John Aubrey Anderson has fast become one of my favourite (or favorite!) people. One, because of his wonderful writing and two, his kindness, an adroit sense of humour (or humor!) and dedication to his faith. His answer to my vegemite question has only added to the esteem in which I hold him ~ see below!!
Please share some of your writing/publishing journey with us.
First, let me give your visitors three words to remember as they read through these answers . . . God Did This.
Second . . . if you’re a writer, do not make the mistake of comparing your journey to mine. Remember . . . “the mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
The condensed version of the journey . . .
In the late eighties, I wrote a short story for our girls—a thing about choosing well. In 1997, I pulled that little story out and tried wrapping around the gospel . . . planning to give it to a childhood friend. After five years of “wrapping,” I found myself surrounded by 200,000 words and an absence of ideas regarding their disposition. Buoyed on five months of prayer, I went to a writers’ conference—my first and only—in the spring of 2003.
As it turns out, the editor I wanted to meet with at the conference wasn’t looking for a fiction work. However, on the second night of the conference, while the editor was working in another room, his wife (who has fifteen years in the industry) was going through his slush pile. He said he could hear her laughing, then, a few minutes later, she stepped into the doorway of the room where he was. She was holding the chapters I had submitted from Abiding Darkness, and she was crying.
And it was.
That was a little over four years ago . . . and the third (and last) book of The Black or White Chronicles was published this month.
I signed with an agent a few months ago, and he’ll have my fourth book in his hands before you read this.
Why Christian fiction?
For a couple of real good reasons.
There are some suspenseful secular books out there, but when I read them, I have to skip over steamy sex scenes. Too, if I read profanity, it will fix itself in my mind. I wanted to write the kind of suspense fiction that would crack the enamel on its reader’s teeth without painting pornography and profanity in his heart and mind.
My other reason has to do with my target audience. In addition to our childhood friend, I added the men I had worked with for 35 years . . . self-confident, hard-headed pilots, most of whom have combat experience. When Abiding Darkness published, the audience went into business for itself and became readers from all walks of life—both Christian and non-Christian—who want a story that will wrap its tentacles around their heart and refuse to turn loose.
What kept you busy before the writing bug bit?
If what I am dealing with is a bug bite, I would not want to meet the monkey-on-my-back malady.
In the lull between my career in the cockpit and my starting to get ready for that writers’ conference, I wasted a lot of time. I could’ve been learning to play the banjo.
What project or book are you working on now?
I mentioned earlier that book four is getting ready to go to my agent. It’ll be out of the house in the next week or so, and I’ll concentrate on our getting ready to move us a few miles south. Any down time during the house planning, building, moving stage will be devoted to book five.
What does a regular writing day look like for you?
Before I found out I was going to take my words to a writers’ conference, I arranged a set time to write . . . like a regular job. I’d dedicate the mornings—no phone calls, etc.—to getting words on paper, usually requiring 300 words of myself. That doesn’t sound like much, but I’m an unbelievably slow writer.
For years I went to bed at midnight, getting up between seven and nine . . . in November of 2002, God changed how I did things. For four years, from the fall of 2002 until late summer of 2006, I wrote eight to twenty hours a day, seven days a week. I slept when I got sleepy and ate when I got hungry. And it was exhilarating.
ON AND IF I DIE…
Your stories are character driven ~ how do you create and name your characters?
I haven’t figured out the difference between plot-driven and character-driven, and my editor has quit trying to explain it . . . and I never thought of myself as “creating” a character. Maybe if I explain how I get words on paper . . .
I begin by telling myself a story, picturing it in my mind . . . like a film or video. After I have an idea of where I want to go with the story, I start transcribing what I’m seeing in my mind. As I’m writing, I play the scene over and over in my head, making sure I haven’t left out any important details. If what I have on the paper isn’t satisfying, I change the scene in my mind or I change the written version. I rewrite incessantly. (Picture “incessantly” as underlined and highlighted.)
What was your favourite scene to write?
I confess that some of the more “inconsequential” scenes—some that may not stand out to the reader—can be the most fun to write. I’m a slow writer, and I’m hard to please when it comes to word choice . . . and those two attributes don’t mesh well. I get satisfaction in the extreme from getting the exact words I want arranged in a way that conveys precisely what I’m picturing in my mind.
Mose is amazingly humble and a spiritual giant ~ is he inspired by anyone you have known in your past/present?
Yes. There were any number of old gray, black, gentle men (and ladies) where I was raised. I could’ve learned a lot about how to live my life well if I had paid closer attention to how they lived theirs.
