I am an author and teacher with a BA in Asian Studies and a MDiv in Bibilcal Languages who currently resides overseas with my family serving as teachers and living witnesses of our faith. I have been an avid Fantasy and Science Fiction fan for over thirty years and have now turned my cross-cultural experience to the task of blending Fantasy fiction with a biblical worldview in this new series which mixes the Fantasy storytelling elements of Chronicles of Narnia with the personal spiritual journey elements of Pilgrim’s Progress.
Please tell me about your novel. Who or what was your inspiration behind it?
I have been a fantasy and science fiction fan since I was old enough to read. While these days, living and teaching overseas, I have had many opportunities to travel the world, but growing up in a poor family in rural North Carolina, the furthest I had been from our little home town was our once a year vacations to Myrtle Beach. Books were my way to travel, not just to faraway places, but to travel in time, to span the galaxy, and to visit new worlds. Books were my portal outside the boundaries of my small hometown. I had toyed with writing fantasy, some short stories, even started a novel or two, I had never really finished or submitted anything for publication. Then, I became a Christian late in life, I was 39 at the time, and after becoming a Christian I really struggled between my desire to write the genre I loved, and the compelling call to teach the truth of God’s word and to share the gospel with the world. For six years I put my writing aside not sure if I would ever pick it up again, but I kept praying that God would show me a way to reconcile these two things. The answer came as God brought me an idea for a series grounded in a backstory which was anchored in Scripture, but which went in a speculative direction. I took great care and even engaged ministers and missionaries as beta-reader for my stories with the instruction that if they saw me write anything that crossed the lines biblically, they were to call me on it. The result is a trilogy called the Chadash Chronicles. The first book is titled Fool’s Errand and the second is Mystic’s Mayhem, both of which are available now through Tate Publishing and in February should be in full distribution in bookstores and on Amazon.
What do you do when you are not writing? Do you pick up some from you to be read pile?
I actually read voraciously when I am and am not writing. I believe to be a credible author, one has to be an avid reader. I do have one odd quirk in this, though. When I am writing, I have to be reading something in the same genre, otherwise it is hard for me to switch mental gears when I sit down to write. When I am not writing, I can read several different books in different genres at the same time no problem, but writing I have to stay in the “zone” of that genre or else I waste a great deal of time getting my mind back into the right mindset for writing the genre I am working on.
What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?
I am probably a bit strange in this, as I don’t really limit to just one or two genres. I enjoy a widespread variety and like to mix in reads or re-reads of classic literature with contemporary fiction. I divide these, when talking to my daughter about her reading list, into “meat and potatoes” books, and “Snickers Bar books”. She earns one “Snickers” for every three “meat and potatoes” literary novels she reads. I try to set a similar example, though I expand the definition of “classic literature” to include the masters and pioneers of Sci-Fi and Fantasy because they are written in just as solid a literary style as the classics, but are from a genre she and I both enjoy. I think good writing is a key element in my enjoying a book. Some have argued that a “good story” is more important, but I would say if you have the best story in the world, but tell it poorly, the result is not an enjoyable book. Quality writing is equally as important as having a quality story concept.
Did you get to quit your day job and become an author or do you still have a day job and writing is something you do for fun? If you still have a day job, what is it?
My family and I live and serve overseas as witnesses to our faith. We serve in a closed country in Asia, so I can’t really talk too much or be too specific, but I will just say the Lord has granted us an amazing opportunity to live overseas, teach English while I am there, but also in our spare time be blessed with the opportunity to share my faith through writing as well as directly and personally with the people we live among.
We all have our little things when it comes to reading, is there anything that bugs you when you read a novel? What is it?
Probably the biggest thing that bothers me is when an author violates logic or is inconsistent or unrealistic in their writing. Now that may sound strange coming from someone who writes about Fantasy creature, elves, orcs, etc. I don’t mean in the speculative elements, I mean in the areas where they are basing things on real world physics, but don’t get it right. Like when they have their characters take a several weeks long journey through the desert, but make no mention of the provisions for feeding and watering the horses or themselves. Or when they have adventurers on horseback make a 300 mile journey in three days. Under good conditions, with proper provisions and rest, you can get maybe 50 miles per day out of a horse without pushing it too far. Specially conditioned or trained horses might get a bit more than that, but this is not a fantasy element where the writer is having characters flying on the backs of dragons or something, this is real world physics. When an author doesn’t care enough to check the details and at least try to help his readers achieve that “willing suspension of disbelief” that is so critical to enjoyable fiction, then it usually is a book I won’t finish and will move on to the next one, marking that author off my “read more works from…” list.
