After sixteen-year-old Nathan Shepherd's parents are murdered during a corporate investigation, he teams up with a friend to solve the case, discovering mirrors that reflect events from the past and future, a camera that photographs people who aren't there, and a violin that echoes unseen voices. This is the first book of a contemporary adventure fantasy series for young adults.
Instead of a review of the book, this month I and posting my personal interview with the author:
WORDUp!:Why fantasy? How does Christianity fit into this genre?
BryanDavis:I believe fantasy opens minds to the world of the unseen. Good fantasy lifts up honorable ideals, like heroism, courage, faith, love, and loyalty. It shines a positive light on good values, encouraging young readers to emulate the characters who exhibit those traits. It gives kids heroes, when they might not have any heroes in their lives at home or at school. Good fantasy gives kids hope that maybe, just maybe, they can be heroes, too.
There really is an unseen world, so understanding it is an important part of the maturing process in our walks of faith. As Paul said, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." How can we do battle if we can't imagine what's out there? Elisha opened such a portal for his servant, saying, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."
Some of Jesus' stories must have seemed like fantasy to his hearers. Had they ever seen a camel pass through the eye of a needle? How about a rich man and a poor man conversing in the afterlife? Fantasy images last, and a good teacher knows that lasting stories means lasting lessons. The hearers also remember the virtues of the heroes and the moral of the story.
I wrote an article that elaborates on this subject. You can find it online at http://www.daviscro ssing.com/ fantasy.pdf
WU:Why did you choose a young adult audience?
BD:I hope I don't offend any adults, because I know there are many exceptions to what I am about to say, but I find that younger readers enjoy more complex stories, and that's what I wanted to write. It seems that younger readers relish unexpected twists and turns. They are the ones who will let go of the lap bar on the roller coaster and raise their hands, enjoying the wild ride, while adults often keep a death grip on the bar and wonder why this stomach-flipping adventure is considered "fun."
It's also easier to create an unlikely hero out of a young protagonist. Readers will wonder if he or she is strong or mature enough to endure the struggle and come out victorious.
WU:Do you consider writing more of a career or a ministry?
BD:I can't separate the two in my mind. I am living out a career/ministry. I spend at least ten hours a week corresponding with my readers, some through email and some on my message forum. They ask me many questions about life, faith, and their struggles, so it's a high priority for me to take the time to provide counsel and comfort. For me, writing is truly a combination of career and ministry.
WU:What did you want to be when you were growing up? How did you go from there to becoming a writer?
BD:When I was quite young, I wanted to be a professional athlete, either a baseball or a basketball player. As I went through my teen years, I enjoyed math and science, so I pursued and obtained an engineering degree and later became a computer professional.
I became interested in writing mainly through homeschooling our children. Teaching them how to write was an important part of the curriculum, so I decided to write a story as an example. Every Friday night, which was our family night, my wife would read my week's writing out loud. I had so much fun creating this story, it grew into a novel. Although it never got published, this experience ignited a passion in me to write more.
WU:What advice do you have for anyone who would like to be a writer?
BD:Learn the craft. Get a good critiquing partner who is willing to tear your writing apart—in a loving way, of course. If and when you get rejections, never give up. On my journey to publishing, I had the honor of receiving over two hundred rejections. It's hard, but if you have a passion for writing, you can't give in to the frustrations.
If you're a fantasy writer, break free from the Tolkien and Lewis mold. Don't try to create another middle-earth with elves and orcs. Don't send kids to a new world through a wardrobe-like portal where a new kind of Christ-figure dwells. Make faith a real component that fits naturally with characters of real faith.
WU:Do you have any future plans to retire from writing to do something else? What?
BD:I have no plans to retire from the writing profession. It's just too much fun.
WU:Which of your characters would you most like to be?
BD:I would like to be like Solomon Shepherd, Nathan's father in Echoes from the Edge. Although he is not "on screen" at all, Nathan's memories paint a vivid portrait of a father's wisdom, spirituality, and love.
WU:With which character do you most closely identify?
BD:I identify well with Jared Bannister in the Dragons in our Midst series. As a former dragon, he had a lot of inner turmoil and wasn't sure how to raise a son who might have dragon traits. As a father of seven, I know how hard it can be to rear children, so I understand Jared's conflicts.
WU:What Biblical truth are you trying to convey to your audience in this book?
BD:In the Echoes from the Edge series, I'm trying to portray the complete forgiveness that God offers to all who come to him in repentance and faith. My main character, a male Christian teenager, learns that God loves a female teen, even though her past has been impure, likely far more impure than his life has been. They both learn to accept each other and work together in spite of the apparent spiritual gulf between them.
This is a story about how redemption, through the power of holy love, changes everything.
WU:Do you have any quirky habits or rituals that you observe while you are working on a writing project?
BD:None that I can think of. Yet, what is normal to me might seem quirky to others.
WU:When we've finished this interview, what would you like your audience to remember about you?
BD:I would like people to know that I'm just a dad who wants to write stories that will inspire readers to take hold of faith and pursue true holiness. I believe in the power of God to transform us into warriors for his kingdom—holy and righteous in reality, not just in theory.
BONUS!!! Check out my blog this afternoon for an excerpt from Bryan's SECOND NOVEL IN THIS SERIES: Eternity's Edge
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