Thank you all for the comments on yesterday’s post! I’m so excited to see how this tour has taken off. Karen has a nice run-down of the highlights at her blog, so be sure to check that out!
Yesterday’s part of the interview touched upon the writing process and the spiritual growth behind Karen’s latest book, Return of the Guardian-King. The conclusion will discuss certain elements in the book and give us a peek into what she has planned next.
Q: In the Christian Fandom interview you wrote, “I gave up long ago trying to create one-for-one allegorical elements straight across the board, and now concentrate primarily on telling the story.” We discussed this at some length during that interview, but how would you comment on this now, given that so many elements in RotGK seemed one-for-one?
A: I think the key words in my previous statement were “straight across the board”. I usually do assign some representative elements to my worlds to serve as framework and foundation – Eidon, Tersius, and Moroq are fairly exact equivalents. The golden shields, serving as a visible form of the invisible seal the Holy Spirit puts on believers at the point of salvation are also close, though the fact of being visible produces enough differences that I now understand why the real seal is invisible. (It was fun to come up with ways to nullify its significance, though.) There are other things, however, that aren’t so exact. Like the Light. Is that the new nature? The Holy Spirit? The power of the Word in a person’s soul? The Christian life as a whole? All of the above? I’d say all of the above, except I’ve recently studied how the Holy Spirit is very definitely a person, so then the whole Light thing doesn’t work for that. So I shrug and move on. It serves the general purpose in representing the power of God in a Christian’s life, and I’ll drive myself nuts trying to work out every last detail. As I’ve said before, all analogies break down eventually.
I know that allegories are traditionally not supposed to blend their story elements with the thing they are allegorizing. I’ve never been comfortable with those restraints and that’s why I’ve never really thought of what I do as allegory. Analogy is closer. Or, maybe, as a friend of mine recently put it, what I really do is make the invisible visible. I’ll be writing about this at length on my blog one day during this tour, so if you’re interested in the mechanics behind it all, you can go there to check it out.
Q: [Courtesy of one of my crit partners] How much do the details of your stories reflect the detail of your own doctrinal beliefs (referring to the nonessentials here, rather than salvation issues, such pentecostalism), and how much is truly “speculative”?
OR… How does your particular theology impact your writing ( i.e., are you aware that it does)? For instance there is a tension between dark thoughts (depression or discouragement or whatnot) being caused by an individual’s sin nature vs. demons whispering in his or her ear. It seems rather haphazard that sometimes Abramm is being “attacked” by implanted negative thoughts, while at other times he’s just having a tantrum, which stems from the state of his own heart. This seems, to me, to follow from the “devil behind every shrub” of Pentecostalism, but I’d like to hear your take on this.
A: Yes, my theology totally impacts my writing. What I believe directs how I think and live – often in a very conscious way – and my life directs my writing.
To specifically address this issue of what I believe about demon involvement with the lives of Christians – frankly it’s one of the issues I’m not real clear on, so I’d have to say the mechanics of angelic interference are definitely speculative in the books. We know they do harass certain Christians – the apostle Paul had one assigned to him. We’re told that our battles are not against blood and flesh, but against rulers, powers and world forces of darkness, etc. But I don’t think there are devils behind every shrub. I think they leave most of us alone and only specifically go after those who are spiritually mature or maturing, like Paul, or those who are in positions of national leadership (which Abramm is). I believe that Satan has created a whole system of thought that permeates our lives. We are surrounded by it, our old nature finds it natural and normal, and most people live in it and reinforce it day after day. We hear it from TV, news, magazines, books, movies, songs, school… The demons don’t need to mess with most people because the thought system already has them well in hand.
I do know that when certain doctrines are taught in our church, like that of the Angelic Conflict, all hell literally breaks loose. Everything goes wrong. Computers suddenly malfunction, bees take up residence in the building, the pastor loses his voice, people have injuries, get sick and a host of other weird things. When a person begins to get interested in going to Bible class on a regular basis, the roof falls in on their life. When we prepare to put on or attend a conference, everyone has gotten used to the fact that scads of things are going to go wrong in the week beforehand. Without fail. (My dog always used to get sick right before a conference or a deadline.) I don’t think it’s random. I think there are definitely forces out there trying to hinder and stop such things.
But how exactly that works? I don’t know. The whole issue of when is it just life and when is it demon interference, or when is it just my sin nature throwing a fit and when are the thoughts originating from some outside source are questions I have, myself. I don’t know the answers, just that it can be either. And sometimes both. I suspect that it’s designed to be that way; the old Sun Tsu principles of warfare: When you are near, make it seem you are far. When you are far make them think you are near, etc. The best thing is not to have to fight the battle at all, so if you can just drop a cockatrice egg into someone’s thinking and wait for it to hatch and demolish their mental attitude, then that seems a great way to go.
