Q&A: Austin Boyd and Brannon Hollingsworth
WHAT LED YOU TO WRITE H20?
Austin Boyd: I was between contracts for novels. I'd finished one for B&H Publishers, had nothing else in the queue, yet I had an itch to get writing again. My good friend and webmaster, Brannon Hollingsworth, proposed that we write a novel together. It was an intriguing concept that he promoted, one where he hypothesized that a woman who loves water finds out that the contact with her beloved liquid sparks uncontrollable visions. I'd never written what some call "fantasy" and it sounded like a great opportunity to stretch as a writer. With just a little encouragement from Brannon, (a man who is afraid of nothing), we decided to write the novel in the first person female point of view (POV) as an added challenge. We would write it in the voice of a 29 year old woman, someone young enough to be my daughter. I don't think that the word "stretched" is adequate to express how challenging... and fun... this novel was for us.
Brannon Hollingsworth: You're not going to believe this, but I got the idea one day when I splashed my face with water! The whole concept of the book came to me in one massive, nearly over-powering flash. The entire structure of the story was there - not all the details, of course, but the whole underpinning concept of water being eternal and being able to confer details about where it had been some place back in time, during the water cycle. I knew that being able to see through the eyes of the water in the Red Sea as it parted, or being the water that became the first rainbow would be a powerful and impactful thing... I have no doubt that this idea came directly from Christ through the Holy Spirit, because I personally do not conceive of "whole cloth" ideas in this manner. The concept intrigued me and I knew then that I would have to write the book, even if it was never published. I pitched the idea to Austin (again at the prompting of the Holy Spirit - another great mini-story) and he thought it was as cool as I did, so we were off to the races!
STARTING OUT, WHO WERE THE AUTHORS WHO INSPIRED YOU? WHO INSPIRES YOU NOW?
Austin: The authors who inspired me for writing "fantasy" or "speculative fiction" were C.S. Lewis and John Bunyan. C.S. Lewis had written a series of space novels (as had I, albeit not as long ago and not as famous), and his famous allegory The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Lewis was an inspiration because he found that, through other-worldly fiction, he could share Truth. I set my sights on doing the same...sharing Truth through fiction, or what I call "A Novel Approach to Truth." John Bunyan used an allegory to share Scripture through story, and that seemed like a great approach for our work. I hoped that we might create a modern Pilgrim's Progress with an "other worldly allegory" that helped tech-savvy readers understand redemption and the beauty of the Gospel.
Brannon: I would have to cite J.R.R. Tolkien as my initial inspiration for writing. After reading The Hobbit, I just knew that I wanted to write and tell stories and that even if I were never published or never made a dime doing it, I would write as long as I was able. Past that initial surge of inspiration, I tend to gravitate towards any writer that pushes the envelope in terms of what's already been done; I love stories and take reality and turn them on its ear, forcing us to re-examine our preconceptions and presuppositions. Any poet, author, scriptwriter, comic writer, etc. that can do that inspires me: T.S. Eliot, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, C.S. Lewis, Ted Dekker, Frank Miller, Tosca Lee, Anne Rice, David Platt, Josh Whedon - the odd and eclectic list goes on and on...
HOW DOES YOUR FAITH INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?
Austin: Faith drives my writing. I am keenly aware that I am not in control of this activity. God gave me the talent to write when I was very young. Like Forrest Gump who was happy running and running, God has inspired me to write throughout my entire life, but for most of that time I did not realize what He was preparing me to do. Now I realize that God connects me with brilliant men like Brannon, with inspirational publishers, and with sales opportunities, to grant me the opportunity pen His word through story. This is not a hobby or an avocation for me. It's a calling, and I am blessed to be able to do my part for the Kingdom by putting words on paper and inspiring people. There are many days when, looking back on a scene I have written, I have absolutely no idea where the words came from. That's one of the proofs that God is in control. Nothing works when I put the focus on "me."
Brannon: I'm a relatively young Christian, so for a long time faith had very little to do with my writing. Yet, I never liked stories (either reading or writing) where there's very little hope (and yes, I know I mentioned Lovecraft above...). I've always hated those movies where the vampire is looming over the pitiful priest with his wavering crucifix and mops the floor with him. I start yelling at the priest, "Use your Faith! Use that awesome Power! Blast him!!" As such, I've always tried to write stories that have a heart and that have a solid, moral center. Now, since my salvation (thank you, Jesus!), my faith is at the heart and soul of my work. I want to show people not only that solid, moral center, but also where that center comes from, where it resides and where you can find it! And, if I'm lucky, I can tell the story from a distinctly off-center angle (see what I did there...) so the reader never sees it coming.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR?
Austin: I wrote my first poetry anthology for Mrs. Hawkins, my incredibly inspirational third grade teacher at Lamar Elementary in LaMarque, Texas. I banged out neighborhood newspapers on an old manual typewriter and bought a printing press to put them into print when I was 12. I wrote poetry all through secondary school, then in college. I wrote articles and technical papers through a 25 year career as a pilot in the Navy. Like I said... I am a literary Forrest Gump. "Life is like a box of chocolates... you never know what you're gonna write." I can't stop writing. It's always been in my blood.
Brannon: I always loved reading and writing (I was that weird kid that read encyclopedias and dictionaries after all the other books in the house had been read), but I think I knew when I was in the fifth grade. I wrote a story for my fifth grade class entitled, "Friends Are For Caring," about this little boy who gets lost in the Redwood forests of California and meets a cool little troll-dude who helps him out. I won some sort of award or prize (or something) for that story and that's the moment I knew.
WHAT DO YOU MOST HOPE THAT READERS GET FROM READING YOUR WORK?
Austin: In general, I hope that readers see "Jesus with skin on" in the good characters of my novels. I want readers to learn from the life lessons in the novels. And, from H2O, I hope that readers will come to understand that cleanliness is not just skin deep. Our sin penetrates into our innermost being, and only true cleansing of the Holy Spirit can renew us, make us whole and fresh in the presence of God. H2O is more overt in its spiritual message than my suspense novels. And, in that "overt appeal," it's a blast. You get inside the "eyes" of water and see Scripture from an entirely new perspective. I hope that new perspective excites readers and makes the Bible passages that we "interpret" even more alive for them. I want God's fingerprint on our lives to come alive in brilliant color for every reader.
Brannon: It's my utmost desire to bring glory to Christ and his Kingdom with the talents he's given me, so that's first and foremost. After that, I hope that my readers can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel something in my work that they maybe don't initially understand, but they know without a shadow of a doubt that they're drawn to it. I then want them to want to know more about this mysterious thing that they've detected in my work and have them hunger for it. Finally, it is my sincere hope that they understand "the reveal", when (if I've done my job right as a writer), I pull back the cover and show them that all along, despite what they've been thinking, they're really seeing a picture of Christ and His love for them. That "AH HA!" moment is what I hope readers receive and retain from my work.