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Interview With Randall Ingermanson

1) Tell us a little about yourself -- age, married/single, children, how many books authored, etc.

My age is a little weird. The day I was supposed to turn 30, something happened in the space-time continuum and I "bounced" and started counting backwards. So on my next birthday, I'll be turning 14! I've been married for 22 years and have three daughters, two cats, and an extremely long-suffering wife.

Book number 7 (DOUBLE VISION) just came out.

2) How did you become interested in writing? How long have you been at it?

I started reading when I was four years old and started writing soon after that. I was editor of my first grade newspaper. I'm not sure what my duties were, but I was the editor, by fiat of my teacher, who probably was tired of me being a know-it-all.

I wrote my first book, THE LION WHO DIDN'T LIKE NOISE, when I was about six. It never got published, but it was the first of a number of character-oriented novels I've done over the years. In high school, I had to make a career choice and for some reason, I decided on physics.

Years later, I was in graduate school at Berkeley working on my Ph.D. in physics and was reading a lot of thrillers and realized that I'd really rather be writing fiction after all. That was in the early 80s. I finally started writing for real in about 1988. It took me about 10 years to sell my first book.

3) What was your biggest obstacle in regard to writing and/or getting published? How did you overcome it?

The big problem was that I wasn't a very good writer. A secondary problem was that there was absolutely no market for the kind of novel I wanted to write--historical thrillers set in the first century.

I solved the first problem by writing a lot, getting critiqued a lot, reading a lot of books on writing, and generally not giving up, even though all the evidence seemed to show that I would never get published. As for the second problem, the market broadened out a bit and when it was finally ready for me, I was finally ready for it.

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

For pure shock value, winning my first Christy award has to be the biggest moment. It was my debut novel, and nobody thought I was going to win, not even my mother. Most people didn't even know who I was. My book was up against books by two of my heroes (Jerry Jenkins and Bill Myers), so I was just gratified to be mentioned in the same paragraph with them. When they announced the winner, you could hear jaws dropping all around the room and smacking against the floor. Mine was one of them.

5) Who/What is your greatest inspiration to write? Where do you get your your story ideas?

Every Christian writer will tell you God called them to write. In my case, I'm quite sure it's true, because I would never have been so crazy as to believe I could get a novel published, given my initial lack of talent.

My historical novels are stolen straight out of the Bible and the other historical records for the first century (such as Josephus). Of course I make up characters and some events, but the basic structure of the story is very true to the historical data.

I did two novels about Mars with John Olson, and he came up with the basic structure for those stories, though a lot of the character development was mine, and some of the plotting.

My latest book, DOUBLE VISION, is set in a high-tech startup company in San Diego, not unlike the two startup companies I used to work for. I made up the characters, but the basic flavor of the place came from some of my experiences at those two places.

6) Since we know you do a lot of extensive plotting through your famous (infamous?) Snowflake Method, share with us some unique facets of this method which you feel might not be known by most writers. How can both seat-of-the-pants and plotting writers benefit?

It's a bit of a misnomer to call the Snowflake a method for "plotting". The Snowflake is a unified method of story development that gives you a nice balanced story with well developed characters that fit into a well developed plot. I'm a character-oriented writer, so plotting doesn't come naturally to me and the Snowflake helps me get my plots right. But a plot-oriented writer would find that the Snowflake helps her get the characters developed. The Snowflake is all about balancing character and plot.

SOTP writers could benefit from the Snowflake by using it as a tool for analyzing their story after writing the first draft. Writers who prefer to do a detailed synopsis in advance would find the spreadsheet part of the Snowflake to be a new and invaluable tool, since it strikes a nice balance between too much detail and too little. I refuse to do extremely detailed synopses, since I consider them a waste of time. When I write, the story evolves and I change the story structure several times during the first draft. My spreadsheet is quick and easy to modify right along with the developing story.

7) What's the nicest thing anyone ever said about your writing?

I heard from a reader who came to salvation after reading several of my books. That made my week. It's also gratifying to hear from readers who tell me that they feel like they know my characters (or know me) after reading my books. In a very real sense, they do.

8) Who is your favorite character in your books, and how did you come up with that character?

It's really hard to choose just one. That's like asking who my favorite daughter is.

I'm kind of partial to Ari Kazan, who has starred in three of my novels so far, starting with TRANSGRESSION and then PREMONITION and then RETRIBUTION. What I like about Ari is that he asks the hard questions. In the first book, he was an agnostic Israeli physicist. I needed him to create the concept for the time-travel device that got my characters back to first century Jerusalem. Ari was a bit of a tough guy at first, but he softened up pretty soon. He was honest enough to admit that God exists, after seeing a miracle. But he's still having a hard time with the Jesus question--mainly because of his Jewish heritage. It is an open question whether Ari will ever believe in Jesus. He is an honest guy with honest doubts. Some of my readers want me to just make Ari believe, but I can't do that. He'll have to believe on his own or it won't be real.

9) How do you deal with publisher rejections? How many did you receive before you sold your first book?

There is a time-honored tradition among writers of weeping uncontrollably and gnashing teeth when receiving a rejection. I wish I could say I'm that disciplined, but I probably take rejection worse than most writers. Let's just say I don't like getting rejected, but I have a fair bit of practice at it. I don't ever want to get good at getting rejected.

I was rejected by a lot of agents early on. Then I snagged one who accumulated a series of publisher rejections for me--I'm not sure how many, but he was apparently quite talented at it. Then he died and I got a few rejections all on my own. Then I miraculously started getting published. After that, the rejections got a lot rarer, but they still happen occasionally. When that happens, no tooth goes ungnashed.

10) You recently taught a workshop at our annual conference on writing in the male POV, a workshop that became the talk of the conference. Based upon your knowledge of the books in print, do you think there is an inaccurate depiction of the male POV in Christian fiction? What can writers do to change that?

I'm sure most female writers don't write male characters quite true to life, just as most male writers don't get female characters quite right. That's probably a good thing! Do we really want gritty reality? Can't we make our characters be a bit idealized? In real life, not too many guys look like Brad Pitt and not too many ladies look like Julia Roberts. But in fiction, my vote is for better-than-real-life characters.

For those obstreperous writers who insist on more realism, there is just no substitute for hanging out with those who've made a different gender selection in life. (That's one reason I like ACFW so much--it's a great chance to just listen to women talk. I've learned a lot that way.) There are also plenty of web sites and magazines that are targeted to men or women. I'll admit to sneaking a peek at some of those targeted to women, so I could learn to think a bit more like them. Ladies who want to learn more about guys can do the same--but be prepared for a shock or two!

11) If you could give a beginner one piece of advice what would it be?

Never give up. Never give up. Never give up. OK, that's three. I leave it as a homework exercise for the gentle reader to reduce these to one.

Do you have any additional information to share?

Book # 7
"Three secrets. Two women. One man. NO TIME."

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