What fiction writers do you like right now? Obviously Ted Dekker, right?

Peretti: [Laughing] Sure. I’ve read just about everything Michael Crichton has written. I enjoy his stuff; it’s real cinematic, and it’s inspired. He writes this technical stuff, which most of the time I find fascinating. I like the way he structures his stories, so he’s a big influence on me. Another writer I read is published by Westbow - Charles Martin. He wrote the book The Dead Don’t Dance. I loved that book. It was a beautiful tapestry, or beautiful painting of a character… of where he lived … it was such a wonderful refreshing glimpse into the heart of this character that I just savored every moment of that book. I was ready for that, you know, you get into this thriller genre and action genre, you start shallowing out. It just starts to be same old, same old; you just miss a really good read, a real heart deep. I try to get heart-deep and I think I did when I did Visitation. Right now I’m reading all there is to know about making movies. I want to be a director and a screenwriter, so that’s what I’m studying right now. What do you tell people who are looking for advice on how to break into the fiction market?

Peretti: I tell them be sure you know what you’re doing, learn all you can about it, study fiction writing, learn story structure, learn character development, learn all, learn how to lay out dialogue. I’ve seen the work of some of these would-be writers and I suppose they keep trying and keep trying, but they don’t have the faintest clue about what they’re doing. They don’t know how fiction works. They don’t know how to set up a scene. They don’t know how to build suspense. They don’t know any of that, and they’re going to keep trying and keep trying until they die and they’re never going to get published because they don’t know what they’re doing. And I tell folks keep on learning, I’m still learning, I still study story structure, I still study story theory; there are a lot of different ideas and different approaches out there.

Jerry Jenkins told me something interesting, I was at his writer’s conference just the other day. He said a lot of times, manuscripts get thrown out or rejected because they require so much editing. Because the writer is so poor at the basic skill of English; [publishers] don’t have time to edit all that. Time is money, when it takes someone who’s being paid by the hour to sit down and edit all that to make sense of it, it’s not cost-effective. You want to be able to turn in a manuscript that is as close to perfection that you can get. You’re going to get it marked up anyway, but at least know what you’re doing. When you look back on your career, how do you think your writing has changed over the years.

Peretti: It’s interesting to observe how my writing style is so different now. I go back and read my older books, like the Darkness books and, boy, my writing was gabby back then. I remember that it took me so long to say something, to tell the story. The writing in our day is much more streamlined and there’s nothing really super long about it. Most writers myself included are too gabby anyway; we take a lot more words to say something than we have to. The more you plan something, the more lean you can make it; you can say it in fewer words. There is a famous writer whose name escapes me, but he wrote someone a letter. It was a big, long letter. He started by saying I’m sorry for the length of this letter, but I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.

House is available April 2006 from WestBow Press, and imprint of Thomas Nelson.

Read's review of Visitation.