Robert Liparulo Interview, Part 2

Today I’m continuing the interview with Christian thrill writer and now Christian speculative YA fiction author Robert Liparulo.

RLM: Would you be inclined to proudly accept or sheepishly duck the tag of “plot driven” for your books? And why?

RL: I’d shy away from that label. While my stories tend to be high-concept, in that they are big and easily grasped in a sentence or two, it’s really the characters that define them, not their plots. I avoid detailed outlines, because I want my characters to tell me where the story ought to go. I’d call what I write “high-concept, character-driven adventures.”

RLM: Your YA books have been compared favorably to those by authors such as Ted Dekker. If you could choose which author you wanted your books to be like, who would you name and why?

RL: That’s a tough one, because I’d like to think my stories and style are unique and beyond comparison. But comparisons are inevitable, I know. It makes it easier for readers who haven’t read an author to understand what they may be getting into, whether they would probably like the author or not. With that in mind, I’d like to write accessibly strange stories, the way Stephen King does; with the literary skills and popular sensibilities of Dean Koontz and Peter Straub; and the storytelling abilities of Richard Matheson and Frank Peretti.

RLM: Thomas Nelson, a member of the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association (ECPA) is your publisher. Why was it important for you to be published by a house known for its Christian content?

RL: The bottom line is I’m a Christian. I knew when I signed with Nelson, as I do now, that my faith would inform my writing. I want to tell stories that reflect God’s goodness and grace, and depict heroes that behave the way I believe we should behave, with heroism and bravery. I like action thrillers, and had a hard time finding them in Christian bookstores or the Christian fiction sections of mainstream bookstores. So I’d buy them from the mystery and thriller sections of secular stores, which usually meant I had to put up with gratuitous sex and violence to get the intrigue and action I wanted as a reader. I wanted to give people what I was craving: action thrillers without the things that would make them R rated, if they were movies.

RLM: What about your work is distinctly Christian?

RL: The simple answer is “I do.” And I do think that’s a more important consideration than specific scenes or characters who are obviously Christian. My stories reflect my strong faith in Christ, but in subtle ways. I don’t often wrote scenes that specifically reference this faith, but through my characters’ actions, I think it becomes obvious that they are acting in Godly ways. Some fiction contains more overt references to faith than mine do. I believe there’s room for all sorts of stories in God’s kingdom. I think of what I write as sort of a frontline in the battle for God’s kingdom. I’m reaching readers who want the action, but not necessarily the faith. Then they realize they like what they’ve read and they hear through interviews or other readers or by virtue of my publisher that I’m a Christian, and they think, “Hey, that wasn’t preachy. Maybe there are other books by Christians that I would like.” And they go deeper into the fold, until they find—and I hope, like—the more overtly faith-based stories.

RLM: Why should readers, young or old, read the Dreamhouse Kings series?

RL: First, to be entertained. It’s a fun, action-packed story. Next, for the good examples of family, bravery, and eventually, faith. Because the family has to overcome all kinds of obstacles, such as dangers when they go back in time and the threats of a man in the present trying to get them out of the house, plus their own doubts and fears, it paints the story of people who have to do what’s right regardless of all the reasons not to. It explores the values of love for family and fulfilling what you were designed to do—your destiny, if you will.

RLM: Thanks so much, Robert, for taking time to dialogue with us about your work.

RL: Thanks for letting me ramble. We writers love to do that!

Fantasy Friday – An Interview, Part 1

Announcements. Please vote in our monthly poll for the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award.

Also, check out the list of nominations for the Clive Staples Award. Be sure your choice is on the list and remember, these are books published in 2008. You can see the requirement details in the post opening nominations.

Authors Wayne Batson and Christopher Hopper have a great contest going on to promote their new book, Curse of the Spider King (the CSFF November feature). Follow this link and check it out!

The Interview. Some of you may already be fans of action thriller author Robert Liparulo (Comes a Horseman, Germ), but perhaps you didn’t realize (as I didn’t) that he’s currently writing a young adult series of speculative fiction. I had a chance to ply him with some questions—too many for one post, but we’ll get started today:

RLM: In July Timescape, the fourth book in your series for young adults released. Tell us a little about the Dreamhouse Kings series.

RL: The King family moves to a small town in northern California, so Dad could take a job as principal of the local middle and high school. They move into a run-down Victorian home, where they find a hidden hallway of doors.

