Friday, July 28, 2006

Q&A: ALTON GANSKY, PT 1


Today and Monday, we speak with Alton Gansky, prolific author of several novels and nonfiction works. A fulltime writer living in southern California, Alton has been a firefighter, worked in architecture, been a business man, and served more than 20 years in pulpit ministry.

His latest novel is Director's Cut (Zondervan): Maddy Glenn knows how to play politics. But when Hollywood enters, the game turns deadly ...

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PART ONE.

WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS?
I'm usually begin my day about 7 a.m. Nothing magical in the time. Some days it's later, some earlier. There's no time clock in my office (I don't even wear a watch). I end my day, when I can't take it anymore. Usually, I'm done by 5:00 but it's not unusual for me to cart my laptop out to the living room and work on a blog posting, or some ancillary part of being a writer.

The first thing I do is answer email and send out the free e-books I offer through my website (AltonGansky.com). This can take an hour or so, but often less. I also review the many e-newsletters that come to my computer. I'm afflicted with a wide range of interests and tend to subscribe to science, writing, and other newsletters I have no time to read. I also scan a couple dozen blog sites.

By that time, my brain is close to operating well enough to do creative work. If I have a deadline, I set about getting a certain number of pages done that day. I like it when I have to write five or six pages a day; I like it less when I have to write fifteen (something that would be far more tolerable if I had someone else to blame).

I take a lunch hour and sometimes nap. Not because I'm weary, but because my eyes need the rest. Reading and staring at a computer screen for five hours tuckers out my poor little orbs. My wife tells me that I'm growing older, but I don't believe her.

Often there will be other writing related work to do such as talking to my agent or editor. There's not much of that unless were in some kind of negotiation. I may go over galleys/page proofs, or do research. Some days, I must spend time on proposals or prepare for a conference.

Most of the day, however is spent writing and thinking. It's hard work but it beats laying asphalt in August.

ARE YOU AN "OUTLINE" OR "MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO" WRITER?
I prefer the term "intuitive writer." I have undertaken a crusade against such terms as "seat-of-the-pants-writer," "non-outliners" and the like. My pants have nothing to do with the way I write. I have worked both ways and each has its benefits. More often than not, I set my characters on the road and follow after them to see what they're going to do. I'm most comfortable with that. Now a confession: It's not a comfortable way to write. It takes a lot of thinking time, percolating on plot and characters. My characters surprise me from time to time, doing things I could never have foreseen. It works for me, but it doesn't work for everyone.

Perhaps this would be a good place for a touch of advice to new writers. In this business, everyone has an opinion about how writing should be done. There are basic elements needed in every novel written for public consumption, but how you write is up to you. Writing is a solitary affair. Write the way that releases your creativity and gets the job done. If an outline frees you to do that, then by all means use an outline and forget about what Alton Gansky does. If you're an intuitive writer (I also like the term "discovery writer"), then kick start the plot, hop on the back seat and see where it takes you. Just make certain that in the end, you have a salable novel.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR BOOKS?
"You owe me a night's sleep." I once had a woman write to complain that she and her husband fought over who would be allowed to read my books first. I suggested they buy two copies of everything...for the sake of their marriage of course.

WHAT IS THE WORST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR BOOKS?
Someone reviewed one of my books for a major magazine. In the review she included a description of my characters and plot, which would have been fine had she used my characters and my plot. I still don't know whose books she read and thought was mine.

HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU READ A MONTH?
Not many. I'm a ponderously slow reader. I once took a speed reading class but it ended before I finished reading the brochure. I've always been slow in reading. Still, I do my best to read as much as I can. I also read a lot of magazines.

AS A READER, WHAT MAKES A BOOK INTRIGUING TO YOU? (WHAT DOES A BOOK NEED FOR YOU TO PICK IT UP?)
It needs to be slightly odd for me to be captivated. I read in several genres from adventure to science fiction, but those books that offer something a few shades off normal get my attention the most. From the secular world, I like many of Dean Koontz's books, some of Stephen King, Michael Crichton and Clive Cussler. Recently, out of the Christian market, I enjoyed Frank Peretti's Monster.

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Come back Monday for the second-half of our conversation with Alton Gansky. In the meantime, find him online at AltonGansky.com or his blog, Imagination@Work. He is also a contributor to the multi-author blog Charis Connection.

Related link: Q&A: ALTON GANSKY, PT 2

More Interviews:
Q&A: WANDA DYSON (Abduction)
Q&A: T.L. HINES (Waking Lazarus)
Q&A: CORNELIA READ (A Field of Darkness)
Q&A: TASHA ALEXANDER (And Only to Deceive)
Q&A: LORENA MCCOURTNEY (On The Run)

INTERVIEW ARCHIVE
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