Interview with author Adam Graham

What is your motivation for writing?

I write because it’s what I’m truly the best at. One reason that a lot of people don’t end up writing that novel they dream of is that writing’s really not their calling, it’s really not their thing. Thus, writing the novel goes on the list of things they’d like to do, like being a fireman. For me, it’s a passion and something that I believe I was born to do.

The first time I remember writing anything, I was just past my 9th birthday, and was jotting down an idea for a Superman-Batman crossover.

For me, going to Community College was key and my instructor in English Composition helped me to realize where my talent lie and encouraged me in my writing.

Why do you write Biblical speculative fiction?

I’ve always had an interest in this type of thing. There’s just not been a name for it before. Really, speculative fiction, but whatever name you call it, gives you an opportunity to tell the most amazing stories. I grew up in a household where Sci-Fi was big. I saw Star Trek, Star Wars, the Last Star Fighter, and a list of movies so long it boggles the mind. I’ve been a big fan of superheroes all my life as well. I also loved the twist and turns of the old Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes.

So, of course these would be the type of stories I’d love to tell.

The Christian community has varying opinions on the appropriateness of speculative fiction. Can you explain your take on the compatibility between speculative fiction and your Christian worldview?

I think it’s absolutely compatible and is really a Mars Hill issue for Christian, where you’re speaking to culture in a language that they understand. I see no inherent conflict between the two. The conflict comes with us. As writers, we’ve got a responsibility. People, both secular and religious, sit down and read novels and things of that sort, not to be informed, but to let their guards down and enjoy a diversion. There’s an incredible power with that. I believe that every story out there has the ability to either guide people away from truth, or lead them to it. I don’t believe every piece we write has to be explicitly Christian, but it should not lead people the wrong way. I believe every story people read will either draw them closer to God and Truth, or lead them further away from it. Which a story does is a question each writer has to answer for themselves and give an account to God on.

What length of fiction do you prefer to write?

I’ve got to say that I enjoy the Short Story. I’ve written drafts of 5 novels (one of which thankfully will never see the light of day) and it’s absolutely grueling. When I have a short story idea, in a few sittings I can finish a first draft, some in just one. I’m in idea person, not a process person.

What writing techniques work best for you?

My best writing technique is that I avoid sharing “What’s next?” with my wife or anyone else whose reading a novel or longer short story. It seems to dampen my own enthusiasm when I let too much out of the bag. I remain in full control of the information until I put it on the page. I’m great at drafting a story. I know what I want to write in simple terms and have been known to pound a decent short story out in three hours. Then I work through the numerous problems with the first draft afterwards (and Andrea takes care of what I miss). Unless it’s a real obvious issue, I don’t get bogged down in editing until the manuscript’s done. My greatest secret is having a wife who graciously makes up for my deficiencies.

Have you had any life experiences that have influenced your writing?

Different events from my life inspired many of the stories and novels I’ve written. A few examples:

I grew up around people who were on the fringe of the Pentecostal movement and then as I grew up, I heard from people who had been more mainstream in that movement and the stories they told inspired me to write, “Two Sides of the Hill:” a novel about an old dying Pentecostal minister.

What I learned of the Financial Sector in my current job helped inspire a couple elements of my novel, “Super Hero.” My writing is more influenced by things I see rather than things that happened to me.

Any advice for new writers in general? Christian writers?

Listen to advice from writers who do it for a living.

When do you write? How often? In any particular environments?

“Whenever I can” answers questions one and two, and it’s several times a day. I don’t get as much time to work on my fiction, which is frustrating at times, but there are only so many hours in a day.

Do you do any research for your writing?

Generally, I research stories in the middle of the story. Before I draft a scene, I want to make sure that it’s fairly accurate. On Two Sides of the Hill, I came to a point where the main character is a POW in a Japanese POW camp, so I’d better know a thing or two about them. I wanted him to escape, but I found out that the Japanese Army grouped the POWs into groups of ten. If one man escaped, the other nine would die. So, the hero has to escape the camp with nine other men. This gave me the idea of making several of the men weak from their imprisonment so that some need to be carried around by the healthy soldiers.

Adam, you mentioned you enjoy writing satire. For people like myself who thoroughly enjoy good satire, please tell us a bit about your book, The Screwtape Reports?

Those who know me well, know that I’m politically conservative. The idea for the Screwtape Reports came in 2003 during some great frustration with my fellow conservatives. I thought principle was going to be betrayed and that there would be a huge price paid for it. I thought that if liberals and secularists themselves were writing our playbook, we couldn’t possibly do worse, but no one would listen to my warnings.

It was then that the idea of writing from the perspective of a liberal strategist in the style of CS Lewis’ Screwtape occurred to me. The reaction was amazing. I posted it on Internet forums and those who missed the satire warning attacked me vigorously (and thus I found out who didn’t read to the bottom of the article.) Screwtape is writing to fellow liberals, so he’s patently honest. His writing tweaks both conservatives and liberals. My point in the series was to get Conservatives to think, while also still having a character that liberals with a sense of humor could enjoy as well.

After 2004, I took Screwtape’s 22 Reports and wrote 10 new articles including letters to incoming and outgoing members of Congress, a speech to the College of College Professors, and a 7-part Screwtape Seminar and put them together in a self-published book which has sold a couple dozen copies.

In many ways, Screwtape came not only to represent the worst of liberalism, but the worst of both parties. He says the top priorities of members of Congress is “To get re-elected and to raise money to get re-elected” and is absolutely right. He also isn’t all bad as he far exceeds most political leaders in honesty.

