Your fans are forever waiting for your responses, so let’s not keep them waiting.
1. Which of your 3 ventures is your favorite? Writing, Book Doctor, or Publishing?
Definitely writing. There’s nothing like creating and inhabiting the world of a story. My own fiction-writing career has been on hold for several years, but I’m hoping that can change soon.
But I do love publishing. I thrive on discovering new authors who write well and tell amazing stories. These are the people who would be (and are) my friends. I love encouraging these people—and the ultimate way to encourage an author is to be able to publish her books!
That said, it follows that I also love being a book doctor. When I’m working with willing writers, there’s something incredible about telling them what’s wrong with their writing—not to hurt them but to help them succeed—and having them respond as the critique was intended.
I like all three, but they would be in the order I’ve described.
a. Which of these 3 ventures is requiring the most of your time these days?
My freelance editing is what pays the bills these days. That would probably fall under your heading of book doctoring.
2. What are your thoughts on the state of Christian Speculative Fiction?
LOL, I ask this question every month for my featured interviews at WhereTheMapEnds.com. It’s only fitting that I should have it asked of me.
The state of Christian speculative fiction writing is as strong as it’s ever been. Perhaps stronger, as so many adults and about every Christian teen writer is producing amazing Christian speculative fiction.
The state of Christian speculative fiction publishing is both awful and wonderful. It’s awful through traditional publishing channels: the big Christian houses do not publish much spec fic. Nor should they. Their audience wants Amish romances not Alien rampages, you know? They would be making foolish business decisions if they published more speculative fiction than they do. But they keep trying, now and then, hoping to find the next Left Behind.
a. Since the start of your publishing company in 2008 are sales in this genre increasing?
I don’t have access to those numbers, but I would suspect they are not increasing. If they were increasing, you’d see publishers falling over themselves to publish as much Christian speculative fiction as they could get their hands on. That’s not happening [ahem].
CBA houses took a run at vampire fiction over the last couple of years. The fact that those series are being ended—sometimes before the final books are published—and no new vampire series are coming out is a good indicator of how that worked out for them.
But Ted Dekker’s books continue to sell well, which is a blessing for all of us—not least Ted and his publisher. Still, I think the Christian fiction reading demographic gives the occasional pass for a token author in a given field. Right now, it seems that pass belongs to Ted. He’s “the weird author,” a designation allowed by the audience in very small numbers. Sort of like “the town elder” or “the town lamplighter.” You don’t need that many.
But there are thousands of talented Christian spec fiction authors. That’s why I launched Marcher Lord Press—to give those author authors a voice and to let the many readers of these genres find more of what they love.
b. Is there anyone else publishing this genre?
Yes. Nearly all the major CBA houses publish the occasional purely speculative title. They’re even more likely to publish traditional novels with a speculative twist. A good example of this is Nancy Moser’s excellent Time Lottery novels. The mechanism propelling the story was speculative: winners of a special lottery got to go back in time in their own lives to see if they would make choices differently. But the novels themselves were about relationships and choices, the things the core CBA fiction readership love.
Strang Communications has the Realms imprint, which, at its launch, was committed to Christian speculative fiction. They still do spiritual warfare novels but they’ve recently branched out to the bonnet and buggy genres too, possibly to try to stay (or become) profitable with fiction.
Some other Christian publishers have become known for publishing speculative fiction in the past, usually because of some author or series that became popular. AMG is known for Bryan Davis’s Dragons in Our Midst series. Tyndale made the most of the Left Behind series. Waterbrook publishes Donita K. Paul and her very popular dragon books.
Note that Bryan Davis and Donita K. Paul write for YA (youth) audiences, which is the subgroup of the Christian fiction demographic that is giving fantasy a warmer reception.
3. Why do you enjoy Christian Speculative fiction, besides standard reality based fiction being boring?
The stories that impacted me most as a person—and that made me want to become a storyteller—were all speculative. I was 12 when the original Star Wars movie came out. I can still remember sitting in the theater that day. It felt as if Lucas had unscrewed the top of my head and plugged his movie directly into it, so perfect was the storytelling. I discovered later that the reason for this was that he had tapped into the hero’s journey (Google that term and Joseph Campbell). The next story that did that to me was The Lord of the Rings, which I discovered in college. Another hero’s journey story.
The fiction that made my heart and mind jump were all speculative. So when I sat down to write fiction, it was no surprise that speculative stories were what naturally came to me.
4. Where do you get your ideas for plots?
Everywhere. I get a lot by reading LiveScience.com. Just science news, but many of the breakthroughs and developments lend themselves to speculative ideas. Like the fungus that takes over the minds of certain ants. The ants become zombies controlled by the fungus, which they’ve unwittingly picked up. The fungus causes them to go directly to the forest floor and die, where their decaying bodies become the homes of more fungus. Incredible.
So…what if that were to happen on Earth? A supposedly benign space fungus is brought to Earth—but then the scientists studying it become zombies, walking in hordes to dark damp places and dying, letting more alien fungus grow from their bodies.
Hey, you asked! Now you get a glimpse into the mind of a speculative fiction author!
5. How strong is the Christian message in your writing?
I hope it’s unmistakable. But neither is it to be a sermon. The idea is to craft stories that have Christianity so central to them that you can’t tell the story without it.
For example, I published a SF series about a future in which all religions are outlawed and a rebellious teenager finds the last Bible. The secret police are after him. He wants to sell the thing for the paper value. And his father wants him to get rid of it so the secret police will leave them alone. But he’s begun to read the Bible and it’s beginning to do something to him… That’s Steve Rzasa’s The Word Reclaimed and The Word Unleashed (Marcher Lord Press).
This is true in my own writing, as well. My second trilogy (Operation: Firebrand) is about a Navy SEAL who is a new Christian. On a mission, in which he’s supposed to assassinate someone in his role as sniper, he hesitates, wondering how this reconciles with his newfound faith. The hesitation causes his best friend to become terribly injured. His guilt and attempts to understand his faith propel the rest of the book. Plus, there’s explosions and pretty girls, so what’s not to like?
a. Is the gospel clearly given in your novels?
No. Well, in both my trilogies, the third book in the trilogy is usually the strongest in terms of what amount of gospel content they have. In both third books, a character comes to Christ.
6. In your partial novel Grasping At Angles the main character, John Green has bitterness toward the Lord clearly setting us up for a salvation encounter. Do your science-fiction/fantasy novels do the same?
Some do. The point in my fiction isn’t to bring readers to Christ directly, as with a gospel tract. Rather, I’m doing apologetics, showing real (read: flawed) Christians trying to live the Christian life and showing the hope and peace they find in Him. Living it out trumps preaching in my book—and my books!
7. Is your audience mainly male?
Surprisingly, no. I do have a lot more male readers than most Christian novelists, but the primary Christian fiction reader—even of speculative and military fiction—is female.