Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Andy Meisenheimer--Part II


Welcome back, Andy. As noted in Part I, you'll be attending the ACFW conference. Specifically what kinds of manuscripts will you be looking for?

Comic vampire legal thrillers. I tell ya, I’ve bugged every legal thriller writer in the CBA to write this for me, and they just don’t bite. There are very few slots left for first-time writers, but I’m building up a list of proposals that, once I become rich and powerful, I can pursue more effectively.

What is your biggest frustration with the Christian fiction industry? What do you hope to do about helping to change this?

I don’t know if this is my biggest frustration (after all, I’m still new and idealistic and na├»ve) but I’m constantly surprised at how accepting we are of unnecessary violence in Christian fiction. Of the big three, violence, sex, and language, I’m pretty sure we should be least tolerant of violence, in books and in our own lives. In terms of realism, it’s much more realistic to me to have characters let loose with a damn or kickass or my God or a double entendre than have a villain shoot someone in the leg just for fun because he’s the bad guy. Not only is it a double standard, but it’s bad writing. How do I change this? Require my authors to write well. Make sure that everything in the book, from violence to shoestrings, serves the story.

Hm. As a suspense writer I naturally find that an interesting topic. Perhaps we can pursue that further in a later post on the issue. For now--what differences do you think we'll be seeing in Christian fiction in five years?

I think we’re going to see CBA trends mimicking ABA trends. We’ll eventually catch on that there’s not just three genres of fiction: inspirational, suspense, and end times/middle east.

You’ve been an editor with Zondervan for a year now. What have you learned during that time about the industry? About yourself in the industry?

Well, I’ve met a lot of kindred spirits in the industry, and we all seem to think that we’ll somehow change the world. I haven’t lost that feeling yet.

Finally, what would you like to say to the novelists who read Forensics and Faith?

Quickest way to doom yourself: stop reading, stop learning, stop listening.

I may be the #1 editor in my immediate family, but when my wife reads something of mine, I dig in my heels, argue with her, and then make practically every change she suggests (and it makes a big difference). I re-read my favorite books on writing and constantly look for more. And I keep a journal of novels I’ve read so I can track my reading, remember what I’ve read and how I felt about it, and make sure I’m not neglecting genres in which I want to be informed. When I stop doing those things, I should stop editing books.

Thanks so much for visiting with us, Andy.

Thanks for the chance to speak my mind. I reserve the right to change my mind on any opinion on any given topic at any time. Go easy on the next interviewee.

13 comments:

Christine said...

As someone new to the writing world, I greatly appreciate interviews like this. Thank you both for your time and insight!

Michelle Pendergrass said...

They're not biting! That was a good one!

Ed J. Horton said...

Thank you both for a sharing a great interview! Although I didn't use a double-entendre, I do admit a double-take on the paragraph about unnecessary violence in Christian fiction. It would be interesting to hear more of Andy's views and maybe delve into the statement, "Not only is it a double standard, but it's bad writing." Do I hear the sound of approaching thunder or is it rumbling from writers' keyboards?

Sharon Lavy said...

Thank you for the input on what you are looking for. In secular fiction it used to be that violence was off screen. Now it is sometimes too gross. I would hope Christian fiction would not have to be so graphic. But to be true to our craft we have to realize evil is out there. We have to be truthful.

Nicole said...

It is interesting that of the big three, you pinpoint "unnecessary violence" as the most offensive. I guess in light of Brandilyn's murder mysteries and Robert Liparulo's thrillers, the cruelty and sadism in the treatment of black slaves in River Rising, not to mention the video beheadings performed by Islamic terrorists, I would also be curious as to what you consider "unnecessary violence" in relation to story where the exposure of evil IS the story.

Julie Carobini said...

Good interview. I'd love to see more. I remember sitting at Andy's table at Mt. H and quietly absorbing an animated debate, er, discussion about the direction of Christian fiction. Fun stuff.

andy said...

I had an inkling that the violence comment would provoke.

I really would like to come back and dialogue about that sometime. And if you meet me personally you're more than welcome to bring up the topic at your own risk.

But for now, it's enough to provoke.

Tina said...

Great interview, Andy. I like hearing your thoughts and look forward to your thoughts on the violence issue. I noticed you said violence that does not serve the story, which seems to make sense. I don't like to see anything, even outside of the big three, if it doesn't serve the story.

Nicole said...

Meet you personally? Probably not gonna happen. Guess I'll just have to be "provoked" if that's the explanation for your comments.

Steve Laube said...

LOL. It has been an insider's observation for years that in Christian fiction you can kill as many people as you want...just don't have sex with any of them.

The bottom line is that the fiction reading is THE most subjective of all reading experiences. What is offensive to one is boring to another. What is a thrill to one is repugnant to another. Each person sets their own limits...and it is impossible to predict the reaction or, for that matter, please everyone!

Therefore the discussion about "edgy" fiction will continue to antagonize the Christian fiction publishing industry for years to come.

Steve
The Steve Laube Agency

Mike Dellosso said...

I think the to key to Andy's comment is "unnecessary violence." With this I would agree wholeheartedly. Unnecessary violence is bad writing. So is unnecessary dialogue, unnecessary batting of the eyelashes, unnecessary . . . you get the point. If it's unnecessary it's bad writing.

Also, I think what Andy was getting at is that making a bad guy do something really bad just to show how bad he really is is a cheap way of getting out of having to take the time to develop his character so the reader experiences how bad he is and why. Dean Koontz does a great job of this. Andy's example of shooting someone in the leg just to show how bad he is is not necessarily "bad writing" as far as style/craft go, but if that is all the reader gets of this character than it's just lazy writing. Characters need to be developed and explored, even the bad guys.

Mike

Nicole said...

That very well may be, Mike, but in the context of Andy's words:

"but I’m constantly surprised at how accepting we are of unnecessary violence in Christian fiction. Of the big three, violence, sex, and language, I’m pretty sure we should be least tolerant of violence, in books and in our own lives. In terms of realism, it’s much more realistic to me to have characters let loose with a damn or kickass or my God or a double entendre than have a villain shoot someone in the leg just for fun because he’s the bad guy. Not only is it a double standard, but it’s bad writing. How do I change this? Require my authors to write well. Make sure that everything in the book, from violence to shoestrings, serves the story." . . .

it just struck me odd that he would single out "unnecessary violence" of the three as the most frustrating. That we should eliminate it in "our stories and live" above the other two? It's probably me who's odd . . .

And while I understand "serving the story", that's a very subjective viewpoint for a writer, reader, and an editor.

Like I said, I'm probably the strange one here.

Pixy said...

I say, just shoot 'em all in the leg. That's what I say.

Or we could invite them over for tea and crumpets, and ask them politely to put their nukes away. ;)

Nice interview, Andy! I didn't hear anything about the video game trends, though... :P