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

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.

It's Life, Jim...

"Greetings, Earthling! How would you like to play 'Probe the human' on my saucer?"

"You can't fool me. There are no aliens. You're probably just a demon or something."

"I've been called worse, Earthling. Why do you say there aren't any aliens?"

"Because in his new book, No, There Aren't Any Aliens, Idiot, Rev. Whimsy proves there aren't. See, I've got the 'For Dummies' edition and everything."

"I believe the reverend is singing a different tune these days."

"Yeah? Why?"

"Because I let my apprentice do the probing. The reverend swears like a sailor when you get the probe crosswise..."

Can we write about ETs from a biblical standpoint? First, a couple pages to check:

"Alien Ideas"
Summary: Historically, it's generally been the atheists who have pushed for aliens as "proof" of a random, God-free universe, though some Christians have argued that God could have created other planets and peoples.

Intelligent Life in Outer Space
Summary: ETs are unbiblical. Period.

I'm going to respond to the assertions in the second source, though the first one is deeper and more thoughtful. The main points are

1. The angels, man, and animals are the only intelligent creations of God.

This is simply asserted, never proved. 'Nuff said.

2. The Earth, Man's home, is the center of Creation.
a. It was created before the stars.

Not necessarily true. Look carefully at the latter passage: it does not say, "Then he made the stars"; it says, "He also made the stars." But when? Right at that moment? Or untold ages before? Job 38: 6-7 may be taken to mean that the stars were already there. This isn't necessarily true, but it is possible, and the argument assumes no other possibility. The position is therefore weakened. (Not disproved, of course--but weakened I think beyond reasonable dogmatism.)

Yet even if the stars weren't created until Day Four, this means nothing: neither was our star (the Sun). Why couldn't God have simply thrown a master switch somewhere, so that our Day Four and the Tregellians' Day Four coincided? (You know the Tregellians--the little green guys with the pink tufts on their gorks.)

b. The stars' fate is linked to Earth's (2 Peter 3: 7-10, Revelation 21:1), so Earth is central.

Isn't this like arguing that God isn't competent, so he can't keep more than one ball in the air at once? Remember what I suggested earlier about God turning on all the stars simultaneously? Well, could not he who knows the end from the beginning and who knows our days before even one has occurred, set things up so that all the lights go out at the same time? No human could do that, but this is God, and I dislike any argument that assumes he isn't competent enough to do X.

As to the proper frame of reference, one of God's basic characteristics is that he doesn't tell us what we don't need to know. If there is another earth out there, why should he bother to tell us? And since the Bible relates his dealings with us, why should it mention any other beings at all--if they exist? This boils down to an argument from silence. By a similar approach, we could perhaps argue that the Bible is specifically for the Old World--not for the Americas, Australia, etc., which are not mentioned at any point.

3. It "clearly seems" the the destruction of other worlds is based on his plan for Earth-dwellers, which would be unfair to inhabitants of those other worlds.

"Clearly seems" is like a definite maybe: they're dressing up a possibility as a virtual certainty, and the pants don't fit. Again, could not God arrange cosmic co-occurrences as he does earthly ones? Remember, nothing surprises God. He can plan for coincidences millions or billions of years in advance, if he wishes.

When Paul wrote in Romans 8:18-22 that all "creation was subjected to futility," "creation" probably has to do with the earth proper. After all, when God wanted to give the place a good cleaning, he used a flood that destroyed the earth but probably had no effect on the solar system, much less the rest of the universe. (For that matter, if ALL creation was subjected to futility, that means that Heaven was so affected--for it too was created.)

4. We have been given dominion over the stars (Psalm 8, Deuteronomy 4:19).

Psalm 8 doesn't prove we have dominion over the heavens: Verses three and six are from very different parts of the psalm. The idea of vv 3-5 is, "Wow! This place is so huge, I'm amazed you can even see us!" Verse six logically (and I believe even grammatically) groups with seven and eight. The punctuation in the NIV is correct here:

6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: [Note the colon: verse seven and eight function as extended appositives for the general terms "works" and "everything" in verse six.]
7 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swims the paths of the seas.

In other words, what has been put in our power is the animal world. (Of course, in the NT this is expanded to include the cosmos as a whole, but there the ruler of verse six is Jesus, who, as God Incarnate, definitely has powers beyond this earth.)

