I recently had the honor of interviewing Creston Mapes, an Amazon Best Selling author. Creston is an author who is on fire for the Lord, wanting to shine like a beacon to the world.
Focus on Fiction says: “Riveting…an author to keep your eye on.”
I hope you enjoy the interview. Please make sure to leave a comment below with your email address for a chance to win this best seller!
Creston, tell us a little about yourself.
I was always a curious kid and very observant, two things that ultimately make for a good writer. I wasn’t much of a student, but found I could write quite well. I always loved movies and books and, therefore, loved being creative. I knew from an early age that I didn’t want to do anything like business or sales or insurance… and kind of dreamed of writing for Sports Illustrated or Rolling Stone. I consider myself: fun, outgoing, friendly, emotional.
Ahh, another writer who was bit by the bug from an early age…Tell us three things about yourself that would surprise your readers.
I love to paint (watercolors). I’ve worked from my home as a marketing copywriter for 20 years. I have four kids ranging from 11 to 22.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What did you read?
I did love books and TV as a boy. My mom would read to me when I was little—books such as Caps for Sale and The Little Engine That Could. I read The Hardy Boys mysteries and Agatha Christie, and later all of the Joseph Wambaugh books, Sidney Sheldon, and Irwin Shaw (especially Rich Man, Poor Man).
What is your favorite genre to read?
I love to read Thrillers and Suspense. I also love literary fiction and classics. As long as there is tension and no boring parts…
I like to read what I like to write…books with tension on almost every page. Cut out all the boring parts. Flabbergast the reader. Discombobulate the reader. Make them “have to” turn the next page. Make your chapter openings and endings real grabbers. Make everything written count toward moving the plot and premise forward. You, the author, cannot be heard. Your voice/opinions cannot be heard. Only write from one character’s point of view at a time. While in that POV, you can only feel or see what that character feels and sees. Then you shift to another character to write from his or her POV. That is what serious writers do.
Thank you for sharing those writing tips with our readers. Now share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.
Up at 5:30 a.m. to exercise and get the family off. Quiet time w/God. COFFEE. Write fiction from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day. Then I write “paying” work in the afternoons, which, for me, is marketing copywriting. I hope soon that the novels will make enough income to do that full time. When in the middle of writing a novel, it’s tough to be 100% focused on the family when you have a story running through your head and you are trying to figure out what’s going to happen next when you sit down at the keyboard the next morning! Also, my family thinks it’s funny that almost everywhere we go, I am saying, “There’s a book idea…there’s a character for a book…that’s going in the book.” They are often amused.
I totally agree it is a struggle to balance family and writing and a job. When did you first begin writing, and why do you write still?
I started writing at Bowling Green State University…for the college magazine (Black Swamp) and bits and pieces for the campus newspaper. I had a great Journalism professor, Barb Austin, who freelanced for National Geographic and convinced a lot of us we could make a living writing.
How many books do you have published?
Three novels published by Multnomah (div. of Random House):
Dark Star: Confessions of a Rock Idol
Full Tilt (sequel)
Tell us about your latest book.
Fear Has a Name with David C Cook will come out in 2013, followed by two others in that series. Book one (Fear) is about a kid who was unwanted by his religious zealot parents and bullied by classmates. As an adult he goes back to find the only girl who ever cared for him, but finds her happily married with two young daughters.
Meanwhile, her reporter husband is working on a missing persons case—a pastor who has disappeared with a bunch of medication and plan to take his own life. The stories collide in what I think is my best book yet.
Tell us about the journey to getting this book published.
Being a novelist is a TOUGH game. You’ve got to have thick skin in order to take a lot of rejection. It took me five years and well over 150 rejections before I found an agent, then a publisher. I’d written two full-length novels and many more partial novels when there was no promise of getting a contract. When I did get a contract, it was for three novels in three years. Even then, they didn’t sell all that well, so I had to go back to freelance writing to make a living. Now I’ve signed another 3-book contract for thrillers that will come out in 2013 and 2014. So I have been writing Fear Has a Name on and off for a few years. Once it got picked up by Cook, we decided it would make a great series. I’m still building a reader base and not sure my books will ever sell enough to write fiction full-time. So the entire venture has been kind of a ‘gamble,’ if you will.
What inspired you to write this particular book?
I have compassion for hurting souls, people who are shy, outcasts, overweight, bullied…I hope we feel compassion for the antagonist in this story.
Your love for people is evident. What are you working on right now?
Book two in the new series for David C Cook.
Where do you get ideas for your books?
Everyday life. I like realistic stories. Not crazy about fantasy. So, I look at everyday life situations and imagine, “What if….” I also draw from past experiences, traveling, people I’ve met. I was a reporter, so love writing about reporters.
How do you choose names for your characters?
Names are so important. I plug in names as I’m writing and substitute different ones till they feel right. I make up names and do Internet searches. When I hear neat names, I try to remember them and plug them in where I see fit. Also, I’ve posted a need for a character name now and then on Facebook and gotten a ton of great suggestions.
In three words describe your style of writing.
Concise. Emotional. Gritty.
How do you get to know your characters?
I don’t plot so I start out with a few characters and some ideas, and find out what they are like each day as the story unfolds. This way, I don’t have planned out what they are going to do. As I get to know them, they show me what they are going to do. So they surprise me at times. I am a “pantster” all the way.
I’m a plotter in the beginning and then I fly by the seat of my pants and let my characters lead me through the story. What are you favorite themes to write about?
Redemption. Man’s frailty and faultiness. People who resemble scribes and Pharisees—and how they are not the “true” religious. Hope in Christ. Transformation. God’s power in peoples’ lives.
Does your faith affect your writing?
Absolutely. I’ve made a pretty good living as a freelance marketing copywriter. The only reason I wanted to try fiction was because I felt God leading me to do so. Wherever God has me spiritually when I’m writing a book, that comes out on the pages. Each book I look back on, I am amazed how God has used my personal, spiritual condition at the time to tell each story.
Why do you keep writing, Creston?
I want to make a full-time living at writing fiction. That’s one. Two: I have heard from so many readers that my books have impacted…from drug/alcohol addicts to convicts to cancer victims. They’ve said my books have helped them come closer to Christ. That is why I keep at it.
When it’s a calling, you can’t help but do it. Do you put yourself into your main character, or do you find yourself borrowing from family or friends as your characters develop?
Yes I put a lot of myself into the main character, but as I said, I try to keep each character unique to his/her personality. I think that takes time and hopefully I improve at that with each book.
Is there any scene in your book that came from real-life?
All of them, yes. The new one opens with a guy breaking into a house with the lady at home with small children. That happened to us years ago in Atlanta. (They got out safely.) So, yep, many of my book ideas have come from real life situations/people/places.
If you could interview any character in one of your books what might that character say? Why?
Everett Lester from Dark Star…a millionaire rocker on trial for murder. He gets letters from a teenage fan in Kansas and the girls’ letters really touch his dark heart. There is a Rolling Stone interview with Everett in Dark Star…so I guess I kind of did this already.
What would you be doing if you weren’t writing?
Can’t answer that one and hope I never have to.
That is exactly how I feel! Have you won any awards with your writing?
Dark Star won third place for Suspense at ACFW.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write. Don’t talk about it, plan about it. Just shut the door and start typing. Read a lot about the craft of writing fiction or whatever you write. Read a lot of great fiction. Study the craft. Read Noah Lukeman and Donald Maass.
Creston, thank you so much for taking the time out of your crazy schedule to allow me to interview you. It looks like your writing career is one wild ride!
You can find out more about Creston at his website:
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