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Monday, January 16, 2012

7 Hours ... What Will You Choose?

James Andrew Wilson was inspired by the magic of good storytelling from a young age, and started writing his first novel when he was sixteen. He married at seventeen, became a father at twenty-one, and lives now in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and their three boys. James enjoys hiking, Italian food, board games, and celebrating the joys of a simple life. When he grows up, he hopes to be a respectable hobbit and not have any more adventures, thank you very much.

Tell us about your new project:

7 Hours is a collection of seven novellas written by seven different authors. Each story is based on the same “what if” question—which is a secret that I can’t reveal to you yet. But I think I speak for everyone when I say that we’re thrilled with the idea and can’t wait to share it with the world.

Though each story is based on the same initial concept, the collection as a whole features seven very different stories, representing each writer’s style and imagination. Think of it as seven condensed novels, each one giving you a complete story that you can consume in one evening, and that will give you a sample of an author that you may not be familiar with.

Was there a specific 'what if' moment to spark this idea? Did it originate with you or with an editor at Tyndale?

The idea grew out my own personal frustration at not having as much time to read fiction as I wanted to. Being a father of three boys, maintaining a work-at-home business, and pursuing a career in writing, I just couldn’t find much time to read.

I thought about weekly television shows such as Lost and 24, and how they delivered a story every week, but in one-hour chunks. Why couldn’t novels be like that?

Over time, I came up with the concept of shorter novels (about a quarter the length of full-size novel), but something with enough meat to encompass a full story. I think this length is perfect for the busy modern reader—you can really sit down and read one of these stories all the way through in a single evening. 

How did you bring together the team of writers?

I first approached author Travis Thrasher with my idea. He was generous enough to offer his involvement. That gave me a huge boost in confidence. Together the two of us ironed out the details, then I started sending out emails to the authors we thought would work well with this project.

Everyone I wrote to was intrigued by the project, but some of them simply didn’t feel that they had the time to commit to it. Finally we had our team of seven, and now that we’re all together, it feels right. This is a diverse, creative, fantastic group of authors, and I’m deeply honored to be in their company.

Tell us who they are.

Mike Dellosso, Rene Gutteridge, Ronie Kendig (writing as Veronica Kendig), Robin Parrish, Tom Pawlik, Travis Thrasher, and me: James Andrew Wilson.

These are all amazing writers, and if you haven’t already, then I highly encourage you to go out and buy all of their novels. Right now!

Is it a true anthology in the sense that the stories all connect somehow, or a collection of short stories with a central theme?

Both, actually. There is a very important and mysterious character that connects all of the stories. Again, I can’t give away much at this point, but I can tell you that with these stories we are exploring the big questions. Life. Death. Time as we know it.

How has the process worked?

After the team was assembled, we discussed the details of our story. Then I gave everyone one month to put together a synopsis and some sample pages. I gathered everything, put together a proposal, and my agent started shopping it around. About two months later, we had an offer.

I’m a writer, not a juggler, but this project has forced me to become both. The inbox fills up pretty quickly when we’re all discussing details, asking questions, answering questions, making jokes.

But really, all of the authors have been incredibly generous and wonderful to work with. It’s been a lot of fun.

Did anything strange or funny happen during the research or writing of this book?

We found a publisher! Considering the unique nature of this project, and many publisher’s wariness to try something new in this market, it was strange, exciting, funny, and thrilling that we sold the series so quickly.

Tyndale showed early interest, and when they ultimately made an offer, it was clear that they were very excited about the project and like us, they recognized the huge potential.

Also, I think I got my first gray hair somewhere along the line.

What’s the best advice you can offer for anyone else looking to do a project like this?

Don’t start sending out cold emails to authors asking them to join your project until you’ve spent some serious time honing your craft. When I sent that first email to Travis, I’d already written four complete novels and spent literally thousands of hours at the keyboard. If you expect amazing authors like those I’m working with to respect you, you have to have some idea about how to craft a good story.

Once you have that, take your time to plan out your project as clearly as possible. Keep it simple. Everyone needs their own space to craft their story in their own way. The less guidelines you impose, the more it allows for creativity to flourish.

The final stories that we have in 7 Hours are suspenseful, thrilling, beautiful and complex—but they are all the result of an initial, simple concept.

