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Interview With Creston Mapes

Author of the Rock Star Chronicles, Creston Mapes embarks on a new journey of suspense combined with a foray into the homeless world with his new book, Nobody. Written in first person POV from the perspective of several characters, this story brings to life a Jesus-like character who enchants without even being on stage.

Creston, your latest book is a unique story about those homeless in the physical sense, but also in the spiritual sense. Can you give us a glimpse into the writing of Nobody.

To play off of your question, even “Christians” can be homeless in a spiritual sense. What do I mean? I became deeply involved in a church at one stage of my life, dedicating every spare moment of my time to ‘works’ at the church. To a great extent, my relationship with Christ was built on those works. The fault of no one else but me, I also became a man-pleaser—pleasing the godly men and leaders in my life, thinking, somehow, that by gaining their approval, I would gain happiness, contentment, peace, and approval from God.

As with each of my books, NOBODY reflects where I’ve been spiritually.

My publisher had the idea of basing my new novel in Las Vegas, but I didn’t want to be an ordinary story about gambling and casinos. When I figured out, through various means, that I wanted to write about a homeless man, I set up an interview with Brian Brooks of the Nevada Health Centers. When I went on my research visit to Las Vegas, Brian took me to the free clinics for the homeless, where we met with nurses and doctors. He drove me by the encampments where the homeless live, until they’re kicked out. We saw the soup kitchen lines and got a real flavor for what it’s like to be homeless in Las Vegas (there are an estimated 10,000 who are homeless in that city. You don’t see them on The Strip, because the police kick them out of there, because it’s not good for tourism. But they are close by.)

Another key factor in writing this book was a two-hour meeting I had with Jud Wilhite, pastor of Central Christian Church just outside of Las Vegas. During our meeting, Jud shared a poem with me by the late Samuel Shoemaker (one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous). The poem was called I STAND BY THE DOOR, and it was about those of us who become so deeply involved in the church, that we forget about the people outside the doors. When I read the poem, I knew, on the spot, it was the theme for my new book. That poem runs at the beginning of NOBODY and is referred to in the book. Jud’s mission, at his church, is to “reach people who are far from God.” This turned out to be another theme in the book.

NOBODY is about a rich Atlanta business man who looses his wife in a plane crash and turns to the church for solace. After several years, he realizes his walk with Christ is based solely on works, pleasing man, and legalism. So, this wealthy man is prompted by God to go live among the homeless in Las Vegas. It is a suspense/thriller. The main character is a Vegas newspaper reporter who is forced to look into this man’s life and find out why he had been living among the homeless while having a bankbook in his pocket worth close to a million dollars…and why virtually the entire Vegas homeless community thought the homeless man was an angel in disguise.

The book is getting some very nice reviews and has been reprinted…a good thing.

Reflecting back, what do you see as being most significant to your publication journey?

Several things. One was completing my first long novel. Even though the book never got published, just knowing I could “do it” gave me a great deal of hope.

After about four to five years of making what I believe were some very good inroads with senior fiction editors at some respected publishing houses, I came into agreement with a literary agent. This happened quite by accident. I was committed to finding a publisher on my own. Then, a portion of the manuscript for my first novel somehow fell into the hands of Mark Sweeney, who would later become my agent. He called me one Friday and said he liked DARK STAR and wanted to see more. I sent him more and we came to terms. About six months later he called and told me we had a three-book deal with Multnomah. After I was revived, I thanked him—and we’ve been a team ever since.

How do you balance your writing time with other responsibilities?

I’ve long been a freelance writer, doing marketing copy and feature stories for large corporations, magazines, colleges, and ministries. So, the formula I’ve found is, when I have freelance writing to do, I do it, because that’s what pays the bills. When I don’t have any freelance writing to do, I write fiction. Evenings and weekends are reserved for family, so I’m not one that works into the night and all day Saturday and Sunday. I think I’d like to write novels full-time (although sometimes I’m not so sure), but you have to build a good following of fans before you can do that. In fact, few authors in CBA do it full-time. Some say it takes 5 to 8 novels before you have a big enough following to become a full-time author.

