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To be Subtle or Not to Be Subtle

2013 August 2
by Andrea Graham

Dear Editor,

As a Christian writer, I want to make a positive spiritual impact on my readers. Specifically, I feel God wants me to be a witness to atheists and agnostics through my writing. Christian authors with far more publishing experience than I tell me, if I want to write for a non-Christian audience, I must not allow my Christian characters to make any references to our religious beliefs and only hint that they might have religious reasons for their actions. In short, I’m told, I need to hide my beliefs while trying to subtly influence the reader to believe, too.  This makes me uncomfortable, but I’m told I’ll only offend my audience if I do it any other way.

Sincerely,

Confused

As I understand the Bible, in any context, a faith that is hidden cannot touch anyone in a way that will draw them toward the faith. What can touch people is a plain-spoken, humble faith that is neither fake nor forced but rather lived out naturally. When we do that in any setting, the only non-Christians you’ll offend are folks too hardened for the Holy Spirit to draw them by any means. In my experience, aside from those guys, it’s actually Christians you most have to worry  about offending.

That said, the bible does present one subtle form of Christian story telling known as the parable, which is essentially an allegory where the hidden meaning is religious. However, parables are only for people with ears to hear. Before a parable can touch an unbeliever, they have to be able to figure out what it means. The atheists I’ve heard from feel like Christians who write subtle are trying to trick them. No one likes to be tricked.

Any time we’re wanting to persuade an atheist to become a Christian, if we don’t want to be perceived as rudely crossing the atheists’ boundaries, it’s best to be direct, natural, respectful, and to wait until they indicate interest in hearing our logical, rational case for Christ’s existence with an open mind.

In fact, most humans of all persuasions prefer it to be disclosed plainly up front what philosophical/political/religious perspective a media item is going to be taking so we can make an informed decision whether we’re interested in “being reached,” persuaded to switch to an opposing viewpoint. If we’re not interested, with a few vocal, rude exceptions, the question then becomes whether the story is good enough to merit overlooking that.

If you write an entertaining enough novel, so long as it maintains a level of your philosophical/political/religious beliefs that’s tolerable to readers committed to the opposite view, they will happily read to the end. However, they will go on with their lives with what they’ve read having made zero impact on their beliefs.

Christians well know this when we’re consumers evaluating materials advocating non-Christian beliefs, but we sometimes conveniently forget it when we’re producing materials advocating Christian beliefs. Why? Well, it pokes holes in our “evangelism” excuse for writing to please a market where we’ll get more money but not actually be able to make an impact because their minds are already made up. The only religious reason for us to want that person’s money is the hope that person will leave a positive review that encourages someone who is willing to be persuaded to give our book a try.

If God has called someone to write fiction for evangelism purposes, that fiction’s target audience is open-minded unbelievers. It’s only a bonus if it’s also enjoyed by either Christians or closed-minded unbelievers who don’t mind (can tolerate) the religious content that organically arises due to the POV characters being “seekers of truth” (like the target audience) who find Christ near the end of their book or series and convert for *believable* reasons in a natural, non-canned way. It’d be most effective to open with the POV character considering Christianity* as a possibility but having questions they feel need answered before they’ll commit. It’s also best if they have an external conflict that can be enjoyed by anyone who reads the book’s genre. Why? Well, this audience typically seeks Truth from non-fiction and reads fiction for sheer pleasure. However, everyone appreciates a hero that we can personally relate to who is doing cool stuff.

*In a Fantasy novel, the POV character would be considering the validity of the Fantasy world’s Christianity analogue.

Of course, there is another option: pre-evangelism fiction.

Effective pre-evangelism fiction would feature a non-Christian POV character with a secular problem they solve with the help of a Christian who is just quietly living his or her faith in front of them, or it’d introduce the Christian as the POV character’s adversary. Either way, due to the Christian character showing the POV character love and respect while living in a way that’s consistent with his/her own beliefs, the POV character changes from being indifferent or hostile to Christians to respecting them without actually changing his or her own beliefs.

Here, the Christian sidekick/nemesis would need introduced fairly early so there’s no “gotcha” but Christianity isn’t even on the POV character’s radar as a possibility until the end of the series or the stand-alone book. Note authors’ first instinct is to make the POV character be of the same persuasion as us, as it is easier for us, but it’s harder on our audience if our audience is of another persuasion. It’s our job to give our audience a hero/ine they can relate to, which means it’s our job to research until we can see life through their eyes.

I consider fiction to be more suited for pre-evangelism than evangelism, but if God has called anyone to that, do it.


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What Do I Put In a Synopsis?

2012 June 8
by Andrea Graham

The contents of a synopsis should cover the major plot points of your novel. Publishers ask for a synopsis to see whether you know how to plot a novel before they read it. So a good place to start is the theory that there are only seven basic plots and identify which one(s) your story uses. That basic plot is the template for what information to put in your synopsis. Highlight both where you follow the basic plot and your personal twists.

Here are two example templates I’ve created based on two of the seven plots.

Synopsis of Voyage and Return by Archetypal Plot

Hero is restricted somehow but open to a shattering new experience. He is young and naïve, and curious and looking for wonder, and perhaps bored, drowsy, or restless. Hero is thrust out of his familiar, limited world into a strange world unlike anything he’s known before.

He explores his new world, fascinated by its puzzles and unfamiliarity. Hero’s restrictions are lifting. However, he never feels truly at home here.

Gradually, his difficulties and frustrations increase, drawing bands of a new restriction around the hero. A Dark Shadow grows and becomes increasingly alarming.

Dark Shadow dominates more and more, and begins to seriously threaten Hero’s survival. Hero is now even more restricted here than he had been at home.

