Realm Makers will have a Videographer Available!

file0001247962926There are many marketing tools available to authors these days. A newer option that is rising in popularity is the author promo video. This year, Realm Makers is excited to welcome videographer Dan Phillips, who will be available throughout the conference to record videos and answer questions. Here’s a little about Dan . . .
1) Tell us about who you are and what you do.
My name is Dan Phillips.  I am currently the Sports Reporter/Videographer/Anchor at WZTV, the Fox affiliate in Nashville, Tennessee, which is basically a fancy title for “jack of all trades, master of none”  in the sports world. I’ve been at WZTV for nearly 10 years, in TV for nearly 20. I shoot, edit, write and report on a wide variety of different sports. I’m also active on social media as well, tweeting about what I see and what I’m doing on a daily basis.
One of the main things I try to emphasize in everything I do is getting you as close to the action as possible. Or at least so you feel like you’re in the game. You can feel the hit on the football field, or the jump shot go in on the basketball court. It’s also really important to me that viewers get the sense of what’s going through an athlete’s mind before, during and after the game. What are the emotions like? Why did they do what they did? It makes them seem more real to me than just giving statistics.
I think that translates to authors. Getting them to talk about why they wrote the book or novel. What their motivation is. Why the characters are important. What the characters and plot mean to them. Readers or potential readers want to know the “inside scoop.” I think it makes them feel more part of the story.
2) What are the perks of an author promo video?
To me, there are several perks to using video to promote your book or novel. First of all, it gives readers or potential readers the insight that I was talking about before. I really believe that the more they know about you and your book, the more interest they have in both the author and the author’s work. I’ve certainly found that to be true in the sports and athletes I cover.
I also think they’re important because it allows you, the author, to have control over the message. You can say what you want, how you want, about your book. I know that for authors, their stories are extremely important and personal to them. Many are even afraid to let the public in on their vision. I think video is an easy way to get the word or vision out to the masses in a concise, compelling way.
I also believe that in this day and age, with technology and all the different outlets available, video is the quickest way and most effective way to relay your message. With such a variety of ways for people to see you and your work, it’s also a cheap way to get a whole lot of promotion. Think about it. There’s social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram), free sites (Youtube, Vimeo), as well as author websites, publisher websites, Amazon, book seller sites, as well as others I’m sure I’m forgetting. That’s a TON of places that literally millions and millions of potential readers check out EVERYDAY.
3) How does an author go about preparing for a promo video and what should they expect during filming?
What I tell people going into a video, first of all, is RELAX. Most people, authors included, get nervous when they think about speaking to an audience, let alone a camera. Here are a few things to think about beforehand.
First, you’re talking about something you know and are passionate about. No one is asking about ISIS, or Obamacare, or the upcoming Presidential election. No one is trying to stump you. Or confuse you. This isn’t 60-Minutes–I want you to do well. So does anyone else who’s interviewing you. It’s your book. Your story. YOU ARE THE EXPERT.
Second, if you do mess up, it OK. It’s not live. WE CAN DO IT AGAIN. AND AGAIN. AND AGAIN. Until you get it right. That’s the beauty of tape.
Finally, SMILE. HAVE FUN. This isn’t brain surgery. Or rocket science. It’s an interview. Your family still loves you. The sun will still rise, no matter what happens. I promise.
As far as appearance goes, I tell people to wear color. A lot of people gravitate towards black and white. Black in particular, because they think it’s slimming. That may be partially true, but it’s also cold and harsh against most people’s skin. It makes you seem less friendly and approachable. So wear color!
Be well groomed. I think too many authors neglect their appearance because they think their words should speak for them. That is simply not the case. Did you know that people make a judgement about you within the first 7 seconds of when they see you? 7-seconds! That’s not a long time to make a good impression. A haircut and color for women (and even men) can make a HUGE difference.
Don’t go crazy with the makeup and facial hair. Natural is better. I know that many men are very attached to their facial hair, and I get that. But the reality is, most of the time it ages you. And so does wearing too much makeup. Or too much jewelry. You want the focus on you. Your face. Not your hair or makeup or necklace or ear rings.
I have a saying: “If you look good, you feel good.  And if you feel good, people will respond to you and your message.” I really believe that.
4) How can authors use the promo videos to promote themselves and their work?
As far as promoting themselves through video, I feel that this is perhaps the most important thing. The beauty of video is that YOU CONTROL THE MESSAGE. These days, it’s all about branding. Whatever, whomever you decide you want to be, you can be. But be careful. You’d be surprised at what does and doesn’t come through on camera. Passion, intensity, emotion all show through. Readers are interested and attracted to that. By the same token, if the emotion or passion is fake, that will also be obvious. It can also potentially derail your message, no matter how well it is delivered or how important it is.
5) Since you are going to be at Realm Makers, how can authors get in touch with you if they are interested or have questions about cost/preparation/etc.?
If you are interested in doing a video with me or my company LDP Multi-Media, feel free to contact me at LDPDanPhillips@gmail.com or by phone at (615) 517-8837. I’d be glad to talk you through the process or answer any other questions you have about videos, your image or brand, or any other services LDP provides. I will be available at Realm Makers to shoot videos for a special conference rate of $500 for a video without b-roll (a TV term for video to cover an interview shot on site) or $750 with b-roll. The shoot should take less than an hour. And we’ll do our best to turn it around and get the finished product to you ASAP.
I’ll also be speaking, along with my friend Julie Gwinn, specifically about Image and Branding at the conference. I think you’ll learn a lot about what will and won’t work for you both personally and professionally as far is your image goes. I want to warn you though, I don’t hold back. Be ready for some seriously straight talk!
I’m really looking forward to hopefully my first of many Realm Makers conferences.  It should be a lot of fun!

