I'm thrilled to have one of my critique partner's here today and so excited to see his writing endeavor seeing publishing fruit! Max and his publishing company are offering an e-copy to a random reader who comments and leaves their email address (Two chances! Comment on July 18's post and this one). Enjoy the interview!
How long have you known you were a writer? Did you receive a clear call or have you just love writing all your life?
I’ve probably known since I was a kid, but ignored the knowledge. I come from a working-class family and becoming a writer was not something that was on anyone’s radar screen. We were all encouraged, in some ways even required, to be ambitious, but along the lines of becoming a doctor, lawyer, businessman or manager. Eventually it took the good Lord blasting me out of my comfort zone, grabbing me by the ear and sitting me down behind the computer.
What is the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?
I write thrillers that reflect a Christian worldview. A thriller typically means an individual(s) finds themselves in a situation where they can directly affect the health or safety or well-being of hundreds, thousands or even millions of people. There’s always conflict and usually violence of some kind involved. If the protagonist fails, in one way or another, lots of people get hurt and he probably dies.
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?
For me writing is obsessive. When I write my tendency and desire is to write, and continue to write, for hours at a time, and days on end, until I have the entire story down on paper. I’ve read various books on writing. Probably the closest description to how I write is the method described by Stephen King in “On Writing.” The first thing you do is download the story onto paper. Once the story’s downloaded, you go back and pretty it up. You add detail – what Angela Hunt calls adding mood music – weather, sounds, sight, etc. For me that often means expanding patches of narrative I put in the story and turning it into a scene. Even though I much prefer the writing of Dean Koontz to King, Koontz’s technique - doing a page over and over until its right before moving on would drive me batty.
For new writers out there, someone famous said, “when I say I write, I mean I re-write.” Sometimes new authors expect the first draft to be perfect or close to it. Don’t.
How long it takes for me to finish a novel depends upon my other obligations. I write a by weekly opinion column for the New Bethlehem Leader Vindicator and I practice law. Both of those obligations take priority over my novel writing because they pay the bills and people trust me to give them my best. Having said that, left to my own devices I could probably complete a novel in six months.
You recently had a book published. Would you take this time to describe it to us? How and where can readers buy your books?
The Diaries of Pontius opens when a member of an archeological team is murdered along the shores of the Dead Sea. We learn that the murderer and victim are both spies, observing the expedition and grappling with the fact that the team has just discovered some controversial artifacts.
In fact, Archeologist Kevin Elliot and his Deputy, Jill Gates have unearthed twenty copper scrolls etched with the results of Pontius Pilate’s year long criminal investigation into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They manage to open one scroll far enough to take a series of digital photographs of the writings and email them to a Professor of Ancient Latin for translation. Unaware of the scrolls content, Kevin and Jill are unprepared when they’re caught between an ancient conspiracy of global power that’s determined to destroy the scrolls and everyone connected to them, and a small, fledgling volunteer group, the only force on earth that stands between Kevin, Jill and certain death.
If you want to know more than that, you’re going to have to buy the book or win the contest.
Release date on the publisher’s website: August 3, 2012
Trestle Press - www.trestlepresspublishing.com, Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobel.com and book sellers can get it via Trestle or Baker & Taylor.
What is the spiritual message in your book? What can readers expect to get from reading it?
The spiritual message is Christians are called to act as salt and light in the earth. The church in the United States, in my opinion, has failed miserably at that in the last half century. The deterioration in our culture, government, and economics is a direct consequence of that failure. Let’s face it, to a large extent Christians don’t have the stomach for confrontation and they’ve retreated into their churches. Diaries hopes to use the thriller genre to inspire Christians to be more active and confrontational in their community and country. Finally, Diaries calls for Christian unity around the core of the Christian faith without relinquishing sincerely held differences.
Readers can expect a thriller – lots of action, excitement and suspense - all from a Christian world-view.
