What’s your greatest personal strength?
It’s much easier to list my faults, but if I must single out a strength, it would probably be my imagination. Dreaming up worlds in elaborate detail is something that I have trouble *not* doing. I’m not always sure that it’s a strength at all. There are times when I’ve wished that I could shut off my imagination and be happy working a regular job, but the creative monster inside is quick to remind me that I won’t be satisfied unless I feed it.
What’s your biggest personal weakness?
I can be impatient and occasionally a bit of a pessimist. If I don’t have some project to work on, I tend to get restless, and I’m prone to stressing out when something is simply out of my hands. “Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26) – I don’t always have an easy time remembering that.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
My favorite writers of Christian theology and philosophy include classic thinkers such as Aquinas and Pascal, along with some fantastic modern writers such as Peter Kreeft and Scott Hahn. For fiction, I lean towards sci-fi and fantasy, with J.R.R. Tolkien and Gene Wolfe among my favorites. The wonderful work of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton crosses into both genres.
What books did you love growing up?
I devoured troves of fantasy novels in my youth. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit), The Belgariad, The Dark Elf Trilogy, Dragonlance . . . Some of it was Christian, but there was also plenty of standard Dungeons & Dragons fare. I enjoyed sci-fi novels as well (such as The Time Machine), but fantasy was my go-to genre.
What attracts you to being a writer?
I’ve been spinning stories in my head as long as I can remember. Writing wasn’t always my first choice for how to tell them, but one of the things that won me over was the freedom that writers have in crafting their vision. Most other storytelling mediums (such as movies) require a team effort. Novels are one of the few fields where an artist can single-handedly bring his or her vision to fruition (with the possible aid of an editor and cover artist ^_^).
Do you plan to stick to the same genre of books?
There are definitely more Christian stories that I’d like to tell, so it’s a safe bet that I’ll be writing more novels in the genre, though readers shouldn’t expect them to resemble Dead & Godless too closely. One of the great things about Christian fiction is that it’s a fairly broad space. Whether I want to pen a contemporary mystery, a sci-fi saga, or an epic fantasy series, there’s plenty of room to get creative while still delivering a Christian message.
When you wish to end your career, stop writing and look back, what thoughts would you like to have?
If, looking back, I can say that my writing changed even one person’s life for the better, then I won’t have any regrets. Of course, selling 100 million books would be nice too :)
What book should everybody read at least once?
It’s so hard to pick just one! Other than the Bible, Dante’s The Divine Comedy also comes to mind as an essential read (though not an easy one). Its fusion of poetic storytelling, imagination and spiritual truth is packed with layers of meaning, making it truly one of the greatest achievements in all of literature.
Are there any books you really don’t enjoy?
While the Christian fiction genre is close to my heart, it’s also a space rife with vague moral platitudes and mixed messages. I’m not going to name any books in particular (and there are many true gems in the genre), but those works that try to wrap Christ’s message in politically-correct packaging can be painful to read. I’d rather read a book I disagree with (such as Hitchen’s “god is not Great”) that’s at least strong and forthright in its claims, than a wishy-washy appeal to “nice guy Christ.”
Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live?
I spent the earlier half of my childhood in Buffalo, New York before my family moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida where I still live today. It was a fairly extreme change of scenery, going from daunting drifts of snow in the winter to sunny beaches and palm trees. While I love Florida, I do sometimes miss the seasons (and the food!) of the northeast. I headed back up north to Ohio for college, and had the good fortune of being able to spend a semester studying abroad in Europe. Experiencing a diversity of climates, cultures and architectural styles provided plenty of fuel for my imagination.
Do you have any tips on how writers can relax?
I’ve always liked Saint Thomas Aquinas’ advice about dealing with feeling stressed out or depressed. He recommended three things: a hot bath, a large glass of wine, and a good night’s rest. That’s a time-tested recipe for relaxation.
If you could do any job in the world other than writing, what would it be?
