An Interview with Max Elliot Anderson


Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background and writing career?

I grew up in a family of seven children. My father was a film producer, magazine editor, and an author of over 70 books. The only problem was I also grew up hating to read even though some of my dad’s books were written for children. I found myself more attracted to visual communication and spent hours and hours hanging around the film studio. It was there that I learned about characters, pacing, plot, and a host of other elements that would translate into my writing later.

Of all the children in my family, I would probably be the one least expected to pick up writing. But 9/11 had a significant impact on my life. Many of my video clients had been manufacturers and all of that activity ceased after those attacks.

My writing career actually began with the writing of hundreds of video proposals, TV commercial scripts, and longer video production scripts for my clients. Directing those productions and then participating in the editing process provided good training for the next step.

So when my video clients disappeared, I began writing for publication in October of 2001 and have completed 36 manuscripts. My first books were published in 2003 and 2004, but that publisher went out of business in 2009. After signing with an agent, I will now have as many as 9 books published in 2011. Shorter pieces have also appeared in a Guideposts magazine, a Guideposts book, two special Chicken Soup Christmas books, a host of print magazines and online sites, and an anthology, Lay Ups and Long Shots, which became a Junior Library Guild selection in 2008.


What genre do you write?

Because I grew up not enjoying reading, I decided to try to write the kinds of books I would have liked as a child. That caused me to focus on action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 and up, especially boys.

What work(s) are you best known for? Could you please tell us about them?

My work has not been available in the general market long enough to reach this level yet. But I expect 2011 to be the beginning of significant change. Having said that, what I’m best known for, generally, is as an author of books that kids love to read. My blog, Books for Boys, is often #1 on Google when searching under that subject.

Can you tell us if you are working on a new project and what your goals for the future?

I’ve just sold a project called When The Lights Go Out. This adventure book for kids is a tribute to the people we lost on 9/11 and is being released to coincide with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this year. When I’ve spoken in schools over the last several months, I’ve found that students, who are 9, 10, or 11 today, know little or nothing about what happened on 9/11, and this book is intended to make sure that we never forget.

Another book that will be submitted to my agent after my reader/editors are finished with it is called Snake Island. This is a murder mystery, also for readers 8 and up, that I hope will open bigger doors.

My published books this year will also start being offered as audio books and e-books. Both of these developments should open new markets. And a motion picture production company is considering one of my yet unpublished manuscripts for possible production.

My goals are to continue writing for my primary audience and to expand and strengthen my platform.

How did you start writing?

This developed out of the necessity to find an outlet for creative expression. Having watched the video production door close, I had to make some choices. The first manuscript I wrote was called The Scarecrow. It’s a fantasy story that has not been published yet. The story came from a screenplay I had written years ago that hadn’t been produced in the film company where I was working at the time. I kept hearing a voice in my head saying, “Why don’t you write The Scarecrow?” I tried to fight off this notion for a several weeks because of my non-reading background, and because I wondered what the reaction would be. Our fear of rejection can cause us to become irrational at times, and I certainly was back then. But I eventually completed the manuscript and was pleasantly surprised by the positive reactions to it. That process seemed to uncork a bottle of story ideas which began to bombard my mind, making it impossible to ignore. So I did nothing but write over the next three to four years.

How do you write? (That is, where do you get your ideas, do you write in an office at home, do you write full time or do you have a fulltime job other than writing?)

I’m not one who advocates that it’s critical to write every day. I become project oriented and set a goal for completion. I like to begin writing early in the evening and won’t start a chapter that I can’t finish in that sitting. In a usual evening, I’ll complete 2 – 3 chapters. I don’t read anything I’ve written until the full manuscript is finished.

Ideas come from my childhood and from everyday events. I might hear a news story on the radio, see it on TV, or read it online on in the paper. When a story presents itself, it comes into my mind fully formed. By that I mean that I know the setting, main thrust of a plot, the beginning, middle, and end. And all of my stories begin with the title first.

Whenever a story hits like this, I take a recorder and tell myself the story as if I were telling one of my many original stories to my kids when they were young. Those notes are typed up and placed in a file which isn’t opened again until the first draft is finished.

While writing the story, I like to have pictures and props around my computer that suggest elements of the story. On my stereo, I play mood appropriate music to each scene I’m writing and I burn a candle next to the computer screen.

Even though I may know the elements mentioned above, I have no idea what else will happen. So, as I’m writing, it is as if I’m watching a theatrical film unfold in front of me. There are a lot of surprises, and things that take the interior of the story in directions that surprise even me.

In order to focus on writing as a career, for me it’s necessary to approach it as a full time job. I do occasionally have video productions that come up, but it’s writing that is the central part of my life now.

Are there any particular authors who have inspired you in your own writing career?

Because I grew up as a reluctant reader, I don’t have the same memory bank of great books that others might enjoy. Most of what I read relates to my work. But I’d have to say that it was my dad, who was a very accomplished author, who inspired me the most. At one time he said he thought of me as his writing buddy.

What themes do you pursue in your writing? What are your concerns?

A reoccurring theme seems to be good winning over evil. My books explore adventure and mystery, and I often present stories with the classic hero approach.

What is the goal of your writing?

I really have just one primary goal for my writing. It concerns me that reading is in decline in our society. Electronic devices have invaded much of the free time that kids have to spend. And if I can help one child who doesn’t especially like to read, become a reader, I will feel successful.

Do you have any useful tips you might offer other up-and-coming writers?

Yes. Understand early that you must set goals and be realistic about writing and publishing. Also understand that, in this process, writing will be the easiest part. It is all that comes after your manuscript is finished that is the truly hard work. Each year, hundreds of thousands of new books are published, and they get piled on top of the other hundreds of thousands that came out last year. Decide where your writing fits in that mass of material.

Writing is a business. Forget the fantasy images that many people have when they first approach the possibility of becoming an author. If you begin with a clear picture of what is likely to be ahead of you, you’ll stand a better chance of finding your way, too. Be persistent no matter what anyone tells you, and never give up.

Have you chosen to e-publish any of your work? Was there any particular reason for this and would you recommend e-publishing to other writers?

I haven’t done anything that is specifically published for that market. But several of my books are likely to be released in this format this year. I have mixed feelings about e-publishing. I think kids will embrace it because they’ve been growing up on electronic devices from birth. I think it’ll be great for publishers because the typical publishing model – printing copies, shipping copies, allowing stores to return copies – presents a lot of difficult challenges. However, I think a printed book is still the best way for a one-on-one relationship between reader and author.

Have you had literary failures? What did you learn from them?

None of my books have failed, but having my first publisher go bankrupt was a pretty big blow. It changed my strategy significantly and caused me to make some major adjustments.

Click on the links below to read excerpts from Mountain Cabin Mystery and Legend of the White Wolf:


Mountain Cabin Mystery

Legend of the White Wolf




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