Each door leads to a portal to a different time in history. Trouble is, not only can they go from the house to the past, people from the past can come through into their house. Someone does—and kidnaps Mom, taking her into some unknown place in the past. The Kings—primarily David and Xander—begin a quest for Mom, which takes them to many dangerous and incredible places throughout time. We slowly learn that the family is in the house for a very specific purpose and they must do much more than “simply” find their mother.

With each book, the action and stakes increase. It’s a lot of fun.

RLM: You broke in as a published author three years ago with your much acclaimed adult thriller, Comes a Horseman. What prompted you to shift gears and start writing for an young adult audience?

RL: A lot of high schoolers started reading my “adult” thrillers, especially Germ, and I got a chance to talk to classes and book groups. I found that I really enjoyed talking to young readers; they’re primarily interested in the things that made me want to become a writer in the first place: story and character. They love asking why a story went one way instead of another, why characters did what they did. Every time I left a school, I was excited to get back to storytelling. The kids really pumped me up.

Right around this time, my publisher called and asked if I’d be interested in writing a few young adult stories. I jumped at the chance.

RLM: Your fans love the high-action thrills in your books. What prompted you to dip into speculative elements for the Dreamhouse Kings series?

RL: In tackling young adult stories, I decided not to “talk down to” them. I wanted to retain my style of writing and even the vocabulary. These are smart readers, savvy consumers of story. I decided what would make these stories “young adult” would be the protagonists—they would be youthful, like the readers—and the story itself would be one that this age, particularly, would like. I have four kids of my own, so I know they enjoy far-out stories, speculative adventures. They are more willing than adults to suspend disbelieve for the sake of a good story. That got me thinking about a dream I had when I was eleven or twelve about a house with doors to the past, and that developed into the Dreamhouse Kings.

I’ve always been a fan of speculative fiction—Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Isaac Asimov—and in my early days, I wrote short stories that could be classified as horror or science fiction, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to go there now.

To be continued.

Author Interview – Tom Pawlik

Tom who? you might be saying. Rightfully so. Tom Pawlik is a fairly new author. His debut novel Vanish won the 2006 Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest and was subsequently published in 2008 by Tyndale House Publishers.

It just so happens that the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring Vanish this month, though Tom’s second novel Valley of the Shadow just came out. Much better, as far as I’m concerned, to introduce readers to the beginning of a series instead of jumping into the middle. Readers would definitely miss out if they didn’t experience Vanish first.

All that being said, I was able to ask Tom a few questions about his writing.

RLM: How did you conceive of the premise for Vanish and its follow up, Valley of the Shadow?

    TP: The basic premise grew out of a dream I had several years back. I’m not sure about other authors, but I get a lot of weird ideas from dreams. Then I spent the next couple of years developing the story line before submitting it to the CWG [Christian Writers’ Guild] contest.

RLM: You are among friends, Tom. 😉 I know of more than one speculative fiction writer who got the idea for their story from a dream. In fact, I’m included in that group! 😀 But I’m curious about your involvement in the CWG/Tyndale First Novel contest. What do you think set Vanish apart from the other entries?

    TP: I don’t believe any of the other finalists were in the Speculative genre. I had convinced myself there was no way I was going to win because Tyndale doesn’t typically publish this type of book. Thankfully, they liked it well enough to pick it as the winner.

RLM: Tell us about the editing process. Did your editors at Tyndale ask you to make any major changes, and if so, how hard was that?

    TP: I had always heard how tough the editing process is, but my experience with Tyndale was actually a very pleasant one. We started with a conference call in which they go through a list of items they liked as well as some suggested changes. I had originally written Mitch’s father as a Presbyterian minister and they suggested changing his occupation to avoid that cliche. In the end, I was glad they did because I would have never thought to make him a congressman. And now that change has opened a door for some other, future ideas.

RLM: When you wrote about Conner, Mitch, and Helen’s plight, what kind of reaction were you hoping to generate in the reader?

    TP: I wanted each of the three main characters to be flawed but likable. Even though they each had some dark secret lurking in their pasts, I tried to make them sympathetic characters.

RLM: Sympathetic characters in mortal (or immortal) danger. I wondered if you were hoping to generate fear as much as curiosity or surprise or excitement, but I suppose that’s best left to the reader to discover.

Describe your journey as a novelist. What got you started writing, who influenced you, what are your aspirations?

