Andrew Huff is one of our workshop presenters for the upcoming SCWC Virtual Fiction Workshop on December 5. Andrew--who is the author of the three-book "Shepherd Suspense" series (Kregel Publications) and the creator of a new series on the streaming service Igniter TV--will be presenting a session on writing dialogue.
I recently had a chance to talk to Andrew about his writing, faith, and upcoming workshop. (Learn more about Andrew at his Amazon author page; learn more about the fiction workshop at the SCWC website.)
How did you first become a writer?
My interest in writing started when as a child my younger brother and I would create elaborate storylines with our toys. As a teenager, I graduated to creating silly videos for our church youth group. I was writing, but not aware I was a writer. It wasn’t until after I graduated from Liberty University and got married that I started to wonder what it would be like to sit down and try my hand at writing a story I’d try to sell.
Although I was drawn to the world of film, I decided it would be too hard and expensive to make my own movie. At the time, I erroneously but also hilariously thought it would be much easier and cheaper to write a novel instead. I spent the next twelve years learning the craft of writing and writing two full novels before the Lord presented me with the opportunity to be published.
Tell me a little about the genre you write in.
I write in the suspense/thriller genre, though I would say my books read more like acton thrillers! I write books for fans of novels, films, and TV series such as "The Bourne Identity," "Mission Impossible," and "24" that feature non-stop action and suspenseful twists and turns. At the same time, I wanted the moments between the action to be rich in theology and Christian values. There’s violence in the book, but not of a gruesome nature. There’s romance, but without obscenity. Anger, but nothing profane.
My two books currently available are titled A Cross to Kill and Cross Shadow and are a part of the three-book series called "Shepherd Suspense." A Cross to Kill features a former CIA assassin turned evangelical pastor named John Cross who is faced with questions of his past after a vengeful terrorist visits his church. Reporter Christine Lewis is along for the ride, and both characters return in Cross Shadow to take on a psychotic defense contractor while trying to solve a murder mystery involving a relative of Christine’s. The third book in the series, Right Cross, comes out in March 2021 and is a globe-hopping thriller as John and Christine become involved in a plot to launch America’s nuclear arsenal by an underground cyber terrorism organization.
What upcoming projects do you have?
In addition to the release of the third book in the "Shepherd Suspense" series in March, I have two other big projects that I’m working on right now to share. First, I recently signed a contract with Kregel Publications to write a brand new three book series tentatively titled "Task Force Phantom." This new set of stories is a spinoff that will follow both familiar and new characters on action-packed missions in a more global setting. You can visit my author website for a special sneak peek at the series and to get updates on when the books will release.
The second project I’m working on isn’t a novel but a web series that I’ve written and directed for a brand new Christian streaming service called Igniter TV. Igniter TV is set to launch this fall and is committed to providing content that both equips and entertains. My series is called "Dot Conner: Webtective" and is uniquely designed for elementary age kids. Each episode follows amateur internet detective Dot Conner as she investigates questions and mysteries of the Bible alongside her two best friends. The first season is currently heading into production, but the pilot episode of the series is available to screen now at www.ignitertv.com.
What's a piece of advice you wish you'd known before you embarked on fiction?
One of the things I discovered very quickly is that it’s important to put the work into writing your novel completely before going to the stage of trying to get it published. I think a lot of beginners will have the idea for a story, and perhaps even have written some of it, but then get excited about the possibility of publication and move too early into the stage of pitching to agents and editors. I made this mistake as well, not realizing that almost everyone in the industry will only consider a manuscript when it is complete. The other piece of advice that I learned through experience was that more often than not it’s never your first novel that will be published. I wrote a novel and then went to work trying to get it published. The only problem was, my first novel was full of the kind of beginner errors that led to immediate rejection. It was after years of continuing education that I sat down to write a second novel that would be more in line with what I learned agents and editors were interested in publishing. That novel became A Cross to Kill, and while I still think the first novel I ever wrote has a promising storyline it would have to go through a more rigorous rewrite to fix the rookie mistakes. What role does faith play in your writing?
Faith plays a big role in my writing. First and foremost, God is a creative being Himself and I believe that by exercising my creative gifts it’s a chance to glorify Him as the Author of story from the beginning. So telling a good story could be considered an act of worship (not to mention that some of the best building blocks of stories come from God’s very own written work!).
Secondly, my faith informs my view of the world as it does for many. And lack of faith can inform a person’s worldview as well. This is a critical idea that influences how I create and write characters. To me, they each have a worldview, and when that worldview is defined, the characters come to life in unique ways. I will not only describe how a character appears, talks, or feels, but also how their worldview might cause them to respond or act in a way consistent with what they believe. Deep awareness of not only my worldview but others is a critical skill I use to inform my writing. What are some things our readers might like to know about you?
I was homeschooled from 1st grade through my senior year of high school, then spent three and a half years earning an undergraduate degree in Religion from Liberty University. I met my wife at Liberty, and just two weeks after our wedding we moved to Dallas, Texas so I could attend Dallas Theological Seminary. I was fortunate enough to spend the next decade in full time local church ministry, most of which was in Central Virginia, as both a Youth and Creative Arts Pastor (sometimes concurrently!). God called us back to Texas for Round Two when I got the opportunity to join the team at Igniter Media as the Product/Creative Director in 2016.
Let us know if you'd like to attend the Virtual Fiction Workshop on Dec. 5. The workshop includes sessions from Andrew and seven other presenters and includes sessions on plotting, character development, dialogue, setting, writing techniques, and marketing. The cost is just $35, and the workshop will remain available online until Feb. 1. Email us at email@example.com for more information or to register.