Recently I had the great pleasure of chatting on the phone with former Army Ranger and CBN Adventure Reporter Chuck Holton about his newest release, Meltdown Predominantly set in Ukraine, the book is a perfect feature for this internationally-themed blog. The book is fast-paced and laden with heart-stopping action. For me, an action/adventure writer, Meltdown was un-put-down-able!
The inspiration for Chuck Holton’s latest release, Meltdown, is obvious—it’s the third book in the Task Force Valor series (following Allah’s Fire and Island Inferno). Specifically, however, the idea came from reading the blog of a girl who lived in Ukraine and blogged about riding a motorcycle through the Dead Zone. That sparked a story idea, but he said the location was also a really cool venue.
Chuck believes overseas venues are the best because they expose people to things they’d never see or know about otherwise, which he did with skill in Meltdown, introducing readers to a segment of history about Chernobyl, Pripyat, and the Dead Zone. He nicely mingles information and images from this historical event and site into Meltdown! Tension ratchets with the ticking clock element due to Chernobyl, which has the characters “sucking up radiation” with every minute spent in this radiation-laden site.
Considering his extensive travels (16 countries this year and 5 weeks embedded with troops and DEA agents in Afghanistan this past September) and his career (writing, video producing, and editing the American Heroes series by Oliver North), I asked him how he manages to squeeze it all in. He chuckled and said, I don’t know. Then his passion seized him, and he said unequivocally, “I don’t engage in passive activity.”
It was then that Chuck explained that he’d made a decision a few years back to eliminate all passive activity from his life. He said, “If it’s not profitable or therapeutic, I won’t do it.” For the former Ranger, therapy can be found in many things, including backpacking, exploring unexplored islands, adventure reporting—going places most journalists avoid—and even writing.
Chuck, who calls himself the “accidental novelist,” had no intention of writing fiction. For him, one of the most surprising revelations about writing was how hard it can be. But the writer in him peeks out, passion takes over, and he mentions one of the more beautiful aspects of writing. “Once you’re in the zone,” he said, “the story starts to write itself.” And he loves to plant what he calls Easter Eggs—inside jokes/stories—within his books for friends and family.
For the man who’s “been there, done that,” Chuck states that a good story must be believable, teach him something, be well written, and cleverly depict the passage of time. As an example of a book that succeeds, especially in the time depiction, he mentioned The Bell Messenger, by Robert Cornuke with Alton Gansky.
Aussie reviewer, Rel Mollet, interviewed Chuck on her blog, Relz Reviewz. In response to her question about why he writes Christian fiction, he replied, “If it's not potentially life changing for my reader, it's not worth my time. Writing is about more than entertainment for me. It's a way to leverage my reach—a way to allow me to help people whom I'd never meet otherwise.”
That audience—his target audience—are the unsaved. He isn’t looking to preach to the choir. So, when he does write, he states his Worldview and background bleed through. To Chuck, writing is intimate . . . when you read an author’s work, you are getting to know them as well.
Chuck’s advice to aspiring writers is to attend a writer’s conference. It is remarkable that within eight hours of attending his first conference a publisher offered him a contract on his debut non-fiction book. Amazing!
Bio: Chuck Holton is a backpack journalist - traveling to more than a dozen countries a year, usually reporting on conflict. His experience in the U.S. Army Rangers and extensive travel (he’s visited sixteen countries this year and was embedded for five weeks with troops and DEA in Afghanistan this past September) come out in his writing. He is regularly featured on CBNNews.com and is currently editing the American Heroes series of books with Oliver North.
Chuck and his beautiful wife Connie live on a farm in Appalachia with their five children.
Visit Chuck at his website: www.livefire.us
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Ronie Kendig has a BS in Psychology and is a wife, mother of four, and avid writer. Her espionage thriller, Dead Reckoning, will be released through Abingdon Press (March 2010), and the first in a military thriller series, Nightshade, will release July 2010 from Barbour Publishing. In addition to speaking engagements, Ronie volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers and contributes monthly to the highly acclaimed Novel Journey blog.
Ronie can be found online at www.roniekendig.com or at Facebook.