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by C.J. Darlington
William Carmichael Interview
have two pet peeves regarding Evangelical Christianity and some of
its practices. One is how much energy has been diverted to political
issues. While I do feel it is important to be actively involved in
our government and the moral issues surrounding the decisions made
in Washington, I also feel that the attempts to “legislate morality
and godliness” can become a side track to the main agenda God
has for us"
William Carmichael, along with his wife Nancie, are the founding publishers of Good Family Magazines, which included Christian Parenting Today and Virtue. He is the author of several non-fiction books, including the bestselling Seven Habits of a Healthy Home. Books he co-authored with Nancie include Lord, Bless My Child and Lord, Bless This Marriage.
William has a Masters degree in Education from the University of Santa Clara, and degrees from Southern California College and Bethany College, as well as an honorary doctorate from Corban College. William has served on the board of directors of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association; the Board of Trustees of Bethany College; and is current Corporate Vice President of Assist International. The Missionary is his first novel.
Bill, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
It wasn’t until after Nancie and I were married that I realized I had the writing “itch.” I had finished my graduate degree in education with an emphasis in family counseling and started to write some articles. When I received acceptances, I realized this might be something I could do. My wife, who started writing as a child, also had a big influence on me and we have done several books together.
Were books a big part of your life growing up? If so, what books would you say influenced you most as a child?
Yes. I loved reading adventure books. Stories like Daniel Boone and other pioneers along with westerns were among my favorites. I think I read every Louis L’Amour book ever published and still have them in my library. I also loved Mark Twain.
What was it that drove you to write fiction after writing mostly nonfiction?
It was something I have always wanted to do. Finally, I just decided to
commit myself to try it. I bought about 10 books on writing fiction and
jumped in. It was a huge learning curve for me. As most writers know, writing
fiction is a completely different thing than writing non-fiction. But I
loved the challenge.
I hear it’s an interesting story of how you and Dave Lambert came to be co-writers with The Missionary. We’d love to hear the full story!
I had been working on The Missionary for about 6 years before I roped David into coming on board with me. In my first attempt at this novel, I had my wife read it. She was bored after the first two chapters. Way too much back story dumps and irrelevant details. So I did a rewrite and showed it to a close friend. He got bored after four chapters. So I put it aside for about 18 months, thinking maybe I was not cut out to ever get this done. But it kept nagging me.
Then, I told my wife I needed to go to Venezuela to see if that would inspire and jump start me again. It did. It was a wonderful experience and put a new challenge in my heart to do another rewrite. Now I had photos and interviews and a graphic visualization of what I needed to do. After this rewrite, I hired an editor to help me. She was wonderful and pointed out many things that the book needed.
My friend Don Jacobson, who at that time owned Multnomah Publishing here in the town where I live in Oregon, got wind of the book and wanted to run it by his fiction editors. They sent it out to David Lambert who, after being the fiction acquisition editor for Zondervan for 18 years had started his own freelance editing business. He sent back a multi-page report that Multnomah forwarded on to me. The first page was very positive….good plot, action that builds, interesting characters, believable story, etc. Then for several pages, David proceeded to rip it to shreds, letting me know where it was weak and what it needed. And I knew instantly he was right on target in his comments about what the book needed.
So for about a week I contemplated how to proceed. I questioned whether I had the will or ability to rewrite this yet again. But it was shortly after that when Multnomah Publishers announced it was selling the company to Random House and all bets were off on books that Multnomah was considering. So I called David Lambert on the phone and asked him if he would consider either becoming my editor or coming on board with me and being a co-author on the book. Three days later he called me back and said that the book was too good to pass up and that he would love to be my co-author. Then, for another eighteen months, he and I worked together on the book. Every Monday morning we would get online with each other for about two or three hours and work on the book. Then, he flew out to Oregon twice and I flew to his area once. Finally, we both felt we had something to shop to publishers. The rest is history.
Where did the idea to write this novel come from?
I have two pet peeves
regarding Evangelical Christianity and some of its practices. One is
how much energy
has been diverted to political issues.
While I do feel it is important to be actively involved in our government
and the moral issues surrounding the decisions made in Washington, I also
feel that the attempts to “legislate morality and godliness” can
become a side track to the main agenda God has for us. I recently read
an article by Michael Spencer titled, “The Coming Evangelical Collapse.” In
that article he said something that I thought was right on. “The
evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted
our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and
being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive
majorities of Evangelicals can't articulate the Gospel with any coherence.