And how does your faith and spiritual life play into the picture?

Fully and completely. Writing novels is difficult, solitary work for me and there’s no way I would do it if God hadn’t put the desire in my heart to “testify” in this way. My freelance writing has been a great business for me for a long time. So, to put it on a back-burner to write the books, well, it is a ministry, in every sense. The other thing is, God radically transformed my life. I was a selfish, rebellious rocker for 27 years of my life. To see what Christ has done in me, such a total transformation, has given me the desire to share that potential with others through gritty, realistic, contemporary stories. That’s the whole goal. I know that isn’t the case with some CBA writers, and I’m fine with that, but that’s what I’m here for…to testify.

What was your biggest obstacle in writing and how did you overcome it?

Having a wonderful wife and four children at home, it’s been tough for me to adjust to writing long novels, then having the energy I need to dedicate to my family at night. When I’m finished writing fiction at the end of the day, I am totally fried. So, at that point, I feel like I’m only giving the family about 50 percent of me. That has been and will probably always be difficult. It’s one of the prices I pay for writing fiction. You see, my other freelance writing involves projects I can pick up, put down, and forget about. The novels are much more comprehensive and emotionally-draining. I remember telling one veteran author this and making the comment that, “I’m sure it will get easier with each book.” His response: “Don’t count on it.” That emotional drain comes with each book, for me, anyway. However, I’m certain that varies from author to author, and depends how long of a writing day you put in.

What has been the highest moment of your writing/publishing career?

Probably when my agent phoned me and told me we had a 3-book deal with Multnomah, a publisher that I considered one of the finest in the industry. This call came after about 4-5 years of writing and rejections. And, we were only looking for a one-book contract. So, to learn I would be writing three…needless to say, I broke down, laughed and cried, and thanked God. One thing I’ve learned since then, however, is that getting the contract is just the beginning of the journey. Wow…it can get tough at times. Writers need to have patience, tough skin, and blind faith.

Who/What is your greatest inspiration to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?

Because I’ve been reconciled to God, the scriptures say that I am to do my utmost to reconcile others to God as well. As I mentioned above, my primary inspiration to write fiction comes from the desire He has put in my heart to testify about Him…to share His unconditional love and transforming power with others.

My stories and characters come from tidbits of my life. I was a huge rock ‘n’ roll fan growing up, so that was the reason I wrote about millionaire rocker Everett Lester in Dark Star and Full Tilt. The new book, Nobody, is about a man who was so steeped in the church that he forgot about the people outside the doors…I was there myself, too. So, to a great extent, the books reflect upon where God has taken me, spiritually.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

My style is hard-hitting. Kind of blunt. Very conversational. The description is brief, but to the point. I love real and powerful dialogue. It’s easy to read and flows fast. There aren’t a ton of characters to keep track of. I guess in my years as a journalist, I’ve hopefully learned, and am still learning, to get rid of the fluff, and fat, and any mention of anything that does not have to do with the story. I hope every word counts. I hope it’s kind of “in your face,” and fast-paced. I try not to use any words that don’t keep the story moving forward. I believe in putting tension on every page and on discombobulating the reader.

Finish this question. After completing a book, I…

…Celebrate! …am glad to forget it for awhile…look forward to getting back to simpler routine…enjoy giving my brain a rest…

Any parting words for up-and-coming writers?

Wow. I’ll give a different answer on that today than I would have three years ago (three books ago). Just make sure this is what God wants you to do. If you can easily put it down and forget about it, consider doing so. I say that, because it can be a very lonely and painful journey (for many reasons…one of which is, even though it may be a ministry for you, it’s a business to the publisher—don’t forget that). Pray a lot about your writing. If you’re convinced God wants you to do it, ask Him to fill you to overflowing with the ideas and words He wants you to proclaim.

Then, and I say this in the nicest way, don’t just talk about it and blog about it….get to the business of writing. Close the door and get busy. As Stephen King once said, “This isn’t the Oujia board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks.”
Make a word-count goal for yourself and get down to it.

Thanks for sharing with us, Creston!

You are most welcome. Thanks for reading my work and taking an interest in what I’ve learned along the way. CM

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