Do you ever feel like giving up? Most people don’t understand the stress, the work, and the joy of being a writer. How can you is becoming a writer is. You care to share how it feels, with discouraging/encouraging times you’ve gone through?
There’ve been times in the past when I have wondered whether I missed God. The exciting thing about that experience is each of the two times it’s happened since I began writing, the Lord has provided encouragement. The first time was right before I signed on with Diana Flegal at Hartline Literary. Without getting into the specifics, I just said to the Lord, I could really use a little encouragement right now. The next day there’s an e-mail from Diana saying she was really interested in the manuscript. A couple months later I had an agent. Then, once again after a few years of “were not taking on mid-list authors right now” (ouch) Diana called me to initiate the process that ended up with me signing with Trestle.
I’d tell all writers out there to remember that even if you’re certain the Lord has called you to write, there’s a course he wants you to run, so that when you arrive at the destination you’ll be prepared to handle it. Make sure it’s the Lord and when you’re sure it is, count the cost and pay it.
Who’s inspired you the most?
Too many people to mention.
Would you explain how you chose(or were chosen by) a publisher? Do you just go any meaning mining model? Now that you’re published, can you sit back and relax from the success you’ve experienced?
My decision to go with Trestle press was based almost exclusively upon the recommendation of my agent. Over the last three years every time Diana has suggested that I take some action, including working with you as a crit partner, she’s been right. When she recommended I go with Trestle, I asked some questions, but in the end I knew I’d take her advice.
How Trestle chose me? They looked at my proposal and signed me. I remember how frustrating it is trying to get an agent and then trying to get a publisher. Those of you out there in that situation, no doubt like me, are searching for a silver bullet. The only thing I can tell you is just keep getting better. The way you get a publisher is you just get a publisher. Sorry.
I never relax.
Would you mind telling us some of your likes and dislikes? Hobbies, interests, where would you like to travel if you could?
I like reading. More than anything that is my favorite hobby and has been since I’ve been 10 or 11 years old. It serves you well when you want to be a writer. My wife and I rescue standard rough haired collies – yes, the ones like Lassie, not the little shelties, the big ones. One of the things I love about collies is they’re as good looking on the inside as they are on the outside. My wife and I love ethnic food, all kinds - Indian, Cambodian, Chinese and Mexican in particular.
Would you give is your blog or webpage so everyone can check it out? Anything else you’d like to share? Promotional information?
Ladies - This is a book to buy for your believing or non-believing husband or son.
http://josephmaxlewis.com is my website (under construction; should be up in a few days-please check back) and also has my newspaper column posted. It’s not for the faint of heart.
I don’t know when the Lord’s coming back, but I would rather be found acting as salt and light, even if my efforts are destined to be fruitless, than to stay in my Church and wait for the Lord, even if He comes tomorrow. Many bemoan the lack of Christian art, but neglect to support it, telling themselves, “we’re being good stewards” when in fact we’re “muzzling the oxen.” Nevertheless, Christians spend billions supporting the larger culture and its books and movies. That needs to change, so, let’s change it.
Joseph Max Lewis served as a member of an Operational Detachment in the U.S. Army's Seventh Special Forces Group, the storied Green Berets. During his service Lewis received antiterrorist training and his detachment was tasked to "Special Projects." Afterward, he served as an instructor at the Special Forces Qualification Course. Lewis attended the Pennsylvania State University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the University of Tel Aviv in Israel, and the University of Pittsburgh, receiving degrees in International Politics and Law while being certified in Middle East Studies.
After living and studying abroad, first in the Middle East and then Southeast Asia, Lewis returned home to practice law. He’s a columnist in the New Bethlehem Leader-Vindicator and currently lives, writes, and practices law in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Thanks, Max, for visiting this week!
Readers, for a chance to win his book, The Diaries of Pontius Pilate, be sure to leave your comment and email address. You have TWO chances: leave a comment on July 18's post and todays!