Thursday, August 13, 2009
Interview With Author Alton Gansky
Over the last decade and a half, Alton "Al" Gansky has produced 24 novels that have taken readers from underground bases to an orbiting spacecraft 200 miles above the earth, from a possessed WW II submarine to murder in small towns, from Antarctica to Ethiopa.
Al specializes in suspense and supernatural suspense novels, but has also written a number of nonfiction books dealing with biblical matters and biblical mysteries.
Besides all that, Al is the man who sat across from me at a writers' conference in 2003 and said, "Well, you know how to put the words together." He encouraged me to try my hand at fiction, and he bears a good bit of responsibility--some might say "blame"--for getting me started on the road to writing. And I'm certainly not the only writer for which he's done that.
RM: Al, your background includes 22 years in the pulpit ministry. How much faith did it take to step out and become a full-time writer?
AG: A lot. the biggest struggle was making sure I had God's permission. Occasionally, someone will wonder why I "left the ministry." I try to explain that I didn't leave the ministry; I just print my words instead of speaking them. (Okay, I still do a lot of speaking, too.) Once I felt that I could serve God in this way, I moved into full time writing. It's still a walk of faith.
RM: You've done a good bit of teaching at conferences in the past, but just this year you took over the reins of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. What was it like to make that transition?
AG: First, I followed a dynamo named Yvonne Lehman, and she's a tough act to follow. I quickly learned that there was a great deal of work involved. BRMCWC is one of the larger conferences in the nation, so there is a lot to juggle. My first year came at the height of the recession, but we had more in attendance than the previous year. That was a blessing. The faculty and students were great. I arrived with great apprehension and left blessed.
RM: I know that you have also formed Gansky Communications. What services do you provide and to whom?
AG: Gansky Communications has been around for a long time. I used to do creative writing for business, including corporate videos. Most of my business work now is with publishers, agents, nonprofits, and other writers.
Publishers hire me to do substantive edits, line edits, creative consulting, rewrites, professional reviews, collaborative writing, rewriting, and the like.
Nonprofits retain me to do rewrites and professional reviews, create proposals, or to create new material.
Sometimes, authors hire me to do a professional review of their proposals and books. I have also done rewrites and creative consulting.
RM: Your latest book is Certain Jeopardy, which you co-wrote with Jeff Struecker. What can you tell my readers about that book, and how you came to be involved in the project.
AG: I became involved through Jeff's agent, who is a pleasure to work with. Major Jeff Struecker (he was a captain at the time we wrote the first book) is an active duty Army chaplain. However, he spent most of his army career as a warrior with the Army Rangers. He was involved in the "Black Hawk Down" crisis in Somalia. If you saw the movie, Jeff was played by Brian Van Holt. I come from a navy family, so I had a lot to learn about the Army for the project.
Certain Jeopardy is about a team of Spec Ops soldiers sent on a covert mission in Venezuela. While conducting the surveillance mission they become aware of a greater danger to the United States and the world. Known as a "certain jeopardy" situation, these events mean the team must change their mission and take immediate action that endangers them and hostages.
Jeff also wanted to show what families of soldiers go through while their loved ones are on foreign fields doing things the families can never know. So the book contains a strong "back at home" story line.
We just sent Book 2 (working title, Blaze of Glory) off to the publisher.
RM: You've co-written several books. Obviously, that's different from doing a book solo, but can you give my readers some insight on the process?
AG: The first thing to know is that it's never the same. Each project is different, just as each "name" author is different. Some are very hands-on and want to weigh every word. Others are happy to provide the basic story, guide me, but let me do the heavy word lifting.
Jeff provided the storyline, and I added to it. I'd write and send him sections of the book with questions in footnotes. He'd make sure I got the terms and actions correct.
Since Jeff is active military, there were some things we couldn't put in the book, and we had to take liberties with some procedures. Still, everything is as real and accurate as we could make it.
RM: What can we look forward to next from the fertile brain of Alton Gansky?
AG: A nonfiction book titled An Indispensible Guide To Jesus should be released early next year. The next Robert Cornuke/Alton Gansky novel, The Pravda Messenger, comes out in September 2009.
Al, thanks for stopping by. I want to remind the writers that read this blog of a mantra you taught me years ago: "What if...?" With that in mind, it's almost impossible to run out of material. I know you never will, and I look forward to reading the results for a long time to come.