    TP: Being a novelist has been a life-long dream of mine. After 14 years of pursuing the career through the conventional routes, I had nearly given up until I came across the CWG website and saw the contest. I was absolutely thrilled to win and get my first publishing contract. I was a huge fantasy and sci-fi fan through my youth (and still am). Obviously, Tolkien and Lewis have both influenced me tremendously. I also enjoyed Gordon R. Dickson’s writing, Asimov, Bradbury and others. My goal is to be the premier Christian sci-fi/fantasy author of the twenty-first century. How’s that for an aspiration!

RLM: Hey, another similarity between us! 😀

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions, Tom. It’s great to get to know another Christian speculative fiction author.

As visitors here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction might guess, I’m not alone on this blog tour. Take some time this week to see what these other bloggers are saying about Vanish (and as I find them, I’ll put √’s with the permanent links to their posts):

Published in: on June 22, 2009 at 11:06 am  Comments (11)  
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Fantasy Friday – Tidbits

Lo and behold, the latter part of this week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance featured Donita Paul and DragonLight. How cool is that! Back-to-back tours. Now that’s the way to keep the buzz going.

My name isn’t listed at the CFBA blog as one participating on the tour because I didn’t order a book through them. Nevertheless I want to mention Donita and her work again—partly because she is one of the pioneers in the Christian fantasy resurgence, partly because I enjoy her writing, partly because I think she has a wonderful Web site with lots to explore, including some games to play and art to enjoy, and partly because she has a new blog.

Then there’s the upcoming Motiv8 Fantasy Tour coming to the West Coast in a few short months when I’ll actually get to meet Donita and several others I’ve only had the pleasure of corresponding with on line.

Lastly, there is the t-shirt I just received—a very cool blue on gray that says, “Look wise, say nothing, and eat only those who annoy you.” 😉 In small print below it says, “I read DragonKeeper Chronicles,” which I do. 😀

Turning the corner to another piece of fantasy news some of you may be interested in, Michael Warden, author of Gideon’s Dawn, a … substantial first volume of the Pearlsong Refounding series, has self-published the second book, Waymaker.

The first volume was an echo of Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant trilogy. Since I credit those novels with providing me the impetus to write fantasy, I have followed Warden somewhat, and am pleased that he’s making an effort to finish what he started.

No doubt about it, epic fantasy is a challenge. Happily, it appears he has every intention of seeing the story through to the end. Good for him. Good for Christian fantasy.

Then the third piece of news. Jeff Gerke of posted an interview with me which you can read here. He also posted one of my short stories, a piece entitled “Swallow and Beyond” which I wrote for a Writer’s Digest contest. I hope you take a moment or two to stop by either pages some time this weekend.

The Last of J. Mark Bertrand (here … for now)

Today we wrap up my conversation with J. Mark Bertrand. Let me know what you thought about “listening in” while we discussed worldview, and feel free to comment about Mark’s ideas as well. I’m curious to know if you agree with me that he’s not said anything controversial. 😉

Don’t forget—this conversation started in part because Mark’s book Rethinking Worldview released this week.

Picking up with the question I left yesterday:

RLM: I’d agree with you about Til We Have Faces, certainly—it’s high on my “favorites” list.

I’m curious about the set of ideas a Christian author writing from his Biblical worldview will work out through his fiction. You mentioned creation, the fall, redemption. How “theologically correct” must a Christian be when writing fiction?

JMB: I don’t have a particular list of ideas in mind. Anything and everything is fair game. One modern novel that seems very reminiscent of Til We Have Faces is Athol Dickson’s River Rising, but instead of re-imagining the story of Psyche, Dickson uses the biblical story of Moses. It’s deftly done, and fits the Southern slave-holding culture very well. By incorporating the story structure, the themes of deliverance and reconciliation follow naturally.

But a different author might have a very narrow vision, just one idea to work out. As an example, I wrote a story called “Strings,” which was published in The Ankeny Briefcase, about a guy who realizes one day that tiny filaments from out of the sky are controlling his limbs. He’s a puppet on strings, or at least he seems to be when the light is shining a certain way. Sometimes he feels the strings dragging him; sometimes he thinks he’s pulling them along. I was trying to explore the paradox of freedom and divine sovereignty by approaching it through this absurd scenario. The story wasn’t “redemptive” except in the broadest terms, but it worked out an idea I’d received from Scripture.

