William G. Jones (WG) has a calling to help others navigate the maze of Christian writing. He recently started the Writing4Christians podcast that I’ve found extremely helpful. He hails from Western Kentucky, is a moderator at ChristianWriters.com and serves in many areas of his church.
My interview with WG
David: Do you have a favorite writing place or time?
WG: As for place, I’m pretty much chained to my computer. I can’t do longhand writing because I know, eventually, I’ve got to retype it anyway. That, and—to be perfectly honest—nobody can read my writing. Including me. I don’t have a preferred writing time anymore, but I tend to concentrate better at night.
David: Is writing a calling? If so, when did you know you were to be a writer.
WG: Definitely a calling. I knew in sixth grade, when a friend of mine got a camcorder and wanted to make a movie and I helped him come up with a story. I’ve been writing ever since. Trying to, anyway. God has giving me some specific revelations about writing that I all-to-often forget while I’m writing.
David: What kind of writing do you do?
WG: Mostly fiction, though blogging has become a recent obsession. I have ideas for stories in almost every genre, but I typically work in contemporary thriller.
David: What have you written so far?
WG: I’ve written three novels since ’02, but to be fair, I started my first novel in May of ’99. I didn’t finish a real workable draft until ’02, and the rewrite took a year and a half. Finished it in ’03, wrote my second book in ’04, and I wrote my third this year (’05). Right now, I’m rewriting that first novel again.
David: What do you think of the state of Christian writing today?
WG: Whew—that’s a loaded question. I make it a point not to read a lot of Christian non-fiction, at least in the form of how-to and self-help books. So I really can’t comment on that aspect.
Now, as far as Christian fiction, I think the Christian publishing industry is in denial about suffering from an identity crisis. Some publishers say their goal is to publish material that will bring readers to a saving knowledge of Christ; that’s nice, but who are you trying to reach if your product is available mainly in Christian retail outlets and marketed primarily to Christians? Backslid Christians?
I like the model proposed by Westbow, to publish stories by Christian writers that are on par with secular bestsellers, yet reflect and respect a Christian worldview. I’m not sure how well that will play out in the long-term, though, unless Westbow authors start sharing shelf space with the John Grishams and Stephen Kings of the secular world. The bottom line is, no matter how good a Christian writer is, as long as they’re not sharing that shelf space, there’s going to be a perception in the public eye that Christian writing is inferior to “real” fiction, or that Christian fiction is nothing more than a sanitized version of popular mainstream fiction.
David: What kind of books would you like to see more of?
WG: Gothic romance. Just kidding. Really, there’s not a particular genre I’d like to see more of. Just a more polished presentation. I haven’t read a lot of the new generation of CBA novelists—Chris Well, Eric Wilson, Kathy Mackel—but the thing that turned me away from older CBA fiction was the editing. But maybe I’m biased as a writer.
I would love to see a Christian writer take on classic horror, something like Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. And I’d love to read something akin to Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate. But mostly I’m looking forward to Mike Snyder’s debut.
David: Who are the authors that inspire you? Why?
WG: Shirley Jackson, Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham, George Orwell. Without digging into specifics, the authors that inspire me are the authors that wow me. If writing leaves me in awe, I have to figure out why. And I have to figure out how to incorporate that feeling into my writing—not necessarily to copy the technique, but to replicate that feeling during the writing process.
David: You have just started to podcast. How is it going?
WG: Well, to be honest, I feel like a hack. I wish I had a more enjoyable presentation and some more worthwhile things to say in that little 20 minute slice of cyberspace.
David: What’s the mission statement or your personal goals for the podcast?
WG: The mission statement is to give the kind of advice I’ve needed over the last few years to writers who are just starting out, but also to look at writing from my background of armchair philosophy and my business training. My primary goal is to build a rapport with the listener, to offer insight into the writing process and also peel away some of the mysticism that surrounds writers and writing.
David: What is your target audience?
WG: Writers like me, who haven’t yet broken through but are serious about the craft. I don’t really feel like I’m the best person to be offering advice to anyone, but there just isn’t a podcast out there offering advice specifically for Christian writers—and I want to fill that void as best I can.
David: What topics do you cover in your podcast?
WG: I had a migraine going the second week, so I’m not really sure what happened that day, but it seems the majority of the shows have been about the basics of writing—character development, plotting and pacing, that sort of thing. But I’ve also tried to talk about the need for Christian writing, different ways to approach writing for Christians, and how jalapeños clear my sinuses. I’m thinking that I probably need to shorten the show up to fifteen minutes and ramble less.
Please take a minute and visit Writing4Christians, he updates them every Friday. Be sure to leave him a comment.