Your questions answered! Here it is: the interview with author Seth J. Pierce...
As promised, this week I got to sit down with Pastor Seth J. Pierce, author of What We Believe for Teens, Camporee of Doom, The Day the School Blew Up, Pride & Seek, and loads of other magazine articles and blogs, as well as contributing author for the teen devotional Fusion. You guys gave me some good interview question suggestions, and I think you’ll enjoy his answers. Here’s how it went…
Melanie: Seth, I do need to tell you that this interview will be recorded for quality assurance purposes.
Seth: Sigh. If that’s the way it has to be.
Melanie: And, the interview recording may or may not be sold on the Internet to the highest bidder. (laugh)
Seth: Well, as long as I get some cut of the profit, then that’s fine.
Melanie: Ok, we’re ready to roll then. Well, thank you for meeting me here at Plazzo Bubble Yogurt Coffee Palace or whatever this place is called...
Seth: Yeah, I’m not sure what that is. I don’t have enough guts to try that drink. (chuckle)
Melanie: Me neither! Ok, so I asked the GUIDE kids if they’d help me interview you and come up with questions.
Melanie: So without further ado… Sophie :) and triple3 want to know where you got your ideas for your books.
Seth: It’s kind of a mixture of my own childhood and growing up in church school and other friends who were in church school and as I talked to people who would share memories, I’d start getting ideas for characters and stories and start weaving them into a book. So it’s real life church school experiences.
Melanie: So these books are not necessarily fiction.
Seth: Not necessarily. They’re fictionalized. (Chuckle) But there’s a lot of truth in what happened. Even in Camporee of Doom – the airplane being taken – that didn’t happen, but there were cases of people at Camporees breaking into airplane hangars and messing around, so I just kind of took it to the next level.
Melanie: z girl asks, what inspired you to write these books? Dandy also wants to know what led you to be an author.
Seth: I saw, as I went through the Adventist Book Centers, that there weren’t a lot of books for guys. There were a lot girl horse stories, which are fine, but I wouldn’t read one (laugh), and the Adventist Girl series, which I’m sure they are wonderful, but for guys who are 8 to 12, there really wasn’t a whole lot. So I wanted to write something that wasn’t necessarily just for guys, but that had a male character – a male lead - something that would appeal to guys and make them want to read as well.
Melanie: Awesome. So Zeeman and Tobymacfreak want to know when the next Peter Paul Pappenfuss book is going to come out. Hopefully soon, he says.
Seth: The sad news is they have decided to discontinue those books. I would like to write more, and I’m certain if there were a campaign of letters that went there [to the publisher], there would be more. And it’s not because they didn’t sell, but I think it’s because some people, because the male lead character doesn’t fit the typical Adventist mold - he’s not perfect, he makes mistakes – and because there are kids who get a little sassy in the book, I think there are some people who feel that that’s not spiritual, you know, enough. And the sad part is, the books they do feel are spiritual enough, nobody’s reading. And so, it’s a fine line to walk. I haven’t completely given up hope, but there would have to be a massive online letter campaign with several signatures with children and parents saying, “Hey, what’s going on?”
Melanie: Insert address, e-mail and phone number here, right? (laugh)
Seth: Yeah, yeah, And I would certainly be willing to provide that if someone started a “We want a third book” campaign. I would give them the Pacific Press e-mail and it could start there.
Melanie: Ok. So…Grace wanted you know that she loved Camporee of Doom and is dying to read The Day the School Blew Up. She also wanted to know more about the forthcoming misadventures of Peter Paul.
Melanie: Kgirl98 says, “Could you please ask Mr. Pierce if he had fun writing for the teen devotional Fusion? I would just like to say that it is an awesome devotional.”
Seth: Yeah, I think Greg and Melissa Howell deserve most of the credit for Fusion. It was originally a project that I was thinking about, not necessarily Fusion, but a devotional book, and where I was with my writing projects at the time, I couldn’t do it. So to Greg and Melissa, who are very talent communicators and pastors, I said, “Is this something you’d be interested in doing? I’ll help you.” So they really took it and developed it and I contributed maybe ten percent of the work - maybe thirty plus devotionals - and they really did the bulk of the work and worked very, very hard. So I’ll pass that word along to them. I know they really appreciate the feedback, and they really deserve the credit.
Melanie: C.F. Johnson would like to know about your writing technique. What’s your writing technique, and what authors do you read?
Seth: It varies. You know, a lot of times, one of the best ways to become a good writer is do a lot of reading. And you have, I think, writers that you drift towards. Someone I tend to like, in terms of style - I don’t read a lot of him anymore – but I like Mark Twain. I also like Dave Barry, who is humorous, and I’ve read a lot of their stuff, so that has impacted my humor writing quite a bit. But also writers like Philip Yancey and Max Lucado and different people, and even Ellen White. The more you read of a certain author, you don’t copy their style, but you’re definitely impacted. Even things like Calvin and Hobbes and the Far Side comics, you know, definitely have an impact. So that’s one thing. You have to do a lot of reading.
And, I think it depends on the style of book I’m writing. For the Peter Paul series, I did a story arc. My own little crazy method. I’ll draw an arc - a curvy line on the board and in the beginning I’ll put a line on the left end, and I’ll say, “Here’s where the character is at the beginning of the book,” and then I’ll go towards the end and make another and say, “Here’s where I want the character to be at the end of the book.” That’s probably the most important thing is figuring out where you want you want to end and how the character is going to grow. Right smack in the middle of the arc, I write “the big conflict” - what is the big problem, the big obstacle that the character has to overcome? And then between those lines I start writing more conflicts and problems and issues, and by the time it’s over, I might have 30 little lines drawn on the arc, and those end up being my chapters. You know, that’s how I would do a more novel approach.
