Our interview is with Max Elliott Anderson. Thank you Max for being here today and for agreeing to do this interview.
Answer: Most of my life has included the production of dramatic films, corporate video programs, and television commercials. It was work on the dramatic films, and especially those we produced for kids, that I feel prepared me for what I’m writing today. I grew up in a family that produced and distributed Christian films. This gave me the opportunity, from a very young age, to hang around the studio and watch the actors, listen to dialog, learn about setting, plot, and other elements. It’s amazing to see how those years of impressions now find their way onto the pages of the action-adventures and mysteries I write for middle grade readers. And as I’m writing, I actually see each book, as if it were a feature film in my mind, as the story unfolds.
Answer: I’m fortunate in that I didn’t begin writing until our two children were grown. I have tremendous respect for writers who have to find time to write even though there are little people running around the house who constantly need attention. But we have two granddaughters. One of them lives in our town. Since our daughter is a teacher, I keep this little one several days a week. It’s safe to say I don’t get any writing done on those days. That causes me to work in the evenings and on weekends, just to stay on top of things. Since I no longer work in the film and video production arena, I’m free to write, promote, and market that work full time. My wife and I are members of First Evangelical Free Church here in Rockford, IL. One thing that surprises people is that I grew up hating to read. It’s a little ironic because my father was the author of over 70 books during his lifetime, and I didn’t read any of them as a child.
Question: Tell us about things you enjoy — what you do for fun or personal satisfaction?
Answer: For me, writing is the most fun I’ve ever had. I used to resent writers who would hand us a script with nearly impossible visuals to shoot, then they’d go back to their warm, dry office while we were out in the worst of conditions. Now I’m one of those writers. If I can see it in my head, I can put it down on paper, and bring stories alive. Aside from that, I enjoy our grandchildren very much. I like Gospel music – we just attended a 3 hour Gaither Homecoming concert – Duck Dynasty, and old movies where the dialog doesn’t have to be bleeped. The best films are in black and white.
Question: Since you have several books out, tell us what you think works for promotion. What are your thoughts on ebooks versus print books and different ways to let people know about you and your books?
Answer: I caution aspiring writers that writing your book will be the easiest part of what you do. It’s what comes next that represents the truly hard work. But I have a strong background in marketing and promotion, again from those years in film distribution, so that part comes easily for me. When you ask what works for promotion, I’d have to say there’s no magical, single thing to point to. It’s important to promote on many different levels. Agreeing to this interview is one way. I also produce book trailers for most of my books, maintain several emailing lists, have a blog, am active on social media, write two monthly columns, contribute to anthologies, and much more. As for e-books, I’ve found that kids have still not embraced them as their primary reading method. All of my books are available in print and as e-books, but I think it’ll take longer for the e-books to catch on for my books.
Answer: The title is The Great Cave Caper. In it, our boys had formed a detective club in their little town where nothing much ever happens. That is, until they put their money together and ordered a police scanner for the shack where they held their meetings. The area around where they lived, in New Market, Virginia, was littered with caves. The uncle of one of the club’s members actually has a cave right on his farm. That’s when the guys hatched the idea of going out to the cave for a little innocent exploring. The cave was on private property, so they knew they’d be safe and no one could bother them. But on the night before their big adventure, the scanner came alive with reports of a big bank heist in a nearby city. The boys thought surely the robbers would be long gone by the time they set up their campsite near the cave. They were wrong. Inside the cave the next morning they found something. Now the robbers were coming in the entrance of the cave and the boys can’t get out.
Question: Tell us one place you visited or person you met, that made a big impression on you, and why.
Answer: In my video production role, I had the opportunity to spend an entire day with former president Ronald Reagan. The occasion was the last visit to his boyhood home in Dixon, IL. It was my job to write and then ask the interview questions. I still have the video from that day and it is something I will always treasure. This is a link to a blog post I wrote about that day including pictures: Private Interview with President Reagan
Answer: When I began writing, about 13 years ago, I wrote almost non-stop for the next three years, completing 36 manuscripts. Then I stopped in order to concentrate on finding an agent and locating publishers who would be interested in what I’d written. I currently have contracts for 9 more of these and we continue looking for additional opportunities.
Six of these books will be released by an educational publisher in Toronto. They have their own sales representatives across the country who will be selling directly to public schools and libraries. This publisher also has a short story collection under consideration. This is an interesting project for their markets because there are reading comprehension questions after each story. In addition, Alice Munro is the first Canadian to win Pulitzer Prize in literature. What is significant about this is that she writes short stories. Her win has caused short stories to become high interest in Canada, so my project could be very well timed according to the publisher.
Question: How many books do you have out?
Answer: I have nearly 20 titles published.
Question: What are your future projects?
Answer: My short-term writing projects will likely focus on short stories, additional anthology projects for places like Chicken Soup for the Soul, and my magazine columns. Since I still have sixteen unsold manuscripts, there isn’t an immediate need to write more of those at this time.
Question: Are their characters/stories/scenes/etc based on anything in real life?
Answer: Yes, many of my stories have their roots in film productions I’ve been involved in, or the locations where they were shot. The same can be said for characters I’ve met along the way. One of my books, Terror at Wolf Lake is set where I lived as a boy in Wolf Lake, Michigan. North Woods Poachers is set in a remote area of Canada where I shot two films. Barney and the Runaway is loosely patterned after a film I shot many years ago.