Author Charles Martin: Havin' Fun with Life - Part II
- 2005 12 Jul
Charles Martin's passion plays well, even over the telephone. This interview reveals his thoughts on several things: life and laughter (he loves both and laughs a lot), his wife (nearly everything important begins with "Christy and I "), his three sons (coaching T-ball is better than the World Series), his writing (it's how he makes sense of life) and his readers (he keeps a scrapbook of their letters).
The Jacksonville, Florida, novelist's first title, "The Dead Don't Dance" (WestBow Press), is a finalist for a Christy Award for excellence in Christian fiction. The winner will be revealed in July. The down-to-earth Martin talks in stream-of-consciousness fashion, answering questions before they have a chance to be asked, laughin' and talkin' and jumpin' from subject to subject – and, yes, leavin' the "g" off every time. And almost makin' one think, "This guy's just havin' too much fun!"
Q: When and how did you submit your manuscript to a publisher?
A: (With laughter): I bought the "Writer's Market" book, just like everybody else. Anybody that was a publisher or agent that even vaguely suggested they might take a book like mine – I didn't even know how to classify it – I sent them a query [proposal].
Christy and I sent about a hundred queries over a period of 8 to 10 weeks. I'd heard that F. Scott Fitzgerald's "This Side of Paradise" was rejected 129 times. I bought that book and leaned it up against my computer terminal with a little sticky note that said "129." I told myself, "If I get to 129, I'll go back into the insurance business."
When I got to 86 rejections, I quit counting because I was too close to 129. After about eight or nine months of getting rejections – this was now into late 2000 – I met [best-selling Christian novelist] Davis Bunn.
We met for lunch, and when we finished, Davis picked up the phone and dialed two numbers. The phone calls went like this: "This is Davis. I got somebody you ought to look at. His e-mail address is. ... You ought to contact him." And he hung up the phone.
I drove three hours home. When I got in, two of the largest agencies on the West Coast were asking for my stuff. I e-mailed them my book on a Friday afternoon and on Sunday, Chris Ferebee with the Yates and Yates firm in Los Angeles called and said, "Charles, I'd like to represent you." Three weeks later, we had a contract with Thomas Nelson [Publishers].
Q: What is your thinking about "Christian fiction?"
A: I really don't care what people label me, as long as I get to write stories. I don't sit down with an agenda. My books are not agenda driven. I'm not trying to get somebody to a place of decision. I'm really just trying to write a story.
I wonder sometimes about being pigeonholed as Christian fiction, because I think my books have an audience that's broader than the Christian world. And my response from people, I think proves that. The producer from Hallmark, who's doing the movie on this book, is no more Christian than John Doe, but he loved the story.
I hope that somehow, something happens one day and my books break through to a larger audience because I don't necessarily want to preach just to the choir.
I was speaking at a book club the other night and the lady across the table from me was Jewish. Somebody asked about religious themes in my book. They turned to her and said, "Well, you're Jewish. What did you think about it?"
She said, "I loved it. I've never thought about things this way before. It's one of my favorite books ever."
I thought, "Yes!" I wish my mom had been there to hear that, you know.
Q: You've mentioned Davis Bunn. Are there other writers you see as role models?
A: I'm a huge fan of Flannery O'Connor and her adage that you have to draw awfully large characters to appeal to the near blind.
I'm a fan of Mark Twain. I don't have a favorite book, but I have favorite passages, and I think the passage with Huck Finn on the raft trying to decide whether or not he's going to set Jim free is one of the best passages in literature.
I love John Grisham's voice. I think "The Testament" is one of the best Christian novels I've ever read.
Q: Thanks for your time. Get some good writing done today, OK?
A: Well, I'll try, but in the back of my mind is that we've got a six o'clock game tonight. We're in the T-ball championship! The Red Sox and Yankees could be playing in the World Series, and given the opportunity to watch that or go coach this game, I'd go coach this game. We have so much fun.
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