Sunday, April 08, 2007

Christians With the Heart of a Servant - Alton Gansky

Meet Author, Minister and all-around Great Guy -- Al Gansky

I’ve said countless times, that I believe God places those who are important to the development of His plan into our pathways daily. Three years ago, at the Blue Ridge Mountain Writer’s Conference, I met Al Gansky. And what a joy he is.
The wonderful thing about writer’s conferences is the opportunity aspiring writers have to meet and network one-on-one with published authors, editors, and agents. During this time, especially in the Christian writer’s world, these people make every effort to share tips, critique work and offer guidance – more so, they become your friend.

I first met Al at one such event where I’d sat in on a couple of his workshops, listened to him as a key-note speaker and then had him join us one evening “in the big rocking chairs on the porch” for some serious rocking and conversation. It was during this time Al became a sweet friend as well.

His humor and joyful attitude abound when he enters a room. It’s as though he knows no strangers. The following year he was chosen to critique a fantasy novel I’d written, and inside this venue I had the opportunity to learn and be encouraged.

Since that time, Al has offered wisdom and advice without hesitation. His love for the Lord and his willingness to share the gifts God has blessed him with makes his heart of a servant shine. Meet friend and author, Alton Gansky.

Hi, Al. Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. You’re a busy man and I appreciate your willingness to share with the readers of Mountain Breeze Ministries. There’s so many wonderful things about you it’s hard to know where to start, so let’s back up and start with your writing. Your newest non-fiction book couldn’t have released at a more appropriate time.

40 Days

Encountering Jesus Between the Ressurection and the Ascension hits book stores as Discovery Channel slaps America with a documentary entitled The Lost Tomb of Jesus. Whe did you begin your work on this book?

The book is the product of a series of Bibles studies I did while senior pastor. The more research I did, the more interesting the topic became. I also became aware that very little had been written about the 12 appearances Jesus made in the 40 days that followed His resurrection, and what material was available was apologetic in nature trying to prove the resurrection.

What prompted you to write on this time between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension?

First is my love for the subject. No matter how many times I return to the biblical account I am moved, entertained, encouraged and uplifted. Second is need. Christians need to know about these events. Last, I learned that each appearance brought a lesson with it. Jesus did more than just appear to individuals, He did so in a fashion that taught important truth. I wanted to know more about that truth.

Were you aware of this documentary as you were writing the book?

No. The book had been initially scheduled to release last year, but the publisher changed the date. Not long after the book came out, Discovery Channel aired The Lost Tomb of Jesus. It seems the Lord had a point to make.

I'm sure you'll agree, God has a plan for us and when we allow Him to guide us He uses us to set a precedence and to work His plan. I've noticed since you book came out, you've had multiple interviews both in print and on radio. Do you fee God has used you through this book to support the Bibical facts and over shadow some scriptural misgivings of director's Simcha Jacobovici's documentary? He was backed by some of Hollywood's "big dogs." Exe. Producer James Cameron and filmakers, Felix Golubev and Rick Ester Bienstock (all Hollywood Academy Award or Emmy Award winners).

It would not surprise me that the delay was part of God’s plan. I did a good deal of whining when I heard about the delay. Last year was the only year in the last decade that I didn’t have a book release. Turns out, the delay may have been beneficial. I’ve been doing a good number of interviews and often the interview moves to the Jacobovici documentary.

What's your feelings on this documentary and how it will affect Christians and non-Christians alike?

The documentary is well done. Jacobovici tells a good story and the production values were top notch. That being said, I spend a great deal of time writing novels and I recognize fiction when I see it. The documentary received very little praise, not even by those who are antagonistic to the faith. Bottom line, they promised big news and failed to deliver the goods. The logic was frail and forced. No one believes they’ve found the tomb of Jesus Christ.

I’ve been pleased with the Christian response. With the Da Vinci the Christian community made such a fuss that it inadvertently boosted sales. Attacks on the faith are not new, nor will they end with The Lost Tomb of Jesus.

Al, I count some 27 fiction and non-fictiono books to your credit. When did you start writing and what inspired you to take that first step?

