Friday, August 7, 2015

Patrick Craig Interview

Have you always liked to write?
I published my first article in the school newspaper when I was seven years old. It was titled “What We Did This Summer.”  I got such positive feedback from my mom and my literati relatives that I decided this was something I could do well.  So starting in the sixth grade I was the editor of the paper at every school I attended. I won a commendation from the Wall Street Journal when I was in high school for an editorial I wrote on the assassination of President Kennedy.  In the mid-sixties I was a professional musician and played in bands in Seattle and San Francisco.  I liked playing the music but my favorite part was writing songs.  I had many songs published and recorded over the years and that kept my interest in storytelling alive.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think my interest in writing was born out of my love for reading.  I taught myself to read when I was about five and from then on I began a life-long pursuit of good books.  My mother had a library full of books at our house including A.A. Milne, Kenneth Grahame, and my personal favorite, Zane Grey. By the time I was in the sixth grade I had read almost every book in our school library and my teacher was taking me over to the middle school to get books there.  Some of my happiest hours were spent in the old Walla Walla public library down in the basement with that wonderful smell permeating the air as I searched the shelves for new treasures.

What inspired you to write your first book?
I hope this doesn’t sound too spooky, but I had an Aunt who was a brilliant writer and storyteller who always encouraged me in my writing.  After she passed away I remember I had a dream one night where she walked in my room, pointed her finger at me, fixed me with that ‘pay attention” look and said two words.  “You write.”  The next morning I was reading the classified section of our local paper and came upon an for sale ad for a property called “Ghost Dancer Ranch.”  Immediately the whole story flashed before my eyes and within three months I had finished “The Mystery of Ghost Dancer Ranch,” which came out in 2008.  And that was my first book.   

Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
Well, Zane Grey, was a particular favorite of mine. I’m not exactly known in Amish circles as someone who writes a typical Amish novel. I think that’s because I read too many of Grey’s books when I was a kid. His books had adventure, mystery, and danger and, for those of you expecting a typical light-hearted romance dressed in Amish clothing when you read my books, you will certainly find far more than that. Adventure aside, Zane Grey was also one of the best romance writers that ever put pen to paper and, in the end, good Amish fiction has to have romance, and plenty of it.
I, along with most men, am a romantic at heart and as a Grey devotee, I know that two things captured the hearts of his readers: enduring male characters that were noble and strong, protected women, kept their word and were not afraid to face down evil even if it meant their death, and female characters that were pure, noble, capable, and worthy of the love that the men in his stories lavished upon them. So those are the men and women I try to bring to life in my stories.

Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes.  Over the last four books I have come to hate dialogue tags, so I use mostly action beats in my dialogue. I try to avoid head hopping as much as I can but my scenes will shift POVs, sometimes often during a chapter.  Also when I hear the words “show, don’t tell,” even though I know what they mean, it still ruffles my feathers.  I am a storyteller and so if I use narrative to reveal part of my story I don’t get bent out of shape and I think my readers accept that.

What does your writing process look like?
I think about the story a lot before I write it and If it is a historical setting I do a lot of research and fill my folder for that book with lots of links and files that I have come across on the internet.  Google is the 8th wonder of the world.  It is how I discovered the very real “storm of the century” that was the setting for my first Amish novel, A Quilt For Jenna. Then I do a thorough synopsis and try to tell as much of the story as I can in about three pages.  After that I do a complete chapter outline with titles and then I start the story and write it straight through.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Keeping the little anachronisms at a minimum.  I had a lady drop me a line to tell me that the prayer Kappe that the model on the cover of A Quilt For Jenna was wearing was not the kind that the Amish of Ohio wore. Also, since I write historical fiction, I need to be really careful about things that appear in my books.  For instance, in the Amish Heiress, the villain drove a black Escalade. The story was set in 1990 and my editor pointed out that Escalades did not exist in 1990, so I had to switch to BMW. 

Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others? Love? Action?
Both of those are easy for me to write.  It’s the scenes where the hero or hero has to make a moral evaluation of the situation they are in that are hard for me.  As a former pastor I find myself wanting to preach instead of show, and I need to be very careful to stay away from “evangelical” language even though I’m trying to present my books from a Christian worldview.

What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
Convincing publishers/editors/agents that my stories are good enough to be published.

What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
If God has given you a story, write it down.  It will never change anybody’s life if it stays in your head.  The Shack was a simple little story that William P. Young wrote to give to his friends and family.  Someone gave it to someone else and the rest is history.  But he had to write it down first.

