Okay, my little Po-Mo freaks. You ready for this? You’re getting your money’s worth tonight.
Tonight we have Randy Ingermanson, who graciously accepted my invitation to make a cameo. For those who don’t know, Randy Ingermanson is a best-selling, 2-time Christy Award-winning author of Oxygen, Transgression, and Premonition, and Publisher of the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine.
Mick: Randy, thanks for allowing me some time to help others get to know a really cool writer. You say you write books about life at the intersection of Science Avenue and Faith Boulevard. Yet historically, a large portion of your audience has been wary of all that "science fiction mumbo jumbo" (said with a Midwest accent). Have you met with any principled opposition in your mission to spread the Ingermanson gospel?
Randy I: I’m sure there must be a few folks who don’t want to see science and faith come to some sort of reconciliation. But none of them ever write to me. The responses I get from people are of three basic types:
1) "I didn’t follow all the science, but I didn’t care because I loved your characters and story."
2) "Thanks for writing a novel with a Christian who isn’t a moron or a swindler."
3) "When is the next book coming out?"
Now, I’ll admit that some of my reviewers have taken potshots at me. But they aren’t who you’re thinking of. I’ve yet to see a review that says, "Ingermanson is taking us Christians off into left field and leading the flock astray!"
So far, all of my raging reviews have said something like this: "Ingermanson, that sly devil, is purporting to write a book about science but he’s sneaking in some of that pernicious Christian dogma. Blechhhhh!" I can deal with that."
M: When we met recently, you mentioned you were a fan of Brian McLaren’s. I’m assuming you read A New Kind of Christian. Do you see any parellels in your own work to McLaren’s ideas? ‘Cause I do. Are you secretly writing postmodern fiction to beguile the unsuspecting grandmothers in the CBA stores?
RI: Yes, I read it. I really resonated with a lot of McLaren’s ideas. I recommended the book to my wife, who loved it and recommended it to her brother. As for my having a secret agenda, hmmmm, that’s a distinct possibility. If so, it’s so secret that even I wasn’t aware of it!
My goal is to tell the best story I can. When I do that, some of my own worldview is going to slide on in there. I think the reason is that I select characters who share at least part of my worldview, and so they’re naturally going to spout off on what they believe. But here’s the thing–I never set up a character to be my little mouthpiece. I let them say what they think, even if I strongly disagree with them. I think God does this too. He’s tough. He can take a bit of disagreement. So can I.
M: Most of our readers here are wanna-be published writers who just currently write a lot. In your current incarnation, are you spending much time thinking about where you exist in the CBA food chain, or are you mainly just writing what comes to you and leaving the career management to your agent? What I’m really asking is, How are your career goals and faith complementary?
RI: At the moment, I’m rethinking my place in the food chain. For a long time, I’ve just written my stuff and then passed it on to the Great Publisher On High, depending on them to market it. In the last few months, I’ve gotten more proactive (oops, sorry, I let a California-speak word slip in). I’ve started a small publishing company called Ingermanson Communications. So I’m now one of those Great Publishers On High myself. I’m definitely enjoying the feeling of power this gives me, and my ultimate goal is to achieve Total World Domination.
I’ll be doing a lot more teaching on fiction at writer’s conferences this year. I’ve started a new e-zine, the "Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine," on the craft and marketing of fiction. I’m building a new web site (it’s still in its infancy). I have gotten the e-book rights to several of my books, and will be trying to get the rest. I’ll be trying out some whackball Tiger Marketing ideas in the near future. The bottom line is that I don’t want to depend on my publishers to feed me anymore. I don’t intend to compete with them in producing paper books. I want to cooperate with them to sell my books.
So neither my agent nor my publisher are driving the bus anymore. I am. It’s a good feeling.
Now you asked how does all that tie in to my faith goals? Simple. My primary faith goal is "Advancing the Kingdom of Heaven." That’s a little loose, but I like it that way. I see my new ventures as doing that in several ways:
1) My books promote ideas that draw people into the kingdom.
2) My books provide moral support to those already inside the kingdom who may have intellectual doubts.
3) If my ventures are financially successful, then I’ll use the proceeds to equip those on the front lines of the battlefield."
M: Great perspective. And finally, who’s in your writing genealogy? Who have been your literary mentors?
RI: I had a live mentoring class once with Sol Stein during the winter of 1994. That was a good experience, but I couldn’t shake the thought that some of those in the class were a bit too dependent on The Great Man to help them learn to write. At some point, you have to actually . . . write. Nobody can type the words for you. If you don’t feel the Spirit move you, then no amount of mentoring will change that.
As for mentoring from books, I’ve learned from some of the great ones: Dr. Seuss. J.R.R. Tolkien. Dave Barry. C.S. Lewis. Walter Brooks. Chaim Potok. Diana Gabaldon. Ken Follett. John LeCarre. Michael Crichton. F.F. Bruce. Wilbur Smith. Charlie Dickens. Naomi Ragen. James Michener. The Bible. (There really isn’t any substitute for the King James Version as a way of learning what well-metered prose is.)
I’ll confess to sometimes taking a snort from the not-so-great ones, such as Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Robert Ludlum, and their ilk. (Whatever "ilk" is.)
I’ve not read many of the classics. I blame my high school, which decided in the mid-70s to scrap traditional literature classes in favor of "relevant" classes like Journalism and Speech. My wife keeps trying to get me to read Dostoevski and Tolstoy. I keep putting them down after three chapters. I’m afraid I’m spoiled by the thrillers of the 80s and 90s that really stepped up the pace of Story. I like a pace that flies and characters with some depth to them.