10/25/2006

BECKY'S TINY NOTEBOOK

Rebecca LuElla Miller is an author and promoter of Biblical fantasy. I think she's my lost twin. Becky and I have been networking over the last two weeks, and we'll be uniting our Bib-spec-fic efforts. We'll be launching On Spec, a genre specific cooperative newsletter packed with weekly real-time news. Watch for group e-mail and blog updates as CSFF merges with the LGG. 100% chance of brainstorms.

NOTE: Rebecca will stop by Thursday night to reply to any questions, so ask away, and check back later.

* * *

LGG: Let's go deep early. What in your life has been the inspiration and motivation for writing Biblical speculative fiction?

Becky: Unlike a number of other Christian science fiction and fantasy (CSFF) writers, I did not cut my reading teeth on the genre, apart from standard fairy tales. I became a fan when, just out of college, I read The Hobbit, followed by The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Soon thereafter, though I don't remember the order I devoured the Narnia series, Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, Richard Adams' Watership Down, and finally Stephen R. Donaldson's two Thomas Covenant trilogies.

The last turned me into a writer. I couldn't believe that Donaldson took Covenant to the point of belief, then had him walk away. But through those books, I caught a glimpse of what a Christian might do with fantasy. Soon thereafter I read some disappointing attempts which made me believe I couldn't do worse. Of course, I had no idea how much I had to learn. (And, to my horror now, I stopped reading fantasy because I didn't want to copy, even unintentionally).

LGG: I must ask about your experience at the Biola Writer's Institute. Christians turn to skeptics when they hear what we write. What happened to you that day?

Becky: As part of this idea to write, I attended the Biola Writer's Institute held a mile away from where I taught. Held in the summer. It was tailor made for a Christian schoolteacher. I wouldn't have housing and transportation costs, plus I was only available for such an experience during the summer.

To my first ever conference, I brought pages from the beginning of my novel, typed on easy-erase paper, a kind of flimsy, see-through paper that has disappeared from use. And yet, I was not sure novel writing was the thing to do. After all, there were articles. There were devotionals. I attended a smattering of classes on all subjects.

Somewhere during those three days, I got alone with God and handed my writing over to Him, really asked Him what He wanted me to do. Could I finish the story, "should" I finish the story, would I find a publisher for it? Out of that time, I came away with reassurance that I was to write the story, and let God worry about whether or not it would ever be published.

LGG: How has journalism and editing Bryan Davis' work shaped your own fiction?

Becky: Journalism has helped me be a tighter writer, and writing to deadline, as nerve-wracking as it is, teaches me to fulfill my writing responsibilities on time.

Editing has made me more aware of my own tendencies because it puts me in ultra-critical mode. After finishing an editing project (I also edit for another writer, unpublished), I see the same things in my writing that I just suggested changes for in theirs.

Basically it makes me think about the things an editor must think about. Character motivations, character individuation, scene clarity, sentence structure variation, repetition, pacing—so many things that go into writing well.

LGG: The past five years have seen more Biblical fantasy from traditional houses than the last three decades combined. What's facilitated this change?

Becky: This is nothing but my opinion, of course. I think all of Christian fiction has expanded. Brandilyn Collins broke some new ground with her Christian suspense, and that seemed like a signal for publishers to try what had not been tried before.

Unfortunately, CSFF seems to be fiction's ugly stepsister: tolerated but not sought after.

If CBA trends followed societal trends, CSFF would be much more in demand. Some of us believe there will be a point of 'catch up' when the CBA houses realize the potential and the market appeal.

LGG: It's wonderful to meet someone so driven in promoting our lost genre. This so intrudes on our writing time—why do you do it?

Becky: I, along with a number of other American Christian Fiction Writers who hang out in the SFF thread at the ACFW discussion board, realized that we could accept the false premise that CSFF was not popular (as opposed to not published), or we could do our part to reverse the perception.

One of our members continues to remind us of the importance of prayer for the agents and editors making the decisions and for the writers with CSFF books out there. I think that is far more important than any of the promotional efforts, but I also think what we're doing with the team blog and the blog tour is an outgrowth of our prayers.