Do you have a favorite writing conference to attend? What is it?
I love the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference in Santa Cruz.  I missed it this year because of some health issues, but I have made many friends there and sold my Apple Creek Dreams series to folks that I met at that conference.

Book Related Questions

How did you decide upon the title of The Amish Heiress?
In The Apple Creek Dreams series, Jenny Springer, an adopted child that was found in a raging snowstorm grows up with a burning desire to discover who her real parents are.  The search leads her to Robert St. Clair, her father, who was one of the richest men in America before he died.  So it just seemed like a natural extension of the story to have Jenny’s daughter, Rachel, be the heir to Robert’s vast fortune—and thus, The Amish Heiress.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names of character in The Amish Heiress based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
I’m very sloppy about the way I pick names.  In The Road Home I had all “J” names and I didn’t even realize it—Jerusha, Jenny, Jonathan, Jeremy.  Then in The Amish Heiress my editor pointed out that I had three minor characters named Jonas—a bit confusing for my readers.  So no, I obviously don’t have any name choosing resources.  Perhaps I should.

Are any experiences in The Amish Heiress based on personal experiences? Did you draw upon any stories or movies for inspiration for the novel?
The character of Jonathan Hershberger, Rachel’s papa, was an Englischer (non-Amish) who converted because he met Jenny Springer.  He also had an Amish background that he did not know about.  Before he was converted, he was a professional musician living in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco in 1965. I lived there then and many of the scenes from The Road Home were from my own experience. Jonathan was injured in an accident in Jenny’s Choice, got amnesia, and went back to his former life. He became famous as a songwriter.  All of the songs he writes are actually original songs that I wrote.  So in The Amish Heiress Jonathan’s life is really based on my experiences in the 60s up through the 90s.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in The Amish Heiress?
Wellll, I used a couple of strong words that I hope don’t offend my more gentle readers.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I had some serious health issues last winter and I had to really force myself to stay focused on the book, to keep writing in spite of what I was going through.  My wife, Judy, really helped me with that.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Once again, it was brought home to me that Christians are saved by grace and not by works.  Many of the Amish think just keeping the Ordnung, the oral laws of the church, will put them in right standing with God, but one of the main points I try to bring out in my books is that only a relationship with Jesus can save us. 

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Just staying in the right era with my thinking and my language.  The 90s were a completely different time.  There was a baby Internet, no smartphones, no texting, in fact very few cell phones.  I had to keep remembering what it was like back then and research any technical innovations that my characters used.  And then I was writing an Amish novel so I had to keep myself in that room all the time too.

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
Cloris Leachman would be Augusta St. Clair, Daniel Craig would be Gordon Randall, Ian McKellen would be Michel Duvigney, Tom Selleck would be Bobby Halverson, Tim McGraw would be Jonathan and Nicole Kidman would be Jenny.  Emma Stone would be Rachel Hershberger and Chris Pine would be Daniel King.

Did you have to travel much for research for The Amish Heiress?
From my bed to my desk.

What was it like coming back to the Hershberger family for the first novel in your new series, The Paradise Chronicles? Do you foresee any more stories for this family of characters?
When I was writing the Apple Creek Dreams series, I was going to tell the stories of Jerusha Springer, her adopted daughter, Jenny, and then Jenny's daughter, Rachel. But I fell in love with the character of Jenny, and then there were two books about Jenny where I had only planned on one. So I had to start a new series to do the book I had planned for Rachel and now I finally get to tell Rachel's story. It's a different kind of story, but then I'm not exactly known in Amish circles as someone who writes a typical Amish novel. The next two books in the series are going to be about women who were the matriarchs of the Hershberger family—The Amish Princess, White Deer, a Delaware princess who became a Christian and Jonathan Hershberger’s great-great-great grandmother, and The Mennonite Queen, Isabella of Poland who was the beginning of the Hershberger line.  But their stories will be told from Jenny Hershberger’s point of view.

Who was your favorite character in The Amish Heiress?
I have to say Daniel King—he’s a true hero who sacrifices everything for the welfare of the woman he loves.

Was there anything in The Amish Heiress that you did not enjoy writing about?
Not really.  I found that the story unfolded very naturally and I never really hit any places that were difficult to get through.

Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I read my reviews as I think every author does.  The only one I ever responded to was a comment a reviewer made where she gave Jenny’s Choice a lower rating than she originally wanted to because there was one scene that she could not find believable.  However, I had written that scene based on a true-life event and so I sent her the link where I found the original story.  I have only gotten one 1 star review and the lady who wrote it really went off on the fact that I had drug deals and murder in an Amish story.  But I actually think that non-Amish Christian authors have done the Amish a disservice by writing light-hearted romances dressed in Amish clothing where everything comes out perfect just because the characters are Amish.  It just doesn’t work that way.  Amish are real people with real lives and they face desperate situations, just like the rest of us. So my advice is, tell it like you see it.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Living or dead? My favorite dead author would have to be Zane Grey or Tolkien; my favorite living author is Murray Pura.  Of course I did take some mentoring classes from James Scott Bell and he has given me some really good advice over the years.

What book are you reading now?
I’m re-reading the Fellowship of The Ring trilogy.  I just read through all sixty-eight of the Hardy Boys mysteries last winter and I have a fairly complete selection of Grey books that I browse through when I need something to read.

What books have most influenced your life most?
The Tolkien Trilogy I imagine is one of the biggest influences.  I first read it back in the sixties.  Also Riders of The Purple Sage, Gone With The Wind, Wind in The Willows, Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov’s books, a very eclectic selection to say the least.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
We all know that women dominate the romance novel genre, but the truth is that if men would only confess, we are actually more romantic than women.  Now I don’t mean romantic like the usual light-hearted love itch set in Amish clothing that you find in most Amish novels, or the kind of oozy over-sexed situations you find in most bodice-rippers.  I mean romance that deals with upright men and worthy women that face desperate, adventures together and in the midst of the conflict discover that real, honest, pure love between a man and a woman can be the best way to show the reader that God is real and he works through people.
            If you want to find a man who is the epitome of the kind of romance I am talking about, you need look no further than Zane Grey.  Grey was mostly know for his westerns and most people, if they know anything about Grey, would say that he was a writer of adventure stories.  But the truth is that Grey was one of the best romance writers ever to set pen to paper.  His books are full of noble men who lives are totally focused on the women they love, to the point that they would kill to protect even their reputations

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
To tell you the truth I’ve been so busy writing and working my part-time job that I really haven’t made any forays into the world of contemporary literature.  I’m still thinking that Ken Kesey and Jack Kerouac are the most avant-garde writers around.

If you didn't like writing books, what would you do for a living?
I’d probably build websites or play in a band.

What are you working on now? What is your next project?
The Amish Heiress will be out August 10th and after I get it rolling, I’ll plunge into book two of The Paradise Chronicles, The Amish Princess.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Well, here’s the blub from The Amish Heiress: Rachel Hershberger’s life in Paradise, Pennsylvania is far from happy. Her papa struggles with a terrible event from the past, and his emotional instability has created an irreparable breach between them. Rachel’s one desire is to leave the Amish way of life and Paradise forever. Then her prayers are answered. Rachel discovers that the strange, key-shaped birthmark above her heart identifies her as the heir to a vast fortune left by her Englischer grandfather, Robert St. Clair. If Rachel will marry a suitable descendent of the St. Clair family, she will inherit an enormous sum of money. But Rachel does not know that behind the scenes is her long-dead grandfather's sister-in-law, Augusta St. Clair, a vicious woman who will do anything to keep the fortune in her own hands. As the deceptions and intrigues of the St. Clair family bind her in their web, Rachel realizes that she has made a terrible mistake. But has her change of heart come too late?

What book do you wish you could have written?
That’s really hard to say.  I guess one of the Dickens novels, or maybe Riders of The purple Sage.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
         I hope you all enjoy The Amish Heiress. Despite the fact that it is a thriller, it really is a love story and I believe, in the end, all stories should be about love: love between people and ultimately, they should be about the love our God had for us when He sent His own son to solve the dilemma of the ages and bring peace and joy to our hearts. And that is the greatest story ever told.

Best-selling author Patrick E. Craig is a lifelong writer and musician who left a successful songwriting and performance career in the music industry to follow Christ in 1984. He spent the next 26 years as a worship leader, seminar speaker, and pastor in churches, and at retreats, seminars and conferences all across the western United States. In 2011 he signed a three-book deal with Harvest House Publishers to publish his Apple Creek Dreams series. The books are historical Amish fiction and include A Quilt for Jenna, The Road Home, and Jenny’s Choice.  A Quilt For Jenna is currently the #1 best seller in Amish Fiction on Amazon. His current series is The Paradise Chronicles and the first book in the series, The Amish Heiress, is published by P&J Publishing. Patrick is represented by the Steve Laube Agency. Patrick and his wife Judy make their home in Idaho and are the parents of two adult children and have five grandchildren.

Where can readers find me online?  My Website

Where can readers purchase my books?  My website
The Amish Heiress is available at my website and on Amazon, B&N and GoodReads.

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