WHAT LED YOU TO WRITE REALITY'S ASCENT?
But my novella, Infinite Realities, was about to come out, and did toward the end of November 2007, and my publisher planted the idea of doing a sequel. At first I passed it off because I didn't even have an idea what I wanted to do beyond those initial stories. I figured that would be it and I was moving onto other stories.
Not so fast. As November 1st drew near, the idea started nagging at me. As I sat down to the keyboard at midnight, November 1st, I decided right then to write the sequel instead of what I had planned. So I spent the first couple of hours plotting. It was a hurried plot, but gave me enough of an idea to have some direction and launch the story. By the end of November 2007, I had the 67K first draft of a new novel sequel. I spent 2008 editing it, and Double-Edged Publishing published it in March 2009 as Transforming Realities.
The story ended up being about a demon seeking to take or use the ring Sisko can no longer use, and traps Sisko's wife, Gabrielle, into the Crystal of Virtues. They go on a quest to find seven people who exhibit the virtues in order to get the keys to unlock her from the prison. With he demon throwing up road blocks and the search for the keys, they end up back at Sisko's town of Reol and the steam house were it all started for a final confrontation.
When Double-Edged Publishing went out of business, and I found my new publisher at Splashdown Books, I knew she would want to publish Reality's Dawn, since it was Infinite Realities but with new material in it, and the last book in the series since it was brand new, but she would be republishing Transforming Realities, and not getting the initial boast of a "new" book, I figured she wouldn't be interested in doing that one. I figured I would self-publish it just to have it out there and available.
But when I mentioned it, she immediately said she wanted to publish it too, because she loved it. She had originally given the book a 5-star review back in 2009, so I knew she liked it. But now I really knew she liked it if she was willing to sink money into a reprint.
So we cleaned up the few typos and other issues we found, E. J. Mikels did a new cover, renamed it from Transforming Realities to Reality's Ascent, and Grace spiffed up the map a good bit.
While the original printing with DEP was good, overall I'm very pleased with how Splashdown's version turned out. The cover looks more epic than the first, and the formatting is great. And everyone still likes the story, as it continues to get good reviews by most people.
STARTING OUT, WHO WERE THE AUTHORS WHO INSPIRED YOU? WHO INSPIRES YOU NOW?
In my teen years, what got me reading was fantasy like Charlotte's Web, and science fiction like the Runaway Robot. I read a biography of Lester Del Ray's writing experiences and identified with a lot of how he writes and operates. But I read many others like Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Tolkien, Lewis, that have influenced my likes and desire to tell a good story.
I'm not as well read on current authors as I'd like to be, though I've read some. But probably not enough to list any as folks who inspire me. If I break it down both on the storytelling/writing front, and the business side of writing, here's what I would have to say.
On the storytelling side, and I know this is going to sound to some like a cop out, but God. Reason I say that is when I stopped pastoring back in 1996, I felt for several years I was in noman's land. I kept asking God what he wanted me to do with my life. I felt bookkeeping was a temp job, not what I would do, though if that was all He had for me I would do my best at that job. But I never felt that was to be my final "job" for God.
Then in Oct. 2005, I "accidentally" wrote a space opera novel. An idea had popped into my head, so I sat down and wrote the first chapter. Upon reading it, my wife and daughter wanted to know where the next chapter was. So I wrote that one the next night. It went on that way all through the month until I had written a 94K novel. I'd never done anything like that before, but by the end of it, I felt a definite confirmation that this is what God had for me to do. To be a Christian influence upon these genres often dominated by secular worldviews.
So to avoid saying I inspired myself, I'd have to give the credit to God. (grin)
On the business side, however, I've learned a lot just by reading Dean Wesley Smith's blog. I feel for the first time getting into this writing gig that I have some solid direction on how to have success. I have an ultimate goal of writing stories full time. This year I feel what little I've done so far on that has shown some success, and I plan to keep writing and pushing it until I can retire from my bookkeeping and write fun stories all the time. Before reading him, I felt like such happening would be a lucky shot in the dark that only happens to a lucky few. But he's shown how you can take the "gambling" out of it to a large extent and greatly increase the odds in your favor, so that you are likely to be discovered.
But it takes work, patience, persistence and continually working to improve your craft, and above all, to write, write, write, write. Because that is the only way to really get to professional standards is to practice.
HOW DOES YOUR FAITH INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?
At a foundational level, it forms a Christian worldview in which my characters live and breathe, no matter whether Christianity is an up front element of the story or not. Thus, my more general audience novels will have that worldview as a foundation of how the world operates, what the consequences are for various characters' actions.
This is contrasted with much science fiction that is a more secular worldview-based, or fantasy which tends to be pagan based. As a matter of fact, due to the debate in the Christian world on whether fantasy can be Christian or not, I wrote an editorial at the end of the novella, Infinite Realities which defines much of this worldview that I think our secular mindset, even among Christians, has been lost, and that fantasy can help to restore. It has been re-printed online by Residential Aliens.
The Reality Chronicles is a more overt Christian story, in that the main characters are Christians, though others are not. A lot of the story revolves around the main character's attempts to be the hand of God to those he meets, and how that changes both others and him.
While this is an allegory, God himself, unlike many such allegories, is not allegorized. I wanted the main character's experience to be more related to our own, even in the area of dealing with God, so I didn't want to create a character that represented Him. Nor did I have an "audible" voice speaking to the main character. But God communicates with him and there are theological truths in the story which are allegorical in nature. Some fairly obvious, others more hidden, often using fairytale or fantasy tropes reworked to fit a Christian framework of operation.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR?
I think I had a desire to be one for a long time, but it remained hidden from me until October 2005. As a young teen, my brother and I drew comics, and I would record stories onto cassette tape like a radio drama, doing all voices and sound effects with my own mouth and nothing more. I wrote a Shakespearean comedy for an English class assignment in high school, and a short story parody of Little Red Riding Hood. But I simply didn't know enough about how to become an author or get published to ever seriously consider a writing career. It was simply something I enjoyed doing, and any idea of ever getting published were simply dreams I had no idea how to fulfill, or where to even start. Such as it was before the days of the Internet.
Writing that full space opera novel in Oct. 2005 was the first time I fully thought to myself, "I should be an author." And I've been working steadily at that goal since then.
WHAT DO YO MOST HOPE THAT READERS GET FROM READING YOUR WORK?
Two things. One, I hope people are entertained. That may not seem to be what a Christian should put as primary, but we have to face reality. The main reason someone is going to pick up a work of fiction is to be entertained. If that basic need is not met, you're story will not likely get read, and whatever message or profound meaning you have infused into your story will only affect a handful of people rather than thousands.
Christians who bypass this requirement, to write quality, entertaining, gripping stories to the best of their ability, and to continue to learn how to do that better, are, in my opinion, short-selling God. We can't skimp there if we want to really make a difference. We have to compete with the market if we want to be an positive influence in the genres we're writing in for God.
Two, when they do read my work, I'm hoping that I've presented things in a way that makes people think, that opens up new ways of understanding life, the Christian walk, for both Christians and non-Christians. I hope people are changed for the better once they put one of my books down. Even if that change is subtle, I'll feel I've accomplished what God wanted me to do.
In short, to be read and be an agent for change in favor of God in people's lives in one degree or another.