Charles Martin & Writing

As you might know, we're having Charles Martin in the shop this coming Thursday (two days away!) for a special talk and book signing accompanying his new release – Long Way Gone. It seems that Thomasville holds a special place in their hearts for Mr. Martin, as he's been here quite frequently for signings and talks with readers. Since small Q&A interviews have been the recent trend on our blog here (check out Annie's responses from last week), I decided to continue that trend into this week's blog by taking the time to contact Charles Martin in order to answer a few questions about his writing career and process.

1. At what point in your life did you realize that writing was your calling – or rather, what inspired you to become an author?

CM: I’m 46. I started writing when I was 15. It was how I made sense of all the stuff going on inside me. Still is. I didn’t try and write a novel until I was 27. I was probably afraid to try something that big. It seemed to me that writing novels was something other people did. That’s what all those folks did whose faces are plastered along the walls inside a B&N. Then it struck me, those people weren’t always ‘those’ people. Prior to that, they were a normal Joe like me. So, I sat down and started writing. That was 12 novels ago.

2. What is the most difficult part of the writing process for you? What is your favorite part of the writing process? Most difficult?

CM: Don’t kid yourself. It’s all difficult. And, to some extent, it gets more difficult the more you write. This is not a bad thing. I think it has to do with improving in your craft. Or at least for me. Maintaining authenticity. Keeping tension line taut. Did the conflict that demanded a resolution get resolved? Did I set it up? Were/are my characters sympathetic? I ask all of these questions – or at least my editor does. Somedays I just sit down and write.

3. How do you decide what your next novel is going to be about, or what elements it will include?

CM: We’re going to need more space for this answer. Like, a chapter. Setting plays a big role for me. If I can’t see it, I can’t write about it. And I ‘hear’ my characters as much as I see them. I hear their cadence. Tone of voice. If I can’t hear them, I can’t very well write them.

4. About how long do you think it takes you to complete a novel from inception of the idea to publication date?

CM: It takes me a year – give or take – to get from inception to ‘sending’ to my editor. Publication date is a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

5. How do you think your childhood/upbringing has influenced your writing today?

CM: Probably one of my major influences. I had a Huck Finn childhood and daydreaming was something I did regularly. Still do.

6. Do you think your religious involvement has a significant influence on your writings and do you think that plays a role in the success of your novels?

CM: Again, more space needed. Not sure I understand ‘religious involvement’ but let me say this. I’m a Believer. “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.” I pray about my stories a good bit. Scripture says “from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” I pray that’s the case. I have no idea how my love of Jesus relates to the commercial success or failure of my novels. I hope my novels are successful, but it’s not why I do what I do. If they weren’t/aren’t, I’d still write them.

7. Any parting words/words of advice to your Thomasville fans or any potential writers out there?

CM: Don’t quit. 

In anticipation of his visit to The Bookshelf, I hope these responses will hold you over until he comes to town (make sure to buy a ticket!) Perhaps, even, this is inspired you to ask some questions of your own when attending his small talk and book signing – and we hope you guys are as excited as we are! Tickets are available for purchase on our website ( or in the store - $5 to attend or $30 to attend and receive a copy of his new book. So pop in to say hello, and come pick up your Charles Martin ticket! We are so excited for this Thursday here at The 'Shelf, and here's hoping y'all are just as excited.

Also, Independent We Stand (highlighting the value that small businesses bring to communities - like us!) is hosting its 6th annual Indie Awards this holiday season. Help out The Bookshelf, and express your gratitude and support for us, by voting for us online at the link below. Make a statement by supporting local shopping, and letting people know what a difference The Bookshelf makes in the Thomasville community! (Careful, you only have until Novemeber 13th!)

Wishing you well,