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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Frank Peretti Interview, Part II

Frank Peretti's books have sold more than 12 million copies. He is the co-author of House, the author of Monster as well as the international bestsellers The Oath and This Present Darkness. The Oath (1995) has sold more than a million copies and was awarded the 1996 ECPA Gold Medallion Award for best fiction. Peretti lives with his wife Barbara in the Pacific Northwest. Visit his website at

Gina: Oh, Monster's a great story but I just can’t imagine that a new author would be able to pitch it and get it bought.

Frank: Maybe not. I pitched another book idea to Allen Arnold and pitched the whole story. I’ll never do that again. I exposed myself to a terrible feeling. Sometimes a book idea really sounds like it’s not going to work.

Gina: What do you think the difference was between pitching the story he didn’t want to do and pitching Monster?

Frank: It was the pitch. When I pitched the rejected story, I basically tried to tell him the whole story, but the whole story wasn’t fleshed out and I didn’t give it punch. It had a lot of questions I wasn’t ready to answer and there were gaps.

I’ve read a lot of books how to write books, how to write screenplays and they say when you’re first formulating your ideas don’t talk about it to anyone. Once you show them, you’re tipping your hand too early. It commits you to something. When it’s still in formation you’ve got to keep it to yourself so you can make any changes you want, throw it out and start over. Whatever.

When something’s in the formative stages of course it isn’t going to come off great. It’s like going out in public before you’ve combed your hair and brushed your teeth.

Gina: When you pitched Monster did you just pitch the premise on that one and not the whole story? I’m just trying to gauge the difference here.

Frank: I just pitched the premise on Monster. Not the whole story. That was the difference. I hadn’t thought of all the twists yet. A really good beginning helps. I set it up real good--that cool stuff got Allen’s eyes wide.

Pitch a story just like you’re telling a campfire story. Get your publisher to want to know more. You want to suck them in, get them wanting your story.

Gina: It’s strange to me to hear you get stories rejected; I mean you’re Frank Peretti.

Frank: Allen and I have such a good relationship. I could take my story somewhere else but I’m happy there. He and I get along so well and we trust each other.

Gina: When you look at today’s CBA fiction, what are you encouraged by?

Frank: It’s maturing. There are so many good writers coming in now. You could almost make a critical study at how the books have changed over the years.

Go back to when my darkness book came out. It was bulky but it was tackling the intriguing supernatural story. That was a new thing in Christian fiction. Christian fiction was not respected. There was some, Janette Oke, who’s become a real institution. But not everybody wants to read prairie romances.

Fiction has become a viable product and all these non-fiction writers are trying their hands, now that the market is open and Christian fiction is accepted and fiction writers are getting a chance.

Gina: What are you least encouraged by?

Frank: There’s a bandwagon mentality but this is true everywhere. Whatever is hot everybody wants to jump on it.

I’m not criticizing this book but when The Prayer of Jabez became popular, there were so many spins off of it. Jabez for kids. Jabez coloring books. It’s so obviously commercial.

Gina: Jesus junk?

Frank: The depth people will stoop to make a buck. The emperor starts looking a little naked. I think CBA is a wonderful place to work and wonderful stuff is coming out. I wish we had more self respect sometimes. We can cheapen ourselves. It’s interesting on the floor of the convention, we laugh at ourselves but we wonder who’s going to win the award for the tackiest. Testamints? All these crazy products. It’s nothing exclusive to CBA, it’s everywhere.

Gina: Do you you think your earlier books are too mimicked?

Frank: I don’t know how much of that is done. I don’t have an opinion. I’m not that informed. I don’t’ think it’s going to work though. Once something’s been done, that’s it. I’m up against the same challenge myself. I want to write a third darkness book and I’m up against the same challenge. I can’t do what I’ve already done. I can’t have the demons and the angels plotting against each other and end with a big old cataclysmic battle. I’ve already written that story.

Gina: You’re still brainstorming this story?

Frank: I’m still brainstorming and brooding and thinking about it.

Gina: You’ve said that you hate brain spilling, what we call brainstorming. We know what you don’t like. What is your favorite part of being a writer?

Frank: The brain spilling isn’t the worst part. Outlining is the worst part. Brain spilling isn’t work. That’s just pouring out the ideas. It’s not a grievous task. When I’m outlining, that’s when it really gets technical. What’s going to work? Ted Dekker skips that part. Other writers skip that part. They just start writing and let the characters go. I’m almost wondering if I ought to try that. I’ve never tried to write that way.

That’s why I’m so slow I think. Everybody else is turning out two books a year. I’m two years a book.

Gina: [laughs] It seems to me, from the authors I’ve interviewed, that the outliners tend to be, as a whole, faster writers.

Frank: Well, they know where they’re going. Maybe I’m slow and maybe I outline but it must be working.

Gina: You’re not part of the machine where you have to put out so many books a year. I know when I go to the store and see a Frank Peretti book that it’s going to be good. Some authors start out strong because they’ve been working on a book for years and then they get a contract, having to crank out the books before they’re ready and the writing suffers.

The way you write is ideal. Who wouldn’t want to take a year or two to write a book and then have it hit the best-seller list every time? That’s what most of us dream of.

