This year’s Novel Crafters Seminar is proud to present, Jeff Gerke. Jeff is an award-winning editor of fiction and non-ficiton, mutli-published author, and internationally acclaimed fiction teacher. He has served as editor for Multnomah Publishers, Strang Communications, and NavPress, and in 2008 launched Marcher Lord Press (now under new ownership as Enclave Publishing), an indie publishing company specializing in Christian speculative fiction, which won several Christy Awards and ACFW Carol Awards. Jeff is also a founding member of The Bestsellers Society and the CEO of FictionAcademy.com.
Author of six novels, five non-fiction books, and co-author/ghostwriter of several more, Jeff’s well-known Writer’s Digest non-fiction craft books include The First 50 Pages, The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction, Plot Versus Character, and Write Your Novel in a Month: How to Complete a First Draft in 30 Days.
Jeff lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and three children. Visit his website at JeffGerke.com.
When did you first realize you were called to write, and what steps did you take in order to fulfill that call?
I’m not sure I’ve ever felt called to write. Maybe I just don’t like to use that term because of how it’s been abused. When I was in seminary and saw all my friends taking pastor positions at churches, I got a little disgusted by them saying they felt called to go to a church that paid better or they heard the call of God to a church in some resort destination. Look, if you want to go to another church, just go. Don’t say it’s the voice of God.
Ahem. But for writing, I felt I wanted to write, and I did want to write stories that had apologetic value or just challenged and yes entertained the church. I attempted to get published the way everyone tries, and eventually it happened. I found I had an aptitude for writing, or so people said, and I certainly enjoyed it. So I pursued it.
You’ve walked a wide-variety of roads during your writing journey: author, editor, publisher, teacher, digital artist. How do they blend together for you, and do you have a favorite?
You left out typesetter, guitarist, and amateur dance instructor for kids. [grin] They’re all aspects of who I am. They’re expressions of what’s in me that needs to come out. If I could do just two of them, it would be to do my art and write my fiction.
We know you’re a fan of Speculative Fiction, but what other genres do you enjoy reading and teaching on?
Yeah, I think I do prefer science fiction and fantasy and the other subgenres of weirdness over any other kind of fiction, as a reader, a writer, and a teacher. Spec authors are just more fun (sorry, everyone else!), as sharing a meal with a group of them will quickly demonstrate. I like teaching any kind of novelist, and I love when I get a chance to reach a wide readership or audience. But there are few audiences as wacky and out of the box than the spec nerds.
You have a number of writing “how to” books published through Writer’s Digest, one of which, “The First 50 Pages,” is the topic of our Novel Crafters Seminar. What exactly will “The First 50 Pages” teach our audience?
It teaches you how to begin your novel. Those first 50 pages are bearing a whole lot of weight for the book, and they also are the “sales document” used at literary agencies and publishing houses to help them decide whether to represent or publish the book. I won’t have time to cover everything in the seminar time that the book covers, but we’ll make a big dent in it.
You have decided to take anonymous submissions from Novel Crafters Seminar attendees to use as examples during your teaching in November. How will this method help the writer?
By mortifying them, of course! Um, no. It’s so hard to see certain things in fiction when you’re simply hearing someone speak about them in the workshop setting. You may perfectly understand the teacher (or not), but then when you get back to your own manuscript, you aren’t able to notice if you’re doing that right or wrong.
An in-between step is to begin to be able to see these things in other people’s fiction, which is what we’ll be doing with these examples. Of course, for the anonymous writers being eviscerated—er, used as examples—they’ll suddenly be able to see it in their own fiction, because we’ll be talking about their own fiction.
Everyone talks about “the changing Christian market.” What does that mean and how does/will it affect writers who are Christians?
I don’t personally think the market for Christian fiction is changing at all. At least in traditional Christian publishing. For the last generation or so, Christian fiction has catered to white, American, Evangelical women of child-rearing and older ages. That has not changed.
What’s changing is the technology and mood of Christian culture that says we want books that don’t appeal to that same demographic. Since traditional Christian publishers aren’t interested in reaching other audiences, other ways of reaching them are springing up. They’re basically leaving traditional Christian publishing behind. Those “legacy” companies are going to wake up one day and find that they’re irrelevant. It’s possible that day has already come.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new writer, what would that be?
Just sit down and write. Yes, it will probably not be the great American novel, but it probably will be something that God uses to speak to people. Writing is a craft that can be learned, not a gift that you either have or you don’t. Now, no one agrees about what good fiction craftsmanship is, which can be frustrating. Just concentrate on telling stories that readers have to read to the end of, and you’ll be fine.
If you could give one piece of advice to a writer who is no longer a novice, what would that be?
Do you have any new books coming out from Writer’s Digest?
Yes, in 2015, watch for What Readers Want, which has two revolutionary components: 1) how to deal with the conflicting rules of fiction that leave writers paralyzed and, 2) how to use brain science to gain and keep readers’ attention to the end.
The 5th Annual Novel Crafters Seminar of the Rockies is sponsored by American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) North Denver Chapter.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE SEMINAR AND TO REGISTER, CLICK HERE.
Early bird registration ends September 30th.