I’ve written an essay on this subject called “What is the Angelic Conflict?” which I’ve posted on my website and you can find that here.
Q: How would you answer those who might say RotGK is too heavy on the spiritual element? (I have my own ideas about that, and will talk about it in my review, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.)
A: I believe that writers should write from the well of who and what they are and what they are passionate about. I’m passionate about the spiritual life and fulfilling the calling God has set upon my own life – which I believe is, in part, to communicate spiritual truth through story. I have always enjoyed fantasy and science fiction, but the genre is only a vehicle as far as I’m concerned. It is useful in conveying the concepts I want to convey, but I’m really not interested in submitting to it as a master that dictates how and what I write.
The Guardian King series is meant to represent the stages of spiritual growth an individual believer passes through from salvation through babyhood and adolescence to spiritual maturity. It is entirely consistent with that objective that RotGK, the final book in the series, would be heavy on the spiritual element because that is what defines the life of a spiritually mature believer. He has come to the point of being occupied with the things of Christ.
Q: What can you tell us about your next project?
A: My work in progress is titled Black Box, the Biospherian book I mentioned in the Christian Fandom interview. They’ve already told me that title will have to go, and just as well since it probably gives the wrong idea. It’s not the black box of an airplane, after all, but rather… black box (noun) a. A device or theoretical construct with known or specified performance characteristics but unknown or unspecified constituents and means of operation. b. something that is mysterious, especially as to function. Here’s the blurb:
When Lacey McHenry accepts a prestigious research fellowship at the world-renowned Kendell-Jakes Longevity Institute, she sees it as a new start on a life shattered by an abusive, now-ended marriage. But when a disturbing late night encounter with a psychopathic intruder leads to an unexpected cover-up by Institute authorities, she soon finds herself in over her head, a lone mouse in an elaborate game of deception and seduction whose purpose she cannot begin to guess.
Set in a bizarre world that is part of our own, yet separate from it, Black Box uses cults, cloning, ancient civilizations, aliens, and the nature of perception and deceit to explore the greatest mystery of all – human volition.
Q: Can you share what research you plan to do for this one?
A: I’m already in the midst of it: Greek mythology and other religious mythologies, Nephilim, Noah, genetics, a memoir of one of the Biospherians, evolution, ancient civilizations, aging & longevity, cloning…
Q: Any plans yet for after Black Box?
A: I have a second book contracted with Bethany House, so far undecided, but I do have the start on a science fantasy set on a planet completely apart from Earth “in a Galaxy Far Far Away.” Black Box will be a little more accessible for the general reading public, which I think Bethany House likes. This other would be waaay out there, weirder than Arena or Guardian King, so we’ll see what the Lord has planned…
Q: As always, what is your advice to new writers? Those not so new?
A: Learn the craft, write a lot, get and give critique, attend some conferences, write from your own passions, be true to them and to your own voice, and be patient with yourself and the process. Grow in grace and knowledge of God and trust Him. Figure out what it is that you really want: to write what you want to write or to be rich and famous. The pursuit of each has a particular cost and you should be aware of what it is and if you are willing to pay it.
Karen, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these! Tomorrow, my review of RotGK …
A slightly edited list of the other participants:
Nissa Annakindt ~ Wayne Thomas Batson ~ Jim Black ~ Jackie Castle ~ Valerie Comer ~ Karri Compton ~ Frank Creed ~ CSFF Blog Tour ~ Gene Curtis ~ D. G. D. Davidson ~ Chris Deanne ~ Janey DeMeo ~ April Erwin ~ Kameron M. Franklin ~ Linda Gilmore ~ Beth Goddard ~ Marcus Goodyear ~ Rebecca Grabill ~ Andrea Graham ~ Jill Hart ~ Katie Hart ~ Sherrie Hibbs ~ Sharon Hinck ~ Christopher Hopper ~ Heather R. Hunt ~ Becca Johnson ~ Jason Joyner ~ Karen ~ Dawn King ~ Tina Kulesa ~ Lost Genre Guild ~ Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 – The Compendium ~ Rachel Marks ~ Rebecca LuElla Miller ~ Caleb Newell ~ Nicole ~ Eve Nielsen ~ John W. Otte ~ Robin Parrish ~ Rachelle ~ Cheryl Russell ~ Hanna Sandvig ~ Chawna Schroeder ~ Mirtika Schultz ~ James Somers ~ Tsaba House Authors ~ Steve Trower ~ Speculative Faith ~ Daniel I. Weaver