Danger closes in on Hero and his suffering becomes unbearable. Just when all hope seems lost, Hero escapes from death at Dark Shadow’s hands by returning to the world he came from. Hero loses the positive relationships he’d gained in the other world, but Hero has learned from his experience and grown in character, so his life has been forever changed positively.

 

Synopsis of Rags to Riches by Archetypal Plot

Heroine is young and living in wretched conditions at home. She is lowly and unhappy. A dark shadow looms of malevolent rivals who scorn and maltreat her. A helper arrives (or an event occurs) that calls her (sends) her out into a wider world.

New ordeals crop up.  Heroine enjoys a first, limited success. Along with her improved fortunes, she gains a relationship that becomes her Precious and bests her Dark Rival(s) for now. She is not yet mature enough for her final state of glory.

Everything goes wrong. Dark Rival’s shadow returns. Heroine loses all she’s gained and is separated from her Precious. She is overwhelmed with despair in her darkest hour.

Heroine emerges from this darkness into a new light. She is still not everything she could be, but is discovering in herself a new strength. Once she matures into this, her strength is put to the final test as she must confront the dark rival, who stands in between her and her goal. At last, she successfully resolves this conflict and the dark shadow is removed from her life entirely.

Finally liberated, Heroine is reunited with her Precious. She enters fully into her own as she is now ready to receive God’s full purpose for her life and use what he gives her wisely.

If you like this technique, you can read about all seven basic plots in: Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker.


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Interview with Harriet Beamer

2012 April 3
by Andrea Graham

Gentle readers, we continue with our series of character interviews I am conducting. Recently, I had the delight of chatting with Harriet Beamer, the heroine of the Christian fiction novel Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus (April 24, 2012/Zondervan) by author Joyce Magnin.

POV Boot Camp (PBC): Harriet, what do you love most about the journey you are taking?

O, goodness gracious I am just so excited about the whole kit ‘n kaboodle, the adventure, meeting new people, seeing places I’ve only dreamed of and of course collecting new salt and pepper shakers along the way. It’s a big country!

 

PBC: So, any drawbacks or challenges?

Beamer: Well, I am older and so sometimes my knees ached and my back hurt. And I did get tired easily. But I didn’t let that stop me. Not with a whole country to see.

PBC: What are your greatest hopes and dreams?

Beamer: Oh that’s easy, Dear, I want to be a grandmother. Unfortunately, my son Henry and his wife Prudence are taking their time in that area.
PBC: What are your greatest fears? Weaknesses?

Beamer: I am scared to death of spiders, especially Daddy Long Legs. Yuck. And I will always and forever have a weakness for chocolate.
PBC: Do you have any hobbies or special interests?

Beamer: Yes. Salt and pepper shakers. I collect them. I have been for many years and have over 3000 sets and some singles. I just love them.
PBC: How about pet peeves? What annoys you?

Beamer: Those kids who wear their pants so low. I just can’t stand that and wish they have some self-respect. And misplaced apostrophes.
PBC: What do you value most?

Beamer: Family, Jesus. My dog, Humphrey, my memories of Max, my collection, friends, love, butter cookies, Christmas.

PBC: Tell me a bit more about your family and friends. What do you like about them? Dislike?

Beamer: Oh dear, now you make me all misty-eyed. My dear Max, my late husband died quite a while ago. I miss him terribly. He was a builder. Built the house we lived in for . . . so many years. And there is Henry, the spitting image of his Dad, and his wife Prudence. Who I adore. And then there’s my Humphrey—my Bassett Hound. My best friend and companion. Such a good doggie. He likes donuts.
PBC: Harriet, in your own words, could you tell us a bit about the author of your novel, Joyce Magnin

Beamer: Oh, I adore Joycie, that’s what I call her. She is just so smart and talented and funny. She makes me laugh and cry sometimes because she has a way with the bittersweet things in life. Did you know she plays video games? I think that’s awesome. But I’ll let you in on a secret, Joycie is not the most organized person in the world, a great writer but never look in her closets.

PBC: So, Harriet, what do you think of Joyce Magnin? What do you like or admire about her? Anything you dislike?

Beamer: Besides what I just told you, I think she’s terrific. I adore her sense of humor and well, you know Joycie is truly one of the nice people of the world.

PBC: Harriet, if you had one question you could ask Joyce, what would it be?

Beamer:  Why in the heck did you make me cross the Royal Gorge in a gondola? I was scared half out of my mind. Well, not as scared as that other woman—the one who was screaming. But still . . .
PBC: If you could change one thing in Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus, what would it be?

Beamer: That’s easy. I would have loved for the journey to last even longer, to visit more cities and towns and meet more people. But who knows, maybe Joyce will send me out on another adventure.
PBC: Harriet, if you could spend a whole day with Joyce, where would you go and what would you do together?

Beamer: Well, after I talked her into going hunting for new salt and pepper shakers, I would like to go to the Philadelphia Art Museum and then out for a nice lunch. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

PBC: Harriet, what do you think of the cover of Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus?

Beamer: HA! I love it. It’s just so . . . .so me

PBC: Thanks for stopping in and chatting with us, Harriet!

Beamer: Thank you! I had a blast.

Readers, it’s your turn! Got any questions for Harriet about her adventure or anything else on your mind? Comment away. If one of your characters would like to chat with us here, send me an email and we’ll set a date.

 

 


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Want to be a trusted critique partner?

2012 March 21
by Andrea Graham

Most serious writers seek to partner with other serious writers in mutually beneficial critique exchanges. What can you do to be the critique partner everyone wants?

The obvious, of course, is to know your craft and what you are doing, but being knowledgeable isn’t key, trust is. To build trust, you need to not only know what you are doing and how to spot craft errors, you also need to have good interpersonal skills. I have honestly been learning that on my feet, but in my studies of this strange people I find myself a member of, I have finally figured out a thing or two, through much trial and error.

