Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Chat with Frank Peretti!

It's truly an honor to be able to host Frank Peretti on my blog today as part of the "Ask Frank" blog tour. It's been six long years since a new Peretti novel hit the shelves, but our wait is now over because Illusion is here!

To celebrate the book's release I'd like to share with you some questions I was able to ask Frank (along with his answers of course) about the book, his writing, and more. Be sure to read to the end for your chance to win a copy of Illusion.

Before you ever wrote a word in Illusion, you made a thorough outline of the story. Why do you prefer to outline your novels?

This touches on my admonition to would-be writers to know what they’re doing. I need to plan a book from the foundation up, following the rules of good story structure. I need to know where it’s going to start, where it’s going to end, and how to connect the two in an effective and engaging way. I usually follow a standard three-act structure, with key plot points triggering the beginning of each act. The first act is the setup in which I establish the characters and their situation and then launch them into the adventure; the second act is the adventure, with steadily building suspense and tempo until they reach a crisis point where the final battle must be fought; the third act is the final battle leading up to the climax of the story followed by the resolve. All this stuff has to be planned out and I’m very mechanical and meticulous about it. For me, a major grown-up novel takes about two years to write, and I spend the first year planning and outlining.

Mandy and Dane in some ways reflect your own life with your wife Barbara. How did you decide what to fictionalize and what real life details to include about the couple?

Dane and Mandy are entirely fictional, but of course I draw upon real-life to fill them in, in this case my sweet wife Barbara and her loving ways and my own journey through life and my transition into my 60s.

There is one specific detail where the real Barbara pokes through: Dane is recalling a snapshot from a photo album in which Mandy is cooking their dinner on an outdoor grill in a public park because they are traveling magicians and have no place to live. That is a picture from real life. Barb and I were newlyweds and I was a traveling musician. We had no roof over our heads. Barb made her own clothes, and often had to prepare our evening meal in a park somewhere. We really do have a picture of Barb, in pants and blouse she made herself, standing at an outdoor grill in a public park frying hamburgers, and I really have thought about that picture and marveled at Barb’s tenacious love for me through the hard times and over so many years. With Dane, I have to say that “only the Lord God could have brought me such a woman.”

What is your mission as a novelist?

I’ll go ahead and sound religious: I would like to create stories that glorify God and the things He has created, in this case, steadfast love, devotion, the joy of having someone. I would like to convey truth, celebrate beauty, warn against evil, admonish and ennoble.

If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?

Know what you’re doing. It’s not enough to want to write a book. You have to devote yourself to learning the writing craft, knowing all the nuts and bolts, rules and fundamentals of good fiction writing. I’ve often heard would-be writers advised to “never give up,” but that’s the worst thing you can tell somebody who has no skill, no knowledge of how it’s to be done. That person can never give up, and consequently waste his/her whole life producing unmarketable material. Know what you’re doing.

If Illusion were to be made into a movie, who would you want to play the main characters and why?

I don’t have any specific actors in mind, but it would be fun to provide a description to the casting director to help him/her narrow down the field:

The actor portraying Dane would have to pass for a man just turning 60 but still in good shape; he would have to be wise and well mannered and be able to convey a man of depth. I would love to see wisdom in his eyes, but with a disarming twinkle; I would want the actor to be likable, even lovable on-screen, and be able to convey that honor and true, sacrificial love are still manly. He should be the kind of man that every 19-year-old would love to have for a grandpa. He should be able to portray a sharp intelligence and mastery of details even as he guides and corrects with love and gentleness. He comes across as a man, but a real man: he is strong, but his real strength is within; manly, but his power is in his wisdom; he does not master or lord it over his woman, but honors and protects her.

The actress portraying Mandy would have to show a “Meg Ryan/Sally Field,” sparkly-eyed spunk, a teasing eye easily filled with wonder. She would have to be playful and fun-loving, optimistic, with a whimsical resolve to tackle life head on and come out a winner. She’d have to be a good dancer and she’d have to learn quite a bit of close-up magic. I would also want an actress who can settle into a quiet mode of deep questioning and, when the time comes, longing devotion. Cuteness is one thing, character is another; she will have to have both. The actress will need a wide range, able to portray the flighty, giggly sparkle of a nineteen year old to the learned and experienced dignity of a woman of 59; quite an acting challenge that would require no small-skilled actress.

Here's your chance to comment and win! Everyone who posts their response to the question, "Who's your favorite Frank Peretti character and why?" will be entered in a drawing to receive a cool advance copy (with the original alternative cover) of Illusion.