Interview with author V. B. Tenery

What is your motivation for writing?

From childhood, I’ve been a voracious reader. That evolved into wanting to tell exciting stories from a Christian viewpoint, to show through action and plot there is always a loving God who cares and watches over us.

My least favorite thing about writing, is writing about myself.
I’d rather write a 100,000-word novel with a hammer and chisel on stone tablets, in the dark, while fighting off wolves, while . . . oh well, you get the picture.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing seriously for about ten years, but I began keeping a journal almost as soon as I learned to write. That however, fell by the wayside in my teens. A few years ago, I ran across one of my old diaries. It was reallllly bad. It seems my insecurities surfaced at an early age.

Any mentors or role models?

A couple of professors in college were kind. And when I joined a faith based writing group, there were many generous souls willing to encourage and help a newbie improve her craft.

In speculative fiction, I’ve been influenced by the writings of C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, Frank Peretti, and many others too numerous to list.

Why do you write Biblical speculative fiction?

I never considered writing anything else. It felt natural to incorporate my beliefs into the stories I told. In speculative fiction, I was attracted to the no boundaries aspects. I could create exciting new worlds and the characters could be as strange or normal as my mind could conceive.

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?

Fortunately, this has not been an issue for me. With the exception of one person, the speculative fiction I’ve written has been well received in the various Christian critique groups I’ve joined. I believe the key word is fiction. All fiction genres are figments of the imagination. Does God prefer one over the other? I think not. I try to honor Him with all that I do, not just in writing. If He’s happy, I’m happy.

What length of fiction do you prefer to write?

I prefer writing novels. They allow me to develop the characters and plot more fully. However, I do write a number of short stories. I don’t always need 60,000 words to tell the story running around in my brain.

What writing techniques work best for you in terms of character, plot, setting development?

Initially, I was a confirmed seat-of-the-pants writer, until I became familiar with Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method . I’m now a convert to his system. It includes a spreadsheet to track your chapters and timeline. As a bonus, the spreadsheet easily converts into a synopsis when you’ve finished.

Keeping detailed charts on the main characters has become second nature. As my story develops, it gives me freedom to add a new character or two that mesh with the original cast. BTW This is not a paid political announcement. Many of Randy’s writing techniques are available on his website free of charge.

Any advice for Christian and new writers in general?

Join a good critique group as soon as you can. The feedback is invaluable, but use the advice with discretion. Stay true to the story God laid on your heart. If you write Christian fiction, write to honor God, and pray continually for guidance.

New writers should also realize discouragement will come, even from family and well-meaning friends. Anything you do for the Lord will always be challenged. Just keep the faith.

When do you write?

I write daily with a set goal, i.e. number of words, excluding weekends. That doesn’t mean I never write on weekends, I just don’t schedule it.

Any particular environments?

I’ve always been more comfortable writing at the computer in my bedroom. It’s quiet and the window overlooks the forest. I find that soothing. My muse comes calling usually early mornings and sometimes late at night. I can write in my jammies without disturbing anyone.

I did, however, actually compose the outline for Adino on my way home from Wal-Mart. Stemming from a period when my vision was very bad, I developed a selective memory. I can write a complete chapter in my head and retain it until I get to a computer. The talent remained after my vision improved. Don’t ask me the day of the week, however. That, I don’t always retain.

Do you do any research for your writing?

Most writers I know do research up front. I do some upfront, some when I write, and the balance at the end. I find if I get heavily involved in details at the beginning, I lose the inspiration. That said, I’m currently writing a time travel piece, The Saint of Son Tay, about a Vietnamese POW camp. I’ve had to collect the background information at the beginning to stay true to the period—reading as many novels as I can find written by POW’s of that era.

Where do I go for information? I’m glad you ask. I use Goggle, Ask.com, the library, etc., and often pick the brains of fellow critique partners. In one group I have a cop and a nurse. They’ve both given wonderful technical advice on many occasions.

Who do you think would most likely enjoy your fiction?

That’s a good question. I don’t like to set an age limit on the audience that might enjoy what I write. Christian speculative fiction fans would certainly be the first to be drawn to my stories. But, I like to think that anyone who relishes an exciting story with compelling characters would like "Adino" and The Watchman, my current novel in progress.

Do your stories/ novels have any common themes or threads?

I’m a Pollyanna. I admit it. Therefore, my work uses the standard good verses evil themes. My protagonist may lose the battle, but he/she will always win the war, even if it’s in the afterlife.

What can you tell us about "Adino" which is included in Light at the Edge of Darkness?

The inspiration for the courtroom scene came from a true incident in Rock Springs, Wyoming in I believe the late eighties or nineties. The uniqueness of the old west shoot-out in a modern setting intrigued me. Likewise, a piece I read about some badly misinformed person who tried to resurrect Baal worship, became part of the tale. I merely put the two together and it became "Adino."

Read more about V.B. Tenery at The Lost Genre Guild website


kc said...

It's nice to hear a bit more about you, Virginia. May God continue to bless your writing--you have great talent.


chrisd said...

Virginia, first may I say what a lovely woman you are!

I loved that you kept your journals from childhood and reread them later on. They are eye opening, aren't they?

I think it's terrific that you have been writing speculative fiction all your life. God has blessed you with a wonderful imagination.

I know that He will continue to bless your writing and your ministry of encouragement to fellow writers.

Deborah Cullins Smith said...

Lovely interview, Virginia! It was so nice to learn more about you. (and Chris is right -- you are such a lovely lady!) But I am amazed at your remarkable memory! I do good to remember which month it is, much less the date, but to remember entire segments of script??? If I ever lose my notebooks or my thousands of scraps of scribbled paper, I'll be in TROUBLE!


Daniel I Weaver said...

A great interview, Virginia. It's always wonderful to find out a little bit more about the people behind the pages. Every Christian writer I come across has a different story and your's was enjoyable to read.

God Bless,
Daniel I Weaver