I don’t think God has ordained a story structure, any more than he has a pattern for making proper chairs, so I’m not sure “must” comes into it. The Christian faith is a rich resource for novelists, not a straightjacket. Because they are storytellers rather than teachers, they approach the material differently than a pastor would. And frankly, they don’t have to approach it at all. Not every Christian writer is trying to work out his faith on the page. Some are just making a living by entertaining people, and that’s good, honest work.

RLM: But if an author addresses, through type or image or in an overt manner, an idea about God or the way He works—such as you did in your story—how theologically correct do you believe he needs to be? For that matter, even in the story written to entertain, isn’t there still some measure of truth, at least about the world, that will be in the background? In your opinion, how theologically correct should we write our fiction?

JMB: I see what you’re getting at. Let me answer this two ways, as an editor and as an author. As you know, I’m a fiction editor for Relief Journal, which publishes literary fiction written from a Christian perspective. When I read for the journal, I’m looking first and foremost for compelling stories and virtuosity. I happen to be located in the Reformed quadrant of Christianity, convinced that the system of doctrine contained in the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards accurately reflects the teaching of Scripture. Any expression of faith that falls short of that is insufficient, in my mind. Nevertheless, I’m not selecting Calvinist stories for Relief, I’m choosing Christian stories, and we apply a broad, ecumenical standard.

Why? Two reasons. First, we recognize that there are differences within the Church and so any journal that reflects the Church will manifest similar diversity. If a story is well-written and manifests a Christian influence, we’d like to showcase it. Our goal is to provide a snapshot of the best Christian fiction. The second reason is, art isn’t rocket science. I don’t want to specify for writers in advance the theological content I’m looking for, because then I can’t be surprised by new insight. I can’t learn. As an editor, I give a platform to people with talent. Some of them I agree with more than others, but I think there’s value in what all of them have to say.

Now as an author, I apply a different standard. In graduate school, we had to take a two-semester course called Modern Thought, the idea being that an author needed a philosophical grounding, some kind of intellectual orientation. After I finished my MFA, I decided to go one better and attend seminary. Thanks to the kind people at Westminster in Dallas, I was able to sit in on a number of classes that opened up a theological world to me I had only guessed at previously. My motive was personal enrichment, but I also hoped that this knowledge would be an influence in my work.

So yes, I think it’s important to get the theology right. I don’t claim to have always done this — both my understanding and my talent are limited — but it’s a priority for me. More than that, I think the novelist has an opportunity through drama to capture not just a theological “correctness” but a theological profundity that leaves a deep impression on readers. I don’t think C. S. Lewis was right on some key doctrinal matters, but Til We Have Faces taught me something about the holiness of God and our position standing before him that I might never have grasped in a sermon or lecture. I would hate to miss out on what Lewis got right because an editor had scruples about what he got wrong, so I conduct myself accordingly.

Perhaps some closing thoughts tomorrow, but special thanks to Mark for his time, for sharing his thoughts about an oft referred to and oft misunderstood subject.

Published in: on October 17, 2007 at 10:11 am  Comments (8)  

Worldview Thinking with Mark Bertrand, continued

Today we’re continuing the discussion with author J. Mark Bertrand. As a refresher, here’s the question I left you with yesterday:

RLM: That’s a helpful analogy [that our worldview is a puzzle consisting of particular pieces, or ideas]. In your earlier response, you mentioned thinking biblically. Would this be a “new puzzle piece” that makes a person rework the entire puzzle? And since I’m most interested in fiction, how do you believe a rethinking of worldview will affect a novelist?

JMB: Christ shakes up the puzzle pieces for sure. Obviously, when a person repents and believes, there follows a desire to see things differently. “God made the world,” you realize, “so everything is what he says it is. But what does he say it is?” Of course, the same thing happens to believers when they realize that the assumptions they inherited from their tradition might need some rethinking, too. Once you start asking worldview questions, you lose the easy assumption that whatever contemporary Christian culture looks like, that must be synonymous with the biblical worldview.

How does worldview thinking help a novelist? For one thing, it affords a greater awareness of his influences. It makes him a better reader, which automatically improves the writing. Also, contemplating the way worldviews function might help a novelist approach the storytelling task with greater subtlety.

Worldview thinking is often a catalyst for Christians trying to live out their vocations in a more biblical way. The Bible doesn’t lay down rules for writers any more than it does for cab drivers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring biblical perspectives to our work. The results will look different depending on the writer, of course. The final chapter of Rethinking Worldview — “Imagining the Truth: Christians and Cultural Contribution” — looks at this is more detail. I wrote it with artists in mind.