Likewise, Deuteronomy 4:19 doesn't give us a deed to the stars. The thought here is simply that the sun, moon, and stars are there for anyone to use (in figuring time: Gen. 1:14). (This does not contradict the earlier possibility about the stars perhaps predating the earth: they don't provide much light in themselves, and without the sun and moon they are pretty much useless for figuring time.) He is saying, "Watch out! Those things aren't gods, they're just a big clock in the sky that anyone can check as needed." I admit I'm a bit puzzled by the KJV use of "give...as a heritage"; the Hebrew (which could be transliterated as "chalaq," though I despise using "ch" for the letter "cheth") in this context implies distributing something for common use, i.e., making the heavenly bodies available to all celestial clock-watchers.

Does any of this prove that aliens exist? No. For what it's worth, I suspect that we are alone in this universe. But that's a speculation, just like contact with aliens. So the option remains available. But if we do have aliens in our fiction, what does that mean biblically? Tune in next time for "...But Not as We Know It":

"Wow! I can't believe it! I've finally been abducted! Hey, you aren't going to probe me or anything, are you?"

"No, human. We have come hundreds of lightyears to share the secrets of universal peace with you."

"Hey, cosmic! What are they?"

"Have you ever heard of the Four Spiritual Laws?"

"Okay, you can just beam me down again."


The Life and Times of a Manuscript

by Adam Graham

Originally posted at WhereIstand.com on Sunday, January 07, 2007 at 12:22:35 AM

Yesterday [meaning Friday] was a monumental turning point in the life of my wife and I as writers. We sent in our first novel manuscript to a publisher who requested it.

It would have been Thursday had my wife not printed a mailing label without the city, state, and zip of the publisher. With a new mailing label, it's off in the mail.

Of course, this manuscript is a little different than many. The first draft was written in 1999. As a High School Senior or College Freshman, she'd produced a very gritty manuscript. It was a Christian story, but it wasn't your typical Christian novel. The story focuses on Gabrielle, a young girl kidnapped by a futuristic satanic Empire and sold into prostitution as a child. Gabrielle lives a life of abuse and starvation until Age 15, when she's sold as an Imperial Concubine.

She makes a break for it and reconnects with her godfather, David McIntyre. The plot centers on her relationship with David's son, Daniel and her attempt to follow God's Call on her life while staying one step ahead of the Empire.

She ends up having to face old fears in a return to Washington and the Imperial estate. In the most sordid of circumstances, the power of God's love and forgiveness is shown. While it may make some uncomfortable who long for spiritual fulfilment without pain or suffering, rarely do we draw as close to God as we do in the squalid circumstances of the worst of life.

I met Andrea online in October, 2000. We begin chatting in December, 2000 and early in 2001, she let me take a look at Heaven's Mark. It was a special privilege. I loved her writing and the book was a great topic of conversation in those tense months in 2000.

I sent her suggested changes to the manuscript and offered my opinion that it was an excellent book that would be a best-seller one day. While this is a great line when courting a writer, I meant it.

She intentionally chose to not follow the formula of most "End Times" stories which were thinly disguised books of eschatology rather than true fiction. After a few hundred little changes, I was convinced the book was ready for publication. Andrea was not.

There's a Christian publishing service called "The Writer's Edge." which works with major Christian publishers. For a fee, it will review your manuscript and forward a short synopsis to a series of Publishers who have signed up for their service. Most major Christian houses only accept unsolicited/unagented manuscripts from this service. You won't get published by Bethany House or Tyndale without them.

I suggested sending it in, but Andrea was hesitant, unsure whether it was ready. She relented when I agreed to cover the reading fee and sent it in.

It was a couple months later when she got a letter letting her know that her manuscript had been included in the Writer's Edge's bulletin to the publishers. I was happy. I figured it'd only be a matter of time before a publisher noticed her work. Of course, she only had 2 months in the Writer's Edge's manuscript. If publishers don't happen to need what you're selling them during that period, you can basically try again later and fork over another reading fee.

We had other expenses come up, particularly as a young couple in love planning to get married. The book went on hiatus for the most part. However, the book ended on a cliffhanger. It didn't invite a sequel as a possible add-on to the first book, it demanded it.

Andrea had an idea for a second novel that. when we talked it out, didn't sound workable at all. I had an idea on how to finish it and was invited to share in this incredible work. I sat down and wrote the ending to Heaven's Mark. It ended the story with some resolution, but enough wiggle room for follow-ups.

We got married in July, 2002 and in 2003, we became involved in critique groups online. With the help of Critquers, Heaven's Mark went through several revisions. She worked to eliminate "telling" ("Bob got angry." v. "Bob's cheeks grew red, he slammed his hand on the table and cursed.") from the novel. She was focused on every detail of the story. Is it realistic? Is this how they would act? She's committed to a stunning degree of detail on her characters and the story as a whole. She'll never change a character's reaction to a situation. She'd rather make changes to the situation to get a different outcome.