1) We must discern between our subjective viewpoint and objective reality. To complicate matters, there are different schools of thought that offer a suggested objective reality on what good craft looks like and some of them contradict. Unless our critique partner has the same literary values and beliefs, we’re going to be hopelessly mismatched and talking right past one another. First and foremost is learning to respect differences of opinion. Our craft isn’t like either scientific or spiritual laws.

2) We have to be humble.

Outside of the objective craft techniques of the editorial schools of thought that you and your critique partner have agreed to critique according to, when it comes to our subjective experience, we have to be aware a novel will have lots of readers before and after publication. The author has to consider all of those readers  equally. Further, we cannot know for certain what any reader will think but ourselves and authors need to only be concerned about the opinions of members of their target audience and their target first line readers: agents, contest officials, acquisition editors, etc.

3) We have to be tactful and considerate.

When the apostle Paul said, “Speak the truth in love” he didn’t mean to bluntly and tactlessly tell someone our honest opinion out of a genuine love expressed by wanting to see the work improved in our eyes, but takes no consideration for how hurtful our choice of words may be. Love is, among other things, kind and gentle. Good intentions aren’t enough, we have to have love permeating how we speak and how we act, especially in sharing a negative opinion.

Realize your critique partners may have put a lot of themselves into their novels and their characters. That plot twist, setting, or character you personally dislike? That might well be based upon an experience the author had or identifies with. If we’re not tactful and careful in how we address the issue, our attempt to help them improve their work will come across as a personal attack and criticism of the author. That is never helpful to anyone and not what an author should need a thick skin for . Since those are at best skin deep, this sort of thing can put an “inexplicable” chill on the relationship, though women tend to struggle here more often than men.

4) We must respect the author’s Vision

In my experience, giving a critique that attacks the author’s vision of their work is the supreme mistake that I suspect is behind most unpleasant encounters with an “unteachable” author who is  impossible to work with. From their vantage point, however, we’re audaciously indignant they’d dare rebel against our will for the novel we envision and brazenly expecting them to cooperate with us destroying their novel in order to create our novel. Both sides walk away from this battle of wills telling their friends a horror story about their nightmare critique partner or nightmare author/editor.

When we have our editor hats on, it is always vexing when an author wants everything their way. The complaint is sincere with student writers and some of them will make the mistake of sending us stuff before they are ready for us.  However, it is the author’s novel, not ours. We have no right to force on the author our will of how it should be written. Before you groan or protest, consider whether this will be good news to you when it is your novel.

The only exceptions to this are the publisher-author relationship, mentoring relationships, and partnerships where a co-author or ghost writer is  working in your world with your characters. Even in these cases, the author we’re working with will have voluntarily submitted to us, either to learn or for the writing credit opportunity.

Otherwise, whenever we’re critiquing someone else’s completely original work, we should respect the author’s vision of what their work should be. In that regards, an author does have a right to get their own way and can only surrender it voluntarily.  Again, only people paying the author money for their work have the right to ask them to give any of their rights up.

5) We must ask questions rather than assume we know the answers.

Readers come to a story and subjectively interpret what the text means through the lens of their life experiences and the core beliefs so important to them,  they refuse to suspend disbelief if we violate their core beliefs. If we’re not alert, we will also do this as critiquers and develop a vision in our minds of what the story is. When it turns out we were wrong, if we don’t know better, we assume our vision is accurate and that the author must fix their story so it continues to fit our vision, which we again are assuming is the author’s. Some of us, however, wouldn’t care if our understanding wasn’t the author’s intent.

When we decide we know what a text, a character, or story world should look like better than the author who created them, we’re being arrogant, prideful, and demanding.  Note, I don’t mean situations where the author clearly did poor research and all we’re doing is politely citing the research or firsthand experience we have handy–so long as we’re tactful, most will be grateful. Oh, they’ll be annoyed if an important plot point turns on it, but they can’t blame the messenger if all we’re doing is helping them with their research and we might also have the knowledge to help them untangle that, too.

So how do we critique humbly, tactfully, respectfully, and with objective discernment that doesn’t ignorantly or callously bull doze over the author’s vision, but also provides them more help than cheerleading’s moral support?

Instead of pointing out errors with a value judgment of how it must be fixed, point out potential issues and areas of concern and label whether something is an objective craft pointer or  just your opinion. If offering solutions is ever necessary, offer multiple possibilities or ask questions that will help them come up with their own answers. The important thing isn’t how it gets fixed, but that it gets fixed. If something goes seriously awry in your eyes, you can ensure you understand the author’s vision by stopping to ask them what it is.

Explanations are widely smeared, and we  shouldn’t volunteer information with a defensive posture when it’s our novel that’s being critiqued. However, we can critique far more effectively if we ask questions rather than assume we know the answers.

Respecting the author’s vision and helping them build according to that vision is key to a successful critique exchange. If we fail to do so, the best outcome we can hope for is the author politely nodding and thanking us, but quietly ignoring everything they consider our personal bias and/or an arrogant demand they rewrite their vision according to ours. If we’re lucky, they’ll figure out the “real issue” and fix it according to their vision on our own, but we may still find them unwilling to work with us again.

So what if we’ve done all we can and still don’t understand an author’s vision or don’t know how to edit a story according to the style and techniques they feel is best for it? We should pass politely and without judgment. That way, maybe someday they will have a project that we are perfect for and we might be able to partner with them then.

We should keep to these standards even if they fail, but when possible, choose to work with people who will be trustworthy in kind.

