, not a juggler, but
this project has forced me to become both. The inbox fills up pretty quickly
when we’re all discussing details, asking questions, answering questions,
making jokes.
But really, all of the authors
have been incredibly generous and wonderful to work with. It’s been a lot of
fun.
Did anything strange or funny happen during the research or
writing of this book?
We found a publisher! Considering
the unique nature of this project, and many publisher’s wariness to try
something new in this market, it was strange, exciting, funny, and thrilling
that we sold the series so quickly.
Tyndale showed early interest, and
when they ultimately made an offer, it was clear that they were very excited
about the project and like us, they recognized the huge potential.
Also, I think I got my first gray
hair somewhere along the line.
What’s the best advice you can offer for anyone else
looking to do a project like this?
Don’t start sending out cold
emails to authors asking them to join your project until you’ve spent some
serious time honing your craft. When I sent that first email to Travis, I’d
already written four complete novels and spent literally thousands of hours at
the keyboard. If you expect amazing authors like those I’m working with to
respect you, you have to have some idea about how to craft a good story.
Once you have that, take your time
to plan out your project as clearly as possible. Keep it simple. Everyone needs
their own space to craft their story in their own way. The less guidelines you
impose, the more it allows for creativity to flourish.
The final stories that we have in
7 Hours are suspenseful, thrilling, beautiful and complex—but they are all the
result of an initial, simple concept.
So once you have everything in
order, go for it! Expect to be surprised, delighted, frustrated, confused, and
humbled by the process. Things like this are a lot of work, but for us at
least, it was all worth it in the end.
Where do you see 7
Hours
and projects like this going in the future?
I honestly think this type of
project is the wave of the future for the writing and publishing world. People
have less and less time to read—with a shorter novel, it’s easier to commit. I
don’t think full-length novels will go away, and I hope they don’t, but if we
as writers are going to remain a competitive force in the entertainment world,
then we need to be ready to adapt and embrace the lightning-fast changes that
we see happening around us. People’s attention span is diminishing to 140
words—we have to figure out new ways to convince them that our stories are
worth their time.
NR: We asked Rene Gutteridge to answer a few questions

Rene Gutteridge is the author of seventeen novels. She is also known as a
comedy writer. Her latest comedic novel is NEVER THE BRIDE, winner of the 2010
Carol Award for best women’s fiction. She also has extensive experience writing
comedy sketches, and worked for five years as the director of drama for a
church. She has a degree specializing in Screenwriting, for which she earned
the Excellence in Mass Communication Award, and graduated magna cum laude. She
is married to Sean, a musician and worship leader, and has two children. They
reside in Oklahoma, where Rene writes full time and enjoys instructing in
college classrooms and writers conferences.

How did you find out about the project?
James Wilson contacted me out of
the blue. Had never heard of him and didn’t know a thing about him, but his
enthusiasm for the project totally whet my appetite. My curiosity was
definitely piqued. I asked around about him and got some great feedback, so I
joined the gang. At first I thought, “Well, I’m taking a big risk here, but
that’s okay.” The more I got into it, the more I knew that I was exactly where
I was supposed to be.
What intrigued you and made you say yes?
A couple of things intrigued me.
First, obviously, the concept grabbed me. I’d thought often about how fun it
would be to tell one story from several POVs of different writers, so that, in
and of itself, got me.
Plus, it’s just a really cool
idea, with a very mysterious central character. But ultimately what made me say
yes was James’s obvious enthusiasm and what appeared to me to be total
commitment to making this work. Wrangling seven professional
writers/agents/schedules etc. is no easy task. He did it perfectly.
Have you all worked autonomously or have you collaborated
on any aspects?
We have all worked autonomously.
It’s been very fun. I’m dying to know what the others are writing. I seriously
cannot wait to read theirs. That is going to be the most fun of it all, to see
where everyone went at the fork in the road. 
Were you given some parameters or “let loose” to
create?
James really let us go where we
wanted. There were just a couple of parameters. The rest was up to us. But
those few parameters are going to be what makes all of these stories so
interesting to the readers. He’s brilliantly put this together. It’s a draw for
writers because we get to play. It’s a draw for readers because they get to be
thoroughly entertained.
NR: Be watching for more about 7 Hours … What Will You Choose? 
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