I became interested in writing as a child, but then, I was interested in everything. I’ve worked in a bank, been a firefighter, spent ten years doing architectural work; labored in radio, spent two decades in pulpit ministry, started and ran a magazine, and more. I have a very fragmented mind. The good news is that it’s all material for a writer. I began writing seriously about 15 years ago. I have a nagging feeling that I should have started sooner and have been trying to catch up ever since.
Ah -- if only we'd follow our hearts sooner, heh?

What has been your favorite non-fiction work and why?

I don’t have a favorite. Every book brings something new and something worth admiring. Many years ago, I read Henry Morris’ Many Infallible Proofs. It was formative in my Christian thinking. I have a wide range of interest so I’ve read books about submarines, Teddy Roosevelt, public speaking, futurism, as well as academic works.

Likewise, what's been your favorite fiction work and why?

Several novels come to mind. From the secular writers, I’d have to hold up Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke, Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton, and several Dean Koontz books (but not all). From the Christian market, I enjoyed Peretti’s The Oath, and Monster. Jack Cavanaugh’s Death Watch was a good ride. I just read his A Hideous Beauty for endorsement. It was a great read and will be out later this year. I haven’t been able to keep up with all of Angie Hunt’s books, but several were very memorable.
Crichton, Koontz and Cavanaugh all find spots on our bookshelves as well. And I'm finally prying my husband away from Koontz enough to begin enjoying Peretti. I do believe he's hooked. I don't think the average plublic thinks to look in the Christian section of the bookstore...Peretti is one of the best. Nothing like a good chilling novel from a Christian worldview.

Al, you're a jack-of-all-trades. You're a minister, a woodscraftman, you've been a fire fighter, you've been in architecture, even been a dean at a Bible college. When did you realize the impact you could have through writing?

I don’t know. I’ve always known that books would be a huge part of my life. When I started writing, I assumed I’d write articles and short stories. I sold a few articles, no short stories and a whole bunch of books. Go figure. I don’t think writers should set out to change the world through writing. We don’t get to choose the results, only the topic and the effort we put into the words. I didn’t write 40 Days to change the world; I wrote it because the material deserved attention and changed my life.

Well, that's a pretty good reason to write it. If it works first in our own lives, look at how God can use it?

You're a wonderful speaker, and somewhat sought after, yet you spend so much time a writer's conferences. This is one place your "Heart of a Servant" shines. In this venue you spend hours "repeating yourself!" Right? Yet, without hesitation you share over and over words of wisdom and encouragement for budding writers like myself. As a successful authro and 20+ books to your credit you don't have to do this. Why spend this kind of time helping others in this fashion? What motivates you toward this effort?

Give me a minute to finish blushing. Okay, done. It’s illogical for any writer to train his or her competition. It’s already a tough business. So why do it? One, because I wish I had more help when I started. Two, because someone planted a spiritual boot to my backside and that got me off the dime. Third, I love to be around writers. Writers are weird, odd, and a little different from other folk. Consequently, only writers understand writers. It’s nice to be in a place where I don’t have to explain the sudden distant gaze or the phrase, “What if…”

You see, this is where your heart of a servant comes into play. You expect nothing in return for the loving guidance you give out. That kindness...that teaching...impresses deep into the hearts of those you help. This is a true servant. I don't think, unless one has attended a writer's conference, that people realize the time and care that writer's place into these events. It means so much.

As I stated earlier, you've critiqued a portion of one of my novels. I've taken your words and advice to heart and I glean through them regularly. I also respect the fact that these words were private, and that your job as a critiquer was to offer me encouragement and suggestions to move me into the next level of writing. Aspiring writers are thrilled when a published writer makes comments on their work. When you critique fledgling work are you afraid your words of encouragement or suggestions will show up in an editor's box? To the blinded eye of a beginner, even a work which isn't that good probably seems fantastic to them. Isn't there an element of fear for your that your suggestions might appear on the internet or on a proposal to an editor?