We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.”
I think he is right on target. So much energy (in time and money) has been given to legislation, electing Christians, swaying Supreme Court appointments, etc. in the past 30 to 40 years and yet we are no further ahead in bringing our nation to God than we were 40 years ago. If anything, we are further behind. How much further along would we be if we had taken the same resources and energy and poured them into loving our neighbors, block by block, town by town? That is a question that haunts me and was the inspiration behind The Missionary…. showing a man like David Eller who wanted to do the right thing in helping the poorest of the poor in Caracas, but getting totally away from “doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way.” (By the way, my second “pet peeve,” which I won’t disclose here, is the basis for my second novel I am currently working on.)
What did the co-writing process look like for team Carmichael/Lambert? Did you write the rough draft and Dave edited, trade off chapters . . . ?
Yes, we emailed back and forth. David would take a chapter, work on revisions, and I would take it back and add, question, or endorse his changes. Some chapters were reworked several times, some stories added, some deleted. When we were together, we would use thumb drives to exchange chapters.
What was the hardest part about writing The Missionary?
The “hell” of doing rewrite after rewrite to keep making it better and better. Frankly, I don’t know how some writers can just punch out a novel with the first draft. It was seven years and at least a half-dozen rewrites for this book to come to fruition.
What do you think is the biggest misconception American Christians have made about missionaries and what would you say to them?
Mission work is often hard and thankless. You might spend your entire life with overwhelming poverty and sickness, away from your family and culture. It is truly a calling that one must have. I have been involved in missions for many years, first as a VP of an organization called Intercontinental Ministries in which I traveled to over 40 third world countries helping to build schools, hospitals, and churches. Since then, I have been on the board of Assist International as Corporate VP. We do high-tech medical projects in emerging countries as well as assist with three orphanage projects. The missionaries I meet in the trenches are some of the great heroes of our faith. Being a missionary is not a glamour spot. It is hard, tireless work.
The details in this novel are specific and place you right there in South America. Were these details based on personal experience or research for you?
Yes. I spent time in and around Caracas. I had a team of wonderful missionaries who lent me time and vehicles to do my research. The book is based on actual things I saw, including a Hope Village type of facility and other works I saw in the barrios there. Plus I did a ton of research via Google. What a wonderful tool we writers have today with web search engines.
Who are some authors you enjoy reading, and why do you enjoy them?
John Grisham, David Baldacci, Lee Child, Vince Flynn, Frederick Forsyth, John Lescroart on the secular side; Jerry Jenkins, Joel Rosenberg, Ted Dekker, and Randy Alcorn on the Christian side, because they write fast-paced page-turners that keep the reader interested and guessing. I also love great fiction writing like that of Khaled Hosseini.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?
I wish I would have known that writing would be a major part of my life while I was still in college. I would have taken more writing courses, maybe even majored in writing. But I have learned that it is never too late. The Christian Writers Guild offers many wonderful courses for those aspiring to be good writers. You never know when a hobby might turn into a career. John Grisham is a good example.
What’s next for you in the fiction department? :)
I am working on a book called “The Evangelist.” (Now you have a tiny clue about my second pet peeve.) Many are also asking for a sequel to The Missionary, so David and I are open to readers who have the perfect story line for the sequel. :)
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I have five children and nine grandchildren. My wife and I are still on our honeymoon after 42 years of marriage.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Mentoring my grandkids, playing golf with my sons, and fishing with my brother and best friends.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
High protein Special K with skim milk and a half banana.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Yogurt, cottage cheese, and fresh strawberries.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
A Grande, skinny, sugar free vanilla latte.
What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?
Taking my wife to the Tuscan region of Italy.
When was the last time you cried?
Easter Sunday, in church, during wonderful worship. Tears of joy!
Three words that best describe you:
Honest, Direct, Fun.
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
Mark Knopfler, James Taylor, Anne Murray, Josh Groban and some great worship,
Anything else you’d like to say to TitleTrakk.com readers?
If you like The Missionary, please tell your friends. Word-of-mouth is the key to a books success and all writers are forever grateful for those who enjoy books and then endorse good writing by telling their friends.
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.