Monday, February 4, 2008

John Aubrey Anderson - an exclusive interview!

It is my honor and privilege to share a recent visit I had with John Aubrey Anderson, author of the terrific trilogy Black or White Chronicles. I read the first novel in the series over a year ago, and during the Fall was able to finish his story. I was left stunned...and changed. You will find that John Aubrey Anderson is passionate about one thing in particular and that is growing in his daily walk with Christ. His gift of writing is just icing on the cake.

Please join me for a few moments as we chat with this great author. If you like what you learn, go back and check out the give away for this awesome trilogy!

Welcome, John Aubrey Anderson!!

1. You state on your site that you enjoy reading suspense/thriller type books. A lot of the suspense/thriller books coming out of the CBA market are labeled as "edgy" and don't contain an overt gospel message. Your books, by contrast, naturally include the gospel within the story while delivering a thrilling, action-packed read. How important do you feel it is to include the gospel and what do you think about the increase in books with no overt message present?

Thank you for describing my work as thrilling. I’d really like to take the credit for how the books have turned out, but what has happened with this writing thing is nothing less than a series of linked miracles. God did this. (More on that later.)

Now . . . you have, with this first question, uncovered an idiosyncrasy of mine. You and I both are continually told that writers should be voracious readers of the genre they intend to write. Well, I can’t do that. I no longer allow myself to read CBA fiction because I don’t want to see what anyone else is writing; I read precious little secular fiction for the same reason—I don’t want other peoples’ ideas in my head. I do reread secular suspense novels that I like, I read a little non-fiction, and I watch the same movies over and over. I watch a lot of John Wayne films, and I’ve probably seen Driving Miss Daisy no less than thirty times.

How important is it to include the gospel in my books?

For me, it’s crucial. The day may come when I’ll write something without delineating the gospel, but, for now, I don’t see that happening. I started writing for three reasons:

One: Well-written suspense fiction is an excellent vehicle for putting the truth in front of people who would normally pass on reading it. My aim is to “sprinkle” the claims of Christ throughout action/suspense stories that are so heart-scalding the readers will not risk skipping a single word. If readers don’t skip words, they can’t miss hearing (reading) the gospel. You, because you’ve read the books, know that God gave me “exceeding abundantly” what it took to make the writing suspenseful.

Two: God says to always be “ready to make a defense,” and riveting fiction offers a great podium from which to set forth seemingly elementary apologetic points or tenets of the faith.

And three: I think we Christians have a right to read the kind of suspense that steals our sleep without having our minds stained with the gratuitous sex and profanity that pervades today’s fiction.

What I didn’t see coming was the overwhelming encouragement and insight the books have offered believing Christians . . . the precepts they pick up from my characters and incorporate into their own lives.

What do I think about the increase in books with no overt message present?

Why would anyone be surprised? In too high a percentage of today’s churches the cause of Christ is being pushed farther from the spotlight while the things of the world are allowed to center themselves on the stage. We have lost our first love. However, I’m in the enviable position of being the kind of person who is content to live one life at a time—my own. If I’m doing the job I believe God has given me to do, I do not have the time, inclination, or responsibility needed to critique what CBA publishers are choosing to put into the market place. The only facet of their product I can control is what flows from my own word processor. For me, the various job descriptions are fairly straight forward: I’m in charge of writing what I think will honor God; God’s in charge of taking it where He wants it to go; publishers get to answer to Him for their choices.

2. Former pilot turned author....will your readers ever see your "pilot" self in your work?

Regarding my “pilot self” . . . I’ll keep me out of the books because no one could dream up a character less interesting than John Anderson. However . . .

The world of aviation is rich with the elements that make for exciting/beautiful/tense/dangerous scenes and stories—and I’m at home there. So . . . if God chooses, my stories will often spend some of their time in and around cockpits and airplanes. That said, you won’t be surprised to hear that my fourth book is an action novel steeped in the things of wartime aviation.

3. Your stories are based in the area where you grew up. Were there any racial events in your own life that made a significant impact? Could you share that with us?

Black people comprise at least fifty percent of the Mississippi Delta’s population, and I would say I was shaped more by my environment than by events.

God chose to give me H. A. Carpenter for my grandfather. I was raised in my grandparents’ home—at H.A.’s knee . . . and he was the most honorable man I’ve ever met. Captured in a single sentence: If H.A. ever made a judgment about a man based on the color of his skin, I didn’t see it. He was as gentle a man as I’ve ever met, but he was also the kind of man who could single-handedly stop a lynch mob in its tracks . . . and he did.