Also, when seeking a critique, we’d be wise to help potential critique partners by disclosing in advance what we are trying to do with a project, our vision and the styles and techniques we’ve chosen, especially if we’re not using the most commercially in-demand ones, such as writing in past tense or deep POV. This will help us find fans of our type of writing who will know how to critique it. It’s best to avoid problems to start with by making it clear in advance what kind of help we are desiring and looking for so our critique partners don’t waste both their time and ours.


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Review: Illusion by Frank Peretti

2012 March 14
by Andrea Graham

What struggling young author doesn’t both leap and tremble in dread at the chance to review a book by Frank Peretti? He hardly needs any introduction, and I can’t help but wonder what difference my little review would make in whether anyone buys it either way, but I’d rather not stick my foot in it by commenting on his craft and the writing, like one of the most well known Christian authors is or should be subject to literary criticism and like this greenhorn has any business judging a seasoned veteran. He doesn’t use the deep POV I am passionate about, but his fans won’t care one wit and reaching your audience is the artistic bottom line. When it comes to reach, Peretti is at the head of the pack and he’s likely to stay there with his March release, Illusion.

Illusion has a familiar voice and style to Peretti fans. This falls on the thriller side of his works and ventures deeper into the realm of Science Fiction than he has gone in the past, with famous magicians Dane and Mandy, a couple pushing sixty who have been delighting and wowing audiences with the wonder of their illusions for nearly forty years, also roughly how long they’ve been married.
We meet them as Dane is forced to say goodbye to his beloved wife after severe burns from a car accident claim her life. In the next chapter, we back up forty years, to when Mandy was nineteen in 1970 and visiting a county fair with friends, excited to see an upcoming magic act. Before she gets there, she is slammed forty years into the future, a 2010 where everything from her life in 1970 is gone and she is alone. She ends up in a mental hospital, but escapes and makes her way home to Idaho, where she rebuilds with the help of a halfway house for troubled girls and a kindly, widowed magician she feels strangely drawn to.
Dane likewise is fighting to keep his grip on reality when this strange young woman is the image of the beauty he met and married forty years ago. She uses the fake name Eloise Kramer, which he recognizes as the name of his wife’s mother. Some readers may be disturbed by the young “Eloise” and the aged Dane’s increasingly obvious feelings for one another. For the most part, both of them handle the problem appropriately while each seeks to rebuild their lives after sudden catastrophe, with Mandy/Eloise needing to unravel the mystery of who she really is, mysterious and somewhat ominous figures seem to be shadowing her, and she becomes a rising star with her magic act as she discovers an ability to slip through time and space and do magic feats that will take a bit of imagination for the reader to visualize. How she does it even baffles Dane.
If you want to know answers yourself, you’ll have to read Illusion. :)

 

 


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Dras Weldon Character Interview

2011 November 18
by Andrea Graham

Gentle readers, we continue with our series of character interviews I am
conducting. Recently, I had the delight of chatting with Dras Weldon, the
hero of the supernatural suspense novel The Strange Man (February 2011, Realms Fiction) by author Greg Mitchell.

POV Boot Camp(PBC): Dras, what do you love most about The Strange Man?

Dras Weldon: What, the dude or the book? ‘Cause I’m not a big fan of the dude. The book’s pretty boss, though. I’d really like it if I weren’t in it.

PBC: So, any drawbacks or challenges?

Weldon: Aside from being the whipping boy for the Bogeyman? No, no drawbacks at all. Why do you ask?

PBC: What are your greatest hopes and dreams?

Weldon: That used to be a pretty easy question. I’d say “XBOX, some cold pizza, a worn VHS copy of She-Vampires From Mars” and I’d be set. Now though, I don’t know. I’m all conflicted and starting to think about The Big Picture: Who’s God? Who am I? What do I believe? Plus there’s Rosalyn and all the weirdness there. We grew up together, but now…it’s just different. Like in a strange romantic sort of way that I’m not entirely comfortable discussing with a complete stranger, you know? I guess if I were being totally honest, all I want right now is for her to be safe.

PBC: What are your greatest fears? Weaknesses?

Weldon: Man, now you’re asking all the hard questions. I dunno. I guess the usual: Fear of failing, fear of letting people down, fear of clowns… Weaknesses? I don’t think we’ve got the room for that. Off the top of the list I’d say “lazy”. At least, that’s what everyone tells me.

PBC: Do you have any hobbies or special interests?

Weldon: Do I! Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Where to begin: Comic books, monster movies, monster magazines, video games, action figures—yes, they are called “action figures” not “dolls”—hanging with Roz, riding my bike. Pretty much everything I loved to do when I was eight is still my favorite thing to do. Who says you gotta grow up?

PBC: How about pet peeves? What annoys you?

Weldon: My brother. Hands down. That and when people don’t change out the toilet paper roll.

PBC: What do you value most?

Weldon: …Rosalyn. She’s the only reason I’m going through with this fight with the Strange Man. I don’t know why he’s after her, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve got to figure out a way to help her and stop him.

PBC: Tell me a bit more about your family and friends. What do you like about
them? Dislike?

Weldon: Wow, I’ve got to say what I like about them? Hmm… Well, I mean, my mom’s okay, I guess. I mean, she’s nice and cooks me supper a couple nights a week and gives me a little spending money when rent’s due—sometimes she gives me the rent too. I don’t really know my dad. He’s been sick for awhile, and super-busy before that. He was the pastor a long time ago, you know? He didn’t really have a lot of time for me. Not that I blame him! I get it. He’s important or whatever, but you know…yeah. Then there’s my brother. We never really got along, but he’s a little less of a skeeve since he married Isabella. She’s pretty cool (and really hot, but don’t tell my brother I said that).

PBC: Dras, in your own words, could you tell us a bit about the author of
your novel, Greg Mitchell?

