1/11/2007

Interview with author Daniel I Weaver


What is your motivation for writing?

Have you ever seen the classic “A Christmas Story”? If so, this might make you chuckle. My desire to write began as a quest for redemption. Let’s just say, I was not a model student in my middle-school years. Sure, I was smart enough to get by without trying too hard, but I was the class clown. I was the sort of deviant little devil that a substitute teacher might walk into a room, lock eyes with, and groan. At the top of my “Least Favorite Subject List” back in the fourth grade? Yup, you got it . . . English. Oh how I despised English.

Well, I might have been mischievous, but I was also raised in a Christian home and knew how I SHOULD act. That brought a touch of guilt to my antics and fostered a faint desire to make amends with my teacher. That chance came with the fourth grade short story contest! Finally, a chance to endear myself and make up for months of less than model behavior! Oh sweet redemption! Oh how my theme would make my teacher smile!

How was I, a mere boy who spurned the idea of homework, to know that writing a short story might begin a lifelong dream? Would I have ever dreamed that dream if the story had not won the contest by popular student vote? Who can say . . .

Many years later, I have taken that spark of imagination, that tingle of amazement from constructing something out of nothing, and turned it into a tangible dream. Along the way, I encountered more than a handful of important influences.

Of course, first, my parents. They loved to read and write. My grandmother spent her later years as a locally published writer. Mrs. Weakland (aka: the despised English teacher!) encouraged my sudden love of fiction. She even ran another short story contest two years later just so I could win again and reaffirm my life’s direction (ok, maybe that’s not WHY she did it, but it worked!) In college, I had a half dozen professors that helped me realize how much better I could become. Of everyone who ever encouraged me, one Dr. Michelle Mock stands out.

Dr. Mock at the University of Pittsburgh (Johnstown) not only helped develop my writing, she introduced me to critique sessions, a wide variety of creative fiction, and more analytical thinking about the craft. When I started seriously pursuing the idea of publishing a novel, SHE was the one I went to for advice. Guaranteed, on the inside of my first published novel you will see her name.

As for the motivations behind what I do today, my answer will sound very familiar. I honestly believe this is what God has called me to do. I have been blessed with several creative talents (art, songwriting and playing guitar, etc.), but I have known all along what I was meant to do. Nothing ever went quite right for me until I accepted His direction and decided to write.


Why do you write Biblical speculative fiction?

Why not?

Oh . . . you wanted an answer? Ok. Well, I have been writing speculative fiction longer than I have even cared about writing Biblical fiction. Without ever realizing it, I was probably writing Biblical speculative fiction anyway. As a Christian, I refuse to write garbage that I would not want to read, or would not want my children to read when they get older. More importantly, I refuse to write something that I would not be willing to hand to Jesus Christ as a recommended read.


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 know there are those out there who argue that there should not be such a thing as Christian speculative fiction, and there are those out there who argue it is a contradiction in terms, but in reality Biblical speculative fiction is necessary. People are going to write speculative fiction. Christians are going to read it. Why shouldn’t they be able to read something that encourages them or simply does not offend their sense of morality? Why should a Christian have to pass on a great story because the writer had to use gratuitous violence, or vulgarities or explicit sex? And more importantly, shouldn’t Christian writers do their part to show secular audiences that a great story does not have to have those things? If done right, couldn’t a work of Christian fiction plant a seed or show Christianity in a light that might entice a non-believer toward salvation?

I write a wide variety of genres, but they all fall into the speculative fiction umbrella. Most predominately, I write spiritual thrillers and/or horror. Of my submissions to
Light at the Edge of Darkness, you will find two horror stories and one Sci-Fi / horror story. Those are the stories He has laid on my heart. In my experience, I have yet to find a better medium to share a lasting story than a good scare.

Fiction that Scares the Jesus into you. I adopted that tagline (yes, I jumped on the tagline bandwagon) to create curiosity and to lend a hint of insight into what I do. I won’t beat you over the head with Christianity or some moralizing sermon, but you will find many Christian elements in my stories. You will not find the sorts of things that would offend most sensible Christians. (Yes, it is possible to write horror without gratuitous violence.) Personally, I do not see how speculative fiction and Christian fiction can possibly be separated.