I tend to be focused on plotting and the story being believable. As Andrea spends much of the story writing about a region of the country she's never been in, I checked facts and made sure that what was being described was accurate. I took issue with an overly zealous High School peer court that was cut from the story in 2004 after many discussions about it.

Still, Andrea is dedicated to pursuing her craft with precision. I'm not certain how many drafts it's been through, how many times she's revised, cut, chopped, and revised the story, but it seems she's never finished, always looking for that one way to make the story better.

In 2004, we sent another submission to the Writer's Edge, after Andrea put in a huge amount of effort into editting it, only to get a rejection slip. It was odd that a story that was accepted 3 years before would be rejected after numerous edits by the same company. Andrea sent submission after submission to around 7 or 8 smaller presses, but no luck. She just continued to edit and revise, edit and revise.

This year, we became involved in an online critique group that with the help of Writer's Cafe Press put together an anthology of Short Fiction. She wrote one story that was a prequel to what's now become a trilogy and we co-wrote another. The publisher liked what they saw and expressed interest in the trilogy. Andrea sent off a proposal and the day before Christmas we received a request for the full manuscript. With Christmas and New Year, we didn't get to print it off until this past week.

Our printer was not equal to the task, so a Fed-ex Kinkos store did the honors. We waited for 10 minutes as the 320+ pages streamed out and then struggled to find a box big enough to hold it.

To the end, she was wanting to check the manuscript to make sure it was perfect. This slightly annoyed me as she'd already done more revisions than I'd ever imagined was possible. I assured her it was ready now.

Of course, it's hard. She's had this Story for 7 1/2 years and I've had a stake in it for 5. Somewhere between Boise, Idaho and LaFayette, Indiana is a package wrapped in brown paper. Inside it is not only a manuscript, but hopes and dreams, visions and nightmares. In writing its pages, the story of my life and love has unfolded. Now, comes the hardest part: waiting.


Tricia Goyer: CFRB Blog Tour

(originally posted at A Frank Review in August 2006)

A Frank Review of Tricia Goyer's Arms of Deliverance: A Story of Promise

Who could twist the phrase "It's not what you know, it's who you know," into a gospel message? Tricia Goyer. Arms Of Deliverance is the fourth and concluding installment of her WW II novels, and what a way to close.

The fusion of Goyer's prose and her technique of interviewing WW II veterans result in a powerful telling that time-warp her readers to the 1940s. She's captured lost details. By recording the fading memories of a dying generation, Tricia's done an amazing service, both to the people whose patriotism put them in harm's way, and to the Jewish mantra, "Never Again." She literally brands history into the reader's mind--I know because I lived it through her characters.

Arms Of Deliverance is a painting of war, Holocaust horror, and National Socialist dystopia. The artist's brush sported bristles braided of lives. I've never read anyone so adept at capturing human mannerisms with a pen. She draws you into this black and white era with this tool-of-color so subtle, most writer's don't even know it's in their box. When you read "Tingles traveled up the back of her neck . . ." you know exactly what she means. I actually felt those tingles.

The Judeo-Christian presuppositions of Goyer's main characters, Mary, Lee and "Katrine," contrast Hendrick's Aryan world-view like a photo-negative. Through her powerful paradox of a morally black and white war, Tricia Goyer makes you see red. The personal conflict in Arms of Deliverance, layered upon historical fiction will keep readers of both genders enthralled, page after page.

Arms of Deliverance
350 pages
Moody Publishers (2006)
ISBN: 978-0-8024-1556-1

Visit Tricia's website

Check out other members of the CFRB Blog Tour


Interview with author Susan Kirkland

What is your motivation for writing?

I needed an outlet for my imaginary friends and my parents didn't believe in therapy.

According to my mother, I told her I was going to do two things in my life. At the time, I was five years old and on that “to-do” list was be a writer and join the Army. I started the quest of writing before fifth-grade. By the time I finished high school, I had thousands of stories – adventures and misadventures about me and my friends. One of my best friends used to call me and beg me to tell her bedtime stories! I think the motivation at the time was I was able to control something, to create new worlds and not be so average or weird or whatever concept I had of myself.

My motivation now is knowing this is what I'm supposed to be doing. For years, I begged God to show me what part of the body I was supposed to be—where my calling was. I've pestered quite a few pastors to help me in this endeavor before I finally accepted that I was called to write fiction. It was hard for me to accept that because, face it, this isn't a standard ministry. It's not children's church, AWANA, Sunday School. It's different. And different is uncomfortable . . .

Mentors and role models. Wow that's tough. I've always loved Pat Conroy's books. I would love to capture the South the way he does; his imagery, though long is as stunning and breathtaking as living in the South. I enjoy John Grisham for his simplicity.

