What is your motivation for writing?
As cliché a response as this is, the reason I’m a writer is because I have to.
I’ve “lived in my head” ever since I could remember, coming up with one fantasy after another. It was always about stories to me and when I was old enough to realize one could making a living “making stuff up,” I started to pursue that route. My first intention was to be a comic book artist. I even went to school for it but when that school didn’t fulfill their end of the bargain by not teaching us all they had promised (and charged us a life savings for it to boot), I switched my attention to the written word, at the time bitter toward anything “artistic.” That was back in early-to-mid 2000 and I’ve been writing seriously since. I began publishing in 2003.
Why do you write biblical speculative fiction?
Biblical speculative fiction is a new venue for me and I’m relatively new at it with three Christian pieces to my name in that genre. My first was the first novel my Ark of Light series entitled The Way of the Fog. That was published in June 2005, with the second novel due out December 2007. Since then I’ve done only two Bic-spec-fic novelettes, one called "The Last Gentile," which is unpublished, the other being "Undeniable," which will appear in the Light at the Edge of Darkness anthology sometime in 2007.
My goal with writing Biblical speculative fiction is, the Lord willing, to make Jesus “cool” again, and by that I mean to show others that Jesus isn’t just some Guy who acts and lives at a distance from us and is the focal point of “religion,” but rather is the One who can be up close and personal if we let Him, and we can have a personal relationship with Someone who is God, who has an incredibly interesting history, and has a depth to Him that no other figure in history (both past, present and future) has.
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?
The real issue, to me, is not so much the label of “speculative fiction,” but rather what’s contained within that fiction. On the surface, most Christians think that if a book or short story doesn’t have a “Christian” label, it’s suddenly off limits. But these are also the same people who enjoy Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, both of which are clearly stories that don’t talk about Jesus or the Bible or whatnot.
I think that Christian fiction and speculative fiction are very compatible in that speculative fiction provides an “other worldly” venue to express one’s Christian views. There’s no shame in doing a sci-fi novel which features a Christian crew on a starship and aliens (even though aliens—intelligent ones, anyway, for who knows what types of creatures lurk on other worlds?—aren’t “Biblically correct”). The issue is the message. What are you promoting? If you’re doing fantasy and are promoting magic, then you’ve got a problem as the Bible states that magic is off limits and who are you to lead others astray. However, if you’re doing fantasy and using allegory (i.e. Chronicles of Narnia) then you’re all right. Same with horror and the supernatural. Are you glorifying evil or are you portraying supernatural evil as it really is but also showing the flipside, and that is Christ’s power over it?
I think the problem—and this is a blanket statement—most Christians have with speculative fiction is that they really don’t know what the story is about but since it’s secular (or secularly labeled), they automatically give it a bad rap. We live in a society where believers and unbelievers alike base their opinions and thoughts on a particular form of entertainment solely on what others say is good or bad. I like to challenge individuals to make decisions for themselves. Does a story interest you? Then check it out. In a believer’s case, if the book jacket contains something that you know Jesus Himself wouldn’t look at then set it back down.
It’s a fine line because the Bible also says that we as believers should not do anything that might cause another brother to stumble. This can also be extended to unbelievers who are watching our every move (which is what happens when you confess Christ, and if you err like all humans do, you’re suddenly a hypocrite for doing so as most unbelievers don’t understand that Christians are sinful by nature, too, and just because we believe in Christ it doesn’t make our choices perfect; the issue for us, of course, is are we trying to be like the Master or are we still stuck in the world).
What length of fiction do you prefer to write?
I prefer to write novel-length fiction hands down, the reason being is I’m long-winded and my stories tend to be too complicated to fit in, say, a mere short tale. Most of my work, novel-wise, is 80,000 words up to as high as 236,000 words.
What writing techniques work best for you in terms of character, plot, setting development?
I don’t have a particular writing method other than making myself a cup of coffee before each sitting and smoking a cigarette (bad habit, I know, one I’m trying to kick) before I sit down to type. I use that “quiet time” to think about where the story is going next. The most I do in terms of planning ahead is if I get an idea for a cool scene, I’ll jot it down. I will only include that scene, however, if the story tells me that that scene should be included. I’m very much a believer in the story knowing what’s best and letting it take you where it will instead of me taking it where I think it should go. I’ve found that my best work comes from me “letting go” and letting the story do all the work. My job is merely to type down what I see in my head as the ideas come.