The Proverb that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” is applicable in my life. Getting to have H.A. as my God-given example is a gift I waited too long to appropriate . . . and I’ll be playing catch-up until I die.

4. What role do you see racism playing in today's society? There is a lot of discussion going on about segregation existing within the CBA market just as it still exists in churches across our country. How do you feel about that and where do you think we are headed as a country?

Forgive me if I dodge the bulk of this question. I’m not a “thinking” person, and I’m not the kind of writer who keeps up with what’s happening inside the CBA. It would be too easy for me to err and downplay a crucial issue . . . or overstate a minor one.

However, in that vein: Racism is a prevalent poison that we too often drink by the quart. In the world and in the church, if there is a greater barrier to the effectiveness of the cause of Christ in our nation, I don’t know what it is.

5. Your journey to publication was idyllic. With three novels now published, do you think that has made it harder or easier to continue writing? In what way?

Good question . . . and one I hadn’t considered. The answer? Writing is easier . . . and harder.

It’s easier because . . . I have my “foot in the door” . . . I’m continually encouraged by people who contact me to tell me how much they like the books . . . I don’t feel guilty about spending hours and hours, daylight and dark, pursuing an illusive “dream” . . . I have people in the business who tell me I’m doing it right.

It’s harder because . . . I want every book to be better than the one before. Before I was published, I did not have the sense of responsibility I feel now. The realization that people are going to read what I write is sobering.

6. What comes next? Will you stay within the suspense/spiritual warfare genre or will you be trying something new? Please share!

This is the perfect time to tell you that my latest work is finished and in my agent’s hands. My wife and five couples who are our long time friends “pre-read” my manuscripts, and they tell me this book is the best yet.

I would classify the book as an action novel. Spiritual warfare is not visited as much as in the first three books, but the influence of spiritual beings in the lives of some of the characters is shown. A handful of characters from THE BLACK OR WHITE CHRONICLES play roles in the new book, but with the exception of one man, most of the major characters are new to my readers. The story involves itself in the lives of a young fighter pilot and his wife—he and other warriors go to Viet Nam while their wives stay behind to fight battles of their own.

I see two more books using the groundwork prepared by THE BLACK OR WHITE CHRONICLES.

After that? I’m not sure. I’m doing piecemeal work on a devotional book for men, and my wife wants me to write something for younger readers. If I do more fiction, I’d probably want to set the book in Mississippi—the South always seems to lend something special to a story.

7. Do you ever get asked to teach/speak about the writing process or do you ever plan to do this?

Let me interrupt here and tell you a story about my first and only writer’s conference.

On the van ride from the airport to the conference center, I sat quietly on the front seat while six “real” writers sat in the back and talked about their work. One of the authors said something about her “protagonist,” and my thought was . . . “Oh my gosh, they’re gonna ask me about my protagonist, and I don’t even know what one is.”

As it stands, I think my qualifications to write—or the spectacular lack thereof—end up being a testimony to the power of God. The events at that conference culminated in two things: a three-book deal for me . . . and God’s demonstration that He doesn’t need highly qualified people to do His work. Very simply, He chose an unknown, untried, unqualified man to tell people about Him . . . and He assumes the responsibility for the details.

So, in answer to your question, I’ve been asked, but few people are less qualified than I to speak on the fiction writing process. I learn something new every day, but I really don’t know enough about the craft to help others.

I read one or two books on writing and found out that my methods are unorthodox in the extreme. For me, I “see” the story—like a movie playing in my mind—and I write down what I’m seeing. I continue to rewind and play back the “film” until what I’ve written does a good job of describing the film version.

To cap it off . . . I’m a slow writer. For me to get one book finished in a year would take a minimum of 8 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week for twelve months.

In short, I can (and do) speak on what is taking place regarding my own books, but I’d be laughed off the stage if I tried to teach people how to make it happen for them..

8. Parting words of encouragement for your readers or something you want to share about something exciting God is doing in you life?

I am blessed—more than most—with an appreciation for how insignificant I am . . . and with an increasing understanding of how vitally important this work can be.

As I said in the answer to your first question, we are all called to be on our toes . . . well-armed, fully-equipped, “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for the hope that is in us.” That’s where I want my heart to reside. For your readers who are interested, I talk in more detail about being prepared in a devotion I wrote for NovelJourney.

Let me close, Kim, by saying how honored I am that you would have me here. Getting acquainted with you has been great . . . getting to share with your reader group is a privilege. Thanks.

To learn more about this author and his work, visit his website here.

To enter the drawing for his books, leave a comment here.

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