Weldon: He’s alright, as moody writers go. We like a lot of the same movies and he bummed a few comics off of me (that he still hasn’t returned, I might add). I sorta wish he’d lay off of me, though. I’ve got enough going on in my life, yet for some reason he feels the need to bring demons into the mix. Okay, I change my mind. Greg Mitchell is a jerk.

PBC: So, Dras, what do you think of Greg? What do you like or admire
about him? Anything you dislike?

Weldon: Like I said, he’s a jerk who gets some sick pleasure out of watching gremlins chase me on my bike. I’m sure he’d just say he was trying to “teach me something”, but whatever.

PBC: Dras, if you had one question you could ask Greg, what would it be?

Weldon: Why pick me to face off against the Strange Man? My brother, Jeff, would have been much better at that. Why didn’t you go to him?

PBC: If you could change one thing in The Strange Man, what would it be?

Weldon: The ending. And maybe I’d add more bikini clad supermodels.

PBC: Dras, if you could spend a whole day with Greg, where would you go
and what would you do together?

Weldon: Are you kidding? I’m not so sure I’d want to spend any time with him after everything that’s happened. But, I guess if we got past all of that, we’d probably just go to a matinee and watch a campy monster B-movie. That’d be pretty great. …As long as he’s paying.

PBC: Dras, what do you think of the cover of The Strange Man?

Weldon: Awfully colorful for such a scary book, right? And I’m not on it. That stings a bit. Couldn’t they find a model in their folder of canned clipart that could perfectly capture my boyish grin? Or at least get close? Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

Thanks for stopping in and chatting with us, Dras! Readers, it’s your
turn! Got any questions for Dras Weldon about The Strange Man or anything else on your mind? Comment away. If one of your characters would like to chat with us here, send me an email and we’ll set a date.

 


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Character Interview: Carolyn Masters (Dark Side of the Moon/Terri Main)

2011 November 14
by Andrea Graham

Gentle readers, we continue with our series of character interviews I am conducting. Recently, I had the delight of chatting with Carolyn Masters, the heroine of the Futuristic cozy mystery novel Dark Side of the Moon(2011/Muse It Up Publishing) by author Terri Main.

POV Boot Camp(PBC): Carolyn, what do you love most about Living on the Moon?
Carolyn Masters: One-Sixth G. I step on the scales in the morning and I weigh less than last  year’s Thanksgiving Turkey.  Seriously, It’s classic small town life. I feel like I’m living in Mayberry. We have a Park with a bandshell, Ivy covered Walls at the University, a town square with small shops all around. Of course, there are the holographic sign twirlers during sales events and the Sunlight and weather is manufactured. But it does remind me of towns I lived in as a child.

PBC:So, any drawbacks or challenges?
Masters: One-sixth G. Last year I was having Thanksgiving dinner and forgot about the gravity difference and braced myself to heft out the 13 kilo turkey and ended up throwing it all the way to the ceiling, but it floated back down so I could catch it, but not before putting on quite a show for my friends.  And then there are the murders. I thought I’d left that part of my life behind me. I’m not a profiler with the bureau anymore, but Mike, he’s our criminology professor at the college. He’s – well, lets just say he’s an acquired taste, and under that hard as nails cop exterior he is really quite–. What was the question again? Oh yes,. I’m a college professor of history, why do they keep sending for me to play Nancy Drew?

PBC: What are your greatest hopes and dreams?
Masters: There was an old 20th Century Sit com (that’s my field of expertise 20th Century Popular Culture) called Keeping Up Appearances. In one episode the harried husband is asked “So, what do you want?” (meaning for breakfast) and he responds not listening, “Oh, just to be happy in a modest sort of way.” That’s my greatest hope. I’ve done all those “big” things. You know being an undercover FBI agent and foiling terrorist plots are a lot more glamorous on the vids than in real life.

PBC: What are your greatest fears? Weaknesses?
Masters: Uh- well. It’s about Mike. I don’t know if I should say this publicly, but, well, after our last case, well actually during it, right before we went, well, he kissed me and I kissed back. I mean we are both in our 50’s. We aren’t kids. Sure we have another half century ahead of us, but … Well, I’m a life long single. And there are well things… Does that answer your question?

PBC: Do you have any hobbies or special interests?
Masters: Ah, much better. My hobbies and my work overlap a bit. I collect vid chips of old 20th Century television programs. You might see me on a weekend doing a “marathon” as they used to call it of Mork and Mindy or Babylon 5.

PBC: How about pet peeves? What annoys you?
Masters: People not listening to me when I talk. Mike, for instance, I tell him over and over again. He’s the cop. I’m not. I’m retired, but does he listen. No! He just tells me to meet him somewhere for some crime scene. Then he hangs up without even saying “goodbye.” Is that right? I ask you.

PBC: What do you value most?
Masters: Oh, I know this sounds super religious and all, especially for an academic living at the dawn of the 22nd Century, but that would have to be my ability to spend time with God. I know, who believes in God anymore? I mean believe enough to talk to him on a regular basis. I don’t know. Maybe it is self-delusion. My own scholastacism teaches me to doubt everything. But if it is, it’s a delusion I intend to keep. I stand with Pascal on this one.

PBC:Tell me a bit more about your family and friends. What do you like about them? Dislike?
Masters: Both my parents are gone. My mother passed away a couple of years ago. That’s when I decided to move to the moon. I don’t have any siblings. I didn’t use to have many friends until I came to the moon. I guess my best friend is Linda. She’s with the physics department at the university. But we really don’t talk much about the school, except for your basic gossip. Who’s seeing whom? What professor will be taking maternity leave? That sort of thing. Mostly, I doubt either of us could remember half our conversations. They are not so much about topics as they are about being there. I couldn’t tell her much about our adventure, but somehow she knew not to ask about details and just ask about feelings. I’d say she is my first best friend.