Into the Mind of Evangeline Denmark

Denmark-48_with_credits_smWhile she may be the daughter of fantasy novelist Donita K. Paul, she’s an experienced and talented writer in her own right. Today, we’re happy to welcome another one of our speakers for Realm Makers 2015, Evenageline Denmark!

 

1. You have a book coming out in 2016 from Blink/Harper Collins. Tell us a little about it!

 

Curio is a Young Adult Steampunk Fantasy set in the West at the turn of the century.

When Grey’s father is arrested for a crime she committed, Grey escapes into an enchanted world within a curio cabinet. Among the living curios—beautiful, cruel porcelains and clever tick-tocks—Grey searches for the one person who can help her get home and save her father.

She finds the only other human in Curio, a boy named Blaise. But he’s in disguise, embroiled in a revolution, and reluctant to remember his past in Grey’s world. To get home, Grey must band with freedom fighters, escape the grasp of the obsessed porcie ruler, and uncover the incredible secret of her own identity. A secret as connected to Blaise as the mark on his skin—a mark Grey also possesses.

The prequel to Curio, Mark of Blood and Alchemy will be available as an ebook in October of this year.
2. Do you have a writing process or schedule?

 

I try to write while my boys are at school, but the summer months are tricky. That’s when noise-cancelling headphones come in handy.

 

3. Where do you typically write? Do you have an office or are you usually on the couch/bed/kitchen table?

 

I have a very messy desk in the corner of a very messy office. I usually write there but sometimes, if I need a change of scenery, I sit in our front room where I can get a glimpse of the mountains.

 

4. What was it like working with your mom on the 2 children’s books you two published?

 

We had so much fun thinking up the Dragon and Turtle stories and bouncing them back and forth between our brains and our laptops. We are both picture book lovers, so seeing our own children’s stories come to life in book form was truly wonderful.

 

5. Evangeline’s Faves:

 

Food: cheese
Color: red
Book: Jane Eyre
Movie: Penelope

 

6. What do you hope writers will learn from your continuing education class on world building?

 

I hope attendees will come away from our class even more in love with their characters and story and enchanted by their story world. I love the brainstorming process and the moments when one idea trips into another and another and your mind lights up with possibilities. Hopefully, the writers who join us will find their creativity kindled as we delve into world building.

 

7. Do you have any advice for new attendees?

 

Beware of diseased wombats.

 

What? We haven’t had any diseased wombats at our conference since the first year. I mean–thank you, Evangeline, for your fun answers!

