Joseph Courtemanche has been with Athanatos since 2013, after he won 2nd Prize in the Novel Contest.
Q1: Why do I write?
I wrote my first novel for all the right reasons. I was sitting in church on a Sunday morning before the service started, watching a family a few pews ahead. The mom had been struggling with addiction.
I felt a nudge in my heart, and very clearly heard God tell me, “You need to tell that story.”
Who am I to argue with God? Over the next six months I wrote that novel without anyone knowing. I prayed, I begged God for guidance, and He graciously helped me get it done. I went to an online press and printed a single hard-cover copy for my wife as her birthday present.
She loved it. I told some friends at work about it now that my wife had seen this surprise present. They wanted to read it as well. They loved it.
Next thing you know I’ve got a new career. That first book is almost painful to read after coming this far, but once it’s edited properly it will be a great story to tell the world. God has no other type.
I write so that others may know the joy I’ve found in reading. I write from a Christian perspective, but I’m not a Christian author – that, to me, means I need Amish characters and chaste kisses. I like guns and bombs much better. That’s my contribution to the genre – books men will want to read.
Q2: How would you describe your writing ‘method’?
My writing method is to plunk down the basic idea for the story in a few pages and then think about it for months. I finally sit down and write like I’m chained to the chair. I can produce 12,000 words in a day on those sprints. I don’t’ edit as I go, but go back and massage. I wouldn’t say that I’m a strict plotter, but by the time I get to writing, I know where the book should be in a story arc. No notes, usually, but I do write down great dialogue I overhear to use later.
Q3: How would you respond to the classic question, “Is there Christian art, or artists who are Christians?”
Both. To me, if you write it so that it’s not profane (or paint it, or compose it, etc.) and tell a good story, that’s a Christian who’s telling a story. If you sit down to beat people over the head with God, you’re a Christian Writer. Some are good technicians. Some tell good stories. But if you set out to write a hymn, you get a hymn. If you write a great song, and you love God, it will naturally honor Him in some way. That’s more my style – very few hymns on this keyboard.
Q4: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?
Just write that first paragraph. There, now you’re an author. Not an “aspiring” author, but an author. One sentence won’t do it, but if you can produce a paragraph you can do the rest of the book.
As an encouraging word, every author should know that the first time I pitched a book to a publisher, they sat in shock and said, “You’ll never sell that: it’s heretical.” If there’s a more discouraging thing to tell a person who wants to sell to the Christian market, I’m waiting to hear it. I have a rule: if one person questions it, I’ll think about it. If two people bring it up, I’ll read it again and give it a good thought. If three people don’t like it, I need to rewrite it. That seems to have worked so far.
Q5: Which of your creations has brought you the most joy?
Without a doubt my third book. The first one was such a mess because I didn’t know how to write efficiently. Assault on Saint Agnes, my second, was a great learning experience, but extremely hard work. My third book, which is not ready to publish yet, was a joy to write. It had great characters, great writing, minimal editing, and a fast flow that comes from getting kicked in the teeth a few hundred times in the course of the first two books. I may not be the greatest author in history, but I’m way better than when I started six years ago.
Q6: Which has brought you the most heartache?
Assault on Saint Agnes. The highest highs, and the lowest lows, went together on this book. It won some big awards, but it also brought me to the point where I wanted to quit writing. Quite honestly, if Ronie Kendig hadn’t sent me an email out of the blue last winter, I was thinking of hanging it up and just blogging as my writing release. But she encouraged me and I kept going. I’m glad that I did – because now Assault on Saint Agnes is about to be published.
Q7: Is there anything you’d like to say?
Shut up and write. You just have to sit down and start. Take the time away from television. Don’t quit reading, but set some basic goals and meet them. If you don’t start RIGHT NOW you will never write anything.