1/04/2007

Interview with author Donna Sundblad

What is your motivation for writing?
I can’t remember not wanting to be a writer. However, the desire hovered on time’s horizon out of reach. I wrote poetry, short stories, and even a novel before taking writing seriously, but never did anything with them. As I approached age 50 I experienced an epiphany of sorts during prayer, as if God asked what I was doing with the gift He had given me. What was I waiting for? Until . . . what? I realized that the reasons I wasn’t writing were really excuses induced by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of opening a window into my mind. Even fear of rejection, didn’t have time or wasn’t good enough. I took the step of obedience and started writing seriously about six years ago.

Why do you write Biblical speculative fiction?
Once I made the decision to write, my first novel-length manuscript was biblical speculative fiction. As I wrote it I thought: I’ll never find a market for this. But it was the story God laid on my heart. For me, it’s part of keeping Him first. I write secular fantasy and non-fiction as well but my first love is biblical speculative fiction. Growing interest in the genre has recently inspired a second biblical spec-fic story line. I’ve already started outlining.

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’m afraid some people want to contain Christianity within parameters set by man-made rules. It reminds me of the hedge laws set up by Jewish leaders to warn people when they were getting close to breaking God’s law. Some of these Christian controls, while well-meaning tend to be based on personal preferences and have nothing to do with God’s Word. As a writer and reader, I know freedom in Christ. Speculative fiction is pretend. Christ is not. I know the difference. Biblical spec-fic creates thought provoking scenarios within my favorite genre. I grew up on things like Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. Adding the depth of biblical truth makes spec-fic even better.

What length of fiction do you prefer to write?
I don’t have a favorite. I write what it takes to tell the story. However, novels are a lot of fun (and work).

What writing techniques work best for you in terms of character, plot, setting development?
I tend to write character driven stories. In fact, my quest to learn how to add more but not too much detail resulted in my creative writing book Pumping Your Muse. In it I share how I keep track of world building details, character belongings, and even which characters know each other first or second hand.

Have you had any life experiences that have influenced your writing?
Even when I write things foreign to me, some part of who I am sneaks in. I grew up in a close family. I knew my grandparents and great-grandparents. In fact, "Caleb Sees the Light" reflects the influence of love between my grandparents and I, while the wooded setting and basic living mirrors the farm life lived by my great-grandparents.

Any advice for new writers in general? Christian writers?
Don’t wait to start writing. Find other writers and join a group or take a class where you can interact with peers. Allow others to critique your work, but remember the story is yours. Hold on to your voice and style. And don’t write anything you’d be ashamed to let Jesus read.

Tell us about when you write.
I fit writing into my life wherever it fits. I’m an early morning person. At times you’ll find me at the computer at 4:00 in the morning. I know it’s my creative time. My mind is refreshed and I get much more done. When I worked full time away from home, I would usually put in at least two hours of writing before I left the house. But this was a habit developed over time. I’m big on setting goals. Once I planned to write, I set a goal of twenty minutes a day four days a week. It grew from there.

When away from the house, I carry a notebook to capture ideas and first drafts. I’ve written and edited quite a bit as a passenger in the car instead of staring out the window, or pretending not to be a backseat driver. Prepare to write or research during the wait at the dentist office and time goes quickly, plus you have something more than a bill and clean teeth to show for it.

Do you do any research for your writing?
Almost everything I write takes some research. For instance, in "Caleb Sees the Light," I had to research what the lantern would be made of—what kind of handle—how to light it. I didn’t need to use all that information, but it gave me enough detail to make the experience real within the story.

Who do you think would most likely enjoy your fiction?
People who like fantasy without graphic violence, sex or unnecessary vulgar language.

Do your stories/ novels have any common themes or threads? Do you try to provide a message for your readers?
One common thread that creeps into my novels is division and unity. Different things divide. In my fantasy novel Windwalker the protagonist cannot move on until he learns that his own unforgiveness is as detrimental to unity as the racial prejudice trying to annihilate his people. In my Christian spec-fic novel The Inheritance, the protagonist’s search for Truth creates division between him and others in his world. When he meets Truth and becomes a Light-bearer he realizes his need to go back into that world—even to those who mistreated him. In my novel Beyond the Fifth Gate (due out in 2007), two species must overcome their differences and learn to work together. Each story is different—but that one theme is there.

What can you tell us about "Caleb Sees the Light" included in Light at the Edge of Darkness?
My fiction carries a historical or old-fashioned flavor. In one of my writing groups, the weekly writing prompt dealt with a character graduating from high school. I was in the process of moving from FL to GA—from a flat landscape to mountains and foothills. The character Caleb was born, and you’ll find him walking in the hills to his grandparents’ home. Young people of each generation are ready to change things, and make them better and new. Caleb is no different. He struggles between the desire to leave small town life behind and abandoning his loving grandparents who depend on him. An alien encounter in the back woods of Liberty Hollow offers the 18-year-old an escape from living out a life sentence in small town America. But is that what God wants?

Donna's website:
The Ink Slinger
Donna at
Inspired Author
Donna at
Authors' Den

7 comments:

Daniel I Weaver said...

You may have waited a while to start writing seriously, Donna, but you've made up for it. I look forward to reading your story in its final form.

God Bless,
Daniel I Weaver
www.danieliweaver.com

vbtenery said...

Donna:

Sorry to be so late commenting on your interview. I'm just getting in front of all the holiday craziness.

We share a lot in common in our journey to become a writer, and I enjoyed your response on how some Christians deal with speculative fiction.

Blessings,

Virginia

Deborah Cullins Smith said...

What a joy it is to get to know you better, Donna! I can relate to the decision to write "later" in life. I think we gain wisdom when we have a few more years under our belts, and we definitely gain experience. *smile*

God bless you as you tackle your next project! Can't wait to get my hands on it! :)

~deb

Anonymous said...

Well Virginia,

I'm still unpacking so I really understand. I am behind on comments, reading and all. I've joined LoveToKnow as a writer and am in training there, so even more going on that I'm looking forward to.

And Deb,

All the experience under our belts--is that why our waistlines have grown?

Really, thank you both for your comments. And Deb, appreciate your support as a fan too!

Donna

Susan said...

Donna,
I'm soooooo glad we live in the same community! I've learned so much from you!

Anonymous said...

Donna, sorry it's taken so long for me to read this! You and I seem to have a lot in common, the research thing, the notebook thing, etc. I really enjoyed "Caleb Sees the Light" as well. Can't wait for the anthology to come out.

gificor said...

Thanks for the good interview. I really like your advice to writers to start writing. Sometimes as writers, we do everything but write. Thanks again.