Monday, February 19, 2007

Where The Map Ends - Blog Tour

Today I'm interrupting my Around the World Virtual Book Tour (for Renovating Becky Miller) and am delighted to share a recent interview with Jeff Gerke about his website, WhereTheMapEnds, and his thoughts about the fantasy genre for Christian authors. After you read Jeff's thoughts, feel free to explore other CSFF Blog Tour sites listed in the far right column. You can also scroll down to my earlier post to see the places I've been visiting all month on my current book tour.

Sharon: Hi, Jeff!
Welcome to my blog.
I've told many people about your heroic work in championing The Restorer. You talked me into telling you about it, when I was starting to feel that fantasy was considered an ugly stepchild in the Christian publishing family. I know you've written and edited other genres, but why do you have a special soft spot for fantasy, and why do you believe it can be a particularly powerful way to tell our stories of faith?

Jeff: First, I should say that I'm not sure you were wrong that fantasy is sometimes considered the ugly stepchild in Christian publishing. All the speculative genres, really, might fall into that category. I've recently done a series on this very topic in my Fiction Writing Tip of the Week column (see Tips 16-18 ) Tip #18 mentions even mentions you and The Restorer.

Sharon: Cool! Let me interrupt to say that I've been following your tips as you've posted them and they are awesome. I had the blessing of getting editorial input from you on the Restorer, and I think it's wonderful that you are making your insights available to EVERYONE on your site,WhereTheMapEnds.

Now, on with your answers:

Jeff: As I said in the interview on CSFF Blog Tour ,

I think epic fantasy may be the perfect storytelling vehicle for dialoguing about Christianity in fiction.

In fantasy you're talking about the battle between Good and Evil, so you're already in the theologian's backyard. In fantasy you often have supernatural beings or events imposing themselves into the natural world. Funny, that kind of sounds like Christianity, too.

For whatever reason, fantasy just feels like the ideal lab bench for exploring ultimate issues like truth, love, loyalty, corruption, and heroism. Fantasy feels like a parable (another staple of Christian thought), a means of removing a topic out of the "real" world to isolate it and examine it in the light.

Sharon: Exactly! Fantasy isn't about what is "unreal" so much as looking at reality and truth from different angles or in unusual settings - to get even deeper insights.

You helped my "I can die happy when this story is told" book go to print, but I know you've also got a very special writing project in the works. Tell us about it.

Jeff: The book of my heart, my magnum opus, is an epic fantasy geared for
non-Christians. My theory is that virtually all people would respond to the intrinsic qualities of Christianity if only it could be stripped of its trigger words and stained glass language. The goal of this novel--beyond just telling a ripping good tale--is to show Christianity in its purest form.

Sharon: You just said something key. You want your story to convey the truth of God's love and plan BUT you are also telling a "ripping good tale." Can you give us a few examples of favorite recent CSFF books that balance this well? Strong themes without being didactic? And don't forget to mention the books you midwifed at Strang. :-)


Jeff: I've had the great blessing of being able to bring some fabulous Christian
speculative fiction to publication--when I was part of the launch of Realms
at Strang Communications and then over the fiction line at NavPress.

Don't make me choose between my children, now. All four novels we launched
Realms with were fantastic in their own right. I do think one in particular
did a good job of specifically what you're asking about: strong Christian
themes without being didactic. The other three would be ones I would mention
in place of this one if the question had been different, but here goes.

I think "The Personifid Project" by R. E. Bartlett got closest to what
you're describing. This wonderful SF thriller is set in a future in which
technology has reached the point where you can transfer your consciousness
to an artificial body (a personifid) and thus live forever.

Just by that premise you're automatically grappling with issues of life,
eternity, playing God, free will, fear of death, and more--all territory in
which the Christian novelist is quite at home. Without having to hit anyone
over the head with Christianity, the issues are there, organic to the story.

The author's sequel, The Personifid Invsion, brings in spiritual warfare and
is also quite cool.

A novel I acquired at NavPress is another good example. Tosca Lee's
fantastic "Demon: A Memoir" is the tale of a book editor who is accosted by
a demon in human form. The demon proceeds to lead the editor on a
fascinating quest through just about every theological topic you could think
of--but through the eyes of a not-quite-trustworthy narrator.

If the reader accepts the premise--Dinner with a Perfect Demon, you might
say--then for 250 pages she's going to be grappling with spiritual issues.
And it's all quite natural and built into the story.

At the risk of sounding like I'm trying to get in good with the teacher, I'd
have to say that your Restorer trilogy, Sharon, is another good example of
this. Without any overt discussion about Christianity, you lead us on a tale
of high adventure all with biblical underpinnings and that discussion of
Good and Evil that comes as part of the package when you write fantasy.

I'd like to think that my own epic fantasy, mentioned above, will do this as
well.

Sharon: Thanks for steering us to some of your favorite non-didactic spec fiction, and thanks for the kind words about The Restorer. :-) You also have a comprehensive list of Christian-authored spec fiction of all categories at Where the Map Ends. When you launched your site, I was amazed at how many terrific books have been published in this genre. Some of the titles take a little more effort to find -- they may not be featured front and center in your local Christian bookstore. But your links will guide readers to where they can be ordered online. This is of my favorite pages on WhereTheMapEnds!

Jeff, you've compiled amazing interviews with top CBA authors, tips for writers, information for readers searching for more spec-fic, as well as the resources of your editorial services, and some other elements that are just plain fun. What is coming up for future development on your site? What are your dreams for the site? What can visitors watch for?