It’s possible. I’ve had chapters of my books show up on the Internet. My greatest fear is that someone will take a word of praise and run to an editor and say, “Al just loved it and he says you should publish it.” Fortunately, I know most of the editors in the business. They have no problem calling me to ask me about the veracity of such statements. There’s risk in everything. Coaching other writers is no different.

I heard you speak at a conference where you shared words that changed my entire perspective on writing. In fact, I've got that page of my notes hanging by my computer to reinforce why I write. I was taking notes, so this is not a direct quote, it's paraphrased. Still the content of the remark is there.You said that everyone wants to be writer, but what sets a Christian writer apart from the average guy, is that they write for God. You also stated (and this was what changed my view), the Christian writer may never be published and have a book sitting on a shelf -- because when you writer for the Lord, He may only mean for your words to be read by the guy sitting next to you. Writing for God means doing just that. Writing for God. Now, those words struck a cord inside me, and forced me to look at exactly why and what I was writing. The result was, asking God to use me and the gift He'd given me as He sees fit. It doesn't mean I stop making the effort to be published, it simply means I refocus the writing so that God is in control. The result for me, has been a ministry I never dreamed I'd be a part of. These were really great words of wisdom and I'd like to thank you for opening my eyes. Do you take this same attitude when you begin a new work?

I’m aware that I am a being of limited resources. There are things at which I excel, and some for which I have no skills. I cannot make a book a success or even guarantee it will be published. My responsibility is to be true to the topic or story. My hope, my prayer, is that lives will be touched and maybe situations will be changed. However, that is out of my hands. When a painter paints, he has no idea if it will sell—still he paints.'re way too modest!

Your heart of a servant extends past the Writer's Conferences and continues on once you get home. You're wonderful to answer emails from those you've taught or mentored at the conference. Most would just delete the incoming emails. Why do you continue to work with those who have sat in on your classes?

There are times when answering such email is difficult. Occasionally, people want me to read what they’ve written. I can’t do that for several reasons. First, there is only one of me, and a limited amount of time. Some say, “It’s only one book,” then I have to remind them that they’re not the only one making such requests. Second, is a matter of self-defense. It’s not unusual for different people to have the same or similar ideas. Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz created calculus independently, so it shouldn’t be surprising that two writers who have never met have similar ideas. If I read someone’s work and it’s similar to what I’m working on, it puts me in a bind. My work is original, but the unpublished author may not see it that way.

Ah yes. Only one of Al. I suppose well meaning souls tend to forget that fact. I just can't understand WHY you can't read 50 full-length novels, critique them and write your own book. (laughing..Come on, Al -- this is why I nick-named you "Extreme") Well, maybe not. That probably came from the hilarious stories you share from the big rockers at the conference! However, we all need to realize you aren't three -- instead, you're just one. I commend you for the grand efforts you make to continue to correspond with new writers. You's that servant thing again. And you make a good point about the bind. I can understand that completely. I'm sure it gets a little sticky for you at times.

Who do you consider a mentor or person who's influenced your writing and why?

For style and technique, I look to Dean Koontz. I don’t always like his topic but his skill is undeniable. I also owe Jack Cavanaugh a great deal. He’s the one who put the spiritual boot to my backside.

What's in the works for Alton Gansky at present? Any new books on the horizon?

Yes. Finder’s Fee will be released by Zondervan in a few weeks. It’s a suspense/thriller with a new character. I think you’ll like it.

Well, Al. Thank you so much for your time. Again, you've shared that heart of a servant. You're an all around great guy and I appreciate all you do for others. Let me be one of the first to wish you great success with your two newest books. I'm sure God will continue to bless you with refreshing and interesting ideas.

Let me encourage everyone to check out Al's website at where they can read more about you and your work.. Readers can see an entire listing of Alton's books and find where they can be purchased. You'll find some great reading there.

One final plug. Alton was recently interviewed by Gina Holmes at Novel Journey. It's a great interview -- far more in-depth than this one. Once you're there scroll down the page until you see Al's interview. Visit your Christian bookstore and purchase 40 Days. You'll find it interesting and fulfilling. .
Click here to read about Crime Scene Jerusalem

Thanks again, Al. I look forward to talking with you at Ridgecrest.