1.) David, for those who are unfamiliar with you and your work, can you give us a thumbnail of your career thus far?
I’m a New York Times bestselling fantasy and science fiction writer with more than 50 novel-length works in print. I set the Guinness Record for the World’s Largest single-author, single book signing in 1999. I’ve won numerous awards for my science fiction, historical, and young adult novels. I’m the head judge for the world’s largest writing competition. I’ve trained several #1 New York Times bestselling authors, including Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, James Dashner, and Stephenie Meyer. I was co-leader on the design team for one of the world’s most popular and enduring video games, and I ain’t done yet.
2.) You have such a large body of work and an active web presence. If someone wanted to familiarize themselves with you and the types of things you write, where’s the best place to start?
Hmmm . . . read Writers of the Future Volume 31 (where I was the editor), and then go to THE RUNELORDS, NIGHTINGALE, IN THE COMPANY
OF ANGELS, OF MICE AND MAGIC, and ON MY WAY TO PARADISE. Those will give you a good idea of some of the things I do.
3.) At one time, you were a writing professor at Brigham Young University. You have a popular “Daily Kick in the Pants” series for writing tips and inspiration, you teach seminars, and have several books on writing. How did you get from writing novels to teaching others about writing novels? Why is teaching about writing so important to you?
It started when I was at a convention in 1991, and afterward a large group of about 20 young writers came to me and asked if I would teach a workshop to them. I said “No,” and they said, “We’ll pay you,” and somehow I’ve never been able to stop. I get asked to teach everywhere. In fact, I got notified yesterday that at an enormous international conference that I taught at recently I was voted “the most popular” instructor and “the most wanted to return for next year.” But the truth is that I love teaching AND writing. I feel as if the writers I teach are almost my kids, and I love training them, watching them grow, and seeing them do great things by themselves.”
4.) Your workshop at Realm Makers (RM) is entitled Editing to Greatness. Can you tell us a little bit about the overall goal and purpose of these sessions? What kind of writer should consider attending “Editing to Greatness.”
Anyone who wants to be a writer absolutely needs to learn to edit. Now, I designed my own editing major at BYU, and the English Department there liked it so much that they adopted it. The major has since been adopted by over 200 other universities. So I teach you things like “How to Judge a Story Like a Pro,” “How to Edit for Story,” “Line Editing Techniques,” and so on. You see, stories rarely come out great in the first draft. Instead, we rewrite them to greatness.
5.) Many writers seem to have a love/hate relationship with editing. What do you tell a writer who struggles with editing and\or is tempted to cut corners or downplay the importance of editing?
Get real, kid! Seriously, people who don’t understand the joy of revising almost always will struggle with their careers.
6.) You write in the spec-fic genre (science fiction, fantasy, etc.). Why do you think speculative fiction titles (whether films, novels, or graphic novels) continue to resonate within popular culture?
I’ll have to talk about this at length, but the truth is that, particularly with younger readers, the emotion of Wonder is a huge draw. But I should warn you: I also have written literary fiction, middle-grade, and am currently working on a thriller. My main weakness as a writer is that I love all kinds of fiction.
7.) RM is mostly put on by and for evangelicals. Evangelicals and Mormons have an historically tenuous relationship. What would you say to the evangelical author who is hedging on attending this writing conference because a Mormon is on staff?
I wouldn’t worry about it: I’m not teaching Mormonism, I’m teaching writing. As conservative Christians, I think we have a lot more in common than we do differences.
8.) One of the topics in your workshop is “Learning to Write for Wide Audiences.” The evangelical Christian fiction market is a rather narrow, but enthusiastic audience. What advice would you give to a Christian author who wants to include biblical themes in their stories, but also write for a larger audience?
Oh my gosh, you consider the Evangelical Christian market small? The Christian market is immense–much larger than you probably know. My
old friend Bruce Wilkinson, who wrote THE PRAYER OF JABEZ, sold some sixty million books in three years. Look at how well the TV series
“Touched by an Angel” did–hitting 28 million viewers per week in order to become the #1 show of its time. I remember sitting with a bunch of Jewish filmmakers in Hollywood once and trying to explain to them how big the film The Passion of Christ was going to be. They just didn’t get it–predicting a flop, rather than one of the bestsellers of all time. I think that, as Christians, we need to open our eyes and realize just what an immense audience there is for our work in America. Ninety-two percent of all people in our country believe in God. Stories that have a strong ethical base and are well
written don’t just entertain, they change lives!
9.) You’ve trained a lot of successful authors, some even New York Times bestsellers. Is there a common trait most of these authors share?
They’re generally eager to learn, eager to write, and don’t let themselves get burned out just because they face a couple of failures. In other words, they endure. Intelligence helps, but a lot of times, authors just need to give themselves some time, discover their strengths, and learn to use them properly.
Great insights, David! Thank you for joining us today. I know many writers anxious to learn from your vast experiences at RM in August.