But, as far as role models, mentors, that's really tough, because there are so many. Everyone at the
Lost Genre Guild and the Christian Fiction Writer's critique group has mentored me. I'm just tickled that Donna Sundblad and I get to market Light at the Edge of Darkness together since we live in the same town. I want to be like a sponge and soak up all that she can teach me because she's so successful and so wonderful to be around. A.P. Fuchs has been so generous in sharing what's he's learned about publishing. Dan Weaver made me feel accepted, which is a hard emotion for me to grasp because I'm so used to my imagination and some of the influences separating me from others. Frank Creed has encouraged me in my faith, not just in regards to writing, but all over. And Cyn has been soooooo patient with me. I feel like the new kid on the block, but everyone has been awesome to be around.

Everyone in the
Lost Genre Guild and the CFWCG gets so excited whenever another writer mentions a new project. I've come to these guys with personal situations and they've lifted me and my family up. They are more than mentors in writing. Ok, I'll stop now before "Kum ba ya" starts . . . group hug, anyone?

Why do you write Biblical speculative fiction?

It was sort of accidental. I didn't even know what spec-fic was (please don't kick me out!) but I had been involved in a writer's critique group that
Dan, Andrea, Frank, and several others were in and someone mentioned doing an anthology that had Christian fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. I knew what those were and I had been playing with "Fair Balance" although I never intended to publish it. So I emailed Frank, off-group, because I was a little bit - a lot - shy and embarrassed since I wasn't sure if it was a fit for the anthology. How would they feel about a Goth chick and demons? I was terrified that his email was going to start off with "Are you insane? No, go away, you hethern [sic]."

But he didn't and it was great experience—I've stretched into a genre that I had never considered before and I'm excited. As a result, I have some other horror pieces planned.

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

It might be cliché, but as the Bible says, we are part of a whole body. Collectively and individually, we each have a role in this body of Christ. Some of us are fingers, toes, tendons, tastebuds, hair. Spleen, anyone?

Some of us are evangelist, some prayer-warriors, some encouragers, Sunday school teachers, and some are called to work in the secular world and reach others with love and acceptance. I believe that writers collectively and individually are not much different. Some are called to write devotionals and Bible studies. Some write books to encourage and help. Some write for entertainment. Some are called to write in the secular world like newspapers.

Some might consider speculative fiction to be the gallbladder or spleen of the body, or even a cancerous tumor. We're not. We're that part of the soul that God created with wonder and awe. Whenever I step outside and see the sky filled with all the stars, some part of my brain forces me to stop and stare and worship. Even when I was running from God, the night sky mesmerized me. I always knew He was there, somewhere. It still takes my breath away with amazement. Spec-fic writers are that part of the brain. We want readers to stop and stare in awe and amazement at what God can do.

I think the conflict arises from whether one can say that speculative fiction is necessary for growth spiritually. Eh, I can't say everyone will grow from it, but people learn in so many different ways. If someone can read "Fair Balance" and see a Biblical concept in practice and it helps them, then, how is that wrong?

And there is a fear people have of those who are different. No one raises eyebrows because someone says they are a preacher or Sunday School teacher, but tell someone you write Christian horror and see what reaction you get ;)

When that happens and I point out that demon possession is very Christian-based, and its consequences are horrific, they usually at least accept the idea that it could be possible. For my fellow writers who write about aliens, my hat's off to you, because, to me, Christian horror is the easiest way to connect the dots. Our fantasy and sci-fi writers are incredible.

What length of fiction do you prefer to write?

I like novel length because it gives me time to develop characters. It's that part of me that never wants the story to end. It's like spending time with old friends. Of course, like with friends, at times I've wanted to strangle them.

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

I've learned a lot writing my first novel. Character sheets are helpful—you lose credibility if Joe had blue eyes on one page and green on the next. They also helped me see patterns in my names. I like "and" combos in names. Andy Sanders. Mandy, I also have an Avery. It forces you, too, to step out. I had to realize that not everyone in my make-believe world could like Contemporary Christian music, or alternative, or country. Not all men are hunters, soldiers, or cops.

I also like getting the action down first, then put in details. For the short story I'm currently working on the verse "A house divided cannot stand," just vibrated throughout me and is the cornerstone. I don't even have an ending yet, but the theme is there and I have some awesome quotes . . .

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

I've also shared on the blog that I was plagued by chronic nightmares as a teenager. This, coupled with my hyper imagination made me feel different and isolated. That need to guard myself comes out in my characters. They share some sort of isolation, most of it, like mine, is self-imposed. But God calls them, as He did me, to step out of that shell and know that He's shielding me. I no longer cower behind Him, I know He's protecting me and I can move ahead without fear.