Jeff: I have three goals for WhereTheMapEnds. First, I'd like it to be one of the
first sites people mention when the topic of Christian speculative fiction
comes up. I'd like them to say, "Oh, well, if you like Christian fantasy,
you've GOT to get over to WhereTheMapEnds.com to see what's out there and to
read the interviews."

Second, I want it to continue becoming known as a place where aspiring
novelists, especially those aspiring to write Christian speculative fiction,
come to learn their craft and find tools to help them do the thing they most
love to do. I love teaching people about this crazy craft and every teacher
craves interested pupils.

Between the tips on fiction writing, the articles about what goes on inside
Christian publishing companies, my various products and links to help
novelists better create amazing speculative fiction, and the editorial
services I offer, I think I've got something for every Christian speculative
novelist. I'm also toying with the idea of doing a collaborate story project
on the site, but haven't figured out how (or if) to do that yet.

Third, my ultimate goal is to become an independent publisher of original
Christian speculative novels. On the site there is a link to Marcher Lord
Press (http://www.wherethemapends.com/marcherlord/marcherlord.htm). This is
my dream.

So much wonderful Christian speculative fiction does not get published
because of the factors I cover in Tips 16-18 on the site. That's a shame. On
the whole, the Christian fiction publishing industry is set up to service a
certain demographic, one that does not typically like speculative fiction.
For years I worked within the system to expand the boundaries of what
fiction we could publish. Now I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps we need to
find a new way altogether.

Marcher Lord Press would be a small, POD (print-on-demand) publishing
company that would sell original Christian speculative novels directly to
the consumer. That's another reason I'd like WhereTheMapEnds to become
popular--because when I have original novels to sell, fans of
WhereTheMapEnds will be the ideal audience.

Most marketing done by Christian publishers (or anyone, for that matter)
involves finding where the target audience is and letting them know about a
product they might like. What if I could do that differently? What if
WhereTheMapEnds was where the target audience already was and I could just
let them know about the new novels they'd like? Instead of going out to find
them, they've found me.

While that's my long-term goal, it's not my only goal. Marcher Lord Press
may never happen, and that's okay. My other two goals will remain in effect.
Marcher Lord Press is a dream of mine, one that would allow me to publish
those novelists who for years I've had to reject. It would also allow me to
have a place to publish my own epic fantasy, since I'm pretty sure neither
Christian nor secular publishers would like it--but fans of Christian
speculative fiction would love it (I hope!).

But whether that day comes or not, I'm loving what we're doing at
WhereTheMapEnds.

Jeff

Sharon: Thanks so much, Jeff!

I have great news, blog-readers. Jeff is offering an awesome prize. I’ll draw a name from everyone who posts a comment to this blog entry, and the winner will receive a FREE GIFT of Jeff’s “Character Creation for the Plot-First Novelist” system (a $28 value). So chime in with our thoughts, and tell your friends!
And be sure to scroll down to see my itinerary as I continue my virtual book-tour around the world all month for RENOVATING BECKY MILLER.
Blessings, Sharon

13 comments:

Jill said...

Hi, Sharon and Jeff:

I haven't seen some of the speculative fiction titles mentioned here talked about on the Christian Fandom loop. They're all into sf/f. I may have to do a little name-dropped and ask, Say have you read . . .

I've already been yacking Restorer up wherever I can.

Thanks for the intriguing interview.

Jill

Cyndy Salzmann said...

Great interview, Sharon. Much success on your new venture, Jeff.

Thanks! Cyndy

Katie Hart said...

Great interview, Sharon and Jeff! I love the idea behind Where the Map Ends and look forward to visiting all the tour stops!

WayneThomasBatson said...

Thanks for posting this, Sharon. And Jeff, cool to learn about you and your passion. I think we were cut from the same cloth--love of epic fantasy. I pray you pull off your magnum opus with a devastating flourish. May your work open hearts that might otherwise have remained closed.

davitainchina said...

Hey Sharon and Jeff,
Thanks for the interview and encouragement to a lowly genre (or ugly stepchild). I love sf/f and want to write in it, even though it is difficult to break in with it. I am encouraged by the number of sites and people who also love it. It's great to know we're not alone and encourage each other. Keep up the good work.

Davita

Jefferson Scott said...

Greetings, Sharon and all. Thanks for the kind words. And Sharon, thanks for running the interview.

In the days since I did the interview for you I decided I would go ahead and do the collaborative story project I mentioned. I did some research and decided which format to try. Now everything's ready to go.

I'll open the doors to the project on March 1. Sharon, you and your readers are welcome to join us! Just go to www.WhereTheMapEnds.com on March 1 and you'll see the link.

Cheers!

Jeff

pixydust said...

great interview, Sharon and Jeff!

I second what Wayne said: "pull your magnum opus off with a devistating flurish" :) I love that.

John said...

Sharon, thanks for the great interview! I really enjoyed it.

Teresa said...

Loved reading your interview today. Jeff hope you have success on your tour. Restorer sounds like a great read!

Daniel I Weaver said...

This is a great interview loaded with lots of exciting information. This interview is a great example of exactly what Jeff is trying to do. I haven't even heard of many of these titles and I know I'm not alone. We have to spread the word and show the world that this fiction exists.

God Bless,
Daniel I Weaver
www.danieliweaver.com

Becky said...

Excellent interview, Sharon. Thanks again for you're faithful participation in the tour in the midst of all the rest of your responsibilities.

Becky

Cheryl said...

Great interview Sharon! I'm looking forward to reading The Restorer too!

Cheryl-Unseen Worlds

Camy Tang said...

Great interview! Thanks, Jeff and Sharon! Jeff, I love your vision for Marcher Lord Press and hope it becomes a reality!
Camy