PBC: Carolyn, in your own words, could you tell us a bit about the author of your novel, Terri Main?
Masters: Well, we had a lot of things in common we are both college instructors. She teaches communication and is doing something with her students using the Uninet. Oh, that’s right you guys still call it the Internet. These neutron beam calls are great for historical research, but I keep forgetting the nomenclature. She has a tendency to make me sound a bit smarter and braver than I really am. She calls it artistic license.

PBC: So, Carolyn, what do you think of Terri? What do you like or admire about her? Anything you dislike?
Masters: I admire the fact that she works with community college students. Here at the university we screen out all except the most capable to excelling academically. Her college takes everyone from students we would love to have to adults who dropped out of high school and are looking for a second chance. And in two years, she and others like her, make them ready for universities like ours. What I dislike, is how she keeps trying to imply in her stories that there is something going on between Mike and I. We are colleagues. Sure we go out to dinner a lot. But just as friends. And there was that kiss… But that was in the midst of an interplanetary crisis.

PBC: Given name, if you had one question you could ask Terri, what would it be?
Masters: Why me? I’m not that interesting.

PBC: If you could change one thing in Dark Side of the Moon, what would it be?
Masters: Maybe make me a bit less brave. Oh, and to stop implying that all the communities on the moon are upscale. We have miners, farmers, and then there is Aldrin, a poor, “company” town which is singularly depressing.

PBC: Carolyn, if you could spend a whole day with Terri where would you go and what would you do together?
Masters: Well, she and I come from the same hometown. So, I would love to have her give me the tour of the place as it is in your times. I’d love to see a sawmill circa 2011 before the use of particle beam cutting. My Dad worked in a sawmill. I’d love to see how they were back then. I’d also like to take a walk by the ocean. By our time they had planted oil rigs off Trinidad head. I’d like to see the coast for once without them. Of course, I’d probably have to do all this in a wheel chair. I’m afraid my body has adapted to low-G and my legs would break as soon as I tried to put my whole weight on them.

PBC: Carolyn, what do you think of the cover of Dark Side of the Moon?
Masters: Well, Mike has a bit less hair and I have this one lock of hair that never lays flat, but other than that they got us pretty close. I have a few more wrinkles, but I refuse to have any procedures done. You can’t tell anyone’s age any more.

Thanks for stopping in and chatting with us, Carolyn! Readers, it’s your turn! Got any questions for Carolyn about the moon or anything else on your mind? Comment away. If one of your characters would like to chat with us here, send me an email and we’ll set a date.


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Interview: Hubby

2011 November 7
by Andrea Graham
  • - How long have you been writing?

Since I was eight, almost nine years old. Before the San Francisco Earthquake, I was writing Batman-Superman Fanfiction.

 

  • Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

 

Everywhere: Sermons at church, out of the blue. Sometimes, I’ll get ideas from TV shows, particularly one where I don’t enjoy the episode and I imagine how it really should be told.

 

  • What are your thoughts on critique groups?

 

It’s a mixed bag. On one hand, if you get a knowledgeable, supportive critique partner, it can be a blessing. On the other hand, there are bad critique groups, arrogant critiquers, etc. So proceed with caution.

 

  • Have you dealt with writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?

 

Yes. I’ve generally tried not to sit there and stare at blank screens. At some point, to quote the great Kenny Rogers, you have to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. And sometimes, the best thing to do is to do something else, rest your mind, and come back.

 

 

  • Do you find a part of your personality sneaking into any of your characters?

 

Here and there, probably the clown and sarcastic tendencies are the ones most likely to appear.

 

  • Were there any scenes you found difficult to write? Made you angry or made you cry?

 

I’m working on a Short Story that’s trying to become a novelette and the final confrontation scene was very tough. The story deals with child abuse and I kept wanting to handle the whole thing more clinically. What we finally ended up writing after much coaxing from my wife, was something that packs more of a punch, and did make me cry writing it.

 

  • Do you use outlines or let the story develop on its own?

 

Mostly on its own. I know where I’m starting and I have a general idea where I’m going. I let the story happen as it goes.

 

 

  • What do you want your readers to take from your book(s)?

 

Depends on the book. I hope they just take something away from it and whatever God has for them.

 

  • Can you share any upcoming projects with us?

 

Upcoming. I’ve three big ideas that I have to struggle to get to:

 

1) The Return of the Dim Knight. This is going to be a challenging book to write. My challenge is going to be to grow my characters personally, emotionally, and spiritually from the last book without going too far. We’re still going to have some comedy, but it will be a slightly different tone. It’s the Superhero sequel that I hope readers will be waiting for.

 

2) Case Files of the Selfish Detective: Not really a speculative story, but will feature a character from Tales of the Dim Knight, Neil Worthington. Worthington is a genius detective who tries to model his life off of the combined efforts of Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe, and Hercule Poirot. He lives alone mostly, irritating household staff, and driving them away. Then one day, Worthington is on the sidewalk and a car almost runs him over but a young woman saves him, but is hit herself and gets amnesia. Worthington pays her medical bills and brings her onboard. Her mission is to remember who she is and to get Worthington to use his powers for good.

 

3) The Graham works: Podcast-Yes, I want to start recording podcast of my works, both published and unpublished, so that people can enjoy them and I can grow my audience. But not something I’ve been able to find time to do yet.

 

 

  • Tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your temperament, etc.?

 

I love old time radio and radio drama in general. Spend a lot of time listening to that and producing podcasts on old time radio.

 

  • With a full schedule, how do you find time to write?

 

I’ve invented something called a caffeine IV. Sadly, don’t find enough.

 

  • When creating a character, where do you begin? Do you give them a background even if it may never be mentioned in the storyline?