RLM: In a recent comment on another blog you reiterated what you said earlier about worldview being a useful tool in sanctification. (Here’s the quote: ‘For me, “rethinking” worldview has involved lifting it out of the sphere of apologetics and trying to situate it within the context of sanctification, so it’s more about the mind of Christ and a life of faithfulness, less about the false assumptions underlying other people’s perspectives and more about the often shaky footings of my own.’) So what do you think a novelist living out his vocation in a more biblical way would look like? How would a biblical worldview affect what an author writes about?

JMB: A novelist living out his vocation in a more biblical way would look like anyone else doing his work to the best of his ability. You’d see an emphasis on hard work, quality, honesty, all the virtues we associate with the so-called Protestant work ethic. In that sense, I don’t think the novelist is any different from other believers who face the difficulty of making a living in accord with their convictions. All of this might fit under the heading of personal piety.

As far as subject matter is concerned, I think that’s going to depend on the artist. Here it’s not a question of personal piety as much as it is theological influence. An author who’s studied Christian theology — and more importantly, believes it — is going to be influenced in the same way that, say, a Marxist author will be. That doesn’t mean he’s a propagandist, but it suggests that the set of ideas he works out in fiction is going to include biblical concepts like creation, fall, and redemption.

How the influence plays out in the selection of subject matter or the finished work is going to vary. This is a terrible oversimplification, but I think artists tend to see either though a wide angle or a zoom lens. Some are trying to capture the big picture in their work, and others focus on a single thread. C. S. Lewis fits in the first category. His best novel, if you ask me, was Til We Have Faces, which is an elegant re-working of the Psyche myth that ends up saying something profound about the nature of holiness and our self-deceiving rebellion against it. But can you imagine Flannery O’Connor writing that book, or Graham Greene? They were also influenced by Christian theology, but it came out in different ways.

I’ve written about the influence of theology on art in a short essay entitled, unimaginatively enough, “Theology’s Influence on Art,” which is online here.

By the way, in the bookstore this week, I found a list posted of the state’s annual reading selections. Apparently South Dakota designates one book a year for everyone to read and discuss. I’m not sure who makes the selection, but I was intrigued to see that Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead was last year’s book, and Peace Like A River was the pick a couple of years back. Both books manifest their theological influences, but they’re very different, and the same is true of most any author you can name.

RLM: I’d agree with you about Til We Have Faces, certainly—it’s high on my “favorites” list.

I’m curious about the set of ideas a Christian author writing from his Biblical worldview will work out through his fiction. You mentioned creation, the fall, redemption. How “theologically correct” must a Christian be when writing fiction?

More tomorrow.

Published in: on October 16, 2007 at 10:44 am  Comments (2)  

Shoe’s on the Other Foot—A Conversation with J. Mark Bertrand

As part of the introduction to a new study being held at my church, the flier included this paragraph:

The Barna Research Group revealed a stunning statistic—that only nine percent of professing Christians have a biblical worldview. Because of this, today’s believers live very similarly to non-believers. A personal sense of significance is rarely experienced, we spend our money and time on things that fail to satisfy and we begin to wonder what life’s ultimate purpose really is.

“Worldview” seems to be a hot topic just now, and books are beginning to come out discussing the topic. One such is by J. Mark Bertrand, a writer I respect for his integrity and intelligence. Mark’s first book Rethinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World released last week.

The timing of his book and my conversation with him posted at Mark’s fiction blog Write About Now pointed me to the idea of holding a dialogue with him here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, so for the next two days or so, I’ll post the interchange we had triggered by his new book. Just the opening today:

RLM: You have a non-fiction book coming out, Rethinking Worldview. Why a book on this subject and who did you write it for–who most do you hope reads it?

JMB: I’ve always been fascinated by the way prior beliefs shape our thought. We’re all trying to make sense of the world, and we don’t start with a clean slate. We’re fitting pieces into a puzzle — but what if they don’t fit? Either we make them fit, or we rethink the puzzle. That’s where the worldview concept comes into play.

Rethinking Worldview is an introduction to worldviews, but it’s also a re-introduction for people who think they’ve heard it all before. I wrote it for readers who want to think biblically about the world, and for the ones who think they already do, and for the ones who aren’t sure why it’s such a big deal in the first place.

RLM: I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “prior beliefs” or “we don’t start with a clean slate.” Can you elaborate a little more on what you mean by those thoughts?