Ruling out glamorous jobs such as rock star or NFL quarterback, I’d probably be happy as a content director for a website. I’ve been an internet entrepreneur for most of my adult life, and while it hasn’t made me rich, it’s given me the free time to pursue passions such as writing. Plus, I love the idea of being able to go anywhere in the world and still take care of business so long as I’ve got an internet connection.
How do you think people perceive writers?
I used to perceive writers as people who have a lot more free time than myself. Nowadays, I think more and more people view writing a book as an attainable goal, and so the status of authors has been brought back down to earth.
What does love mean to you?
Love isn’t a feeling. It’s a verb – something we choose to do, even when we don’t feel like it. Theologically speaking, love is defined as “willing the good of the other as other.” That last part is often lost in translation. It means not striving for ownership over a person, but acknowledging their freedom and respecting it, even when that freedom means rejecting God in favor of Hell.
Do you find the time to read?
I wouldn’t be a writer if I wasn’t a reader first. Reading keeps me from losing my mind. I often make time in the evenings to lounge on the couch by the warm light of my favorite lamp and get lost in good book. Sometimes I’ll also read by the pool or in bed before falling asleep. Never been a coffee shop reader, though. I need to be able to shed at least half my clothing for an optimal reading experience.
Last book you purchased? Tell us about it.
My last purchase was two books, which I’m now reading side-by-side despite their stark differences (I do that sometimes). They are Scott Hahn’s “Swear to God: The Promise and Power of the Sacraments” and Hideyuki Kikuchi’s “Vampire Hunter D: Mysterious Journey to the North Sea, Part One.” One sheds light on the historic and biblical relevance of the sacraments, and the other features monster slaying in a far-future dystopia. I’m enjoying both of them a lot, though the D novels are admittedly a bit of a guilty pleasure for me.
When and why did you begin writing?
I first thought seriously about writing when I was in the fifth grade. I filled over twenty pages in one of my school notebooks with a story that I’d started writing on the fly, called “Laser Lizards.” It was a shameless rip-off of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I never did finish it, but it taught me one thing: If you’ve got the willpower, you can write a book. Twenty pages was an enormous amount of writing in the eyes of ten-year-old me, but I realized that, like most big tasks, you just have to tackle it one step at a time.
What do you consider the most challenging thing about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
Like many writers, stories comes to me in scenes. I’ll have an overall concept – what I want to say with the story – and a bunch of exciting sequences in my head, but tying them all together can be a real challenge. No part of your novel should be filler. Making the transitional scenes between your big moments feel natural, and be just as engaging as those big moments, is something that takes a lot of thought and effort.
What makes you angry?
As a religious writer, I find the trend of religious pluralism to be a pet peeve. You wouldn’t say that all political ideologies are equal, or that all economic beliefs are the same, but when it comes to religions, many people have a psychological need to declare them all equivalent. They cling to this dogmatically, going to great lengths to draw equivalence where none exists. Religions are vastly different. Fundamentally different. Some are inherently more political than others. There’s a big difference between “thou shalt not steal” and “thou shalt not steal, and if you do, here’s the punishment (to be meted out in this world, not the next).” To insist upon religious pluralism is to refuse to think analytically. It’s a form of intellectual laziness.
When outspoken atheist Corwin Holiday dies an untimely but heroic death, he’s assigned a chain-smoking, alcoholic angel as his defense attorney in the trial to decide the fate of his soul.
Today many cast Christianity aside, not in favor of another faith, but in favor of no faith. We go off to school or out into the world, and we learn that reality is godless and that free thinking means secular thinking. But must faith entail an end to asking questions? Should not the Author of Reason be able to answer the challenge of reason?
Dead & Godless is a smart and suspenseful afterlife adventure that explores the roots of truth, justice and courage. In these pages awaits a quest that spans universes, where the stakes are higher than life and death, and where Christianity’s sharp edges aren’t shied away from, because we’re not called to be nice. We’re called to be heroes.
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Genre - Christian Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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