Wednesday, February 20, 2008

CSFF Day 3: Chris Walley and Puritans in Space (or, More from Christian Fandom)

Best Chris Walley Quote ever:

...'Puritans in Space'. (Great film title isn't it? Imagine lines such as 'I pray you, Master Spock, by God's grace we must strive for Warp Five and trust to Providence for more dilithium crystals.')


That was also from the November 2006 interview, after being asked about his story concept by Diane Baker.

More Q&A from the interview:

I enjoyed reading your article on the theological background of your book. [see the link on the title heading] I've never heard the post-millennial view put so clearly. It's given me a lot to think about and you have some great points. Right now I consider myself a pan-millenialist. It'll all pan out in the end. LOL

Three days a week I'm pan-millennialist too!

Do you have a favorite place for writing?

We have a garden shed, with the sea view and a nice table. I think from the moment we got it three years ago, I have done about two hours of writing in it! I have a corner of an end room with bookshelves and a computer and I slump down in a chair there when I find time and hammer away on the keys.

Do you try to work each day until you're “done,” or do you have certain hours, or daily word count goal?

The problem is that I had a busy teaching job, which from late August to mid-May is pretty demanding and I treat it very seriously. (There is a danger of saying to yourself: ‘teaching (or whatever) is second best; it’s not my real job: my real job is being a writer.’) I’m afraid I can’t work like that. The writing has to get dropped into spare spaces and often when I am tired, but I try to write something every week, because if I don’t, it can sometimes take me a day to really get back into the swing of where things are. I would love to be a full-time writer, but realistically, I don’t think it is that likely. I often remind myself that my two great heroes, Tolkien and Lewis were part-time writers. I less often remind myself that their fame largely emerged after their death.

Do you tend more toward outlining, or do you work with just a general idea of where the story is going, and the characters just tend to take over on the details?

Oddly enough, from someone who is science trained, I tend to come up with mental pictures and scenes first and these rarely get significantly changed. If you think of writing as throwing a bridge across a wide river, then these visual elements act as rigid islands that you can build from. The rest of the book, which may be much of it, is the hard graft of getting Character A to Place X so that he can fight with Character B.

The issue with characters is very interesting, and I feel sure that it has some bearing on the great Calvinist and Arminian debate on free will. I create characters, often for a specific purpose, and then, suddenly, they seem to wriggle in my hands and do what I hadn’t expected. I am gratified to say that it is often villains I have created, who without my conscious desire, suddenly start to do noble things. It’s a nuisance!

You’ve shared a bit of how you came to write Lamb Among the Stars (fascinating!) ... could you tell us something of your journey toward this series being published?

Well just to make it little bit more fascinating, what I didn’t say there is that I really started to think about the issue of the future when I was living in Beirut in ’81, and the Civil War got so bad that in an evening you couldn’t do anything else but sit inside with the doors locked, reading and hoping that stray bullets wouldn’t fly through. In that setting, the Puritan vision of the Church glorious was peculiarly attractive. I really got Book 1 going in the mid 90’s in a flush of manic enthusiasm without really considering how many thousand words lay ahead. Incidentally, for future reference, this was well before the Left Behind books: the shape of my trilogy was pretty much cast in stone ten years ago.

When I came back to the UK and took up writing, I was working for a Christian publisher, Authentic, who were interested in taking a risk with fiction. In the UK there is a horrendous divide between Christian bookshops and secular bookshops, and it is rare to find anything Christian in the big secular chains. One of the many problems this brings is that the sort of people who go into Christian bookshops do not go in to buy fiction. So sales were slow. But I had a friend who knew someone at Tyndale and the first volume ended up on his desk and he pushed it. At the time Tyndale were not doing fantasy, but they were trying to have a go with the young adult market, so they figured I would fit in that. I was so glad to be published in the States that I didn’t quibble. But it didn’t really help that these were labelled as young adult books or – even worse – children’s fiction. They aren’t in the slightest, although youngsters can read them.

Could you share three bits of advice you'd offer to new writers?

I often get emails on this (mostly from young people) and have compiled some comments which I am happy to have posted. Others could do better! So here are more than three!

“Let me pass on some of the guidelines I have learned, in no particular order. If you find them helpful, good. If not, don't worry.

1. Read good books. Don't read trash or you'll end up writing trash. If you find a book you really enjoy, read it once for enjoyment and the second time looking carefully at how the author achieved the effects. Have a notebook and perhaps copy down some tricks of the trade. Oddly enough, I would also recommend that you read lots of good poetry because it is "crystallised prose" and makes the most of every word.

2. Practice writing. Short stories, fragments, anything.

3. Read aloud. Develop a good ear for what sounds right.

4. I'm afraid this has to come here: learn the basics of English. Sentence structure, punctuation, grammar. Yes, great writers can break the rules, but you need to know the rules before you can break them!

5. Find someone who will be a friendly faithful critic. You want someone who will not be hurtful, but who will encourage you to develop what is good.

6. Look out for competitions and try to enter them.

7. Read good books on writing. Two that my contacts at Tyndale recommend are: Stein on Writing -- a great resource for writers starting out and Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott--a classic on Christian writing. More cautiously, I would also suggest Stephen King's book On Writing. Whatever one thinks of his novels, he is undeniably a very able writer, and On Writing is a very sensible guide to the craft.

8. Learn to touch type if you don't already. You need to be able to sit down and commit your prose to disk with speed and fluidity.

9. Try and fall in love with a wealthy and saintly guy or gal who will marry you and fund your writing habit.

10. Avoid multivolume epics unless you have achieved guideline 9. :-)

11. Don't neglect the Bible. There are lots of plot ideas there and most translations are in good English.”

Hope this helps! Thanks for this; it’s been fun.

Blessings,

Chris Walley

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Thanks for all the kind comments from everyone! I'm happy to be able to share this interview, since it still isn't yet available at Christian Fandom.

Once again, see Day One for all the participants of yet another Most Excellent Christian Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Tour. Live long and prosper!

1 comment:

  1. #s 9 and 11 are exactly right (not that the others aren't, of course).

    Great interview! So glad you posted it. :)

    ReplyDelete