So once you have everything in order, go for it! Expect to be surprised, delighted, frustrated, confused, and humbled by the process. Things like this are a lot of work, but for us at least, it was all worth it in the end.

Where do you see 7 Hours and projects like this going in the future?

I honestly think this type of project is the wave of the future for the writing and publishing world. People have less and less time to read—with a shorter novel, it’s easier to commit. I don’t think full-length novels will go away, and I hope they don’t, but if we as writers are going to remain a competitive force in the entertainment world, then we need to be ready to adapt and embrace the lightning-fast changes that we see happening around us. People’s attention span is diminishing to 140 words—we have to figure out new ways to convince them that our stories are worth their time.

NR: We asked Rene Gutteridge to answer a few questions

Rene Gutteridge is the author of seventeen novels. She is also known as a comedy writer. Her latest comedic novel is NEVER THE BRIDE, winner of the 2010 Carol Award for best women’s fiction. She also has extensive experience writing comedy sketches, and worked for five years as the director of drama for a church. She has a degree specializing in Screenwriting, for which she earned the Excellence in Mass Communication Award, and graduated magna cum laude. She is married to Sean, a musician and worship leader, and has two children. They reside in Oklahoma, where Rene writes full time and enjoys instructing in college classrooms and writers conferences.

How did you find out about the project?

James Wilson contacted me out of the blue. Had never heard of him and didn’t know a thing about him, but his enthusiasm for the project totally whet my appetite. My curiosity was definitely piqued. I asked around about him and got some great feedback, so I joined the gang. At first I thought, “Well, I’m taking a big risk here, but that’s okay.” The more I got into it, the more I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

What intrigued you and made you say yes?

A couple of things intrigued me. First, obviously, the concept grabbed me. I’d thought often about how fun it would be to tell one story from several POVs of different writers, so that, in and of itself, got me.

Plus, it’s just a really cool idea, with a very mysterious central character. But ultimately what made me say yes was James’s obvious enthusiasm and what appeared to me to be total commitment to making this work. Wrangling seven professional writers/agents/schedules etc. is no easy task. He did it perfectly.

Have you all worked autonomously or have you collaborated on any aspects?

We have all worked autonomously. It’s been very fun. I’m dying to know what the others are writing. I seriously cannot wait to read theirs. That is going to be the most fun of it all, to see where everyone went at the fork in the road. 

Were you given some parameters or "let loose" to create?

James really let us go where we wanted. There were just a couple of parameters. The rest was up to us. But those few parameters are going to be what makes all of these stories so interesting to the readers. He’s brilliantly put this together. It’s a draw for writers because we get to play. It’s a draw for readers because they get to be thoroughly entertained.

NR: Be watching for more about 7 Hours ... What Will You Choose? 
Connect with the 7 Hours Facebook page


  1. Can't decide if I should accuse you of "plagiarism," or just say that it's "great minds thinking alike." :) The concept of creative people working together on projects is not new (e.g., United Artists). And I agree with you that we'll see a wave of this in the future. It's what I'm trying to do with Graceful Word. But I'm just getting started. As soon as I'm established, I'll be in the hunt for the next writer. Looking forward to a peek at 7 Hours. May the Lord bless your efforts.

    Jim Hamlett
    Author of Moe -- "...woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to help him up!" Eccl. 4:10

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hey, Jim!

    I'll take "great minds thinking alike." :) It's true that artists working together on a project is nothing new, but I think the way in which we've worked together is unique. Whatever the case, the result is a hefty collection of awesome novellas, and we can't wait to share it with the world.

    Goor luck with your own project!


  4. I loved this interview, and I think James has a winner on all fronts. The authors are amazing, the realization that readers are busy and need action-packed novels with less length is true, and I can't wait to get my hands on this on.

    Best to all involved!

    1. So it's true: I'm not the only busy person in the world!

      Thanks, Julie! Can't wait to share 7 hours with you.

  5. Let me just say I love it when writers and publishers take a chance on something new. So often, we are behind the curve instead of setting our own trends. I pray this does well. Congratulations!

  6. Wonderful interview, James & Rene! Thanks so much, Ane, for featuring 7 Hours!!


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