Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Interview With Michael Snyder--Part 1

Michael Snyder recently signed a two-book contract with Zondervan--his first sale of a novel. He attracted Z's attention with his manuscript Russell Fink. He is now working on the second book for the contract.

I met Michael through writers' conferences and came to know him as a guy who's really serious about working on his craft and getting it to publication level. Well, he's done it! I figured what he's learned along the way just might help some of you aspiring novelists out there. Plus, his contract is one example of how Christian fiction is widening to include new territory.


1. Okay, first up. I keep hearing the Russell Fink is about a clairvoyant dog. I know you're a bit strange, but...really. What is your book about?

Well I can say it involves a clairvoyant basset hound named Sonny. But it’s not really about him. The story deals with hope and forgiveness and finding God in unexpected places. Russell’s slightly unconventional route to these universal themes include (but are not limited to):

-A neurotic copier salesman trapped in the body of an artist

-An administrative assistant who fashions her own clothing out of Army surplus and flags from various countries

-An inventor obsessed with warmth

-A stalker with the same initials as another character

-And a few batches of whiskey biscuits (doggie treats marinated in ninety proof, baby!)

My sincerest hope is that the reader will laugh, think, and maybe even cry once or twice.

Okay, that’s just a ‘very sincere’ hope. My sincerest hope is that a lot of people will buy it so I can keep writing more books.

2. What made this book a good fit for Zondervan? Are they looking for other stories like this one? (Well, maybe without the dog …)

I’ve been encouraged—no, delighted—with what I’m hearing from Zondervan. Unless my head is filled with gauze, it sounds to me like the sky is the limit as far as what they’re willing to look at. I don’t want to speak out of turn here. But my advice is to write the story that’s burning inside you. Write it well. And it will find a home somewhere.

I hear frustration at conferences about the apparent disconnect between what editors want and what they’ll actually buy. (Heck, I’ve engaged in said conversations.) There’s probably some truth to that, but I decided not to spend a lot of time worrying about it. You can’t change the system. But you can write a killer story. Publishers want great books. I’ve met several editors who are eager to take chances. (Many of whom still told me ‘No!’) Essentially, we all have the same goal.

3. What's your "Never-Ending-Saga" in a nutshell? In other words, without going on for 60+ posts, as I did on this blog, tell us the story of your journey to publication.

In 2002 I turned to my wife (a.k.a., the prettiest girl in the whole wide world) and said, “I think I’d like to try and write a novel.” She liked this idea, likely hoping it would displace my passions for binging on Yoo-Hoo, picking fights with squirrels, and making towers out of sharp household objects. So I wrote the following: “He awoke to that smell again.” Thankfully, no one bought it.

I read 30+ books on craft, doubled my intake of great novels, wrote six or seven nights a week, and attended the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. Gayle Roper encouraged me. Steve Laube looked at me funny.

I kept writing every night and attending conferences every year. After completing one novel and starting three others, I threw my hands in the air and quit … quit writing for the market, that is. I wrote what I wanted for a change—a series of short stories loosely based on the same ensemble of characters. Russell Fink was born.

Steve agreed to agent me at the Nashville ACFW. That was after he asked for my pitch, then systematically interrupted it with wisecracks … and yes, he still looks at me funny. Then I met Andy Meisenheimer, acquisitions editor at Z and an all-around groovy guy, at ACFW in Dallas.

I got the call a few weeks later.

4. What things did you do that most helped lead you to publication?

In order of importance…


-Studied craft but refused to get all hung up on the rules. If you break them, do it with attitude.

-Read some more.

-Wrote every day, or close to it.

-Tried to spend twice as much time reading as writing. (Be a nerd! Read in line at the DMV, at stoplights, in parking lots, while your dog is making wee-wee, during boring conversations with family members you’re not all that fond of.)

-Attended at least one conference per year. Tried to remember to put people ahead of my conference goals. Publishing is a business, but if you listen you can hear its heart beating.

-Explored the world of critique groups. My critters are simply the best. And no, I’m not sharing.

-Wrote, read, wrote, read, wrote, read, ad nauseum.

-And somewhere in there I screwed up the courage to submit stuff.
Tomorrow: Questions 5-8, beginning with:

5. Your story is decidedly different and is targeted toward the 18-34-year-old audience. Do you see more opportunities for this kind of fiction coming in CBA?
Read Michael's blog, Gritty and Bright.


Unknown said...

Okay, why Snyder is someone else interviewing you?!?! Okay, I'm okay. It's Brandilyn so that's cool. I was so thrilled to hear about your contract and after hearing your amazing pitch at ACFW, I can't wait to read neurotica. Though we'll only call it that in the privacy of the blogosphere.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer, more talented guy. Eighty percent happy, twenty percent jealous :)Okay, fifty-fifty. Maybe forty-sixty (KIDDING. No sermons please :)

You're still coming on Novel Journey when it's released, right?
Thanks for featuring Mike, Brandilyn.

Jeanne Damoff said...

Aw, Mikey. If they could see you now, all cleaned up and answering real live interview questions. (You look snazzy in that tie. Good thing fluorescent toads are all the rage this year.)

As you climb the ladder to super-stardom, don't forget the little people who tripped you on the way and then laughed.

Love, Jeanne

Unknown said...

An interview that gives encouragement. What a pleasure!

Unknown said...

Yeah, what Jeanne said. ;)

Seriously though, it's wonderful to see Mike getting all the attention his talent deserves. I'm sure this is just the beginning.

Cara Putman said...

Congrats again, Mike. And Gina, I've interviewed him for the ACFW e-zine. You have to be speedy! :-)

Heather said...

Read? I should be reading as well as writing? Oy vey, this is a tough biz.

michael snyder said...

You guys are all way too nice.

First, thank you Brandilyn for inviting me to come out and play.

Gina, I've been hoping for a spot on Novel Journey since you opened shop. So thanks in advance (and I'll be watching my Inbox!)

Jeanne, what can I say? You rock. You're weird (in the best possible way). And you scraped my knees and giggled.

Chickey (what a cool name, btw). Thank you so much, but now I'm going to have to go back and find that 'encouraging' part. I'm ususally quite obnoxious.

Jen, you too are way too kind. And if we're talking about what writers deserve, you'll be rich and famous before the rest of us.

Cara, thanks again for the congrats and the opportunity. I was on medication when I answered your questions. So I may have provided more fodder for Jeanne.

Heather, yep. And I'm afraid the backs of cereal boxes don't count (believe me, I tried!) But books on tape do...or at least they do in my world.

Tamara Leigh said...

Excellent interview, Michael! Big time congratulations on signing a contract.

Tamara Leigh

Susanne said...

Very interesting and congrats! I'll have to direct this book to young adults I know.

Karen Eve said...

Just don't forget the little guys in your local Nashville group...
Just kidding - we are sooooooo happy for you.

~michelle pendergrass said...

Are you taking notes Brandilyn? Snyder = increase in blog comments.

David Meigs said...

Go Snyderman!