Jeff Gerke has been called the de facto gatekeeper of Christian speculative fiction. After writing his own speculative fiction and spearheading the launch of a fiction imprint dedicated to Christian speculative fiction at a major Christian publishing company, Jeff branched out on his own to launch Marcher Lord Press, an Indie publishing house whose several major awards lend credence to its claim of being the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. His fiction how-to book The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction is available through Amazon or Marcher Lord Press, and Plot Versus Character, his first craft book from Writer’s Digest Books, released in 2010. His new WD fiction craft book, The First 50 Pages, released in late 2011. Jeff lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, teenage daughter, 10-year-old son, and 3-year-old adoptive daughter from China. To learn more, visit his website.
Let the conversation begin!
What initially drew you to writing?
I’ve always been making up stories, even back when it was my G.I. Joes getting attacked by the Jungle Jims and Army Men. I liked to imbue story into anything I could. Then I got into role-playing games, mainly because I loved the idea of making up stories on the fly and with friends in a fantasy world. My first serious attempt to write anything was a “module” I wrote and sent to the people at TSR to see if they’d publish it for D&D. (Of course they didn’t.) Throughout my life I’ve had stories coming to me. Not characters, so much, but always stories. Which explains why my first characters were so flat. LOL. Finally, I wanted to write because no one was writing the kind of novel I wanted to read. So I figured I’d better do it myself.
If there is one genre you’d never write, what is it?
Probably romance, because I’m no good at it. (Ask my wife.) When I do write romantic scenes in the novels I’ve published, the guys all like them, but the women who read them say, “I can tell this was written by a man.” [grin] I can’t stand the Jane Austen style of will-he/won’t-she stuff. I call that Pride and Prejudice style “Angst and Repressability.” I couldn’t imagine writing a whole novel like that.
Do you write with music?
Not either option, really–though if I had to choose I’d probably say one classic. If one thing I published (or wrote, or both) lasted for generations, that would be great. In the meantime, the string of financially successful but not classic books sounds pretty good. But what I’d rather do is what I’m doing–continue to publish exactly the books I think are great and I enjoy. That’s why I launched MLP in the first place. The beauty of the small press is that you don’t have to worry about finding big sellers. You can concentrate on quality, story, and your vision.
Do you begin with character or plot?
Definitely plot. I believe (and my first Writers Digest book is based on this belief) that all novelists are either plot-first or character-first writers. If plot ideas come to you first, as they do to me, your characters are usually flat and stereotypical. If character ideas come to you first, you usually struggle to find anything interesting for your wonderful characters to do. But the last novel idea I wrote down (yesterday, actually) was both. It was a great plot idea but it had the main character’s transformation at the heart of it.
Daily word count?
When I’m on a roll, 5,000+ words a day. I used to be happy with over 2,000, but now I’m not satisfied if I haven’t gotten at least 4,000. When I was writing my second Writers Digest book, I had one day where I was 91 words short of 10K. And one day a few years ago I sprinted to the end of a novel I was writing and I got 11,000 words in one day.
Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?
I like to outline enough to capture what I thought was cool about an idea, but then I leave the blanks to be filled in later. Once, years ago, I plotted out a novel so thoroughly (hundreds of index cards all over the floor) that I realized I’d sucked all the joy out of the process. All the discovery had already been done and put on those cards. All that was left was the drudgery of actually writing a really long book. So now I save lots of discovery to enjoy as I go, like chocolates along my trail ahead. But I get down the main points so I know where I’m going.
How do you recharge after a day of writing?
Usually doing my 3D art (I render with Daz Studio and Vue), play acoustic guitar, and/or playing games on the PS3. Plus movies. Lots of movies.
What advice would you give young writers?
Young writers need to write, write, learn, write, read, and write some more. I have another book and system that might help. The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction is a great book alone (if I do say so myself!), but students might especially benefit from the 1-semester curriculum we put together to go with it. Link.
A cruise…no children with me…nothing but my laptop and endless time to write my own fiction.