Frank: That’s comforting. I’m thinking about Ted and he’s bam. Bam. Bam. A whole stack of books. I can’t write that fast. I’ve had to settle on the fact that I am Frank and God has called me to what I do. We always have to remind ourselves regardless of what we do, we’ve got our own niche and that’s where we belong.

Gina: You’re learning how to make movies, is that right?

Frank: You bet!

Gina: What’s inspired that?

Frank: Well that’s what I’ve wanted to do from the beginning. Years ago I wanted to go into film. That’s why I went to UCLA because I wanted to study film. That whole thing kind of went down in flames with discouragement. The whole L.A. scene and culture down there was so morbid, and twisted. I didn’t want to be a part of that. I thought whatever you guys are teaching, man, I don’t want to learn it. About that time my dad called me and asked me if I wanted to come back home and pastor a church.

We left L.A. and went back and I pastored a church for about five years and it was during that time that I wrote This Present Darkness. I decided well, I guess I can’t make movies, but I’ve got this typewriter. Maybe I’ll take this movie idea and make a book out of it and that’s where This Present Darkness came. I shifted from a movie mentality into a novel mentality. I kept the cinematic influence though. You kind of see a movie playing in your head.

Now, years later, I’ve come full circle. I’ve done my books and now my books are becoming movies. It’s almost outlandish but I feel the Lord saying, ‘Frank now’s the time. Do it. Go for it.’

Folks are saying, ‘Frank you can do it. You can direct a movie. You’ve got the personality. You’ve got the dramatic sensibilities.’

What really kind of triggered it is a producer approached me and said, “We’d like to do Monster as a motion picture and we’d like for your to write it and direct it.”

That was a couple of years ago. I didn’t know if I had the skill but given time to think and pray about it, I think maybe that’s what the Lord wants me to do. In fifteen years, I’m going to be seventy. I better get started. I better get at it.

I’m going to take a couple of years and give it a good try.

If I flop, if I fail, I can say I tried. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and be wheeling myself around in one of those carts you see in the grocery story and say, “Wonder what would’ve happened if I tried to make a movie.” I want to be able to say no matter how it turns out, that I tried.

I’m doing a screenplay right now of Monster. I’m hoping to get a company somewhere to say, ‘We’ll do that film and we’ll let you direct it.’

Gina: Have you ever had to pitch movie-makers or have they always approached you?

Frank: They’ve always approached me. Who can ask for a better world than that? My manager and I get to sit around deciding which movie maker we’re going to go with. What a situation.

We’ve had to turn some down and put other people off that weren’t quite ready to produce the level of film that we wanted. So, it wasn’t a bad idea to wait on the Lord.

Gina: Is your hope to go mainstream Hollywood
with your movies?

To be continued tomorrow...


  1. Gina, I should be digging into my writing today, but your interviews are always so good...I have to read them before I get busy! You ask great questions. Thanks, Mr. Peretti, for all the insight. Blessings from Atlanta. Creston Mapes

  2. Thanks, Mr. Peretti, for the great interview. Thanks, Gina, for bringing it to us.

  3. "If I flop, if I fail, I can say I tried. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and be wheeling myself around in one of those carts you see in the grocery story and say, “Wonder what would’ve happened if I tried to make a movie.” I want to be able to say no matter how it turns out, that I tried."

    Great attitude. I like that you are willing to stretch and reach and go beyond your comfort zone - even though you've "made it."

    And you still shop in a grocery store - you don't have servants? ha.ha. Sorry.

  4. Gina and Frank!
    Great interview. I loved hearing Frank say what he said about the bandwagon mentality. I hate reading things that tell writers to study the market to see what selling right now and then write that. Rubs me the wrong way.
    I've read everything Peretti including the bullying book which I loved and could relate to. I've just convinced my ladies book discussion club at church to do Monster next. I know it'll freak some of them out but it'll be good for them! Monster was superb. Thanks for doing the interview.

  5. Wow...great interview Gina, your getting to be an expert at this!

    Frank, thanks for taking your valuable time to spend here with us! Great interview!

  6. Look what I miss when I don't check in for a while.

    Fantastic interviews, Gina. I should be catching up on work, but you've had me here all night reading interviews!

    *waves at Frank - it's me, Kiwi, from your board :-)*

    Frank, I'm glad to hear you're a slow writer. :-) It encourages me. I'm so slow I wonder if a publisher would even want to sign me if I couldn't produce two books a year, not that I expect they ever will consider me anyway.

    Looking foreward to part three of the interview.

  7. Great part II, Gina. Frank encourages us all, I think. I also liked what he said about the bandwagon mentality. Besides, as long as it takes a book to come out, if you follow the market, you'll always be behind it! I'd rather write the story God gives me and wait for His timing.

  8. Thanks all. Creston, we can't have you not working on your next book. If we need to shut the site down so as not to distract you, let me know ;)

    Venessa, not checking in every day? {Gina plugs ears, "la la la la la, I can't hear you, la la la."]

    Bonnie, I'm getting good or you're just getting used to my nonsense?

    Kelly, I found it hard to believe Frank's servants don't shop for him. Mine shop for me. Weird.

    Kristy and Ane, thanks for the kind words.

    Janet, Yey, you got your book club to do Monster? That's cool. Women in book clubs need to be freaked out. Everyone does in my opinion. I do my best to do that. So should we all. :)


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