Look at speculative fiction. Take horror as an example. Demons. Spirits. Witches and warlocks. Fire reigning down from heaven. Dragons. Cults. Of course, there are many of those sorts of stories outside of the Bible too (gotcha). Seriously, Christians should own this genre. We know what the future holds (in a loose sense) so no true tale of the future can exist that does not account for the book of Revelation. Christianity will not die, no matter how advanced technology becomes. And the Bible promises that the future will only get harder on Christians. We have no idea if Christ will return this year, this century, this millennia. There is no reason we cannot speculate about the science of the future within a Christian worldview. There is no reason we cannot speculate about other worlds, other races. Where does the Bible say that “yea, and there was no life formed in this vast universe outside the earth”?


What length of fiction do you prefer to write?

If you asked me this a year ago, I would have said novel. I have about six of them sitting around. I have only seriously worked on two (editing, revising, etc.) and am starting to refine the YA fantasy series I started, but novels were my passion. This anthology reminded me how much I loved short fiction, though. Once I started writing submissions for Light at the Edge of Darkness, I did not want to stop. I wrote a piece for a Writer’s Digest contest and I have been compiling a list of ideas for future shorts. In some ways, the shorts are more fun, more exciting. You get the payoff of completing the story sooner and there are a lot more challenges with character development, etc. due to the limited word count. However, as much as l love shorts, the novel is my passion. There is so much more room to develop characters and create the plot twists and turns. You have more of an opportunity to expand scenes and build tension. I have found I love them both, but I will cast my vote to novels.


Have you had any life experiences that have (positively or negatively) influenced your
writing?


Where to begin . . . If you could mirror an existing story with my life, you could line me up against the parable of the prodigal son and wish I had shown as much restraint. I learned the hard way. I grew up in a loving family (maybe a little overprotective, but Christian and loving nonetheless) with two good Christian parents. I was raised with all of the sound advice a child could hope for, but I threw every bit of it to the wind and went on my youthful rampage. It is only by the grace of God that I am sharing this today.

The main character in the novel my agent is shopping to publishers (When Nightmares Walk) is loosely based around my life. It is definitely fiction, but the character elements are often reflections of my shortfalls and the journey back to redemption. Some of this ties into my Light at the Edge of Darkness submissions as well. For example, the story “Guilty” falls into this category. In “Guilty,” the main character is haunted by the sins of his past. The guilt that gnaws at him daily manifests itself in an unusual way. Letting go of our guilt is one of the hardest things to do after finding redemption. A part of accepting Christ’s forgiveness demands letting go of that guilt, demands accepting that we are forgiven . . . but that can be easier said than done. In some ways, the guilt I have felt for my poor choices has helped me shape the stories that I write today. I hope that something I share can keep someone else from making the same mistakes.

On the positive side, my parents and an array of spiritual people have helped me become the man I am today. Their prayers and encouragement, their unwavering moral fortitude, and their boundless love have guided me back to my faith and helped me better understand how Christ’s redeeming love works.


Any advice for new writers in general? Christian writers?

Learn the craft and never give up. Everyone’s road to publication is different, but there are many commonalities. Some people are naturally gifted writers; others have to work at it very hard. Either way, we are all human and imperfect. There is always room for improvement. Never stop learning, never think you have “arrived,” and approach every project with humble submission knowing that you are serving a purpose and He will guide you if you let Him.


Who do you think would most likely enjoy your fiction?

Me. Something I have heard from more than one source is to write what you would like to read. I like to read speculative fiction. I especially like to read the spooky stuff. So, anyone out there that likes spooky fiction, suspense, or the supernatural should enjoy my work. I love to include plot twists, and my characters all have their flaws. If I had to clump my fiction in with other stuff on the market, I would probably put it on a bookshelf near Peretti, Dekker, etc. The fact that they sell so well and several of their books have been turned into movies is also encouraging to me. It proves there is a market for this genre.


You have three stories in Light at the Edge of Darkness. Two of those fall exclusively into the Horror genre. “Taken” and “Guilty” touch on the darker side of speculative fiction. What can you tell us about these two stories?