LGG: We must "master the craft" and the Web offers many great tools; what great wisdom can you share about breaking into the industry?

Becky: Hahah! You're asking someone who has not broken into the industry yet.

I don't know how much wisdom these thoughts hold, but here's my take on breaking in. I am responsible to do all that God brings to me. I must be diligent to learn the craft, take the time to meet and learn from others who have gone on before, exercise perseverance, withstand rejection, and still, I may never be published.

That part is God's doing. As is selling well. I've recently heard repeated the statement that no one really knows or can predict why one book, one author takes off and another languishes.

We study craft books, we read classics, we surrender our writing to critique groups and critique partners. But what does an editor see? What will a pub board of marketers and sellers think? What other books will that particular house be considering? What are the sales figures for their last fantasy? Are they looking to expand the genre? These, and so many other questions, are completely out of my control.

Just not out of God's control.

This CSFF writing, for me, is much like being in Gideon's army. God keeps whittling down the troops, also there will be no doubt the victory is His. BUT, I might be one of the soldiers sent home. I have no way of knowing how God wants to use my writing, just that I am to write.

LGG: You've a great story about your first Bib-spec-fic work. You may have left it behind, but did you keep that first tiny spiral notebook?

Becky: You have me chuckling again. I left that book behind and, if memory serves, I did finally chuck that tiny spiral notebook. I have a rule that I do not throw away my writing, but I don't think I had enough of a story that I could call my own. It was something about four children finding their way into another world, through a closet, I think. Hahah. OK, I added the closet just now, but you get the idea. Not real original in that early effort.

LGG: Thanks for taking this time to network. We look forward to unifying our tiny cells’ tasks in the body of Christ.

Becky: Frank, thanks for the opportunity to make an official appearance here at the Lost Genre Guild. I am stunned, thrilled, overjoyed to discover this like-minded group of writers. I'm also looking forward to what God might wish to do in the future through some collaboration between Spec Faith, the CSFF Blog Tour, and you all in the Guild.

On our end, we've seen exciting growth from the first group of thirteen or fourteen of us blogging back in May about the Focus on Fantasy page in Christian Fiction Review, to the fifty or so writers in our CSFF Blog Tour database.

My focus now is shifting slightly. I want to explore ways our efforts can translate into sales for the authors whose books are on the shelves. Because we are in a business, publishers will be more apt to pay attention to sales numbers than to Technorati ratings, as nice as it is to see the books we feature, soar to the top of the Most Popular Books list.

But as far as beginnings go, I think we have made a good beginning, by God's grace. I have a sense that He has big things in store for us. Maybe in Heaven (I think we'll get to continue writing about His victory). Maybe here on earth.

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Christian Fantasy
rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/
specfaith.ritersbloc.com/
csffblogtour.com/

7 comments:

Elliot said...

Hurray for networking!

I was hoping something like this would happen, when I realized that Spec Faith and Lost Genre were developing along parallel tracks.

More power to you.

Daniel I Weaver said...

Rebecca, thanks so much for taking the time to work with Frank. I've enjoyed your posts at Speculative Faith and love that all of our little communities are finding each other. A lot of great information here, as well.

God Bless,
Dan
www.danieliweaver.com

Valerie Comer said...

We are stronger together than alone. Soon there will be a mighty band of us marching forward with a united battle cry. Er...metaphorically speaking, of course...

TS said...

Rebecca, excellent words.
I'll keep a watch out for you. I know you wouldn't want to go outside of God's timing, but I can always pray that he will hurry it up!

blessings,
Marvin

Mirtika said...

Becky's notebook may have been tiny, but her heart and her faith are huge. And this interview just makes me proud I hooked up with her.

I love the Lost Genre Guild, and networking with you guys is an honor, and I think it will up our effectiveness.

Now, who's got the compass this week?

Mir

Becky said...

Thanks for each of your comments.

I appreciate the opportunity to share common ground with LGG.

I agree, Valerie--definitely stronger together, much like a cord of three strands.

Marvin, thanks for your prayers, though I don't know as God's ever slow. ;-)

Becky

The Curmudgeon's Rant said...

Great interview!