I haven’t written much Screwtape in recent years. It is a mental gymnastics exercise to try and communicate backwards what you want say forwards and to praise what you want to condemn in order to show it for what it is, all while keeping that subtle element of humor. Still, I’ve found an occasion or two to use Screwtape. Last year, I wrote a piece on those people who always quote only one or two scriptures and take them out of context. Plus there was eerily accurate prediction of last November’s election Screwtape made in 2005.

The Screwtape Reports
The Screwtape Reports
By Adam Graham

Screwtape: The Liberal King James Version

Dave Screwtape Presents the Republican

Do your stories/ novels have any common themes or threads? Do you try to provide a message for your readers?

I wouldn’t say there’s any common theme in my stories. I always have a message behind the story, but it’s never the same. “Benoni” was written in the wake of 9/11 and reminded people that God is still there and cares about us. “The Storm” is a story about the value of children and parental love. “Understanding” deals with not only the abortion issue, but the danger of college students being caught up in thinking all wisdom comes from college. There’s not a point in my writing where there isn’t a message, but the message never comes at the price of the plot and other elements.

What can you tell us about “Your Average Ordinary Alien” and “The Agent”, included in Light at the Edge of Darkness?

“Your Average Ordinary Alien” was inspired by reading about how religiously some people take the alien/sci-fi thing. Many truly believe that aliens will come down and solve all of our problems and bring us the secrets of universe. I decided to play with this concept by having our hero encounter an alien that’s all too ordinary.

The idea for the story also came from the fact that I expected a very serious compilation and “Your Average Ordinary Alien” is certainly a break from that.

“The Agent” is an idea I’ve had for quite some time. I’ve noted that some books with questionable (or anti-Christian) content become best-sellers that aren’t even good reading. I wondered how they get published and had the idea for “The Agent” : one man who could get your book published, no matter how poorly it was written (for a price.)

So far the focus has been on your fiction writing, but you are better known for your political pieces: where are these articles found, is there a common theme, who is your audience?

RenewAmerica.us is probably the best place to read my full weekly articles. Even though I’m not paid there, Stephen Stone does an excellent job of making the site look professional. My blog (www.adamsweb.us/blog) has more of my daily thoughts and comments on the news as it happens.

I would say that my main points in writing and blogging are:

1) Hope: Many people don’t see what they can do to make a difference. The political process is viewed as entirely irredeemable. As long as people think nothing will change, nothing will.

2) Issues: Though much focus is made on candidates and political news, you’d be surprised how little commentary on the Internet is dedicated to the actual issues. Though, I’ve at times gotten away from it during election season, or some other time in my life, I like talking about ideas and agendas, and ways to be a better country.

3) The Candidate being attacked: The last few years I’ve found October and November to be exhilarating and often frustrating months as I fight for candidates who have no other defenders. In 2005, it was Brandi Swindell, a Boise City Council Candidate who was savaged by the local paper. For the vast majority of the campaign in 2006, I found myself the sole online defender of Congressional Candidate Bill Sali against a far greater number of bloggers. Sometimes, I think God has created me for the tough campaigns when no one else will stand up to help the good people who run and are being attacked mercilessly for it. Sometimes, the result is victory, sometimes defeat, but in the end I’m always confident that I’ve done the right thing.

You have a “podcast?” What is a podcast and what is your’s about?

Great question. When I say I have a podcast, most people pretend to know what I’m talking about, but don’t. In brief, podcasts are audio recordings that are available to be downloaded onto I-pods or other mobile devices as well as your PC. With a Podcast tool such as the (free I-Podder) you can put in a feed address for a favorite podcast and whenever a new episode is ready it will download on your computer.

My podcast has become about much the same thing as my writing, particularly in regards to hope. My show is practical and focuses on the question, “What can you do?” I encourage people to think about issues and figure out how they can help fix the problem, rather than constantly complaining about it. (That’s the part most of us are good at.)

I do four live podcasts most weeks over on the Talkshoe network (with my Truth and Hope Report at 9 PM ET Monday-Wednesday and a special late night show Sunday Morning at 1 am ET.) I also do a recorded five minute podcast every weekday morning. If you want to listen to the recording, you can go to http://www.adamsweb.blogspot.com/.


chrisd said...

It is a wonderful thing to be sure of one's calling as Adam is! That's terrific.

You seem to be fully untilizing all the resources available to you, too, Adam. Good for you! God has given you wisdom at a young age--you will only grow in wisdom and knowledge.

Great interview!

Deborah Cullins Smith said...

I applaud your political acumen, Adam. I've just never been able to wade in like you have, aside from showing up to vote. That's a marvelous gift though, and added to your writing talents, you are definitely taking a stand for Christ. I commend you!

Insightful interview! You and Andrea make a great team.


Andrea Graham said...

Thanks, guys. Adam really is awesome :)

Daniel I Weaver said...

A great interview, Adam. I'm really glad you've gotten into that political arena. I've never been able to, but I've been by your site a few times and there's a lot of good stuff going on there.

It's really nice to see that you can balance your political work with your fiction writing. I can't wait to read your submissions in the anthology because I really enjoyed the drafts.

God Bless,
Daniel I Weaver

Andrea Graham said...

We definitely appreciate you dropping by, Dan.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, everyone. Believe me, the fiction is the fun stuff. The politics has its moments. :) And its fun to be able to occassionally rub elbows with the big boys. I've had the honor of having conflicts with some moderately big names in politics. :)