Monday, January 22, 2007

Max Elliot Anderson, Prolific Author of Young Adult Adventures

Max, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

I was a pretty wild kid growing up. It used to be said of me that I may not have been the cause what just happened, but I was never very far away, and probably had something to do with it. I grew up in a family of seven children. I was number five. In that position, a person does all sorts of things in order to get noticed.

When I write, I literally enter the scenes and become one of the characters. Since these are children around the ages of eleven or twelve, a lot of that childhood experience and background finds its way into the story and dialog. That’s a pretty scary thought since there is quite a bit of crime in my stories. Makes a person wonder what might have happened if God hadn’t gotten a hold of my life from a very early age.

One of my goals was to construct stories that would reach out to boys who might not have a father in their lives, or a positive male role model. I know that this is one aspect of myself entering the stories. But I believe that, during the writing process, this is an unconscious element from my perspective.

I also never read a manuscript until the first draft is finished. So I get pretty surprised sometimes when I see some of these things carefully woven into the story.

I could never do that. I reread and edit what I wrote in the last session before starting writing for the day. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

One of the definitions for the word quirky is, “A sudden sharp turn or twist.” So it would have to be the fact that I ever started writing in the first place. I never would have charted this course, but I had no choice after 9/11. That event caused most of my professional video production clients to disappear. I had to do something, and decided to research why it was that I didn’t like to read. Based on my findings, after evaluating over 200 children’s books, I began writing the kinds of books I would have liked as a child. Just one of these findings resulted in my writing books where the characters are completely different in every manuscript. The setting and plot for each book are different also.

Sounds like the kind of books we really need published. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I should have seen this earlier in my film and video production career. It was in that arena, over more than a twenty-year period, that I wrote countless proposals and scripts for my clients’ video programs and TV commercials. In the same way that I never thought of myself as a salesman, as I was negotiating for each job, I didn’t think of myself as a writer either. I was a video producer and director, and these were simply steps, in my mind anyway, that needed to be done in order to produce the programs.

Then, as I mentioned above, 9/11 occurred. In the midst of my research, I kept hearing a reoccurring voice, in my mind, saying, “Why don’t you write THE SCARECROW?” This was the title of a screenplay I had written over twenty years earlier that was never produced. I battled this “voice” for several weeks. Then I finally gave in. What happened next is nothing short of a miracle as I believe God has sent each story through me. They come fully formed with the main character, the setting, plot, location, and the moral or spiritual theme. And this has now happened over thirty-four times.

So, I think of myself more as one who simply records each story. The fact that this is done with words on paper makes me a writer I guess, or is it the huge rejection file I keep?

All of us writers have one of those. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

This is the place where I see most people’s jaws drop open, followed by… “Really!” And it’s true. I grew up hating to read. My father published over 70 books during his lifetime, and I never read any of them. This is why I believe that I am uniquely qualified to write for others who don’t like reading.

This past week I had the opportunity to speak before a number of PhDs, professional educators, and teachers about what I am writing and why. Even though I have a degree in psychology, I could hardly believe that I was standing in the same room, speaking to these people. My session lasted two hours, and I found that my writing is right on target for the needs in the public schools where they teach.

I should say that one of the few books I read all the way through, when it first came out, is The Purpose Driven Life. That’s because I can focus on reading when I’m interested in the material.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

As mentioned earlier, I have written 34 manuscripts of action-adventures and mysteries for boys. Seven of these are published: Newspaper Caper, Terror at Wolf Lake, North Woods Poachers, Mountain Cabin Mystery, Big Rig Rustlers, Secrets of Abbott's Cave & Legend of the White Wolf, are compared by readers and reviewers to Tom Sawyer, The Hardy Boys, Huck Finn, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, Scooby-Doo, Lemony Snicket, and adventure author Jack London.

My father died this past March. But he and I collaborated on a manuscript about humor for the adult market. That is under consideration at two CBA publishers now.

I have also written two picture book manuscripts. One of those is also at two CBA publishers right now.

