I have the huge honor of a “virtual visit” today from best-selling author Frank Peretti, as part of the Ask Frank blog tour. I remember reading his book This Present Darkness and being blown away by it. Frank has a new book out, titled Illusion–his first novel in seven years. Believe me, it’s worth the wait. (Click here to read Frank’s bio).

Each of the bloggers on the tour got to come up with our own questions, so be sure to visit the other blogs on the tour to read more of what Frank had to say. Here’s the questions I gave, with his answers. (I especially like his answer to the last question and will be writing more about that tomorrow).

All of your books testify to the fact that you have a vivid imagination. What stories did you read as a child to foster that imagination? Did you write or tell stories as a child? What did your parents do to encourage you in this direction?

I enjoyed adventure stories like Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World and, of course, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I was into the classic science fiction of HG Wells and Jules Verne. I wrote and told stories all the time when I was a kid. I used to draw comics, I tapped out stories on my mom’s portable typewriter, I told stories to the neighborhood kids under the back porch. I guess God always wanted me to be a storyteller. I also have to mention Walt Disney. Even in my childhood I wanted to be another Walt Disney and take people into wonderful, imaginative places and adventures the way he always did. My parents followed me every step of the way, always encouraging me. They provided the paper and pencils for my comics, Mom showed me how to use her typewriter, they bought me art books and bought me wonderful books to read.

2. Why did you choose to use magic and Illusion as a framework for this book?

 I chose magic and illusion for two reasons:

Obviously, magic would be interesting and highly visual, and would also afford plenty of opportunity for mystery.

Secondly, Mandy’s sudden, unexplainable ability to create and perform such mysterious effects works right into the whole interdimensional, time bending element, the “sci-fi bad guy” intrigue of the story.

3. You write pretty authoritatively about illusionists. How did you research that? Have you ever learned any magic tricks and illusions?

That was a lot of fun. Because Dane and Mandy are stage magicians, I had to find out all I could find out about the magic business, performance, stagecraft, and of course lots of magic illusions. Tony Brent, a comedy magician who works at Wonderworks in Orlando, Florida, became a friend and mentor. He let us watch his show several times and explained to us everything he was doing. He spent the day with Barbara and me, answering all our questions and telling us what the life of a stage magician is like. He recommended classic books on magic and lots of other resources, including plenty of really great sites on the Internet where I could learn about the magic business and buy books and videos.  I also subscribed to Magic Magazine for 2 years. That magazine is full of secrets and advice for magicians, a remarkable resource. I even learned how to do a few magic tricks, but of course that skill has quickly faded because to be a magician takes devoted practice.

Sure. I even managed to amaze some of my worship team by making a half dollar appear out of nowhere – problem was, I could only do it once, and after that I fumbled it. So I learned how to do a few tricks, but I never practiced enough to do them well. I really admire a skilled magician for all the practice they have to put in to make a trick work.

4. Illusion is, in part, a love story. In what ways does the story reflect your own marriage, your own love story?

 I suppose the love story in Illusion reflects my own marriage, my own love story in how love can endure, deepen, and take on such a transcendent meaning over time. I guess the love that Barbara and I have for each other can only be expressed by writing a story.

5. Many of my blog readers are writers. What advice would you offer aspiring novelists?

Know what you’re doing. It’s not enough to want to write a book. You have to devote yourself to learning the writing craft, knowing all the nuts and bolts, rules and fundamentals of good fiction writing. I’ve often heard would-be writers advised to “never give up,” but that’s the worst thing you can tell somebody who has no skill, no knowledge of how it’s to be done. That person can never give up, and consequently waste his/her whole life producing unmarketable material. Know what you’re doing.

Bonus: leave a comment below, telling us which of Frank Peretti’s books is your favorite (and why), and one reader will be selected to win a free copy of Illusion. You must leave your comment before midnight tonight.