by Molly Noble Bull
I am honored to interview Jeff Gerke—a talented man and the owner of many hats.
Besides being a book editor, author, and book publisher, Jeff is a seminary graduate, and a professional artist. He writes non-fiction books under the name Jeff Gerke and novels under the pen name Jefferson Scott.
Welcome, Jeff. I ordered two of your books on fiction writing and just finished The First 50 Pages.
Now I am reading Plot Versus Character, and I have no doubt that I will learn even more. I also read your e-book, UFO’s and the Christian World View.
So, please tell us about those books and how you came to write them.
Plot Versus Character began years ago when I was realizing something about my own fiction writing. I knew I was very good with plot and story ideas, but I also had this hunch that I really didn’t know what I was doing with characters. They all seemed like stereotypes, flat and undifferentiated. But I didn’t know what to do about it.
My revelation started when I discovered a psychology book called Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey. It’s a book on the Myers-Briggs temperaments, which I’d never heard of before then. It was a wealth of information. Not only did it explain to me what the 16 main personality types are like, it also showed me what those types are like as employees, as parents, and spouses, and more. It was the best book on character creation I’d ever found, and it wasn’t even a writing book.
It occurred to me then that some other writers were, like me, plot-first novelists, people who came up with story ideas but for whom character creation was a lost art. So I put together an interactive system called Character Creation for the Plot-First Novelist, which you can still purchase at www.marcherlordpress.com.
Not long after, I had requests from character-first novelists who wanted something similar to help them create solid stories for their awesome characters. These people write beautiful characters and sparkling dialogue, but they often don’t know how to find anything interesting for these story people to do.
I thought, “Hey, I can help!” So I sat down to write Plot Creation for the Character-First Novelist, but then I renamed it to the much more user-friendly How To Find Your Story. That too is still available for purchase at www.marcherlordpress.com. (Buy both interactive systems together for a discount by purchasing The Writer’s Foundation at www.MarcherLordPress.com.
I began teaching the material at Christian writers conferences. We’d start by building a main character together (from the Myers-Briggs temperaments, and then layering), then we’d give the hero a fascinating inner journey. Finally, we’d create a satisfying plot with a solid three-act structure as the stage upon which this main character would go through his or her character arc.
Writers Digest Books listed the books they wanted someone to write. One of them was on plotting. I contacted WD and pitched the character and plot system I’d developed. The result became Plot Versus Character.
Next came The First 50 Pages –another of the books on the editor’s list. I’d been teaching about how to begin a novel well, so this was a natural. My experience at Christian publishing companies gave me the ability to write the section they were most excited about, which was on getting inside the minds of acquisitions editors and literary agents and how the first 50 pages of a novel are used to decide if a book is going to be published or not.
I have a contract for a third book for Writers Digest. The possible title will be How To Write A Novel in 30 Days—And What To Do With It.
I wrote UFOs and the Christian Worldview (which you can get for the Kindle at Amazon.com.) Fascinated with the UFO phenomenon, I tackled the topic head-on. I brought my seminary, systematic theology mindset to the phenomenon and endeavored to integrate it into the Christian worldview.
I want the message to get out as widely as possible so the e-book is just 99 cents. It’s a quick read—only 35 pages—but it’s information you will want to already know before the End Times begin.
Now tell us about your novels as Jefferson Scott and where we can find them.
The best place to try ’em before you buy ’em is www.JeffersonScott.com. You can read sample chapters and see the cover art there.
I have written two trilogies. One is a trio of near-future technothrillers about virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and genetic engineering. They’ve held up well, but the only thing I’d change is to set them 30 years further into the future. We’ve caught up to the dates I set the books in, and we’re nowhere near the tech level I posited in the books.
The second series is a trilogy of Christian military thrillers called Operation: Firebrand. They’re about a privately funded group of ex-military types recruited by a Christian billionaire to undertake high-tech missions of mercy around the globe. And of course there are two beautiful women on the team, so there’s lots of romantic tension between members. But beware: It’s romantic tension as a guy would write it. LOL.
All of those novels have gone out of print and the rights have reverted to me, so watch for re-issued Jefferson Scott novels from Marcher Lord Press at some point in the future.