Your books clearly focus on the battle between good and evil, both in this world and in the spiritual realm. Unlike many novels, the good guys don’t always win ~ why?
Because that’s reality, isn’t it? And . . .
It isn’t suspense if I train my readers to put their feet up and pop bon bons, fully assured that Johnny Boy is going to bail out the good guys before the story is over. Remember, your really worthwhile characters are always willing to sacrifice themselves to make the story great.
If the series was made into a movie, who would you cast?
Most people tell me they see Mr. Morgan Freeman as Mose. I’m not sure anyone can be Mose. I get frequent—and conflicting—opinions from people regarding what this or that character looks like. I’ve considered this question for a while, and I think it wise to keep my mouth shut about how I see these people . . . that way I don’t mess up someone else’s mental image.
You have a number of other books planned for this series ~ any sneak peeks?
I’ve decided to make And If I Die the last of the series. More books will follow, God willing, but they’ll be stand-alone novels featuring some of the same folks.
Sneak peeks? I must be the world’s stingiest author when it comes to giving out details, but I’ll tell you . . . my fourth book takes its readers to the war in Southeast Asia.
What impact do you hope this book has upon the reader?
I want two things for my books. For the non-Christians, I want them to hear the claims of Christ clearly and concisely, but in a way where they don’t feel as if they’ve had to endure a sermon. For the Christian, I want him or her to close the book desiring to know God better. For both the believers and the non-Christians, I want them panting for the next book.
ON MATTERS PERSONAL…
Do you read Christian fiction yourself? If so, some favourite authors or books both Christian and/or secular?
I don’t read anything I haven’t read before because I don’t want to be accused of “stealing” someone else’s ideas—especially Christian fiction. I reread the parts I like in books that I almost know by rote.
What are you reading at the moment?
Favourite movie and favourite line from a movie?
Did you know your version of MS Word makes a fuss if try to spell “favourite” without the “u”? Has my answering an Aussie’s questions totally corrupted my Texas iMac?
My favorite movie is probably Driving Miss Daisy, but I like The Cowboys with John Wayne almost as much. I like Driving Miss Daisy because of what we see happen between a black man and a set-in-her-ways white woman—a genuine reconciliation of the races. In The Cowboys, John Wayne’s character isn’t trying to show the boys how to handle cattle . . . he’s teaching them how to teach their sons to be heroes.
Who inspires you?
God. Totally and unalterably.
And my wife is unswerving in her devotion to me and to what she sees as a crucial ministry.
Please share some of your faith journey…
I came to faith from a rough background. I was in my late twenties, getting ready to leave the Air Force . . . a borderline alcoholic who was pretty much the dregs of the earth.
After I became a Christian, we moved to the Dallas area and joined a church that majored in verse-by-verse expository Bible-teaching. My Christian growth gained additional momentum when we went through a small group study that focused on the biggies in Christian discipleship. It was like taking a course on how to feed yourself.
Some essential Aussie questions…
When/if you make the trip Down Under what do you want to see first? A platypus or a koala?
I’d want to see the koala. Actually, if I wouldn’t get scratched, I’d like to hold one.
Barrier Reef or Uluru (Ayers Rock)?
Before I retired from flying, I wrote down twenty things I wanted to do before I died . . . scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef was high on the list. Since getting started on writing, the things on my list attract me less.
I’ve seen pictures of Uluru, and it is stunning, but I’d have to put the Barrier Reef first.
A definite “Yes.” Breakfast is my favourite meal, and from what I read, I could make do with vegemite on toast for the rest of my life.
Any last words……………………………
Sure. Thanks a million for your enduring encouragement and for letting me visit your site. And . . . for your readers . . .
Never forget what I said at the beginning of this session.
God Did This.
Were it not for His orchestration of a long series of inter-linked miracles, no one would be asking me these questions.
But for Him . . . strangers wouldn’t be emailing me to say, “Oh, my gosh! I was up all night with your book! I couldn’t put it down.”
But for God . . . no one would care what I thought about koalas or coral reefs or what foods I liked for breakfast . . . and I wouldn’t be working on my fourth book.
It you, the reader, are so inclined, please pray that God would grant that I would never forget . . . He did this.
John ~ it has been an absolute pleasure!
Thank you so much and keep those books coming ~ I’ll hold you to some more glimpses of your Black & White Chronicles characters in your future releases 😉
To read my reviews of John’s books, click on the titles below:~