Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tenacity Interviews - Ray Wiseman

Got a story to tell? So did Ray Wiseman, but no one wanted to listen. The topic was too "hot".
What do you do when your truth isn't the truth people want to hear? Let's talk to Ray and be encouraged.

Ray Wiseman looks on the world from multiple perspectives: electronics technician, Christian ministry, video engineer, and writer. He spent a dozen years writing, editing, and publishing technical materials and manuals for a major corporation and now even more years writing about 1000 magazine and newspaper columns and features. He has written eight books, including Canadian best seller, Disciples of Joy, award-winning Exploring God’s Route 66, and now a novel, When Cobras Laugh, co-written with Dr. Don Ranney and published by OakTara Publishing, Waterford, Virginia. He spends his spare time promoting his books and critiquing manuscripts for new authors.


1) Your books is unique, tell us bit about what makes it unique and why you needed to be tenacious to get it published.

Don Ranney, my co-author of When Cobras Laugh, and I had stories to tell about our disastrous experiences on the mission fields of India and South Africa. Even missionary service has its down side. I believe 50 per cent of missionaries come home as failures, but a culture of silence keeps them from sharing their negative experiences. Christian service can alternate between the mountain-high victories described in most missionary accounts, to the squalid failures outlined in the darkest of novels. Things go wrong because outcomes depend on the imperfect people who make up the missionary force. We thought it time to break the culturally-imposed censorship, not so much to write an expose, but to challenge potential missionaries and mission supporters to prepare for outcomes less than victorious. We presented our message as a novel rather than non-fiction because we did not want to injure individuals or organizations.

2) How long did you work on getting it published? Did you have an agent?

It must have taken us about five years. Over time we had three agents, but they all dropped us for various reasons. When one did stay with us, potential Christian publishers told him they would not accept a book they felt had an anti-mission message. Essentially, they did not want to upset their readership with a book that graphically told it 'like it is'. We had no success with mainline publishers who saw the book as too Christian. As we prepared to self publish, a friend introduced us to a new Christian publisher, Oaktara (formerly called Capstone). Their acquisitions editor read the manuscript and said, “We want it! We do not know of two other North American authors with the courage to say these things.”

3) Why didn’t you just throw your hands in the air and say “forget it!”

We had individually spent about 30 years believing we should tell our stories. During that time, further world travels convinced me of the seriousness of missionary failure, of the tremendous waste of human and financial resources. When Don and I came together our resolve strengthened. We would not, could not, give up.

4) What does your support system look like? Friends, family, pastor, etc.

My wife of over 50 years stood with me. She has proofread my seven previous books and every one of about 1000 columns, features, and editorial.s Without her constant encouragement, I could have given up. Early in my career I received great support from members of the Canadian Authors Association. Then I built a group of friends drawn from the God uses Ink conference, now know as Write! Canada, and The Word Guild, an association of Canadian writers and editors who are Christian. For years I exchanged columns and manuscripts with other writers—we became 'writing buddies' critiquing each other's work. Among those, Nancy Lindquist and Donna Mann stuck with me through most of my early books. Without the encouragement of these folk and others like them, outcomes could have differed greatly.

5) Can you be tenacious and content at the same time?

For me to be tenacious and content at the same time, I must compartmentalize. I can remain tenacious regarding something like getting a book published if I have contentment in the rest of my life. Sounds easy. But it really isn't!

6) What have you learned since being published?

That the real work begins after publication—the work of promoting the book. I learned early that bookstores and publishers do not sell books. Authors sell books! Prior to semi-retirement, I worked for a large corporation, wearing a number of hats. Even that experience at multitasking didn't prepare me as a writer to switch between writing and promoting.

7) What advice do you have for a writer who is facing “no” right now?

If you really believe that you have a message that the world, or even a narrower audience, needs to hear, stay with it. Don't wait as long as I did to get on with it. But bear in mind that the audience won't hear it if you can't alternate between writing and promoting tasks.


That should get us all writing today! Thanks Ray!

I bid you good writing.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Sad that no one wanted to touch it for so long. Being a Christian isn't always perfect and we shouldn't be afraid to admit that! And I would think forewarning those in missionary work would encourage a more proactive approach - expect good things but be prepared if it doesn't happen.

L. Diane Wolfe

Laura Davis said...

This is the second time this week that I have heard about Christian publishers rejecting a manuscript that told it "like it is". Someone I know, who also had their manuscript turned down, was given the reason "It's too Christian". It's too Christian?? What does that even mean?

I'm just glad Ray and Don had the tenacity to keep going and get the book published. They have a valuable story to tell.