Many say the first novel is more autobiographical and in the case of Higher Honor, it's true. Not all of it is, but enough is to make that statement true. And those experiences really pushed me to write because I get so much from reading, but it seemed the encouragement I needed to be filled with I couldn't find in the Christian market. I'm not saying it's not out there, but the books I was hungry, I couldn't find.

Any advice for new writers in general? Christian writers?

For Christian writers—do whatever you need to stay grounded in your faith. You've been called to write and Satan will try to make you slip. I often feel everything I say or do is under a microscope because of the label "Christian Writer." At the same time, accept the fact you're going to make mistakes. Don't let the mistakes be the wedge that drives you apart from God and His grace, love and mercy. Make them the springboard to bring you closer to Him.

For writers in general—don't wait for the perfect idea, the perfect plot or character. Take even the boring ideas and put something down, because once you put it down and strip that layer off, you don't know what's going to be exposed, what the next idea hiding behind that one might be. And don't be afraid to change things when you can't seem to get over a hurdle.

Higher Honor did not start out as a Christian novel. It was a very dark, violent secular novel when I started it. I couldn't get past page 110 for years. Even after I returned to Christ, HH remained secular and dismal. Finally, in frustration, because I knew it was suppose to be written, I offered it to God and it was basically rewritten from scratch. For years I couldn't move foward, but within a year of making that offering, I had the first draft complete.

When do you write?

Well, since I work for a newspaper, I get quite a bit of writing done between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (it's a weekly, so we keep traditional hours usually), but fiction is a bit trickier. I do some during my lunch break and several nights a week, I'll write after the children are in bed. I have a wonderful husband who gives me the time on the weekends to write as well.

I perfer writing at night. This is probably a remnant from my nightmare days (well, technically nights) when I would stay up all night from fear of falling asleep. I would read and write then until my parents woke up at something weird like 5 a.m. I would sleep from then until time to get up for school, about two hours. No wonder I was strange. Sleep deprivation will cause that.

Sometimes, if I'm trying to catch a certain attitude or feeling, I'll put on a song that captures it to help me focus. For instance, every time I wrote about Ryan in Higher Honor, I had "Dive" by
Steven Curtis Chapman, not only for the words, but the beat just fit Ryan's personality.

Do you do any research for your writing?

Yes. For Fair Balance, I was in close contact with a spritual mentor whose calling is cleansing people from invasive spirits. She's been a mentor and role model for more than 23 years. I picked her brain about demonic possession and visited lots of websites, read some books and watched a few too many scary movies . . .

For Higher Honor, I had to face something far scarier than demons—my past. I revisted North Georgia College and State University several times researching parts of Higher Honor. This was hardest part of the whole book. I had already researched sexual assault, dementia, and other aspects, but calling my alma mater and telling them what I was doing and needed almost scared me into immobility. But I did it and they have been incredible to work with. Two groups especially,
Mountain Order of Colombo and the Aggressors took the time to explain the technical information—like rapelling and recon that I needed and thought I was pretty cool for an old woman! For someone who has always been a few degrees off from cool, it was a great experience.

Who do you think would most likely enjoy your fiction?

I hope someone like me would enjoy it. Those who feel they are slightly out of step with their peers. Those who feel like they are facing a huge challenge and need encouragement. I hope that someone who feels alone in the midst of what they are facing can read my work and know that not only is God there, but maybe someone who has an idea of what they are feeling.

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

I've noticed that both of my antagonist—Cassidy Sanders in Higher Honor and Celisa Cooper in "Fair Balance" feel alone and isolated. They are guarded and cautious but they learn to step out in faith and be bold, even though what they've been tasked to do may be hard for new Christians, or non-Christians to understand. So I guess the message would be let down your guard and let God use you where He wants you. He's protecting you. You're His and very special to Him, so He will cover you and protect you.

What can you tell us about "Fair Balance" included in Light at the Edge of Darkness?

This one's hard, because "Fair Balance" has a very significant twist to it and I don't want to spoil it. Celisa Cooper has managed to escape from a strict, religious family and wants desparately to save her brother from it as well. But the blood that binds may not be strong enough to convince her brother to join her on the "other side."

As for characters, I have a special place in my hear for FB's E.C. Hayes, though. He's not the main character, but he was one of the first characters I created, when I was 12 years old. I should have been paying attention to the teacher but I was enthralled with this make-believe kid with bleach blond hair and black tips and stunning green eyes. So we've grown up together. He's always been a punk, an outsider, now he's a punk on a mission :)

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