Thursday, September 14, 2023

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Chuck Richardson!

Talkshow Thursday: 
Welcome Chuck Richardson!

I'm thrilled to welcome Chuck Richardson to my blog. Draw up a chair, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, and read about his debut novel.

What was your inspiration for the story?

Our salvation in Christ can be traced to the covenant promises God made to Abraham 4,000 years ago. That fact and the explanation of Christianity found in the book of Romans inspired me to tell a tale I hope will lead skeptics to faith and believers to greater confidence in their beliefs.

How do you develop your characters? (e.g. decide on their vocation, names, etc.)?

That varies quite a bit. The plot and settings often drive the vocation of the characters. In True Status, I needed my protagonist to have surgery early in the story, so I made his love interest a nurse which allowed me to introduce her near the beginning. I wanted my protagonist to be a professor for the irony that someone who devoted his life to teaching others had so much to learn about God. My protagonist’s best friend is a spiritual guide so I combined the name of a couple Old Testament prophets to come up with the first name of Ezriah. Sometimes a character’s name is derived from their philosophy or the type of person they are. I’ve used name generator sites for initial name ideas which I modify until the name fits the character and has a ring I like.

What sort of research did you do for your story, and was there an exceptionally interesting tidbit
Photo: Pixabay/Pexels

you knew you had to include?

In 2019, I developed a Bible study course based on the covenants God made with Abraham, Moses, King David, and the new covenant established by Jesus. Research for that class helped me in writing the Jesus in the Old Testament classroom scenes in True Status. My personal study of the book of Romans guided my writing of my protagonist’s experiences in reading Romans. In less formal research, I gleaned from the lives of friends, acquaintances, and people in the media. One interesting tidbit came from listening to the Focus of the Family radio program where I heard about the National Memorial for the Unborn which honors babies lost to miscarriage or abortion. Several of my characters are affected by the loss of unborn children, so I had to mention the National Memorial for the Unborn in the book.

Tell us about your road to publication.

I started writing True Status in January 2018 and after three years of work, I sent queries to ten agents and got only negative responses. Then I submitted the manuscript to a hybrid publisher, a friend who had worked in publishing, and a $99 critique service. These three professionals gave me similar discouraging feedback. Things like:
  • “Your current writing style is didactic.” 
  • “Convey the message you want to convey without the reader feeling preached at.” 
  • “The pace often gets interrupted by too much description.” 
  • “We encourage you to work on pacing and showing rather than telling.” 
  • “The book often includes random details that don't add to the story.” 
  • “Certain chapters and passages read more like a Bible tract than a novel.”
This criticism hurt, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. During the next eighteen months, I researched fiction writing and rewrote the entire novel. In June 2022, I attended the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference and pitched the reworked novel to two publishers. I subsequently submitted proposals to those two publishers and two agents. Elk Lake Publishing offered me a contract in September 2022. I worked with an Elk Lake editor for five months through multiple rounds of editing. My editor urged me to be concise and to only retain content I needed to tell the story and keep the reader engaged. My editor and I formed a great team. On July 26, 2023, True Status was released for sale.

How are your characters like you? Different?

My protagonist and I are both teachers and analytical thinkers. We both question things and demand logical answers, so my own spiritual search was similar to that of my character. We are different in that my main character is much more negative about God than I was and he has many more tragic experiences than I have had.

How has your book changed since your first draft?

The lives of my characters became more difficult; they make terrible mistakes and have the challenge of overcoming the problems they create. Another big change is that readers get to see more clearly the thoughts, confusion, and regrets of the protagonist. The final version is more realistic of the struggles people face in real life. What is your process for writing? (do you outline, have a special place or time of day you write, etc.) What is your favorite part of the process? I outline the entire story and identify what each chapter will be about and where the various plot points will be. My favorite part is the initial creation of the characters and the plot. I write on my laptop in my home office.

How does/did your job prepare you for being a novelist?

I retired in March 2023 from a position as a Curriculum Developer/Technical Writer for a company that produced technical training content for colleges and industry. That job taught me to work with multiple levels of editors through numerous rounds of editing. I learned not to be frustrated by the process and that the editors are trying to make the finished product as good as possible.

Photo: Pixabay/StockSnap
What is your advice to fledgling writers?

Read blogs and books on writing craft, read the work of other writers in your genre, attend writer’s conferences, and join professional organizations for writers. Every manuscript can be improved, so seriously consider feedback from readers and editors. However, have a clear vision of what you want your book to be so you don’t make changes that result in something that you will not be happy with.

What is your next project?

Erimean Genesis. Erimea is Earth’s twin, but on Erimea the first parents obeyed God and did not fall from grace. The story imagines the world the first humans would build and the challenges they would face in fulfilling God’s commands stated in Genesis 1 to be fruitful, multiply, and fill, subdue, and rule over the planet.

True Status

Billy Yates, a forty-two-year-old Black college math professor, holds deep skepticism about God’s goodness and power, but after a series of strange occurrences, Billy realizes that he is the prize in a terrifying spiritual battle between good and evil.

While recovering from surgery Billy is confronted by an angel who challenges him to examine his past rather than accuse God of wrongdoing. After the surgery, Billy discovers a strange message on his body that he believes is from God. Confused and afraid, Billy accepts the angel’s challenge and in so doing he learns the depth of his own sinfulness which plunges Billy into despair.

Ezriah Reynolds, a Christian and Billy’s best friend, encourages Billy to join him in taking a seminary class called Jesus in the Old Testament, and for the first time in his life, Billy seriously considers what the Bible teaches about covenant, sin, and salvation. Billy, smitten with Nurse Angeline Otl, begins pursuing her even as his surgery commences. Angeline struggles with her own past, but she and Billy draw together and become vital pieces in the other’s spiritual journey.

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