 

I really try to get to know the character organically, through telling the story and listening to them. I tried once writing down all the details and I never got through all the details and never wrote the story.

 

  • Can you share one or two nuggets of wisdom to those wanting to travel down the writing road?

 

In modern writing, there are two types of rules: 1) rules that are absolute and hard and fast and 2) things that are a matter of opinion and style but get stated as rules. A good writer has to be able to tell the difference.

 

  • Where can readers find your books and contact information?

 

http://www.dimknight.com

 

  • Do you spend time in prayer before you write or begin a project?

 

-Not as much as I should.

 

  • What is your writing routine? Do you need peace and quiet, soft music, or does it matter?

 

If I get into one of those “inspired modes,” I can have a spell and turn out a few thousand word short story in a day. What I ideally  need is good classical or instrumental music playing in the background with Facebook and email closed.


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Interview: Yvonne Anderson

2011 October 31
by Andrea Graham

 

  • How long have you been writing?

I started writing since I was old enough to hold a crayon. But as far as writing seriously, with hopes of publication? That began in 2002. I was offered my first publishing contract in 2011.

 

  • When did you feel called to write?

See above. It was in February. Two of my four kids were grown and on their own, the younger two were in school, and my hours at work had recently been cut to twelve hours a week. And, we’d just gotten a new computer. While cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast, it occurred to me that everything had fallen into place for me; it was time to write that book that had been in the back of my mind for the past couple of decades. I tried to brush away the idea, but eventually I realized it wasn’t just an idea, it was the Holy Spirit nudging me. I prayed about it, and the urge persisted. I’ve prayed about it every day since. I don’t want to waste my time doing this if the Lord wants me to do something else instead, but every day, He gives me the green light to go ahead. And so I plod on.

 

  • Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

I have no idea. They spring up like weeds, and I don’t usually know what sort of critter dropped the seeds there.

 

  • What are your thoughts on critique groups?

A good critique group is invaluable. Better than a MFA. I can’t sing their praises enough.

 

  • Was it hard to develop a writing style?

No.

 

  • Who is your favorite author?

I have no favorite author. Nor favorite color, food, movie, book, etc. I don’t think I’m wishy-washy, I just enjoy too many things to narrow it down.

 

  • Have you dealt with writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?

I can’t say as I’ve ever struggled with writer’s block. If I feel stuck on one thing, I drop it and go on to something else. Most of my struggles, especially at first, were trying to find the time to write, not trying to decide what to write.

 

  • Do you find a part of your personality sneaking into any of your characters?

Yes, I think this is inevitable, though I try to counteract it by making my characters do things I never would.

 

  • Were there any scenes you found difficult to write? Made you angry or made you cry?

The scenes I feel most strongly about are the most difficult to write. Yes, scenes have made me cry sometimes, but they’ve never made me angry. Anger results from loss of control, but I have complete control over everything that happens in my story world.

 

  • Do you use outlines or let the story develop on its own?

I’m a seat-of-the-pants plotter. However, before I start writing, I know the beginning, the end, and two pivotal events that will take place along the way, as well as the major characters. But other than that, I’m as surprised about what happens as the reader is. It’s fun.

 

  • What do you want your readers to take from your book(s)?

I want people to enjoy my books and find things in them to think about after they’re through. Mostly, though, I hope they’ll see God’s truth reflected in my stories.

 

  • Can you share any upcoming projects with us?

In January 2011 I signed a three-book contract with Risen Books for a space fantasy series, Gateway to Gannah. The first book, The Story in the Stars, was released in June; Book #2 will probably come out in December, and I expect the third to be released in the middle of 2012. I’m currently revising #3 in preparation for submitting it to the publisher, and I also have a good idea in my mind of what’s going to happen in Book #4. I have no contract for anything beyond the third book, but I expect I’ll keep writing more in the series for the next few years, because I have several story ideas still to work out.

 

  • How do you respond when someone comments that certain elements (magic, vampires, zombies, etc.) in your story do not fit in what they consider to be Christian?

If someone told me that, I’d agree with him. I don’t incorporate those elements in my stories.

 

- With a full schedule, how do you find time to write?

I used to squeeze it in whenever I could, and it was very frustrating. Thankfully, I’m now in a position to write full time. It’s not like having a full-time job, because I don’t get a paycheck. But at least my time is my own.

 

  • When creating a character, where do you begin? Do you give them a background even if it may never be mentioned in the storyline?

Yes, I give my characters a history, but I tend to work backward. That is, I decide first what I want the character to do, and then I figure out what her background and motivation is, and build her history that way. That’s all done mentally before I start writing. Then once I get started, she’ll sometimes react in ways I hadn’t anticipated, but it’s always consistent with the backstory I gave her early on.

 

  • Can you share one or two nuggets of wisdom to those wanting to travel down the writing road?

I have five nuggets to share, but I’m not sure what they’re nuggets of:

1. If you’re a Christ-follower, pray about this. You’re looking at a huge investment of time and energy, not to mention money if you go to conferences and such. So you should be sure you’re doing what the Lord wants you to do. (If you’re not a Christ-follower, I have no advice for you other than that you consider changing that situation.)

2. Be patient; be diligent; be humble; learn as much as you can, make as many contacts as you can, and be aware that you’re just starting out. You have much to learn.

3. Pray about it.

4. Be patient; be diligent; be humble; learn as much as you can, make as many contacts as you can, and know that the Lord is God.

5. Pray about it. Maybe now that you’re getting the hang of it, He wants you to write a different sort of story or to change genres, as He did with me. I never even read science fiction when He put me to work writing it. You never know what He’s going to lead you to do.

 

- Where can readers find your books and contact information?