JMB: Let me go back to the puzzle analogy. A new idea is like a puzzle piece. You’ve gone through life collecting these pieces, and you don’t keep them loose in the box. You fit them together. If I hand you a new piece that doesn’t fit — in other words, if I introduce you to a new idea that doesn’t fit with your prior belief system — you’ll be more skeptical than you would if it snapped into place. Prior beliefs, which are a product of past choices and experiences, influence your receptivity to new ones. Some pieces fit, some can be made to fit, and some don’t fit no matter how you re-arrange the puzzle.

The point is, the puzzle is your worldview, an effort to make sense of all the ideas and influences coming in on you. Being conscious of how worldviews are formed and how they function — as starting points, systems, and stories — helps you appreciate your own limitations and the limits of others, and also helps you communicate more effectively with them. And I would argue that, for the Christian, worldview thinking can be a useful tool in sanctification.

RLM: That’s a helpful analogy. In your earlier response, you mentioned thinking biblically. Would this be a “new puzzle piece” that makes a person rework the entire puzzle? And since I’m most interested in fiction, how do you believe a rethinking of worldview will affect a novelist?

We’ll take up the conversation from here tomorrow.

Published in: on October 15, 2007 at 10:13 am  Comments (9)  

Christian Fiction–Dialogue with Mark Bertrand cont.

I’m going to invite you to click over to Write About Now again today. This link is for yesterday’s post where there’s a lively discussion in the comments. At the top of the page you can then click over to part 2 of the dialogue.

Again, feel free to leave comments there, or come back here to give your feedback.

Published in: on October 9, 2007 at 10:47 am  Comments Off on Christian Fiction–Dialogue with Mark Bertrand cont.  

Christian Fiction–Answering Mark Bertrand

But not here.

Last week Mark and I exchanged emails which he’s posting at his new writer’s blog. Part 1 is up today, so I’d like to invite you to go to Write About Now to read A Dialogue with Becky Miller, Part 1. Feel free to leave comments there or come back here and give your feedback.

Published in: on October 8, 2007 at 9:43 am  Comments Off on Christian Fiction–Answering Mark Bertrand  

Touring for the Tour—Day 3

For those of you also from the United States, happy Fourth of July.

– – –

Already I can see what fun we’re in for starting next week, when fantasy authors Wayne Thomas Batson, Sharon Hinck, Bryan Davis, and Christopher Hopper take to the road for the Fantastic 4 Fantasy Fiction Tour.

Be sure to check out the web site and read the latest article available about the Fantasy Fiction Tour. And don’t forget to pray. With this talk of settling Pepsi/Coke differences with the swords, I’m starting to worry! 😀

Kidding aside (and not kidding about the “don’t forget to pray” part), I want to continue introducing these authors. Yesterday, I highlighted Bryan Davis, the author of this group who I know best.

Today, I’m bringing you an interview with the author I’ve most recently “met.” This is a virtual meeting, since I haven’t had the privilege of a face-to-face get-together yet. (If not soon, then in Heaven. 🙂 )

I am referring to Christopher Hopper, author of The White Lion Chronicles (Tsaba House).

    Christopher Hopper

Enjoy getting to know him through his thoughtful answers.

RLM: What age group do you write (and why) for?

CH: First off, I’d say I write for me (how self-centered!). Confessions of a Published Author: I hated reading in school. In fact, if my teachers knew how many book reports I bluffed my way through, I might still be in high school. But one day when I was 18 years old, a good friend handed a copy of Steven Lawhead’s “Song of Albion Trilogy” and it changed my life. I thought, “If I ever write a book, I want to write like that.” Why? Because I found it entertaining. And that was the first rule I learned about writing: if I like writing it, chances are that my audience will like reading it.

Another mark of good writing is that is stands the Age PH Test. Which brings me to the second part of my answer. I want teens to love my writings as much as grandparents. Take for example Wayne Thomas Batson’s work. He teaches writing to 5th and 6th graders. Naturally, he’s going to write for them. But I’m nearly 30 years old and I couldn’t put his books down! Bryan Davis is the same way. I’ve run into kids that find out I’ll be touring with him this month and their mouths hang open. But then their parents look at me and say, “Really?” Why the sudden parent interest? Because they’ve read all his books, too! The fact is, we all love a good story, no matter how young, or “seasoned” we are.

