My Interview with author Frank Peretti
In my Junior year of High School, having only been a Christian for a year, I was given the book This Present Darkness written by author Frank Peretti, which I simply couldn’t put down. It was the first Christian fiction I had ever read, even before I read The Chronicles of Narnia or The Screwtape Letters, and to this day I believe that This Present Darkness, along with several other books, shaped the way I think about the craft of writing/storytelling and spiritual warfare. Of course, I am not the only one who was gripped by the writing and story in This Present Darkness, which went on to sell more than 2.5 Million copies.
In all, Frank Peretti has written 19 books selling more than 15 million copies, and so you can imagine how flattered I was when I was approached to interview Frank for his new book, Illusion, and to be a part of his “Ask Frank” Blog Tour—please check it out!
ME: Two of my passions are coffee and writing, so tell me what kind of coffee do you drink and when? Do you have a favorite mug? Can you be productive writing in a coffee shop?
Frank: You know, I never was much of a coffee drinker until a few years ago when I discovered I liked cafe mochas, especially the ones you buy at Starbucks – pardon me for the commercial. Sweet Barbara makes a great latte and a great mocha; I have the latte with breakfast and the mocha with lunch, and get this: now I’ve learned how to run our coffee machine, something I’ve never made a priority until now. Generally, I like the big heavy mugs we have, the ones that make a really nice clunking sound when you set them on the counter. As for being productive in a coffee shop, I’ve never tried it and I don’t want to. Too noisy.
ME: Can you tell us the story behind Illusion?
Frank: As with all of my stories, there is no single source or spark of inspiration. Every story comes together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle spilled out on a table. Lots of little ideas float around looking for partners, and then they connect, and then they find other pieces, and ideas lead to other ideas, and before long I start to see a story appearing. I suppose the love story in Illusion reflects my own marriage, my own love story in how love can endure, deepen, and take on such a transcendent meaning over time. I guess the love that Barbara and I have for each other can only be expressed by writing a story.
ME: Can you describe your writing process?
Frank: Basically, 4 steps:
Brain spilling: just letting ideas flow out of my mind whether they are good, bad, dumb or clever, like pouring the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle on the table. Ideas bring about more ideas and eventually the ideas find each other and start to make sense, start to take form as a story. The point is to create them in the first place and get the creative juices flowing.
Outlining: once the ideas begin to take form, I lay out a foundational story structure and start hanging the ideas on that structure like clothes on a clothesline, sorting, shifting, replacing, organizing according to the rules of fiction until I have a working plot line broken down into acts and scenes.
Writing: now that the hardest part is over, now that I have sketched out my painting in pencil, I get to play with the paints and fill it all in: I get to write. This is the fun part, fantasizing, visualizing, playing pretend on paper.
Editing and rewriting: every day I rewrite the stuff I wrote the previous day and then continue forward from there, so essentially every 1st draft is actually a 2nd draft by the time I get to the end of the book. But the editorial process doesn’t stop there. I might go through the book again before I send it to the editorial staff at the publisher to go through it and edit it two or three more times. Finally, once all the polishing is done, it’s time to let go of it and send it out. Maybe that’s the most unsettling part, sending your newborn child out into the world to see how she’ll do.
ME: What advice would you give to upcoming authors?
Frank: Know what you’re doing. It’s not enough to want to write a book. You have to devote yourself to learning the writing craft, knowing all the nuts and bolts, rules and fundamentals of good fiction writing. I’ve often heard would-be writers advised to “never give up,” but that’s the worst thing you can tell somebody who has no skill, no knowledge of how it’s to be done. That person can never give up, and consequently waste his/her whole life producing unmarketable material. Know what you’re doing.
ME: Can you talk about the success of This Present Darkness and how that positively or negatively affected your career?
Frank: The success of This Present Darkness got my career started, and not only my career but the career of many other fiction writers once the Christian publishing world realized that fiction was a viable product. It’s worth noting how, after 26 years, no matter what other books I’ve written, This Present Darkness is the first and foremost thing that people associate with me and want to talk about. It is still selling very well; new generations are still discovering it.
On the negative side – if I can even say there is one – the fame of This Present Darkness is continually generating the impression that the Frank Peretti of today is still the Frank Peretti of 26 years ago, that I’m the guy who writes about spiritual warfare, when that’s no longer the case. Like anyone else, I’ve continued to grow and learn and change and my books have reflected my journey through life. I have had many other things to write about since This Present Darkness, but it seems the Frank Peretti of 1986 is someone I will always be to many people. Oh well, if they keep reading my other stuff I’m sure they will catch up to who I am now.
Please take a minute to check out Frank’s new book, Illusion, which you can find on his web site—here.
Also, I am also thankful to be able to give away two free copies of Frank’s new book—Illusion! To be illegible to win, please post or tweet this blog post on twitter or facebook or linkedin, and then leave a comment in the post below telling me that you are interested in a free copy of Frank’s new book—and that’s it! I’ll pick two winners on Monday, and post the winners on the blog.
Not convinced? Take a look at some of these great reviews! 4 1/2 stars on Google!