Jon J. Cardwell is a wretched sinner saved by God’s free and sovereign grace. He lives in Anniston, Alabama with his wife, Lisa, his daughter, Rachel, and his mother-in-law, Virginia. He is the pastor at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Anniston after having ministered as a missionary and as a missionary-pastor in the Philippines, California, and remote bush Alaska.
He is the author of the bestseller, CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED, and the CEO of the publishing company, Vayahiy Press. Jon has also held the office of vice-chairman of the national Sovereign Grace Baptist Fellowship (2009-11), and was elected as chairman on September 13, 2011 and reelected in September 2012.
His Christianity has been shaped tremendously and influenced deeply by such redeemed sinners as John Bunyan (1628-1688), Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), John Newton (1725-1807), and Granville Gauldin (1929- ).
Some of Jon’s other titles include: Lord, Teach Us to Pray; Fullness of the Time; A Pilgrim Family Devotional, A Puritan Bible Primer, Master Mega Writing, a non-fiction for teens, Custom Classic Cars, a teen science fiction/fantasy trilogy, You Kill’d My Pahder, Frefare to Die, the Graphic Novel, PEARL HARBOR: Date of Infamy! Date to Remember!, and the children’s book, The Miller and the Mule.
What inspires you to write?
I believe that, mainly, my inspiration comes from my calling as a preacher of the gospel. Psalm 26:7 says, “That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.” And although the word “publish” from this verse in the original Hebrew language didn’t mean publishing a book in print as we know it today, the word “tell” in the verse can be ascribed to a written account, as well as a declaration. When I write, whether my writing is explicitly about Jesus Christ or not, I am certain that back of all my writing is the singular desire that God is glorified, Jesus Christ is exalted and that the gospel of Christ, and Him crucified, is honored in some way, shape or form.
Tell us about your writing process.
The details in the process of writing vary depending upon my genre and subject; nevertheless, the basic method is pretty much the same, which is outlined in my book, MASTER MEGA WRITING. In the book, where I advise the new writer in an exercise that establishes the subject in which to write, what I actually do is prayerfully consider the many things that may be in the back of my mind. I begin my “brainstorming” session with prayer and end with prayer, and in between, I just jot down all the thoughts in my head. I also keep a notepad handy everywhere so I can jot something down as it comes to me.
When I do start writing, however, the details behind my writing are different. For non-fiction, especially Christian non-fiction, I have an outline clearly defined to get from point A to B to C, and so forth. With Christian non-fiction this is pretty standard because the outline is defined by the key scripture or scriptures.
With fiction, I’ve taken a different approach; and an inconsistent one at that. For example, in the first book of the Wilmer P. Cohen trilogy, it was outlined from beginning to end after I asked, “What if…?” The second book, I just wrote as it came to me, knowing where we’ve been and knowing somewhat where we were heading. The third book was loosely outlined from end to beginning, knowing where we needed to go, defining certain milestones and events that needed to happen before we got there, and then taking off from the beginning in order to reach each substantial event.
With graphic novels (Pearl Harbor) and children’s books (The Miller and His Mule) it’s even much different than that. Typically, it will start with a doodle or even a drawing and then it grows from there.
For tools, I use whatever is available; and everything available if I have more than one resource. If I’m sitting at the computer, I may just start typing, but if an idea comes to mind, I may jot it down on my note pad sitting on my desk. I use post-it notes, audio recorders, 3 x 5 index cards, scrap pieces of paper, whatever is handy, and then file them at the end of the day. Some of the things I write down are never used but it keeps the creativity, at least for me, fresh and active.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Certainly; and although I suppose you can write fiction without conversing with your characters, but I for one am not smart enough to write fiction that methodically. If I have created the personality traits and back story for my characters, I want them to tell me how they would respond to a given situation. I think it makes the story come to life; and for me, it makes the dialogue in the book more real and flow more naturally.
When I used to read stories to my children, I would do the voices of the different characters in the book. That helped them to engage more easily with the stories. I guess that practice so many years ago helped me to converse with the characters. When I would read aloud a bit of dialogue I wrote, I would use the character’s voice. In the teen fiction, You Kill’d My Pahder, Frefare to Die, I enjoyed speaking with the New Jersey accent of Paco Rivera and Filipino accent of Senior Chief Montoya. In the sequel, There’s Rest in Beulah, I loved doing the voice of Elvis Presley (and who wouldn’t?), especially the conversation that took place in Cambodia between Elvis and the Minnesota tourists (yes, I even did the woman’s voice).
What advice would you give other writers?
In the immortal words of “Larry”, the character played by Billy Crystal in THROW MAMA FROM THE TRAIN, “Remember, a writer writes… always.”
Keep writing. Write, rewrite, and write some more, but keep writing.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I took the self-publishing route purely by accident because I never really intended on publishing any books at all. After my family and I left Alaska in January 2008 because it was suspected that I had Lou Gehrig’s disease, I wanted to get some Christian discipleship tools in the hands of the Alaskan natives we had ministered to for several years. Having discovered CreateSpace and Kindle as publishing venues in 2009, we made some resources available for our northern friends. I kept on going with it in order to supplement our income since we were ministering in a small church in central Alabama by early 2009. By late 2009, Vayahiy Press was born. The rest, as they say, is history.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of if a writer decides to go the self-publishing route. Mark Twain began as a self-published author and sold his first book, Huckleberry Finn, door to door. Others who have self-published are Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Stephen King, Louis L’Amour, Alexander Dumas, Stephen Crane, Edgar Allen Poe, Upton Sinclair, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, just to name a few notables.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I’m an optimist. I see the future of publishing as big, bright and full of opportunities with the accessibility of self-publishing and print-on-demand (POD). I’m also a realist, because I believe that there is some merit to the concerns expressed by big publishing houses (and even the small ones), as well as the concerns voiced by publishing professionals, such as agents, editors and acquisitions execs. The ease in which to publish today has flooded the market with books upon books upon books, both printed and electronic. Some of it is very excellent stuff. Some others are not worth the paper they’re printed on or the electrons they’re downloaded with. Sadly, some Internet marketers out there have published rubbish; yet, at the same time, the self-publishing industry may have caused the traditional publishing world to relax their very tight grip on the yea or nay of published material, allowing for voices to resound, which might not have otherwise had the opportunity. My hope is that, one day, both traditional and self-publishing industries, working in concert, may be able to separate the weeds from the wheat.
What genres do you write?
Christian Non-fiction, Business Non-Fiction, Teen Non-Fiction, Teen Fiction, Graphic Novels, Children’s Books
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print