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Here's where you will find the latest on what's going on with my books and the movie. It's also a great place to ask questions, where I recommend other books, and post different things bouncing around in my head. Look me up on Facebook and if you want to buy, signed, discounted, copies of my books, head over to http://www.ryannwattersbooks.com/.

Monday, December 8, 2008

From now until shortly before Christmas, the authors involved in the Fantasy Fiction Tour '08 will be collaborating on a joint blog tour. We'll be focusing each Monday - or thereabouts - on a different author each week. Our hope is to encourage readers who have experienced one or two of us and our work, to get a better idea of other Christian writers that they might be interested in.


Q. 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. (be as specific as possible).
A. Shortly after I quit my cubicle job, I wrote the first chapter of The Bark of the Bog Owl and showed it to agent John Eames, who was a friend of a friend. I told John, “My wife is pregnant with our fifth child. I’m in no position to do art for art’s sake. Does this look like the sort of thing you could sell?” John said he thought he could sell it if I could write a whole book that lived up to the promise of that chapter.

I think that meeting was late May 2002. I wrote The Bark of the Bog Owl throughout the rest of 2002… I finished it between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Starting in January of 2003, John Eames pitched it to about a dozen publishers as the first book of a trilogy. A couple of publishers made offers in the spring, and we settled on Broadman and Holman.

What made me go with Broadman and Holman was the fact that Gary Terashita, the acquisitions editor, asked if I’d be willing to beef up the story—make it longer, and make it appeal to a little bit older target group. Ever since I started writing the book, I was afraid I’d end up with a publisher who would ask me to dumb it down.
Not all publishers show young readers the respect they deserve. To my mind, I was writing serious books, and I didn’t want them to go out into the world wearing footie pajamas. In retrospect, I don’t think that was as big a danger as I had supposed, but Gary’s challenge was very energizing—and it resulted in a much better series.

Q. Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?
A. I don’t often doubt whether what I’ve written is good enough. I usually succeed in writing the sort of thing I like to read; and since that’s the best way I know of judging whether a piece of writing is “good enough,” I rarely experience doubts at that level. What I do doubt—every day—is whether or not I’m faithfully pursuing my calling. What is an appropriate use of my talents? Should I spend next three hours writing the prose I can write, or should I devote that time to self-promotion? I can rationalize either choice. If I apply my talents toward writing bank brochures (something I frequently do), does that count as pursuing my calling? After all, feeding those babies is part of my calling too. I’ve got a couple of novels I want to write—I would even say I feel called to write them—but I don’t have any reason to believe they would help me provide for my family. What constitutes faithfulness in that situation? And what does a string of rejections mean? Is it a fiery trial for the purpose of hardening my resolve, or is it a signal that it’s time to go back to the cubicle?

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

A. I don’t know if this is the best advice I’ve ever heard, but at least it’s something your readers may not have heard before: if you want some serious training as a writer, get a job writing advertising copy. I know it sounds pedestrian. But every day you’re forced to try out several different voices, speak to several different audiences about several different subjects, some of which are so dull you can’t imagine saying anything interesting. But you need to get paid, so—lo and behold—you find you’re able to come up with something after all. And deadlines…sometimes you have 2 or 3 in a single day. Obviously, being a copywriter isn’t going to teach you everything you need to know about writing. But I’ve learned things about my own capabilities that I could have never learned from a writing class or seminar. Yoking my creative tendencies to the matter-of-fact, professional approach required of a copywriter has done me a world of good. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block. Lawyers don’t get lawyer’s block. They get up in the morning and do their jobs. Are you a writer? Then get up in the morning and write.

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

A. I once had a well-meaning person from a marketing department advise me to turn the character Dobro Turtlebane into a girl. Your readers who are familiar with the Wilderking books will know how funny that is. For your readers who don’t know the Wilderking books, Dobro is a smelly, rude, belligerent swamp-dweller. The Bark of the Bog Owl had no girl characters, and my friend from marketing knew that girls read a lot more than boys…and girls understandably like girl characters. I ignored the advice, of course. To base any narrative decision on marketing concerns would have utterly contradicted the earthy, swampy ethos of the Wilderking books.
Q. Who is your favorite character from all of your books so far, and why?

A. That’s an easy one: the main character in the Wilderking books is a boy named Aidan, but my favorite is a wild swamp boy named Dobro Turtlebane. When he’s on the scene, something wild and funny is going to happen. His behavior seems erratic—courting danger, fighting with people he actually likes, etc.—but if you can accept a few basic premises about his unusual worldview, his behavior is actually quite logical. Dobro is a great example of what I was saying in an earlier question about character driving plot. He’s a game-changer, for sure.

Q. There is the ongoing debate in Christian fiction on the overtness of the gospel in novels. You’ve used allegory and hints, but no outright salvation plan on the back page. What are you hoping to accomplish through your stories?
A. A lot of times when people use the phrase “the gospel” they’re talking about evangelism. Of course that’s an extremely important part of the gospel, but it’s not the whole gospel. Once you’re converted, you’ve still got the rest of your life stretching out before you. And the fact of God’s grace in your life ought to impact every decision you make. It ought to shape every interaction. It ought to define your attitude toward work and family and community. That’s the gospel too. It’s true that there are no conversions in the Wilderking (actually, there’s an implied conversion in Book 3)—but I hope the gospel is pretty overt.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I don't know. A little smelly Dobrina Turtlebane might have worked. heh heh

That wild Dobro does upstage sweet Aidan, doesn't he? Thank God you didn't make him a girl!

You know I can see that you need to feed all those little feechie folk, but could you not spare an hour a day for novel writing? Or a day a week? Because you're depriving the world of some great novels, I'm sure, by not writing them.

Eric Reinhold said...

You said it Sally. I'm having a grand time reading Jonathan's books to my son right now!

Anonymous said...

yes, but, Eric, can a certified financial planner really get the feechie accent down correctly? I wonder if a civilizer like you can pull it off.

heh heh.

Are these books a blast to read aloud or what? My son and I love to talk southern to one another so we have great fun with feechie speech.

Thanks for the great interview with Dr. Rogers.

High School student, Jason Derfuss films a summary video of book 1