Not Uplifting? Then Not Worth Publishing, Says Author
- 2006 18 Jul
AgapePress writer Randall Murphree interviewed Charles Martin in 2005 after his highly-acclaimed first novel "The Dead Don't Dance." His current title, "When Crickets Cry," is a finalist for a Christy Award for excellence in Christian fiction (winners to be announced this month). Not only a gifted writer, Martin also delivers an entertaining interview. He and his wife Christy live with their sons Charlie, John T. and Rives in Jacksonville, Florida.
Q: What was the impetus for "When Crickets Cry"?
A: Two things got me going on the story for "Crickets." One was just a casual thought I had one day about my heart, the physical organ. It pumps nonstop for an entire life, never with rest. I just got to thinking how I take for granted the little engine inside me. I had been reading Solomon's admonition to his son in Proverbs. In chapter 4, verse 23, he says, "Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life." Why was it that important to him? How do you guard it? It just struck me as something I ought to pay attention to.
Along with that, I happened to have one of my flashes that I seem to have with my stories. I saw a little girl in a yellow dress standing on a street corner selling lemonade. I knew she was wearing a pill container around her neck and I knew she had a scar on her chest. So I started following her around [in my mind] as well. I think those things all happened within about a week of each other.
Q: You left a business career to write. How has this transition played out for you and your family?
A: You got a 90-minute tape in there!? It's been an awesome journey, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Christy would tell you the same thing. It has not been safe, and it has not been certain. And it has not been easy. But had I to do it over again, I wouldn't even blink. I'd do the same thing.
I left a career in business because I knew that is not why God put me on this planet. I had a deep-seated dream or desire to write books. And I know it is a place of privilege to leave a successful career and chase a pipedream. I am grateful for my wife giving me the opportunity to do that.
When I tell people our story, I hear things like, "Wow, you really hung in there. You have great tenacity." I really cringe at all of those. Yeah, I did hang in there a little bit. Yeah, I'm a little bit tenacious, but when I went to pull myself up by my bootstraps, they were broken. I had help. I had a wife who stood beside me and said, "We can do this." This is not my story, this is our story, and I wouldn't be here without us. The Lord gave me an awesome gift in her.
Q: What about that boat? (Martin has previously said his boys were praying for a boat.)
A: We don't have any plans to buy a boat right now because it's not practical. It'd probably be better to buy my boys some kayaks, and that would give us something to do together – you know, father-son.
But that may be a closer reality than I had previously thought. Here's why. I want to be careful when I say this because I'm really grateful for WestBow, my current publisher. But I had been talking with my agent for a year, asking, if my books are appealing to a larger audience, how can I find a publisher who will broadcast my books to that larger audience?
I was given an opportunity about three months ago to speak with three of the top five publishing houses in New York, and each one of them made me an offer. After a whole bunch of talking about it and praying and trying to figure out what we felt was best, we signed a three-book contract with Doubleday Broadway.
So I'll finish my last book for WestBow and then come September, I'll start working on my first book for Doubleday. So, (laughter) if my books sell – to answer your question – maybe we'll get us a boat one day.
Q: What are the best things you and Christy are doing with your boys this summer?
A: We love the mountains. Right now, we're in a mountain house in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. The view looks out for about 50 or 60 miles. It's fun to come up here and unwind a little bit. We went for a hike today. We'll go for one tomorrow. This weekend, we'll go to the lake house that is the setting for "When Crickets Cry." It's one of my favorite places on the planet.
Q: What about movie possibilities?
A: You know, the Hallmark movie [of "The Dead Don't Dance"] was cancelled. Last Christmas we got an e-mail from the producer saying the movie was cancelled. That's really all I know. They returned the rights to me, so if somebody else comes along, I can sell them. I don't know of any film possibilities on my other books.
I'd love to see Miss Ella ("Wrapped in Rain") on the big screen. I'd love to see Reese and Annie ("When Crickets Cry") on the big screen. I just think it's going to take the right producer. Maybe sometime in my career, I'll get to meet that person. It's going to take the right person with the right sensibility to pull off great cinema with my stories. I pray about that a good bit.
Q: What is your next book about?
A: I have two books yet to come out with WestBow. "Maggie," the sequel to "The Dead Don't Dance," will release in September. The next book – as of yet it's untitled – will release next June.
It's about a Southeast Georgia journalist, in Brunswick, who has to investigate the identity of a child found beside a railroad track. He's maybe eight or ten. They know he was thrown out of a car just before it was hit by a southbound train in the parents' suicide. He's mute and he's had a pretty rough life. The scars of physical abuse pretty much cover his body.
On the surface, the story is about discovering the identity of this boy. But really the story is of the journalist figuring out who his dad is and what his dad gave up in order to get him back. At bottom, it's the story of one father's love for his son and what he gave up, which is everything, to go get him.
I think I've bitten off maybe more than I can chew. If I can pull it off, I think it'll be pretty good. If I don't pull it off, well (yes, more laughs), we'll all know it.
Q: Anything else you want to say to your readers?
A: I never know quite how to answer that question. Here's what I pray about my stories. C.S. Lewis said he hoped his stories stand as road signs to Jerusalem. I hope my stories do that. I hope they filter down through people's heads into their hearts and kind of shake off the scales on the hard spots and get through the crusty exteriors to the soft stuff inside, and then touch that. I hope that's what they do. Hope is worth writing about. It's worth lifting up. If my books don't do that, then I hope they're not published.
Q: Isn't that a pretty strong statement?
A: Well, it's my heart. It's what I hope, because one of these days, I'm going to stand before the Lord with my gift, and I will have either honored Him with it or not. What I hope is that when I get there, I'll look on His shelf and see He's got my books there.
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