We check in with suspense writer Creston Mapes. His first two novels, Dark Star and Full Tilt, made him finalist in the ACFW Book of the Year awards and the Inspirational Readers Choice awards. Creston has written for major corporations, colleges, and ministries, including Coca-Cola, TNT Sports, Oracle, Focus on the Family, and In Touch Ministries. His latest is the psychological thriller Nobody, about a mysterious murder, a homeless man, a success-hungry reporter, a dirty cop, and a young lady determined to make sense of it all.
Find Cres online at CrestonMapes.com. (Read our 2006 interview with Creston here.)
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HOW DID YOU GET YOUR BIG BREAK?
Big break came when I was sending proposals of my first novel DARK STAR: CONFESSIONS OF A ROCK IDOL out to senior fiction editors at all the big Christian publishers. I had done this and made some fairly good inroads for a number of years. Somehow, my sample chapters of DARK STAR fell into the hands of Mark Sweeney, former acquisitions editor at W Publishing who had since become a literary agent. Mark phoned me one Friday afternoon and said he liked DARK STAR and would like to read more. I fed him 2-4 chapters at a time, as I wrote it, he kind of cheered me on, and when I was finished, he landed us a 3-book deal with Multnomah.
HOW MUCH DO YOU WRITE FOR AN "AUDIENCE" VERSUS SIMPLY WRITING FOR YOURSELF?
Now that I'm three books into the business, it's tempting to write for an audience, to write what you think is going to sell. But that's not why I got into this fiction writing work. I got into it to show, through gritty, high-intrigue stories, the transforming power of Christ.
They say 80 percent of Christian fiction readers are female. Should I slant my books more toward them? Well, truly, the answer is, my books are for everybody. I think because the first two dealt with a rock star, people assumed the novels were for teens, but I had no such intentions as I wrote the books. All three so far have been for all audiences -- young to old.
To answer the question, when it comes to writing fiction, I will always try to write what God puts on my heart ... the stories He wants me to tell. In that sense, I'm writing for an audience of One. Is that wise? In the world's eyes it may not seem like it, but I think it is wise. Because, ultimately, He will determine how well the books do. Best-selling author Randy Alcorn once advised me never to get involved with a writing project I wasn't compassionate about...and that could be easy to do, because publishers want you to churn out the books as fast as possible. But, because I am a freelance writer too, I have to pace the fiction writing quite slow and just see what happens.
WHAT CLASSIC AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL READING?
I don't know about mystery writing per se, but I'll give you some authors I think all aspiring writers should attempt to read: J.D. Salinger, Dalton Trumbo, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, William Faulkner, Stephen Crane, Ray Bradbury.
WHAT MODERN AUTHORS DO YOU CONSIDER ESSENTIAL READING?
I don't have a ton of modern-day favorites. Again, these would be mystery, suspense, literary fiction authors: Sara Gruen, Anita Shreve, John Grisham, Kent Haruf.
BEFORE BEING SIGNED, WHAT'S THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION YOU HAD ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR?
That once I got signed, the sales would automatically be there. When I got a three-book contract, I thought, "This is it. Quit your day job. Write these things full-time. You are on your way, Baby! The publisher believes in you enough for three books. They love you. You're their next sugar baby." I got all kinds of grandiose visions.
Reality is, extremely rarely does a first-time author "break out" and have a best-seller. This business is a marathon. They say it takes an author 5-8 books before he/she establishes the kind of audience needed to sustain the kind of sales needed to write fiction full-time. That's a lot of books. The question is, can any of us hold out financially, long enough, to grow that audience???!!!! I pray so!
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Thanks to our guest, Creston Mapes. Find him online at CrestonMapes.com.
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