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Interview with Mike Garrett

Mike Garrett has been on both sides of the writer-editor relationship, but that doesn’t mean writing his debut Christian novel was easy. Read on to find out how he overcame challenges and discover what he wants you to do with his novel besides read it.

Welcome, Mike. How long did it take you to write Innocence Denied?
A little over a year, but I didn’t keep a set writing schedule. I only worked on it when I had available time.

What challenges did you have along the way and how did you overcome them?
I ran into several roadblocks, essentially writing myself into corners that I had a difficult time getting out of. In every case, however, God zapped an idea into my head that saved me. God directed me to such a degree that I feel guilty taking any credit for writing the novel. I felt like I was only a keyboard and God was the typist.

What is one highlight of your path to publication?
I never expected Innocence Denied to be traditionally published. I wrote it with the intention of self-publication because it doesn’t comply with the rigid standards of most traditional publishers. It’s a bit of a hybrid and difficult to classify. Publishers want novels that fit neatly within one category or another. Innocence Denied doesn’t. I was fortunate to find CrossLink Publishing, who saw merit in the work despite its hybrid nature.

What is one thing you wish had been different?
It would have been nice to have been represented by an agent. My own literary agent didn’t like it and refused to represent it. I couldn’t get any other agents to even look at it. The rigid requirements of most publishers create a barrier that prevents them from considering great novels that happen not to fit neatly into their typical mold. Best-selling authors can get away with it, but lesser known writers can’t.

How did working as a book editor help you as a writer?
I think it worked both ways. Writing novels made me a better editor and vice versa. I’ve edited thousands of novels, and it’s often easier to see the fault in others than it is your own. But even editors need editors when they write. They can be as blind to their own mistakes as anybody else. A trusted editor friend gave me some great feedback.

What problems/errors did you see often in the books you edited? (i.e. what can we as writers learn how to do better before our work gets to an editor?)
First and foremost is carelessness. I rarely see an author who takes enough pride in his/her work to carefully SpellCheck and proofread before submission to me. It isn’t an editor’s job to clean up your mess. You should make your manuscript the very best that you can before allowing anyone else to see it, especially editors. Beyond that, viewpoint violations are quite common, as are too many characters to keep up with. Many new authors try to write like best-selling authors—a big mistake. Best-selling authors can get away with virtually anything, and if you mimic them, you’re likely to commit the same violations that they do, but you’ll be penalized for it. Be true to yourself and write as yourself, not someone else.

How did you pursue your calling to write this book without alienating publishers?
Actually, I did alienate literary agents and publishers, but I held true to my intent to write it my way. I don’t advise anyone attempting to establish a writing career to do this.

Writing Innocence Denied was an entirely different writing experience than my first novel. This time there was no profit motive, no desire to advance my career nor stand in the spotlight. I felt that sometime, somewhere, someone might read it and grow closer to Jesus. If only one reader accepts Jesus as his/her savior I feel that the effort will have been worthwhile.

Do you have another story in the works?
I’m undecided at the moment. I feel that Larissa’s story isn’t over, but I haven’t yet felt inspired to start a sequel. Perhaps someday I will.

What do you do when you're not writing?
Actually, I’m busier publicizing Innocence Denied than writing. I’m usually editing, reading, playing with my grandchildren, or traveling.

Any parting words?
I invite readers to follow me on Twitter at @MGarrett49 for a host of writing tips, including a series of tweets referencing Innocence Denied, pointing out what works and what doesn’t to help writers effectively shape their own novels. There are instructions on how to mark up the book to serve as a reference of effective characterization and pacing. This is like a short writing course, and you only need a copy of Innocence Denied to participate.


Lisa Bartelt is a child of the flatlands fulfilling her dream of living near mountains in Pennsylvania. She loves reading, writing and listening to stories—true ones, made-up ones and the ones in between—preferably with a cup of coffee in hand. Wife, mom of two, writer, ordinary girl, Lisa blogs about books, faith, family and the unexpected turns of life at

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