Randy Ingermanson has graciously agreed to an interview as this month’s Industry Professional. Randy is the award-winning author of six novels and the bestselling book Writing Fiction for Dummies. He is known around the world as “the Snowflake Guy” in honor of his wildly popular Snowflake method of designing a novel. Randy has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from UC Berkeley and works half time running the software division of a biotech company in San Diego. Randy likes applying math and logic to real-life problems and his main goal is to achieve total world domination and become Supreme Dictator For Life and First Tiger. His wife is OK with that, as long as he remembers to take out the garbage.
SERIOUS INTERVIEW QUESTION
1. I’m excited about the opportunity to interview a writer I’ve admired for years. I know you write both fiction and nonfiction so I’d like to start out by asking you a little about that. I’ve never written a nonfiction book so I’m wondering if you find that more challenging than writing fiction. Why or why not?
I find nonfiction fairly easy to write. The trick is to remember that most people aren’t as interested in my nonfiction subject as I am, so I need to constantly remember to boil things down to the essentials and to keep the writing lively. I try, when possible, to use fiction techniques in my nonfiction.
2. When I first began attending the annual conference of American Christian Fiction Writers, you were one of the few guys among a bevy of female writers. What aspect of the conferences did you find most challenging?
I remember my first ACFW conference, when there were about two hundred women and less than ten men. And most of the men were huddled in little groups. I think they felt intimidated being so much in the minority. Most of my friends are writers, and most writers are women, so I feel comfortable hanging out in a large crowd of women. The challenging part for me at that conference was connecting faces to names. I was teaching at that conference and was already well-known on the e-mail loop, so everybody felt like they knew me. And I knew many of them by name, but not by face. So I just about went crazy trying to keep track of who was who. Other than that, I had a wonderful time at the conference.
3. You co-wrote two novels with John Olson (both of which I love). How did the two of you approach writing together? Did you divide the actual writing or divide the work in some other fashion?
That was tricky. John and I were extremely close friends, and we had a similar approach to writing, so that helped. The two books were John’s ideas, so we stipulated from the outset that if there was ever a conflict of opinion, John got the tie-breaker vote. That helped keep the temperature low. We also agreed from the outset that John would write all scenes that had Valkerie as the point of view character, and I would write all of Bob’s scenes. These were the two main characters. There was a third POV character, Nate, who had a bit of an attitude, and we decided early on that I would write Nate’s scenes because I kind of have an attitude also. (John is just too nice to get into Nate’s head.)
Every week, we mapped out the next several scenes, deciding what would happen and who was the POV character. Then we just wrote the scenes in sequence. If it was a Bob or Nate scene, I wrote it and emailed it to John for editing. Then if the next scene was a Valkerie scene, he would edit my work and then write his, and email both of them back to me. That way, we kept continuity pretty well.
John and I have one major difference in our writing styles. John tends to show details implicitly, with lots of fuzziness. I tend to show details more explicitly, with higher clarity. So John was constantly editing in more mood and tone into my scenes and I was constantly editing in more focus into his. The net result was that all the scenes came out better than they would have. I can still look at any sentence in either book and tell you who wrote it.
4. What is your number one piece of advice for anyone who wants to publish fiction, especially speculative fiction?
Speculative Christian fiction is still a bit of a hard sell, although it’s gotten a lot easier in the last twenty years. If you’re different from the norm, you’re going to have a hard time finding a traditional publisher, and once published, you’ll have a hard time finding readers.
But you don’t have to go with a traditional publisher, and it often just doesn’t make sense to do so. The good news is that things are wide open to indie authors. You can write an indie novel that would never fly in Christian publishing (because you’re stretching the reader’s mind or you’re taking liberties with the language or whatever) and you can do pretty well with it by posting it in both Christian and general-market categories on Amazon.
So, for example, our Mars novels are on Amazon in both the Christian > Suspense and Christian > Futuristic categories, but also in the general market Science Fiction > Adventure category. In the old days, you had to be either fish or fowl. Now you can be both fish and fowl. If you’re going to do this, make sure that you actually ARE both fish and fowl. A fish pretending to be a fowl won’t fly.
I’m loving the fish/fowl imagery, Randy. Thanks for all the great insights. And now my favorite part of the interview:
WACKY INTERVIEW QUESTIONS:
1. Who is your favorite comedian and why? I don’t have a favorite comedian, because I don’t listen to comedy much. So I’ll change the question to who is my favorite musical group. That would be Nightwish, a Finnish symphonic-metal band. They’re widely considered the best symphonic-metal group in the world. I happen to be part Finnish, so maybe I inherited some genes to like their kind of music.
2. What would you miss the most if the Internet disappeared? Skype and Google Chat. That’s how I keep in touch with most of my really close friends.
3. Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s the first item on it that you haven’t completed? Sort of. There’s only one thing on my list. I want to wind-surf all the way across the Sea of Galilee someday. I’ve been to Israel several times and I know the Sea of Galilee pretty well. I just think it would be cool to walk on the water. But the problem right now is that I don’t know how to wind-surf. But I’m going to learn and then I’m going to go do it.
4. Are you a night owl or an early bird? I’m a night owl. I’ve written a lot of words after midnight. (Although lately, not so much, because my day job doesn’t take up as much time as it used to, so I have more time to write in the day time.)
5. iPhone or Android? God invented iPhones, whereas Satan appears to have had a hand in Android. So iPhone.
Thanks again for taking the time to share with the fans who visit born2bemore.com. It’s a lot of fun getting to know you better. I had no idea you were part Finnish. And for everyone who has uses Android, the answer to #5 is Randy’s not mine. You can take exception with him or better yet get to know him and his work by visiting here.
Next month I’ll be featuring Steve Laube, agent extraordinaire and acquiring editor for Enclave Publishing. He’s got a lot of great advice for readers and authors. Don’t miss it. Until then remember…You are Born 2 Be More.