Rules of the Realm: Have a Great Headshot

_DSC6890As a writer it’s important to realize that your headshot tells a story just as much as your writing does. Hard to believe, right? But it’s true. Below I’ve outlined five reasons why I personally think having a fantastic, professional headshot is important for any writer no matter their stage (pre-published or published). I may rant a little here and there, but I promise to make some valid points.

 

5 Reasons Why You Need a Fantastic Headshot

 

1. You are You

That is, unless you aren’t you then you need to re-think you … But I digress. It may seem silly to state this as a fact, but it is one. Your readers are dying to know more about you. I believe this craving for inside knowledge comes from the fact that readers want a personal connection with the author. They’ve just traveled through a (hopefully) thrilling, exciting, emotional, [fill in the blank] ride with you at the helm, and they just have to know the brilliant mind behind that adventure. And, let’s be honest, humans are curious!

2. You are your book

Like I said above, readers want a personal connection. No, your readers are likely not going to the back cover to pick a book because you had that perfect, gleaming smile, BUT they are going to look eventually and what they see will say a lot about you. Having a great headshot that captures your personality, style, and your genuine smile will show them you care about professionalism.

3. A picture is worth a 1000 words … or a 1000 followers?

I personally believe that having a great quality author headshot is the beginning to success for platform building. Okay, I’m cringing because I’m afraid the marketing gods may strike me with lightening. I won’t claim that you’ll get 1k followers by updating your headshots, but I will say that a great quality photo makes a world of difference. People tend to trust those who have completed profiles on social media. They tend to gravitate toward a personalized Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed. They also tend to appreciate well-done images, seeing that the writer has taken their craft seriously—from their books to their marketing materials.

4. Picture Perfect Professional

In line with #3 above, I would say that having a great headshot helps to establish your professionalism and credibility. Readers can come to your site or social media outlet and see that you’ve taken the time to pay for professional photos. Whoa, they’ll think, this author must be legit. And they would be right.

5. It’s going to be everywhere!

Let’s be honest, your picture is going to be plastered all over the place. The back of your book, your website, your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest…the Internet. You wouldn’t want that image to be anything less than professional. I’m sorry, but if you’re making an argument for that really great >insert sarcasm here< selfie you took while doing the pouty face with your cute puppy and a copy of your novel, I just won’t hear it. Take it from me–those are great images to spread around Facebook and Instagram, but please don’t be putting that up on your website, trying to convince yourself that it’s “personable.” No, it’s unprofessional [end rant]. If you don’t believe me, go to almost any well-known, best-selling author’s site and take a gander at their beautiful, professional images. (Confession: I have done this.) ;-)

 

As you can tell, I am passionate about writers having great headshots! I’ve outlined my thoughts a little bit more on my personal blog in a three part series I titled, “What are you saying with your headshot?” (You can find these posts here, here, and here.)

 

Above all else, hear me say: get a great headshot!

 

If you’re attending the Realm Makers Conference you can take advantage of my headshot session special as well. I only charge $40 for a 15 min. session. You get 5 high and low resolution images released for commercial use. It’s the perfect session for writers to update their images and I promise not to rant about headshots during our time together. Plus, I tell stupid jokes and have been known to stand on things from time to time just to make things interesting.

 

Check out my online spreadsheet to find a slot: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/17NUV4sjQyrvD8O6RH_s0lE8lbkGmZQLCQHKz1Yemj6Y/edit?usp=sharing

 

Have you had professional photos done before? What did you think?

___

 

10914751_567911163346395_5801284642434281744_oEmilie is a freelance writer and photographer living in the heart of Washington, D.C. She’s a member of ACFW and currently working on a romantic suspense series while dreaming up YA dystopian worlds on the side. She’s got a soft spot in her heart for animals and a love for the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time you can find her playing guitar or reading a book all while drinking too much coffee.

 

Connect with her on her blog, www.eahendryx.blogspot.com, or on her Facebook author page, www.facebook.com/emiliehendryx.

 

 

Into the Mind of Jill Williamson

3 CloseThis year will be Jill Williamson’s first visit to Realm Makers, and we are excited to have her. If you haven’t heard of her before, check out her website. She’s been one busy lady these last few years. But, don’t take it from me, read on to find out more!