There are at least another dozen stories I could still do in the action-adventure/mystery genre. I also sense God directing my thoughts to a couple of fantasy projects. One of these is a trilogy. I’ve dictated all the story elements for these and am just waiting to see what project elbows its way to the front of the line. They always do.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

Are you accusing me of being sane? I think all writers live a little closer to that line than they’d like to admit. We tend to view the world differently than other people. But it’s when I’m actually writing that everything seems in balance. I arrange my schedule in such a way that distractions are kept to a minimum. Our children are grown and out of the house, so this helps. I have tremendous respect, especially for moms who have children at home and still they find a way to make writing work. I’m not sure I could do that. And God must have known that, too, given the way that He has worked everything out in my writing life.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

The character’s first names usually denote the personality type. I also consult some of the Internet lists of most popular names for girls and boys. Last names have come from the phone book or my old, and I do mean OLD, high school yearbook.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

It has to be when I hear from parents or readers who write to tell me how my books have made an impact like this.

“I can't believe it the concerned mother of two struggling readers...who is also the daughter of a children's librarian ... I think I have purchased EVERY book recommended for reluctant readers HOWEVER, they have ALL fallen short UNTIL today. We were able to purchase Newspaper Caper...and we're hooked!!!”

Earlier this week a boy wrote to tell me he liked my books as much as Lemony Snicket. For an author, who grew up hating to read, these are pretty special, every time they happen. And even though my books were first aimed at reluctant reader boys, the fact that they enjoy reading them, along with avid readers, girls, and adults is something I’m very proud of, though I don’t take the credit for it.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

That’s a tough one because I love animals a lot. I enjoy the Character Sketches series from Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts. These books draw comparisons in scripture to the traits of different animals. In that context I’d like to say it would be a lion for his strength and courage, or, a fox for his cunning. But I’d have to choose the lowly badger instead. He is depicted in the book as, “Devoting all my energy to a course of action which I know is right.”

This journey of mine into the world of publishing is so outside my comfort zone. Along with it come personal appearances and situations that are contrary to what I might selfishly like to be doing. If I could just write in anonymity, that’d be fine with me, only it doesn’t work that way.

My husband and I love the Character Sketches series, too. We used them in raising our children. What is your favorite food?

Pretty much anything with shrimp in it. But, when it comes to dessert, that would have to be lemon meringue pie…served cold of course.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

You mean besides the fact that the first draft was finished in less than three days? I began writing at around 6 in the evening, and the next thing I knew, it was morning. I just kept on writing because the story continued to flow.

Something very interesting happened to me while I was doing research for this book. Years ago, I was one of those opposed to placing wolves into Yellowstone. I nearly produced a video program for a group of Wyoming ranchers who were also opposed. As I researched the wolf for this new book, my opinion completely changed.

I learned of the high esteem that Native American Indians had for these magnificent animals. Because of this respect, Indians would seldom kill a wolf. They hunted together where wolves helped to herd elk or other animals out onto the ice so the hunters could get them. Wolves mate for life and live in families. I could go on and on.

But the biggest thing was that wolves are not indiscriminant killers. They primarily hunt only to eat. A thirteen-year-old boy from Hawaii just wrote to me about Legend of the White Wolf.

"I just finished all 7 of the books we bought from you. The books are superb. Legend of the White Wolf is a really touching story. My mom cried.”

Reviewers have added:

1. Few good books exist intended for 8- to 12-year-old boys. “Legend of the White Wolf” offers fast-paced adventure, clean content, delightful humor, and likeable characters. Trust and truth prevail in this well-told story.

2. Even though Legend of the White Wolf is intended for readers 8 to 12 years old, and primarily for boys, it can be enjoyed by all readers. Readers will be rewarded for time well spent in this delightful, very believable story.

3. Max Elliot Anderson weaves this story of adventure and trust with deft fingers, bringing the story to life in a fulfilling and meaningful way. “Legend of the White Wolf” should be included on every young boy’s bookshelf.

4. No one can walk away from LEGEND OF THEWHITE WOLF without being satisfied in your heart, soul and mind.

Like all of my books, Legend of the White Wolf, is filled with humor, lots of dialog, and heart-pounding action.

More information can be found at and nearly 50 pages of reviews at

Max, thank you for the fun and intesting interview.

Readers, go to Max's web site and check out all his books, and don't forget to leavea comment for a chance to win a copy.


Jennifer Y. said...

This sounds like a book that both my nephew and I would enjoy. I would love to enter. Thanks for sharing about it.

Cherie said...

Great interview! Sounds like a book my nephews would enjoy reading and enventually my son once he is old enough.

Cherie Japp

lori c. said...

I want my little boy to grow up so I can read him these books! :) (Okay, maybe I'll let him stay little for a while yet, but I will read them to him someday. . . )

max said...

Thank you for your nice comments,


PS. I have a new blog at