Have you had any life experiences that have influenced your writing?
This is a question that really demands a book-length answer. In short, yes. All writers write what they know. For me, I tend to write about circumstances that I’ve been through albeit changed to suit the course of my story. I’ve been hurt by other women prior to getting married and so these feelings of pain and “where was God?” have made it into my earlier work. I’ve had my share of frustrations with this business and so if I write a story featuring a writer as a character, I get to vent what I think is unfair about this business behind the veil of fiction.
I tend to use my work as a kind of commentary on what I feel is right and wrong with the world. These sorts of themes and ideas just come out almost subconsciously and rarely have I said, “Okay, in this book I want to explore such-and-such a theme.” I mean, I have done it but I’ve also realized that theme is more by accident than on purpose and is something you pick up on when you’re doing your subsequent drafts of a manuscript.
Any advice for new writers in general? Christian writers?
The same as you hear from everyone else: write a lot and read a lot. Be sure to write every day. You can’t dream of being a writer. Either you write or you don’t. There’s no in between.
When do you write?
I write in the evenings or super late at night. When working on a project, I do 1500+ words a day, 5-6 days a week. I don’t edit while I’m doing the first draft otherwise I’d probably never get past the first chapter. I just spill it all out first then worry about the mess I made later.
I write in my office at home. It used to be that when I was done a book, I’d take it to the Perkins down the road and do my edits there (I always edit longhand), but since getting married and having a kid, now my edits are confined to the bedroom, lying on my back on the bed and editing 50 or so pages per “lying.”
Do you do any research for your writing?
Not really. All my work takes place in my home city of Winnipeg so I know the place very well. If I’m not sure how to spell a street name but know where it is, during my second or third draft I’ll take the car out for a ride and find out. Likewise with any police procedures. I have no problem walking up to a cop at Tim Horton’s and asking him/her about what protocol says they should do in a particular circumstance.
Who do you think would most likely enjoy your fiction?
Lately, with Axiom-man, it’s been comic book fans and closet superhero geeks. As to why they enjoy it, that’s pretty self-explanatory. As for my more supernatural stuff, namely horror fans or those who enjoy religious tales without in-your-face preaching. Most people (unbelievers) don’t have a problem with religiously-themed supernatural horror. They only have a problem when confronted with Gospel.
Do your stories/ novels have any common themes or threads? Do you try to provide a message for your readers?
A strong sense of good versus evil, I would say. Though all novels have some kind of “good versus evil” element, my stories tend to be disguised superhero tales when I’m not dealing with men in spandex specifically, and so have a very much clear cut view of the good guy(s) and the bad guy(s). Even my fantasy novel, The Way of the Fog, though it doesn’t feature guys in tights, it’s clearly a superhero novel in a medieval-like setting.
What can you tell us about your story included in Light at the Edge of Darkness?
It’s called "Undeniable" and it’s about a man who is captured in communist China and is brutally tortured in the hopes that he’ll deny the Lord. The reason I wrote it—and wrote it fairly graphically—was to pose the question both to myself and to the reader: how much would you endure for Christ? It’s easy to say, like Peter had, that we’d go with Jesus to the death. But what if you were actually faced with it? What if each moment of every day was pure agony? Would you be tempted to deny Him so you could have some relief? Would you keep your eternal perspective at all costs?
I also included a supernatural element to the story as I’ve always been curious as to what goes on behind the “curtain of the natural.” In the story, we get to see the angelic and demonic influence in the torture room and perhaps answer the question as to why God would allow His servants to undergo brutality when He could clearly put a stop to it if He wanted to.
It’s a long story, about 11,000 words, about twice what I intended, but—again, listening to the story—that’s what it took to make the reader care about the characters undergoing the torture, so much so that the reader him/herself will also feel their pain and so ask themselves if they are truly ready to undergo real and true suffering for Christ or not. And in these last days, that’s a serious question we all need to ask ourselves.
In His service,
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Posted by cyn at 9:02 AM