 

1. Your first book, By Darkness Hid, was published about 4 years after you started writing, right? What did you do during those first four years to learn about the craft of writing?

 

For the first three years, I rewrote my first book again and again and again. This was The New Recruit. I loved my book. It was my firstborn, and I was OBSESSED about seeing it published. About the time I was getting requests for the full and the book was sitting in agent and editor’s To-Do piles, I finally started writing new stories. That, I believe, is when I really started to grow as a writer. I had shackled myself to The New Recruit out of my love (obsession) for it. But when I set myself to writing something new, it was really freeing. Also, during my endless rewrites of The New Recruit, I continued to attend writers conferences and learn, I read lots of books on the craft of writing and editing, and I joined a great critique group. All those things helped me learn to tell better stories and to be confident in those stories. It can be very discouraging to receive endless rejections and not know why. At some point, writers have to stop second-guessing themselves and simply trust that the story is finished. Then write something new!

When I sold By Darkness Hid to Jeff Gerke and Marcher Lord Press, it was the sixth novel I had completed. In the years following that sale, I rewrote The New Recruit and sold it. I remember reading it then and being shocked and thankful that it had never sold. It was awful. It had never been ready to be published. It made sense to me all these years later why it had been rejected. The only answer I would have given myself back then would have been “The writing isn’t quite there yet.” In my experience, writing something new was the only thing that freed me from that first book. With each story, my craft improved and still does.

2. You have a real heart for teens and fiction and fiction-writing teens. Where do you think that passion comes from? And what inspiration do you draw from it?

 

It’s partly my husband’s calling as a youth pastor. We have been surrounded by teens for sixteen years now. It’s partly that, inside my head, I still feel like my teenage self. It’s partly that teen books/coming-of-age stories are my favorites to read. And it’s partly that I am a person who loves to encourage others. That’s me. It’s who I am. So it comes out in what I write and in what I teach. I’m fascinated by each person’s journey of finding God and what he wants for their lives. It’s a beautiful thing. And I want that for my characters.

3. What has been your favorite part of starting Go Teen Writers with Stephanie Morrill? (And for those of us who may not know, what is Go Teen Writers?)

www.GoTeenWriters.com was founded in 2010 by YA novelist Stephanie Morrill as a place to encourage teenage writers. I had a similar heart for teen writers and joined forces with Stephanie in 2012. We blog weekly on all topics related to writing fiction and answer comments and emails from teenage writers. The blog has over 1200 followers. In 2013, we collaborated to write the book Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book.

My favorite part of working with Stephanie is the friendship we’ve developed. Sometimes I feel like no one understands the ups and downs of writing, marketing, blogging, and sales (or lack thereof) like Stephanie. I’d be lost without her. Besides that, it’s always humbling to hear that the blog or an email or comment helped a teen and encouraged them. The teenage years can be a frustrating and confusing time, and I love knowing that something we wrote on the blog gave clarity to someone. It’s a wonderful experience to be a part of.

4. Here comes the stumper. Which genre of book did you prefer writing just a little bit more? :)

 

I always prefer fantasy. I’m a world-builder at heart, and I find immense joy in that. However, I have never laughed as much as I laugh when writing Spencer’s voice. As I mentioned above, I rewrote The New Recruit one last time after I had been published. I looked at the book back then and knew I needed to write it in first person. (It had always been third person before.) Like magic, there was Spencer’s voice, all cocky and sarcastic. He was just waiting for me to find him. It’s a delight to write his voice, to pull in pop culture references and jokes that would never fly in an off-world fantasy novel. So when I’m sick of my latest fantasy world, nothing gives me a breather like writing Spencer for a while. He is my hiatus.