Readers can connect with me through my blog at www.YsWords.com. The Story in the Stars (and later, subsequent titles in the series) can be purchased in paperback or e-book formats at Amazon or through the publisher’s website (www.RisenFiction.com/store).

 

  • Do you spend time in prayer before you write or begin a project?

Yes.

 

  • What is your writing routine? Do you need peace and quiet, soft music, or does it matter?

It takes me a little while to get into the story each time I go back to it, and I need to be isolated from distracting things like TV, music, conversation, etc. I don’t need complete silence, though. I do a lot of writing sitting on the front porch with the world going past the house. But those sounds, I can block out.


 


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Interview: Kimberli Reneé Campbell

2011 October 21
by Andrea Graham

- When did you feel called to write?

I can’t say I remember a specific time when the Lord put the desire in my heart. All I know now is I have a deep need to write the stories he gives me.

 

- Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

Boy, the ideas come from everywhere. The series I’m writing now came from a dream. I have a romance/suspense story from watching an old blue pickup truck stopped in front of me at a stoplight. It’s fun watching people in hopes the images will produce a story.

- What are your thoughts on critique groups?

I think they are extremely important if there is a mixture of experience levels. Unfortunately, as people get busy with life, it’s difficult to stay consistent with critiques. You also need to be able to receive constructive criticism. It’s painful, but needed.

- Was it hard to develop a writing style?

If I developed a style, it probably came from the type of books I like to read. Down-to-earth and relaxed.

- Who is your favorite author?

I enjoy reading books by Donita K. Paul, Terri Blackstock, and Ted Dekker…just to name a few.

- Have you dealt with writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?

I don’t think I’ve had to deal with writer’s block. However, I have let things keep me from writing. After a full day, instead of writing, I spend my time doing mindless things – surf the web, playing games on the iPad. Although there are times when a person does need to take some downtime, I tend to play longer than I should. When I do notice myself doing this, I force myself to get back to writing.

 

- Do you find a part of your personality sneaking into any of your characters?

Yes. I think it gives the characters more depth…not that I’m a complex person. :)

 

- Were there any scenes you found difficult to write? Made you angry or made you cry?

One of the issues the main character and his friends deal with is bullying. Bullying makes me angry. As for crying, in the third book of the series, there is a part where I teared up. I didn’t have to breakout the tissues, but it was close.

 

- Do you use outlines or let the story develop on its own?

I’m an outline kind of gal. I need structure. Hats off to those that let the story develop on its own. If I wrote that way, the story would probably start with the ending.

- What do you want your readers to take from your book(s)?

I would love for the readers to come away with a spirit of victory and that they’ve been on an awesome adventure. Learning the importance of a relationship with the Lord, family, and friends is also something I’d like them to walk away with. And, let’s not forget the desire to read the next book.

 

- Can you share any upcoming projects with us?

I would love to share. My book, Redemption: Shayia’s Adventures – Book Two, will prayerfully be out this year. I am currently working on book three of the series. I have no title at this time. I am not sure if the Lord has a book four, so I’ll have to see what he has next.

 

- What makes Redemption: Shayia’s Adventures – Book Two a must read for young readers?

Aside from the back to back action and suspense, this book touches on issues like bullying, feeling alone, and sharing the Good News. It would be great to see the book used in a classroom setting to help children dealing with any of these issues.

- How do you respond when someone comments that certain elements (magic, vampires, zombies, etc.) in your story does not fit in what they consider to be Christian?

Hm…I do have sorcery in my books, but it’s clearly stated that it’s wrong. As for what they consider magic, I don’t see it as magic. Shayia’s sword glows and the Word appears on it. I believe those to be the manifestation of God’s awesome power. He used the staff of Moses, caused a donkey to speak, and so much more. I think this is a topic that people will always see differently, which is all right. I must write what I feel the Lord has asked me to write. I do so to bring him glory and to draw his children closer to him.

 

- Tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your temperament, etc.?

I’m a quiet person. However, if you were to see me acting on stage, you would disagree. I would be content sitting quietly in a room (not padded) with a book and/or my iPad. I drive the speed limit and obey the rules of the road to the point that it gets on people’s nerves. I HATE emotional mind games. In other words, if you have something to say, please say it…in love. :) Going for walks in nice weather is something I enjoy when not writing. There is more, but that’s a good start.

- Thank you for visiting with us today.

Thanks for allowing me to visit with you.

 

- With a full schedule, how do you find time to write?

I’ve been blessed to be at home. Although the time may broken up into little sessions, I’m able to get writing done between regular housework and family time. When my little one goes to school full-time, I will be able to get more writing time.

 

- When creating a character, where do you begin? Do you give them a background even if it may never be mentioned in the storyline?

I think dreaming is a writer’s best friend. When I create characters, I like to dream about them, so I can picture how they look and act. I don’t normally write a background on the characters. I do note the memories they have in case something comes up later.

 

- Can you share one or two nuggets of wisdom to those wanting to travel down the writing road?

I encourage writers to get connected with other writers – critique groups, forums, etc. They are a great place to get encouragement and be challenged. Also, continue to write and sharpen your craft. No excuses. :)

 

- Where can readers find your books and contact information?

The best place is www.theswordoflight.com. The book is also available on Amazon. You can visit my blog at www.hiswriter.blogspot.com. I would love to connect with other writers and readers.

 

- Do you spend time in prayer before you write or begin a project?

My relationship with the Lord is most important. I don’t feel that I can really write to my fullest potential unless the Lord and I communicate. We are a team.

 

- What is your writing routine? Do you need peace and quiet, soft music, or does it matter?

I don’t have a writing routine….anymore. Now I write when I can. Having it nice and quiet would be my first choice, but the only quiet time we have in our house is when everyone is sleeping. I have learned to adjust to the noise.



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