Thursday, February 19, 2015

Behind The Scenes at "Death Knocking, Life Calling"

The question was an extremely fair one: If Death Knocking, Life Calling is Randy Gallaway's life story, what is it that you did? Why is your name on the book? The person had read The Ecuadorian Deception and was surprised to see that Death Knocking was written in the first person, but that person wasn't me. So I was asked about it.

Since you might be wondering, too, here's the back story:

1. Memoirs written by a third party are not uncommon. Most "ghost writers" are now "co-writers." Leon Panetta, Art Briles, "The American Sniper," Jimmy Fallon, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and countless others used a co-writer. Just because someone has an incredible story doesn't mean they know how to translate it into print.

2. To maintain the power of the story, it was highly effective to leave Randy's life
 in first person.

3. It was also important to me that Randy and Mary Ann be able to use the book to raise money for their worldwide efforts to help others. Randy has dedicated his entire life to selflessness. If I could help him to increase the amount he's able to raise to help others, all the better. Writing the book in the third person would have made that awkward.

4. However, as a regular speaker at churches, civic clubs, and special events, I also wanted to make sure my name was on the book. Having a book (or books) in print is the coin of the realm when it comes to getting speaking engagements.
Randy and Mary Ann

The process for writing the book was the same as is used for standard biographies of living individuals. First, I spent months, even years, interviewing Randy and Mary Ann. Like everyone, they remembered things in snippets, not whole cloth. We might be talking about Randy's college days and he'd recall something about the amputation of his arms. I couldn't very well say, "Let's save that for another day." So any rabbit trail or unscheduled excursion they wanted to go on was fine by me.

At the end of our interviewing period, I was left with the literary equivalent of a five thousand piece jigsaw puzzle that someone dumped in the middle of my office floor. So my wife Caryl and I began putting the pieces together to reconstruct Randy's life in a way he would recognize.

The process was maddening, since I am not the most patient person in the world. But my wife's keen gift for organization was an incredible blessing. So we'd put chapters together, edit them, and then make sure it carried Randy's and Mary Ann's voices. To help with that, we incorporated our daughter, Sarah. She worked for Randy and Mary Ann while at Texas Tech. She was the one who introduced us. She knew when something sounded like them and when it sounded like me.
Chinese students listen to Randy

Finally, once the book was done, we fact-checked it with Randy and Mary Ann. That task completed, the book went through another several months of editing and refining. The finished product is one of which we are all very proud.

When my daughter introduced me to Randy, she said, "His story's going to be made into a movie one day. Don't you want to be the person who wrote the book?" I am more convinced than ever that the right person will come along one day and Randy's story will be headed to the big screen.
Henry and Marilyn Blackaby. Henry wrote
"Experiencing God," He and son Richard
graciously endorsed "Death Knocking." 

But more important than that is the fact that his story is full of incredible pearls of wisdom that people need to hear. It is also a story of hope. Regardless of the circumstances, if you are still breathing, God hasn't given up on you. Don't give up on yourself.

I'm excited people want to read the book. We are having trouble keeping up with the demand, and that's a very good thing. I'm excited people want to know how the book came to be. That indicates an even deeper level of interest similar to those who not only enjoy a movie, but want to watch a documentary of how the movie was made.

This summer we begin work on a sequel of sorts. So it's back to the puzzle factory. And clear a space on the floor. It's about to get messy again.

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