Brandon5. Jill’s Faves:

 

Food: Fettuccini Alfredo
Color: Don’t have one.
Book: I can’t pick just one! My current favorite is The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
Movie: Again, cannot pick only one. I recently loved Jurassic World. Except for the high heels …

6. You’re teaching some interesting classes this year. What do you hope the writers take away from your workshops?

 

That details matter. We all have to learn the craft of writing. But at some point, we have to drop the rules and trust ourselves as writers. We have to say, “Yeah, I know that’s the rule, but …” and be confident in that. Otherwise, we all end up with the same voice. So learn the rules, then learn to trust yourself. And take extra time to choose specific words, to say things in your own unique way, to craft a perfect pitch, and to add details to your storyworld that will set your book apart from all the others. I often hear editors and agents say they are looking for the “wow factor,” and that’s something that takes extra time to develop. Take the time to do that. Then put that book down and write a new one!

7. Any advice for conference newbies?

 

Try not to put all your hopes and dreams into one specific meeting with an editor, agent, or author. Relax. Enjoy this time of learning. Set aside that obsession to be published and instead adopt an attitude of investment. You are here to invest in yourself as a writer, to better yourself. Anything you learn is great. You are the product you are investing in. Your skills. Not one specific book. You and your own life. So come to this conference looking to add skill to your ability, to make friends, and to enjoy being with other people who love stories and writing as much as you do. You will be far less stressed if you come to learn rather than to have all your hopes and dreams answered in a five minute meeting.

 

Thank you, Jill, for visiting with us today. Your answers were filled with lots of great advice.

Into the Mind of Morgan Busse

I’m a little biased about the interview today. Morgan Busse is a fellow fantasy writer, but she’s also my good friend and critique partner! I’m so excited that she is teaching at Realm Makers this year because she has been a wealth of information for me over the last couple of years. But, enough from me, let’s hear from Morgan . . .

 

New FotW covers1. You just recently put out the 3rd book in your trilogy. What would you say was the most important things you learned about writing a series during this process?

 

The Follower of the Word series is the first story I ever wrote, so not only was I learning how to write during this series, I was learning who I was as a writer. What I discovered is that I am an outliner. I need to know how the story is going to start, what are the major plots points, and how is the story going to end.

I’m not sure about other writers, but I think it would be difficult to write a series without knowing the story you are trying to tell and what the ending is (and then write towards it with that goal in mind). And it’s just stinkin’ hard to write a series! Especially one as long and complicated as I wrote for my debut series! With a series, you not only have to find ways to wrap up that particular book, but also how it fits in with the overall story that arches across the series. You also have to keep track of various subplots, characters, and places. I’ll be honest, I would probably not recommend doing a series for your first novel unless you really, really love the story and are ready to be immersed in that world for years. But it can be done :)
2. Some of us saw that you just signed a contract for a steampunk series. Can you share a little bit about it with us?

 

I am always working on story while I’m writing another. Years ago I came up with a story and realized it would best be told in a steampunk setting. A couple months after I turned in the manuscript for Heir of Hope, my publisher asked if I had any other stories I was working on. I sent him a couple ideas, and he loved the steampunk series.

Tainted is the first book in The Soul Chronicles. Here is the blurb for Tainted:

Kat Bloodmayne is one of the first women chosen to attend the Tower Academy of Sciences. But she carries a secret: she can twist the natural laws of life. She has no idea where this ability came from, only that every time she loses control and unleashes this power, it kills a part of her soul. If she doesn’t find a cure soon, her soul will die and she will become something else entirely.

After a devastating personal loss, Stephen Grey leaves the World City Police Force to become a bounty hunter. He believes in justice and will stop at nothing to ensure criminals are caught and locked up. However, when Kat Bloodmayne shows up in his office seeking his help, his world is turned upside down.

Together they search World City and beyond for a doctor who can cure Kat. But what they discover on the way goes beyond science and into the dark sphere of magic.

Tainted is set to release Spring of 2016.
3. Where do you get your inspiration for these amazing stories?

 

Everywhere! Sometimes I will hear a piece of music and suddenly see a scene in my head. Or I’ll read an article and ask, “What if?” Or I’ll see a character in a desperate situation and wonder how he/she got there, and how will he/she get out of it. If I keep going back to the characters and wondering what happened to them and what is going to happen next, then I know I have a keeper of a story. At that point, I’ll create a folder on my computer and start collecting information on the characters, plot ideas, settings, etc. I do this while I am working on my current manuscript. Usually by the time I am ready to start writing the story, I have been dreaming it up for a couple years. Here are some of the questions that prompted my current novels:

  • What if you could see inside the soul? (Daughter of Light)
  • Can anyone—even a murderer—find forgiveness? (Son of Truth)
  • What would you sacrifice to save mankind? (Heir of Hope)
  • What would happen if your soul died? (Tainted)

 

WhonPhoto_MBusse_003 MFinalDarker4. I know you’re a preacher’s wife and have a small herd of kids . . . what’s your writing process like?