Interestingly, both of these stories are written in the first person point of view. I have found that I opt for this point of view more often in short fiction because of the immediacy. I can develop my character much quicker by using his/her voice. In brief, “Taken” is a tale inspired by the eternal quest for the answer to the question “why?” Everyone has a purpose in this life, but how does one discover that purpose? God has given us each a gift, but will we ever truly realize our purpose in this life if we chose to use that gift for our own gain? “Guilty” is a sort of haunted house story. If you don’t clean the skeletons out of your closet, how long will it be before they come calling?

The main characters in each story are unique, but reflect various aspects drawn from my own experiences. The MC in “Taken” is a selfish man wasting his gift for his own gain. The MC in “Guilty” is haunted by the ghosts of his past to a point that he has lost all sight of the future. When those ghosts come to life, he has to face his past and hope to survive.

You categorized them as horror, so let me briefly speak to that. There are many different types of horror. Growing up, Poe was always one of my favorites because he knew how to be dark and haunting without turning stomachs. I don’t see the value in gratuitous violence or gore. Oftentimes, the most disturbing, most haunting things are those things that go unseen. I don’t need to show someone being ripped apart to tell a frightening story. Sure, I have my share of frightening imagery and I love to employ spooks, but if you’re hoping for rivers of blood, profanity at every turn, or regular dismemberment, then I’m afraid I’ll disappoint.


“Seeing Blind” doesn’t quite fit the mold of the other two stories. What can you tell us about these this story?

“Seeing Blind” is a blend of Sci-Fi meets horror. Set on a dying alien planet, this story offers a speculative glimpse at a possibility in the “what if” category. If aliens exist somewhere out there, how would God’s interaction with them differ from ours? Would He send Jesus to them as well? With His omnipresence and omnipotence, would their timeline have mirrored ours? What if He had tried to share His love with them, but they rejected Him?

The main character is an oracle, a man given to visions and supernatural insights. He has Seen the way to save his world, but does his world want salvation? Or do they want the power that a strange dark race has offered? “Seeing Blind” still has its share of horror elements, so if you are looking for a suspenseful tale, this will be right up your alley.


Last question. On your website (www.danieliweaver.com), you have created a group called “The Gifted.” What is that all about?

“The Gifted” is a marketing strategy. Some websites have guest books, others have newsletters, I created The Gifted. Last year, I met author T.L. Hines (of Waking Lazarus fame) online and he shared an ingenious free-share marketing strategy with me. As a first time author, he had created a network of people willing to help him promote and sell his book. In essence, he had created a marketing army. I asked him for permission to mirror that strategy and came up with The Gifted. When Nightmares Walk is the first novel in an expected trilogy titled The Gifted, so that seemed like a great name. Especially given that one of the takeaways in the series is that God has given us each unique gifts designed to be used for His glory.

The Gifted is open to any and everyone who is willing to join. I sponsor contests and try to do things for the folks that join to make it special. When I get a contract on the book, these folks will help me spread the word by doing things as simple as emailing their friends to helping me set up book signings in their area. So, if anyone out there is interested in joining The Gifted, just stop by the website and send the request. I would love to have you aboard. You can also find me on myspace at www.myspace.com/danieliweaver . I would gladly add you to my buddy list there as well.

7 comments:

Chad Lavender said...

Dan, great interview. I really enjoyed the insight on the various pieces of work. Nice Job.

Anonymous said...

I loved the interview, especially about the teachers who helped you along the way.

May we all be encouragers like them!

Andrea Graham said...

Good work, Dan.

Chad: Job is Adam's favorite book.

Susan said...

You are redeemed! ;) Great interview, Dan!

Anonymous said...

Daniel,

Seeing blind is one of my favorite stories in Light at the Edge of Darkness. I've actually talked about that story with others as it stuck with me. Looking forward to having it my collection.

Another thought that struck me as I ready through your interview--will my grandson think of me the way you think of your grandmother?

Enjoyed getting to know a little more about you.

Donna

Daniel I Weaver said...

My grandmother was a great inspiration. She was a very devoted Catholic and everything she wrote hinged around her faith. She also read a LOT and had a huge library from which I often borrowed. I can only hope that my children and grandchildren will look up to me and be inspired by my passions when they grow up.

Dan

Deborah Cullins Smith said...

Somehow I don't find it difficult to imagine you as the imp in the class!! :) Great interview, Dan. I loved reading about your grandmother's influence and the teachers who helped you along the way.
~deb