Meet Prolific Children's Writer, Max Anderson!
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How long have you known that you were a writer? Did you receive a clear “call?” Or have you just loved writing all your life?
It really didn’t start out like that for me. I had grown up hating to read, in spite of the fact that my dad published over 70 books during his lifetime. In our family of seven children, it was kind of understood that he was the “writer” in the family.
But I did get what you refer to as a call. It was very clear, and though I resisted it for some time, it was equally persistent. It came after my video production business was virtually shut down after 9/11. The call was simple. Over and over again, day after day, I heard – in my mind – “Why don’t you write The Scarecrow?”
The Scarecrow had been a screenplay I’d written over thirty years before, but it had never been produced. I used to be pretty heavily involved in the production of dramatic films; many of them were for children. Writing The Scarecrow could only mean that I was to begin writing for kids.
What is the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?
Primarily, I write action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 – 13, especially boys. The good thing is that girls, and even adults, seem to enjoy them just as much. I’ve completed thirty-five of those manuscripts and am now working with two publishers, to get them published.
In addition, I have a short story pending at Boys’ Life, have sold some stories to Guideposts, have three devotionals coming out in a Tyndale book late next year, and a Christmas story due out in a compilation book from Chicken Soup for the Soul this year. I also wrote a massive book about humor that may never see the light of day.
How do you spend your writing days? Do you set goals to reach a certain number of words per day? Can you give us a general idea of how long it takes you to write a novel?
I never start a book I won’t finish, and I never begin a chapter that I won’t complete in a writing session. I stopped writing for a time, so that I could work on platform, sign with an agent, and start selling the mountain of finished work. And I really miss the writing. For me, that’s the most fun part.
When I am writing, I like to start around six in the evening. I always burn a candle next to my computer, and play mood appropriate music to the scene I’m writing. A usual pattern is to work until I’ve finished three chapters. I don’t write to an outline, but write as the story unfolds in front of me.
Before I start, I tell myself the story, into a recorder, and transcribe those notes. This usually results in 8 –10 pages. What it does is gives a beginning, a middle, and an end. From there, it’s anybody’s guess what’s going to happen next. On one story, Legend of the White Wolf, I finished the first draft in only three days. That’s because I couldn’t wait to see how the story would turn out. Most of my stories have taken a couple of weeks of working evenings and weekends, to finish the first draft.
Tell us about your new book. What is the spiritual message in it? What can readers expect to get from reading it?
There are actually two that are coming out pretty close together. The first is Lost Island Smugglers, book # 1 in the Sam Cooper Adventure Series. The story reminds us, be sure our sins will find us out. It also contains an anti-drug thread.
I like to remind aspiring writers that writing is the easy part. It’s everything that comes next that represents the really hard work and discouragement. But the truth is, if God puts it into your heart and mind to write, even though you can’t see the end in sight, He will be faithful to provide a way for you. No matter what else you do…never ever give up.
Who’s inspired you the most?
- My father and mother read nearly every manuscript. And with my dad’s vast publishing experience, his opinions were invaluable.
- My oldest sister taught creative writing, at the college level, and she did a rough edit on each manuscript.
- And my oldest brother has read pretty much everything.
- A little later on, another brother joined in, and they have all been very helpful. I think it also helped, subconsciously, to grow up watching my dad write books, short stories, magazine articles, and film production scripts. That provided a positive image of what I thought I might be able to do if I worked hard, kept at it, and didn’t give up.
It’s very important to match your work up with publishers who publish books like yours. But I took a different path to publishing. I wrote as fast as I could, over about a three year period, and completed the 35 manuscripts. At the time, I sensed the need for books for boys. That was nearly 9 years ago. Because I didn’t have a platform yet, I needed to match up with publishers who were willing to take a chance with a new author.
But sit back? Ha! You only work harder after you’re published. I’m looking for a publisher for 4 of my picture books, and have two motion picture production companies looking at manuscripts. These things don’t just drop into your lap; you have to be active in the process. The hardest job for the published author is the amount of work you have to do in speaking, marketing, promotion, and publicity. That’s why I said, writing is the easy part.
Do you mind telling us some of your likes and dislikes? Hobbies, interests? Where would you like to travel if you could?
I love NASCAR. Jeff Gordon has been my favorite driver since he entered the sport. I have to admit that writing, and all the things that go with it, have sort of consumed me for the past few years. But I do enjoy spending time with my wife and with our adult children. Each February, my son, who is an attorney in Chicago, and I go to the Daytona 500.
Our daughter lives in Florida, and teaches 2nd grade. So it works out well to see her then, too. I collect coins and stamps, but have had very little time for that for at least the last 5 years. My wife and I like old movies. The ones in black and white are the best. We both enjoy country music too.
You recently had a book published. Would you take this time to describe it to us? How and where can readers buy your books?
Lost Island Smugglers
Sam, Tony, and Tyler took scuba lessons together. Tony’s father owned a marina, so Tony got them in for free. After the boys completed the course, they decided to try their new skills in the ocean. The only problem was, none of them had permission to go, or to take one of the sailboats out for their diving adventure.
Everything went well until the biggest storm the boys had ever seen, blew up from out of nowhere, and they found themselves stranded on Lost Island. But, if they thought the worst had happened, they were wrong. What about those high-powered speedboats that mysteriously disappeared? And what were they going to tell their parents, even if they did get off the island?
- This book is distributed through Ingram, so it can be ordered from any local bookstore.
- It’s also available on places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.
- Signed copies can be ordered directly from me. Anyone interested can email me for details firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for the interview. I enjoyed your questions.
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Wonderful, Max. It's so thrilling to hear of your children's ministry. I think we all have need to know of more good books for children. Thanks!