 

Crazy! Or at least that is how it feels sometimes! When I first started writing years ago, I had four kids and none of them in school. During that time I wrote during nap times (assuming I didn’t need one myself), or at night. By the time I received my first contract, my kids were in school, which made it easier to have a schedule. When I’m working on a rough draft, I write one thousand words a day, 4 days a week. It’s a bit slow, but I usually end up with a fairly clean rough draft after about six months to a year, depending on how long the book is.

I let the manuscript sit for a couple weeks, then I come back and do a read-through and work on any edits or rewrites. After than I ship the story off to my critique partners and consider their ideas (it helps to have others read my story and catch things I didn’t). Then I send the manuscript off to my editor.

The main thing I learned is to write everyday on my assigned work days. Writer’s block? Write anyway. Think it’s a bunch of garbage? Write anyway. I have found more often than not that when I come back, I find the scene is much better than I thought it was. You can’t improve a story that hasn’t been written, so get that rough draft done!

For those of you with family, it is not worth sacrificing your family for your writing. The story will always be there, but your family will not. Your children will grow up and leave the nest. Your marriage needs you to be there, or it might not be there someday. I never wanted my children growing up thinking that writing took their mother away from them. That is why I write when they are in school. When my family is home, I put my writing away except on deadlines. And because I have invested in my family, during those deadlines, they come together and help me by taking care of the house and fixing dinner. They are my biggest supporters, and I couldn’t do what I do without them!
5. Morgan’s Faves:
Food: Sour candy, donuts, and tea. I usually limit the first two for special occasions. Tea, however, I drink all the time, especially when I’m writing.

Color: Green. Green can be both dark and light, cool and warm, peaceful and energetic.

Book: That’s a hard one. I think I’ll go with fiction: Lord of the Rings, and nonfiction: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Movie: Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice.
6. What do you hope the attendees get out of your workshop, “Show Don’t Tell: How to Share the Gospel through Fiction Without Preaching”?

 

Over the last few weeks I’ve been asked by two different people how to add the Gospel to a story without destroying the story and how do you even add a Christian worldview to a story (this by a non-writer). Those are both excellent questions! In my opinion, great novels weave theme, worldview, even the Gospel into the story in such a way that the reader never pauses or realizes what the author is doing. It should be an organic part of the story, not just an added element.

I will talk about techniques I used in my own stories, how speculative writers have a unique opportunity to share the gospel, why the Gospel isn’t just for the unsaved, and how writing this way can change your life. Even if you don’t plan on writing the Gospel into your story, you might just pick up some tips on how to weave your worldview into your story without turning off your reader.

 

7. Any advice for the newbies?
Well, sure, lots! I could do a whole class on things I’ve learned over the years. But here are a couple that I think every person aspiring to write should do:

  • Learn all you can, then learn who you are as a writer.
  • Write, write, write! Writing is just like sports or music. You need to practice all the time. Randy Ingermanson once said that you need to write one million words before you start writing something worth reading. I agree.
  • Take time to live life. Life will provide inspiration for your stories. A person stuck at a computer all day and night forgets what real people are like, and what the world looks like.
  • Don’t forget your family. They are your true legacy.

“Escape” Voting has Begun

Brimstone anthology graphicHave you ever wanted to give someone else’s money away for a worthy cause?

Well, now’s your chance!

There are thirteen finalists in our first Short Story Escape contest. Only one of them can take home the coveted Reader’s Choice Award, which comes with a Realm Makers scholarship to a future conference. And YOU get to decide who wins!

Head over here to read the entries (the first ~10% of each story is posted). Not only will you get to vote for the winner, you’ll get a sneak peek at the stories that will be featured in the anthology.

