What is your personal all-time favorite SF work and why?
By “SF,” if you mean “speculative fiction,” including all of the speculative genres, that’s easy. Lord of the Rings—the books, though I also enjoyed the movies. For sheer richness of invention, the Lewisian sense of longing for a country I’ve never visited, the memorable characters, and for the many years of pleasure I’ve drawn from that trilogy. By the time I graduated from high school, I’d read them … well … more times than I like to admit. I’m fairly good at LotR trivia (not as good with the Silmarillion, but Tolkien knew it wasn’t finished, and the writer-side of me feels it’s unfair to show his unfinished work to the world. The fan-side of me is glad to have anything he wrote.).
If you restrict me to science fiction, it’s harder to come up with one book. There are so many excellent works that I haven’t read yet.
What is your faith stance, and how does it affect your writing?
I’m a Christian. It should affect everything I do.
What Christian book(s) (fiction or non-fiction) have had the greatest impact on your thought and writing?
All that Tolkien immersion certainly had a profound effect. The Screwtape Letters forced me to take Pascal’s Wager and get serious about my Christianity. For several years after that, I read everything Lewis I could get my hands on. I recently re-read Kathleen Norris’s The Cloister Walk and enjoyed it as much as ever. I know there’ve been others, but they aren’t coming to mind at the moment. My brain is stuffed full of graduate school, writing a novel, and trying to memorize the Hebrew alphabet for next term’s classes. Every time I cram something new into my brain, evidently something else goes away.
When you write, have you ever come across theological “puzzles” you had to sort through to your own satisfaction before you could continue with the story?
Yes. I often have to leave gaps in my rough drafts. At that stage, the goal is to just get something on paper. I know I can go back and fill the gaps later. The Firebird trilogy was full of issues that had to be thought through, starting with How can you possibly write about a universe in which telepathy could be practiced by godly people? Inventing a “false faith” for Lady Firebird’s background was shamefully easy, though I didn’t try to think it through in great depth. Fusion Fire required some long talks with my pastor regarding, “How can a good God allow evil to exist?” Crown of Fire was originally going to be two books, one about pride and another about atonement. Writing about these issues forced me to think about them in some depth and from various angles.
Any comments on the CBA SFF market or advice to those hoping to write in this genre for the CBA?
b) Write your passion. Do not write for the market. (I struggle with this. It’s sometimes tempting to dismiss an idea I love as “unmarketable” or try to come up with “more marketable” ideas.)
c) Have a meaningful day job. I’m not being flippant. I’m increasingly convicted that “real world work” lets me be less dependent of the publishing industry, which is changing so fast that books I’d love to read go out of print before I know they’ve been published. Look at the music industry, and all the ways in which technology has changed production, delivery, gatekeeping, marketing, and consumption. I suspect we’re next.
d) Aim high. Be an artist who finds your bliss in a good story line and marvelous characters, and also be a professional and take the quality of your craft seriously. Neither stands alone.
You’re attending school right now. Any plans for a new novel? Your eager fans want to know!
I recently finished a co-writing job with my long-time friend, classical guitarist Christopher Parkening. His autobiography, Grace Like a River, hit the bookstores in June and comes with a free music CD.
One reason I decided to pursue this MCS degree at Regent College is that I’ll be required to produce an “arts thesis,” which could be—depending on one’s art—an exhibit of paintings, a dance recital, a recording, or a publishable book. I’ve started writing a SF novel that I might use for the thesis. It’s a tremendous joy to rediscover the writing process. I’m also doing a bit of “paid mentoring,” which is one of the few jobs I can hold down while I’m in Canada on a student visa.
Thanks again to Kathy Tyers for the interview. As I mentioned previously, since Kathy was attending summer school, I didn’t want to bombard her with questions. If you haven’t already, be sure to visit Karen Hancock’s blog to read more about Kathy Tyers.
John J. Boyer, Valerie Comer,Bryan Davis, Rebecca Grabill, Leathel Grody, Karen Hancock, Elliot Hanowski, Katie Hart, Sherrie Hibbs, Sharon Hinck, Pamela James,Jason Joyner, Tina Kulesa, Rachel Marks, Shannon McNear, Rebecca LuElla Miller, Cheryl Russel, Mirtika Schultz, Stuart Stockton, Steve Trower, Speculative Faith