The Book I Didn’t Want to Write

by Alton Gansky

A little less than a decade ago
my phone rang
. On the other end was an editor I knew. He had a book idea for
me, something that always makes me a little nervous. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always
giddy when an editor reaches out to me instead of me try my best to get the
editor’s attention, so I appreciated the call. My nervousness was rooted in my
belief that it is close to impossible for me to write a book based on someone
else’s idea. I was proven wrong several times in the years that followed,
especially when publishers contacted me to co-write a book.
At that time, however, I had plenty
to do and had more ideas bouncing around in my head than I could write in a
lifetime. Still, I owed the man a good listen.
“What’s your idea?” I asked.
“I think you’re just the guy to
do it,” he said.
Hmm. Was he being evasive? “I appreciate your confidence. What’s
your idea?”
“I have an idea for a novel.”
Hmm again. “I thought you acquired nonfiction.”
“I do, but this idea came to me
and I immediately thought of you.”
I drummed my fingers on my desk.
“Interesting. Tell me what you have in mind.”
“I want to send a contemporary
police forensic specialist back in time to look at the Passion Week of Christ.”
“You want me to write a time
travel book?”
“Not really, but in a way, yes.”
“Um, I write suspense and
supernatural suspense. I like science fiction but there isn’t much of a market
in the CBA for such things.” (Remember, this is about eight years ago when CBA writers
were starting to call science fiction speculative fiction to avoid the SF
stigma.)
“I don’t see it as a science
fiction book.”
“It’s a non science fiction time
travel book?” Now I was puzzled.
“Yes. I know you’re the guy who
can pull it off.”
I like it when someone shows
confidence in me. However, it was a confidence I didn’t share. “How does our
man travel back in time?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why does he travel back in
time?”
“I don’t know.”
Says I: “What does he do when he
gets back there?”
“I don’t know. When can I have a
proposal?”
I moved from curiosity to
befuddlement. “I don’t think I’m the guy for this.” What I was thinking was: No one is the right guy for this.
“It’s perfect for you. When can
I have a proposal?
I resisted some more. He persisted
even more, ending each line of his dialogue with, “When can I have the
proposal.”
“I don’t know, my friend. I have
no idea how to make it work. I’m not sure I can pull it off.”
Once again he told me I was
wonderful and the only guy in the universe who could make it work. Then he—you
guessed it—asked for a proposal. I gave in. “Okay, I’ll try to whip up a
synopsis and a first chapter. If I can get that to work, then I’ll do the book
for you.”
Of course, I had no belief that
I could make the concept work, but I am motivated by guilt (I used to be a
Baptist pastor) and I gave my word, mostly so I could hang up the phone.

A short time later, I had a few
ideas, a sample chapter and a workable synopsis. I sent it off, and a short
time later a contract arrived. Crime Scene Jerusalem had been conceived—against my will. I began my work and
before I knew it, I was in love with the idea, the story, and its characters.
Oh sure, I suffered from many a brain cramp trying to get things to work out in
a believable way, but things began to come together.

Now that I’ve written over forty
books, mostly novels and a goodly number of nonfiction titles, I occasionally
look at the shelf where I keep my author copies. I’ve noticed that my eyes tend
to linger on the book I tried a dozen times to reject. It has become the book I
most want readers to read.
After the book appeared I
received an e-mail from someone who was in the holy land on government
business. The way he phrased things made me think that he was an American
working for one of those three initial agencies. He said he couldn’t tell me
why he was there, but that he was visiting landmarks mentioned in Crime Scene Jerusalem. He ended the
e-mail by telling me of his salvation experience while visiting one of the
areas I mentioned in the book. He had my book in hand. This was the book I did
my best to walk away from.
That’s the thing about being a
writer. We never know what a book will do or whose life it might change. I am
as thankful as I can be for an insistent editor with an idea.
I’ve just re-released Crime Scene Jerusalem as an e-book on
Kindle and the physical book will be out soon. Reviewing the work reminded me
how much I came to love the work. Of all my novels, it is the one I most want
people to read.
Let’s face it. This is a strange
business.

Alton Gansky is the author of 44
books. www.altongansky.com. He is also
the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference held each
May in North Carolina. www.brmcwc.com.