Hurry, voting closes at the end of the month (11:59 p.m. EST on July 31 for those writers so deeply entrenched in their stories to know what day/month it is). Happy reading!

A Few Words from LB Graham

LBGrahamLB Graham has been a wonderful asset to the Realm Makers faculty in the past, and we’re so glad he agreed to join us again. Why do we like him so much? Well, just read on to find out why!

 

1. What inspired you to become a writer?

Probably like most writers, I loved to read. So, the simple answer is books. Stories. And, like many fantasy writers, I was greatly impacted by C.S. Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia when I was fairly young, and then even more so by Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings when I was a bit older. The depth and scope of Tolkien’s creation was remarkable. I think that even as a young reader I knew I was experiencing something extraordinary.

Years later, after thinking about writing fantasy for a while, I decided to actually do it. It had always felt presumptuous for me to try to do what these writing giants had done, but the very practical thought that they were gone and would write no more helped me to realize that if new fantasy stories were to be written from a Christian worldview, others would have to do it–so, why not me?

2. What do you think makes fantasy writers unique?

If I might push back a little on this question, what actually strikes me is how similar all good writing and story-telling is. It’s true that fantasy, or more broadly, speculative fiction, often specializes in the strange, the odd and of course, the fantastic, but at their heart good fantasy stories need the same things that any good stories need: interesting characters, conflict and difficulty to fuel their journey, and hopefully, a good grasp of both the details of writing (like language, sentence structure, and dialogue) and the big picture things like a well-constructed plot and themes that tie the story to shared human experience. There’s more, of course, but you see my point.

3. What do you think most writers need to work on when it comes to speculative fiction in general?

This is hard, and I could pick a lot of things here, but one of my pet peeves with a lot of fantasy is the names. I think that sometimes fantasy writers just come up with strange looking or sounding names and think because they are odd, they are fantastical, when in fact I think there’s a real art to inventing names, not just for people, but names of places and things too. I would say that much of my hardest work in creating worlds and stories in those worlds that work is in finding names that both signal to the reader they are in another place but also somehow seem to be right, to fit the world they are in.

4. How do you balance a full-time job and writing?

For most of my career the answer has been discipline, setting aside a certain number of hours each week, protecting those hours, and then using them to write. I write however many pages I can in that time, and when the time is up I stop. Then I come back and do it all over again during the next window of time I have. Those pages becomes chapters, and those chapters become a book, and step by step the race is won. It isn’t won in a day, it is the hundred smaller steps along the way that gets me from the starting blocks to the finish line.

5. LB’s Faves:

Food: So many options here, but probably pizza.
Color: Purple
Book: Too many options here, also. LOTR of course. Ender’s Game maybe. Cry the Beloved Country. To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby are books I’ve taught and love very much too.
Movie: The Shawshank Redemption, or possibly Notting Hill, which surprises people, but the script is nearly flawless.

6. What do you hope attendees will get out of your workshop, Keeping the Magic in Christian Fantasy?

Mainly, I want to continue to encourage Christians who write fantasy to think through questions of worldview. This session will be more autobiographical than my others in past years, since I want to tell my own story as an illustration of why I think we should be careful to resist the temptation to avoid the possible complications from creating stories that include ‘magic’ in favor of stories that avoid those complications by having the fantastical powers and abilities we create have some kind of natural cause–you know, like a superhero getting his power from some kind of radiation exposure, etc. Why that trend concerns me will be very much at the center of my talk.

7. Do you have any advice for the newbies?

Lots and lots, but mainly it boils down to practice. For some reason, even though life has shown us that to be good at almost anything we have to practice, practice, practice, I find lots of new writers think that they should be really good right away at writing. This often shows up in the emails I get that basically say, “I’ve written a book, now how do I publish it.” That’s a perfectly understandable question, especially from those who have already labored to learn and practice their craft, but often that’s not the case. So, practice, practice, practice. Read good writing, and write yourself, as much as you can bear to. You’ll learn from your failures and your successes, and over time, you will get better.

 

Thank you, LB, for joining us on the blog today. It’s always nice to get a little bit of insight into the man behind the writer, or workshop presenter. We look forward to seeing you at Realm Makers in August!