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New York Times Bestselling Author Returns to Regent

By Brett Wilson | May 15, 2013

Charles Martin, '00 (Communication & the Arts) reads an excerpt from his latest book, Unwritten.

Nearly 13 years have passed since author and alumnus Charles Martin '00 (Communication & the Arts) crossed the threshold of Regent University. But, the author of nine books remembers all too well his journey from unpublished writer with a "pipedream" to seeing his books land on the New York Times bestseller list.

"Being published is a whole lot better than being unpublished," Martin told Regent faculty, staff and students at the Regent University Library on Monday, May 6. Martin, on a book tour promoting his latest novel, Unwritten—which released Tuesday, May 7—explained that the message of his newest work of fiction is "cracked and broken cups can pour water, too."

Martin recalled a time in his life when he was as "broken" as he has ever been. Martin had an unfulfilled desire in his heart and an unpublished manuscript in his drawer. Upon leaving Regent with his Ph.D. in Communication, Martin began working for an insurance company.

"It was kind of my tent-making period of time," said Martin. "During the day I was a mild-mannered insurance salesman, and at night I wrote."

His "mild-mannered" insurance-selling ability caught the attention of his superiors, and he was offered a promotion with a six-figure salary. Martin was conflicted. Though the money was certainly something to consider, he knew the dream of having one of his own books on the shelves at Barnes & Noble would be over. Martin remembers his wife, Christy, encouraging him after a weekend of praying about the job offer.

"She said, 'we're going to do this, and we're going to do it all out; I don't want you to be 40 years old and tell me what you could have been,'" said Martin.

Martin resolved not to take the high-paying position, and continued to write. What kept him "getting up out of bed every morning" was a yellow post-it note stuck to his keyboard that read "126." The number represented the number of times F. Scott Fitzgerald's original manuscript of This Side of Paradise was rejected before it was published.

"I thought, 'When I get there, I'll stop,'" said Martin. "And when I got to 86, I was pretty close to stopping."

Soon after, with a recommendation from a fellow writer, Martin received a phone call from a publisher interested in his first book, The Dead Don't Dance. His 87th rejection letter never came.

"I don't know if my neighbors have ever gotten over the dance I did around the outside of my house that day," said Martin, laughing.

And though Martin finally saw his last name on the spine of a novel in bookstores, his rejections weren't over. His manuscript rejections, after being published, hurt even more.

"See, you hear things like 'New York Times best-seller,' but getting here wasn't easy," said Martin. "And I don't know if I could do it all over again if I had to—it was painful."

Though every page of his book "empties" him to write, Martin is assured, not in his identity as a writer, but as a follower of Christ.

"God didn't call me to be a writer, he called me to be His faithful son," said Martin. "Don't put 'writer' on my tombstone; put 'Charles, servant of Jesus Christ. Period.'"

Learn more about the School of Communication & the Arts and Regent University Library.


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