I had a great time this weekend signing books at Half Price Books in Rockwall, TX - a great store where I always sell a good many books and have a lot of fun in the process. I have my own personal standard for what makes a successful signing. If I sell ten books or more, I call it a good day. If I sell more than fifteen, it's a great day. Over twenty - well, that's a stellar day for me (my books cost $20 a pop, so that's a nice chunk of change when I have such a day!). Saturday was a twenty book day, so I was a pretty happy camper when it was all said and done. I love socializing and talking to people anyway, and I get so many great questions (and some not-so-great) at these occasions, so I thought I'd share a few of them with you tonight.
Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
A: On average, 9-10 months per book. My current WIP may be finished even sooner; the story line is flying and I'm three quarters done after starting on October 12. But, I am coming up on my busiest time of year at work, so who knows?
Q: Did you write this yourself?
A: Yes, that's why my name is on the cover. (Seriously, people ask me this all the time and it amuses me. Why else would I be sitting at this little table in an uncomfortable chair asking you if you'd like to check out my novels?)
Q: Where are your self-help books?
A: I could tell you, but that would defeat the purpose. (OK, I only got to answer this once, but I'd been saving that reply for over a year at that point.)
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: This one I will take some time to answer. As of now, I have three books in print. THE TESTIMONIUM was inspired, in part, by a monologue I performed one Easter describing the Resurrection from Pontius Pilate's point of view, and also by an assignment I gave my freshman Bible class - asking them to write a letter after the Resurrection from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius, explaining what on earth just happened! And finally, by my discovery that such a letter once existed, and was referred to by Justin Martyr barely a century after the Crucifixion of Jesus. That got me wondering - what if a copy of that letter survived and was found today?
My second story was inspired by my first one. I found myself wondering - what happened to Pilate after the events of the Passion Week? Did presiding over the trial of Jesus change his life? What kind of man was he? How did he wind up in Judea, anyway? History provides few answers to these questions, so I made some up.
Finally, MATTHEW'S AUTOGRAPH was inspired by a loyal friend and Beta reader who kept wondering (as did I) what happened to Josh, Isabella, and the rest after the events of THE TESTIMONIUM. So yes, this is a good question and one I never get tired of answering.
Q: Do you have the whole story mapped out in your head before you start writing?
A: Heavens, no. Sometimes there is a single scene that's burned into my brain, and sometimes I know where the story ends but not how it gets there. I compare writing a story to hopping on the back of a big and stubborn horse: you may think you know where you're going, but your transport has a mind of its own and will take you where it wants you to go before it gets you to your destination.
Q: Are you famous? (I get this one from kids a lot)
A: Not yet, but I'm trying! With three books in print, I seem to be stuck somewhere between "rookie" and "up and comer".
Q: I've always wanted to write a book. Any advice?
A: Read a LOT. Then start writing. and keep writing. If your first story sucks, file it away somewhere and start another. I started and abandoned two novels and wrote a dozen or more short stories before I finished my first book. You can do this. And, to quote Billy Crystal in THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN: "A writer writes - always!"
Q: Will this store be carrying your books later?
A: (If it's my local Hastings, Lord bless them!) "Yes, they are on the rack up next to the cash register!" (Anywhere else) "Nope, sorry, today only, unless you want to get it off of Amazon! And I can't sign that copy!"
Q: Is this book OK for kids?
A: Well, for teens, I'd say yes. Pre-teens, well, REDEMPTION is basically a PG-13. I'd read it first if I were you, because I don't know what you let your kids read. But if you're OK with them reading THE HUNGER GAMES, then this should certainly be fine.
Q: Who are your favorite writers?
A: For fiction, Lincoln Preston, Douglas Child, Harry Turtledove, Stephen King, and James Rollins. For non-fiction, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, David McCullough, and H.W. Brands.
Book signings are a lot of fun. I always keep a dish of candy at my table for the kids and for store employees - as well as customers, or anyone who wants to stop by and visit. I hear great stories, meet fellow authors and pastors, and generally enjoy myself (although, I will ask anyone who wants to drop by, remember I am here to sell books. As much as I am enjoying our theological/political/historical debate, I need to make eye contact and make a sales pitch to everyone who comes in the door if I am going to have a successful day!
And there is always that one fellow or gal whose random comments make my day. One nice gentleman from Dallas won the day from me Saturday with this exchange:
Him: "So why did you want to write about Pontius Pilate?"
Me: "Well, for one thing, I just love Roman history . . . "
Him: "Me, too! When I am stranded in a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific with one other person, that is ALL we talk about!"
People. Gotta love em!