Besides that, many of my short stories have appeared in Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine, and I also wrote a SF novella that was included in Ether Ore, an e-book by Marcher Lord Press authors. More about Ether Ore here: http://www.marcherlordpress.com/bookstore/science-fiction-2/ether-ore/
Before you became a book publisher, you were a book editor. Please tell us about that part of your exciting career and how it led to becoming a book publisher.
After Multnomah published my first trilogy, I got a job with them as an editor. That began my dual career track as novelist and editor. Playing both sides of the desk. The job at Multnomah led to a job at Strang Communications, which led to a job running the fiction department at NavPress.
Over that 12-year span, I learned the whole publishing process. While most everyone else in these publishing companies stayed in their silos (editors hung with editors, sales guys with sales guys, etc.), I was always out learning about what other departments were doing. I did it just because I was curious. I had no idea I would one day become a publisher and would need to know what every person at a publishing company did.
During my time at those publishing houses, I’d been frustrated with how few fantasy and science fiction books I could get through the publication process. And then I was frustrated with how poorly those few published books actually sold. So for over a decade I was ruminating on what was going on and what could be done about it.
When I left NavPress, I had a well-formed theory for why certain types of Christian novels sold well and why the kinds of Christian novels I loved sold poorly. I also had that broad knowledge of publishing, so I knew what tasks were involved in publishing books.
In 2007, I decided to put my money where my mouth was. And in September 2008, Marcher Lord Press was born and released its first three novels. We’ve had good sales, great reviews in PW and elsewhere, and several awards (including Christy and Carol Awards) in the years since.
Now tell us all about your publishing company, Marcher Lord Press. Marcher Lord Press publishes Speculative novels. Please define Speculative and share your goals for the company.
My short definition for speculative fiction is “anything weird.” Science fiction, fantasy, time travel, paranormal, superhero, steampunk, alternate history, urban fantasy, supernatural thrillers, spiritual warfare, end times fiction, and horror/chiller are just a few of the subgenres under the speculative fiction umbrella.
Marcher Lord Press publishes the finest in Christian speculative fiction. I love what I do! People ask me who my favorite Christian novelists are. Though it sounds corny, it’s true: My favorite Christian novelists are the ones I publish.
I want to give hope and voice to the amazingly talented authors of Christian speculative fiction—and to connect them with all the lovers of Christian speculative fiction who have had to swallow the world’s philosophy and morality just to get the fantastical fun they crave.
You teach at lots of Christian writers conferences. Are you doing more this year?
I certainly am. I’ve done several already this year, and I have several more on the schedule for this year and next.
But the best place to hear my teaching is at FictionAcademy.com. I launched FictionAcademy this year as part of the Bestseller Society (www.bestsellersociety.com), which I co-founded with Mary DeMuth and Thomas Umstattd.
At FictionAcademy.com, you’ll see hours and hours of professionally recorded video of me teaching how to write great fiction. Plus there’s peer support, special guests (like Michael Hyatt), and access to industry insiders and bestselling authors.
When you go to a writers conference as an attendee, you have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars, you have to dedicate several days to it (days not of your own choosing), you have to leave home, and you receive a fire hose of information in a short time span—from teachers who range from great to not-so-great.
The idea behind the Bestseller Society is that it’s much better to spend a fraction of that amount ($37/month for FictionAcademy or $55/month for the full Bestseller Society membership), to give whatever time to it that you find convenient, to learn at your own home (in your fuzzy slippers) or on the go on your device, and to have as much time as you want to watch the videos as many times as you wish so you get it all—from teachers who are at the top of the quality list.
People are just now figuring out that writers conferences are so very expensive and not always a great investment. They’re just beginning to say, “Man, I wish I could do this for less investment and on my own schedule.” And there we are, ready to equip them.
I’d like to offer your readers a free month of full access to the Bestseller Society (which includes FictionAcademy.com). When they subscribe, they can use the code jeffgerke and get a free month.
Thanks for stopping by, Jeff. Come back often. To find Jeff’s books at online and walk-in bookstores, type “Jeff Gerke” and/or “Jefferson Scott” in the search slots.
If you haven't yet read THE OVERCOMERS: Christian Authors Who Conquered Learning Disabilities, please give it a try. I wrote it with four other Christian authors.
To find THE OVERCOMERS in a bookstore, write Molly Noble Bull in the search slot.