I’m a teen & college pastor at a wonderful church in northern NY. So my “day job” is spent thinking how to reach young adults, how to communicate the truth of God’s Word to them so that it changes their lives forever. But also how to relate to them and befriend them to that point of trusting what I have to say. A book is very much the same. I have to work for the trust of my readers. I have to build credibility with them. Only then will they receive what’s written. If I fail there, then I am a poor writer–a poor communicator. 

In the end, I’d have to say that I write for people with a child-like heart. 
RLM: Why did you decide to write a fantasy series?

CH: I’m a natural dreamer. Some of us are just born that way. My childhood was spent roaming the woods and building forts, creating stick villages by a creek-side and losing myself in the mountains. So writing fantastical stories is merely a life-long, childhood obsession that I’ve never grown out of. That’s the intrinsic side.

The moral side of things has to do with the principle of parables. I love what C.H. Dodd said: “At its simplest a parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application  to tease it into active thought.” (C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1961, p. 5). 

At a very foundational level, I have to look at the difference between non-fiction and fiction. Non-fiction is relating facts about the past or present, what is attainable and what the confines of human operation are and are not. But the world of fiction opens the mind, and ultimately the heart, to a whole new realm; I would argue a deeper realm, one that transcends understanding. 

C.S. Lewis had much to say on the subject. He wrote that fictional stories have a way of going around the dragons that we set up to guard the front gates of our minds; art has a way of going in the proverbial “back door” of our intellect, in affect making new thoughts easier to digest, and certainly more palatable. 

So why fantasy? Because I believe it is insanely powerful. That, and my biggest role model used it more often than not, especially when trying to teach (Jesus).

RLM: Tell us a little about your story.

CH: The White Lion Chronicles log the plight of a perfect world, sinless from its beginning, through the perilous and reoccurring temptations of Morgui, or Satan as we know him. Instead of this world’s Adam and Eve being deceived and entering into sin, Dionia’s first-born refuse the lies of the tempter and drive him out of their midst. But would an enemy so deeply pitted against the Creator be so easily repelled? 

Instead of Dionia falling all at once to the fate of The Fall, they endure a slow and often mysterious battle, a seduction into sin that takes them by surprise. 

Rise of The Dibor, book one of the series, outlines the plot of Dionian’s Kings to counter Morgui’s mounting power through training up an elite war band of youth, known simply as the Dibor. But plagued by evil they had not deemed imaginable, the Dibor are scattered throughout the realms, reeling from the carnage. 

Book two of the series, The Lion Vrie, sees the group of friends through to an eventual reunion, but littered with mysterious summonses and the unfolding of forbidding harbingers. By the end, they find themselves in the ultimate battle, not only for their lives, but for life as they know it–and then there’s book three! (Coming June 2008).

RLM:   What makes your fantasy unique?

CH: I had to ask my wife and brother-in-law who are sitting here at the table with me, simply because a response from me seems a bit self-serving, and I’m more interested in what they have to say anyway:

Jennifer: “Your writing doesn’t merely entertain the mind of a reader, but captures the heart and soul of the reader.”

John: “They way you describe your world, and how you paint your characters, makes everything seem so real–like you’re actually there.”

Wow…sounds like something I should read!

Honestly, I want to entertain people. It’s just fun. But I want them to be challenged. Changed. Even transformed, if I could be so hopeful. So that requires that an “it” factor be present, that “something” that you can’t quite put your finger on. 

RLM: Who is your favorite character (and why)? (Pick one! 😉 )

CH: My favorite character has to be Li-Saide. He is a dwarf from the Tribes of Ot, sometimes whimsical, most often shrewd, and always full of wisdom. With his billowy, patchwork hat and frumpy cloak, he has a way of bringing peace and reassurance into whatever situation he is in. He also has a habit of showing up when you least expect it. 

I think he’s my favorite because he is the one character that reminds me most of the Holy Spirit. He never minces words, always has the answers, and isn’t afraid to tell you the truth, even when it’s hard to hear; but yet there’s something you just love about him even though you can’t explain why.

Thanks for the great questions! Hope my answers are insightful and inspire you to pick up a good book this week! Blessings!

RLM again. Thanks, Christopher. I appreciate you taking the time in the midst of the busy-ness of getting ready for ICRS and the Fantasy Fiction Tour.

For those of you interested in seeing what other CSFF bloggers are saying about the Fantasy Four, check out the list of links at the CSFF Blog Tour site.

Published in: on July 4, 2007 at 11:27 am  Comments (4)  
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