What genre are you most looking forward to exploring during your writing career? Why?
Well, as I said, Fantasy and Sci-Fi are my beloved genres. I have just finished writing the third book in my fantasy trilogy, but there is much editing and preparation before I decide where/how I will publish it. Much of that will depend on the critical reception of the first two books. I have on my radar an epic Sci-Fi/Superheros series which I think will be a really fun project. That should be starting soon. I am also currently working through a noir detective novel for National Novel Writing Month. I really wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo as there are a number of aspects I don’t like about that method of encouraging fast, bulk writing over quality wordcrafting, but my daughter wanted to do it, so I agreed to do it with her. The noir novel was something I had way out on my radar, but it was the only project idea I had that would fit what I needed for NaNoWriMo. Thus far, it has been a great stretch and a fun adventure in writing, as I am a huge fan of the classic noir detective novels by masters of the genre such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, so this is my attempt at an homage to those classing noir adventure mysteries. The final thing on my radar is taking a shot at the Steampunk genre. I have an idea on the “to do” board for a Steampunk novel/series that will take place in Qing Dynasty China (which overlaps in part Victorian England). With my degree in Asian Studies and my knowledge of Chinese history, I think this will be a really neat project to work on.
Who was your current novel dedicated to? Any particular reason?
First and foremost it is dedicated to God, who saved me and answered my prayer with the concept for the series. Secondly it is dedicated to my daughter Ariel, who has been a constant cheerleader and source of encouragement through this process. As a result, she has taken up her own enthusiastic love of writing and has started work on her own Young Adult Fantasy novel. Lord willing, we will become a father-daughter writing team and may even at some point collaborate on something.
Who are your favorite authors?
While most of the masters of Sci-Fi and Fantasy were outspoken atheists, they were also masterful authors with creative minds that are worthy of admiration. I do like Christian masters such as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and also writers who many people may not realize were Christians but who are among the classic masters of Fantasy and Sci-Fi such as Madeleine L’Engle (Anglican), Marion Zimmer Bradley (Episcopalian), Philip K. Dick (Episcopalian), and Jules Verne (Catholic). There are also incredible authors like Isaac Asimov (raised Jewish, became atheist), Robert Heinlein (raised Baptist, became atheist), and Fritz Leiber (raised Jewish, became Neo-Pagan) who are fantastic authors for their writing and creativity, but who, at the time of their writing, were not believers. While I now tend to lean toward Christian, or at least “Christian-friendly” authors, I do respect these other authors for the amazing work in Fantasy and Science Fiction that helped to spark a love of the genre in me.
What authors inspired you to write this particular novel? Why?
I would say the authors that probably most heavily influenced the style of my Chadash Chronicles series would be C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Fritz Leiber. I love Leiber’s swashbuckling style and how his heroes often have to think their way out of things rather than just swinging a sword to solve the problem (though there is plenty of that as well). I like Tolkien’s deep and rich worldbuilding, which I believe is one of my strengths as an author. Finally Lewis bringing his faith into the work, at least allegorically, was inspirational, though I would like to think I was a little more direct and less allegorical with how I worked faith into my novels, without taking it to the point of being preachy. Faith is a clear element in several of the characters’ lives, and I don’t shy away from that, but I hope it is presented in a natural way, and how they interact with the unbelieving characters in the books I hope can be a mirror or model for real-life Christian readers as perhaps a guide to how to talk about their faith naturally without being pushy or offensive.
Which is your favorite character in your book and why?
I would have to say Thatcher. He has a lot of aspects of myself when I was a teenager. Thatcher is an orphan who has been raised in the thieves’ guild. He is a “street rat” that has had to learn to survive, but he is also clever with a love for gadgets. He in fact is quite an inventor himself, and always carries a little notebook where he is constantly scribbling ideas. The first book takes this city-raised street kid out into the wider world of adventure where he uses his skills with gadgets and stealth as part of a group of adventurers hired to investigate bandit raids. He quickly forms familial-like bonds with several of the other characters, and seeing Thatcher grow and develop into a competent and confident adventurer I think is one of my favorite parts of the whole series. Thatcher is a character I created around thirty years ago, and have toyed with in various stories as an adult, but I took him in this story back to the beginning and showed how he got into adventuring and began to learn the skills necessary to become a true hero.
Pam, I am grateful for the opportunity to talk with you and let your blog readers know a little more about me and about the Chadash Chronicles series novels I have just published, Fool’s Errand and Mystic’s Mayhem, from Tate Publishing, which are available now from the publisher and should be in full distribution in bookstores and Amazon by early February, 2014.