Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Interview With Alton Gansky


Today I'm pleased to post an interview with Alton Gansky, a man who has been both an inspiration and a mentor in my writing journey.

RM: Al, you've held a number of positions-pastor, firefighter,
businessman, architect. Did any of them especially influence you, either to become a writer or in your choice of what to write?

AG: It's true. I'm a professional used-to-be. I suffer from a mental illness-my imagination has no off button. It runs all the time. I've known this since childhood. In grade school reading was a favorite pastime.
Writing is the natural fruit for some readers. Stories came unbidden then and they still do.

I have another mental illness: I love to learn. My magazine subscriptions range from Dwell through Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Discover, and Scientific American. The same is true for my television viewing. I'm as happy watching a documentary as I am the latest sit-com.

I was, and I suppose I remain, a loner. What better career for a loner than writing? I enjoyed all my careers. I still follow architecture, miss my days as a firefighter, and still occasionally work with businesses.

I suppose I should see a psychologist but I'm afraid it will ruin a good career.

RM: You've written a number of fiction and non-fiction books. I've read some of each, and I must confess that you do a great job in both areas. Is one more a favorite than the other with you?

AG: Fiction remains my first writing love. Nonfiction is challenging in a different way. I loved writing 40 Days: Encountering Jesus Between the Resurrection and Ascension and feel proud of the work. I write nonfiction when a topic takes over my mind. Many of them came from my sermon research.

For me nonfiction educates; fiction explores.

RM: Of course, one of the sins for which you'll always bear responsibility is getting me started in the field of Christian writing at my first writers' conference. What do you like the most and the least about teaching at these conferences?

AG: You were a joy to work with. I'll shoulder that responsibility gladly. Writing conferences are a joy. I love hanging with the other writers and students. My greatest joy comes in finding a new writer who has great talent. I figure if I find one in a conferences and encourage that person, then the event has been worth my time. I have found a few that have gone on to publish with major publishers. That's always a joy.

The only thing I dislike is the travel. This weekend I'll be winging my way to North Carolina from California. It's a long trip but worth it once I get there.

RM: One of the things you've taught me about plots is to constantly ask, "What if?" How did you develop such an active imagination? And does it carry through into your everyday life?

AG: We're all born with imagination. It is part of being created in God's image. Cultivating imagination is another thing. For me, reading as a child gave my creativity a boost, but reading never fully satisfied me. It still doesn't. I always wanted a little more, or I wanted the writer to go down another path.

Imagination and creativity must be nurtured. Many people are afraid to wonder "What if?" or feel it is a waste of time. It's never a waste. Medical advances are made because a scientist asks, "What if." Buildings are erected, business started, art made, because someone had the courage to ask the what if question.

The key, I think, is in being bold enough to have ideas you know are no good and be willing to throw those away and keep searching. No one has one great idea after another. Usually the creative person has one great idea followed by dozens of stinkers only to be followed with a new gem of an idea. I have about 10 bad ideas for every good one. The key is to keep looking.

Does it carry into my everyday life? Yes, I suppose it does.

RM: You have two novels coming out within a month of each other. Tell us about them.

AG: In October, Angel hit the bookstands. It's a supernatural suspense novel published by Realms Fiction. Realms came to me and asked what storylines I had that fit the supernatural suspense category. I sent them six or so ideas. They settled on three then bought one. Angel is that book. The premise of the book is based in the human's capacity to be willing deceived.
Following a jarring earthquake in San Diego, a strange craft appears in the sky. A being appears in time to save a life. Soon the alien Aster is a worldwide phenomenon. He brings a message of peace and hope, offering to help us out of the mire of ignorance that keeps us from evolving. Priscilla Simms, a reporter, becomes Aster's advisor on all things human. She learns that things are not what they seem.

Zondervan will release Zero-G in November, a book I'm very excited about. It's a suspense novel set against the new industry of private space travel. Commander Benjamin "Tuck" Tucker is the lone survivor of a tragedy in space that kills his entire crew. He manages to land the Shuttle and the world considers him a hero to everyone but himself. Someone else doesn't see him as a hero but a target.

RM: I notice that your hobby is woodworking. How did you get into that? And what's the most unusual thing you've ever made?

AG: I've been woodworking for a few years now. Honestly, I don't remember how I became interested in it, but since then I've made a couple of dressers, reading stands, piano bench, plant stands, coffee table, headboards, and an art deco style crib for my newest grandchild. It seems that everything I make goes out to the kids, but that's all right.
Woodworking is another creative outlet for me but I only get to do it when time allows.

RM: Any last words of wisdom for our readers?

AG: Keep reading.

2 comments:

Tina Helmuth said...

Great interview. I've got a new favorite quote. "I suppose I should see a psychologist, but I'm afraid it will ruin a good career."

Kristy Dykes said...

Great interview. Thanks!

"The key, I think, is in being bold enough to have ideas you know are no good and be willing to throw those away and keep searching. No one has one great idea after another. Usually the creative person has one great idea followed by dozens of stinkers only to be followed with a new gem of an idea. I have about 10 bad ideas for every good one. The key is to keep looking."

A real pearl! Thanks again.