Welcome to a new year of interviews with authors, editors, agents, and other publishing professionals. We’re developing this series as a way to get to know people, learn more about publishing in general, and to make connections. Please feel free to ask questions and discuss!
Today, we have agent and author David Fessenden with us. Who is this, you might ask?
David E. Fessenden is a literary agent with WordWise Media Services and an independent publishing consultant. He has degrees in journalism and theology, and over 30 years of experience in writing and editing. He has served in editorial management positions for Christian book publishers and was regional editor for the largest Protestant weekly newspaper in the country.
Dave has published seven books, written hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, and edited numerous books. He is a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences. Two of his books, Writing the Christian Nonfiction Book: Concept to Contract and A Christian Writer’s Guide to the Book Proposal, are based on his experience in Christian publishing. The Case of the Exploding Speakeasy, Dave’s first novel, reflects his love for history and for the Sherlock Holmes stories of Arthur Conan-Doyle.
Into the Mind . . .
What was your favorite movie as a child?
One of my favorites was The Thief of Baghdad (the 1961 version; the 1940 version is pretty confusing). This has an Alladin-like character on a quest for the Blue Rose, in order to win the hand of the princess. Can you see why I have an interest in speculative fiction?
What book has made the most impact on you?
That is a hard one. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis was definitely a life-changing book for me. But the one that got me started on a career in writing, editing and publishing was How to Write, Speak and Think More Effectively by Rudolf Flesch.
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Ireland, Scotland, Wales. The photos I’ve seen of the landscapes are so green and lush they are almost otherworldly. And the history and culture are fascinating.
Hearing and telling stories has always been a great love of mine, but I never thought of it as a profession until high school, when I began looking at colleges. At one point I thought about the ministry, and at another point about music, but as I prayed about it, I sensed the Lord saying to me, “How about a writer?” I thought back through my school years of the assignments I enjoyed the most, and they all had to do with writing. So I majored in journalism, worked on newspapers for a while, went into book editing, and now I am a literary agent.
What inspires you to do what you do?
I thoroughly enjoy helping gifted writers get their books out on the market. When I land a publishing contract for a client, I find it almost as exciting as getting my own books published. I also love working with an author on creative ideas, encouraging them to take their writing in a direction they may not have thought of before.
What sub-genre of speculative fiction is your favorite to read?
Authors whose writing reads like a fairy story or a folktale. I don’t know if that’s an actual sub-genre or not. Tolkein (especially his short stories) and Lewis read like that, of course, as well as such classic authors as the Brothers Grimm, W.B. Yeats, and George MacDonald. But there are contemporary authors as well, such as Aaron Gansky (in the interest of full disclosure, he’s a client), with his Hand of Adonai series.
Is there a step in your creative process or work life that you dread/loathe/wish you could throw over the side of a cliff with a mill stone tied around its neck?
Yes — getting started. I love to write, but it’s a love I seem to continually forget. I dread starting out with a blank page, and filling it with my ideas. But once I get into it, get some creative momentum going, I really enjoy the process. I just have to keep reminding myself that the fun stuff is coming, but I have to get moving down the road first.
What is one piece of creative or business advice someone has given you that actually helped?
Submit your work somewhere, even if you are not sure you’re fully satisfied with it. I’m not saying to submit a first draft, but if you’ve worked and reworked your material and you’ve got in some kind of shape, show it to someone else and get some feedback. (A check from a publisher is the best kind of feedback!) We all tend to be perfectionists, and you can’t expect readers, editors and agents to come to your house and pry the manuscript from your hands.