Melanie: A story arc. That's cool.
Seth: My new book is going to be Prophecy for Teens. Hopefully I’ll have the Daniel part done by the end of July, and then I’ll focus on the Revelation portion. I’m trying to go in order so it’s as simple and accessible as possible. Because prophecy has so much history and texts and timelines, I’m really trying to simplify everything. But for that one, I’m just following the Bible’s outline, so I start in Daniel 2, and then go to Daniel 5 and 7 and 9, so the outline is basically already there. But another style of mine if I’m going to do something more bibilical, like What We Believe for Teens or Prophecy for Teens, I like to start with stories or some kind of illlustration, because I think it you just start with the facts and the texts, it’s pretty dry. So there need to be some narrative and illustrations woven in, so…
Melanie: And I’m also guessing that even though the What We Believe for Teens and Prophecy for Teens books are a different direction from the Peter Paul books, there’s still the Seth J. Pierce “stamp” on it as far as personality and style.
Seth: Yeah the personality. My writer’s style is style of the books. I mean, for example, even though Dave Barry is a humorous writer, he’s also written a children’s series on Peter Pan. He worked with another author and they wrote the prequel to Peter Pan. And you can tell his creativity and silliness is in there. Though it’s definitely a different book, his style still comes through the narrative. And so there’s still humor and there’s still silliness in What We Believe for Teens and Prophecy for Teens while you’re learning the biblical truths. What We Believe for Teens has been the best selling of anything I’ve ever written, because it has the fundamental beliefs that everyone wants to learn, but it’s done in a way that’s accessible and entertaining. So we’re hoping we can pull that off with the Prophecy for Teens.
Melanie: GodsFaithful1 wants to know… Do you have something in mind for your next book, like after you finish Prophecy for Teens?
Seth: Yeah, I have a couple of ideas. One of the ideas is under wraps while I do some reading and think about it, but the other idea is to complete the “for Teens” series by doing Adventist history, depending on how Prophecy for Teens does. I know Adventist History. I think most people’s experience is they get beat over the head with an Ellen White quote, but they don’t really understand who she was or all the experiences she had, and there were some wild and fantastic stories in Adventist history. These were real people and I think that gets lost sometimes and we don’t understand where we came from as a denomination and stuff, and there’s so much natural humor in the stories. You wouldn’t even have to add much to it because they’re just so outrageous in some of the things they had to put up with and deal with. So, should Prophecy for Teens do well, that’s probably the natural end to that series - going that route. I’ve also thought about doing a series of Bible studies, evangelistic series for teens. I’ve also thought about doing a basic apologetics, which is defending the faith. You know, when people argue against God, how do you defend it. So I’ve thought about doing things in that area, but for right now, I just want to get prophecy done.
I would still love to do a third Peter Paul book, but it would take a massive campaign. The publisher would have to get an e-mail with a few hundred signatures saying, “We’re really mad that you cancelled this series.” And then they might reconsider.
Melanie: Ok, well I happen to own Camporee of Doom and The Day the School Blew up, and both of these books made me laugh insanely. In fact there were times when I was reading and laughing out loud, and my kids were like, “What are you reading that is so funny?” I think they are hilarious. I think the names of the characters are so funny. Mrs. Grossbaum, Mrs. Cracklestaff – they all have really interesting names. How do you come up with the names for your characters?
Seth: One of the tricks I use is I’ll open the phone book and start reading through, and you’ll find some really bizarre, real-life last names. And so I just circle it, or highlight it, and say, “I’ll come back to that one.” That’s probably the biggest source. Sometimes I don’t even have a method. They’ll just float through my head, and I’ll think that would be really good as a last name. I think the phone book is probably a really good – Pappenfuss, that’s where I got his last name. Otherwise you just start running through words, and sometimes they connect and you make up a last name that seems to work.
Melanie: And a character is born.
Seth: And a character is born, yeah, just off the name.
Melanie: Now with Camporee of Doom, I specifically ordered an autographed copy. Do you remember what you wrote in my autographed copy?
Seth: Arghhh, I don’t. I sign so many thousands of books, you know, that I…
Melanie: Right. (laugh) Ok, I’d like to read it to you. “To Melanie, I am gratified to know that your taste in literature far exceeds your taste in football teams.”
Seth: Oh, yes.
Melanie: Which leads me to my next question. Your current favorite football team is what?
Seth: The Minnesota Vikings.
Melanie: The Minnesota Vikings, yes. And if you were to happen to move to the Pacific Northwest, say the state of Washington, perhaps in August, for example, would you at any point be willing and or able to transfer that allegiance to the more popular team, namely the Seattle Seahawks? (note: I have "inside" information that Pastor Pierce is moving to Washington state in August.)
Seth: You know, the only allegiance I could really give is if they were playing a team that wasn’t the Vikings. If they got into a match with the Vikings, I’m a born and raised Minnesotan, so if I was to disown the Vikings, my family would disown me.
Melanie: That would be bad.
Seth: Yes, that would be bad. But I could come here and conceivably cheer for the Seahawks if they were playing the Packers, or some other team that doesn’t deserve to play football.
Melanie: Ok, well, I do feel very encouraged you’re at least willing to cheer for the blue and green sometimes. Thank you so much! This has been fun.
Seth: You’re welcome.
Melanie: I know there are some other areas of expertise you have besides writing, so I’d love to have you back to ScreenSmart again sometime.
Seth: I’d love to come back!
You can check out Seth J. Pierce’s books online or at your local Adventist Book Center. Don’t forget – Prophecy for Teens is coming soon.
Did you like this interview? Would you like to see more interviews like this one?