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Here's where you will find the latest on what's going on with my books and the movie. It's also a great place to ask questions, where I recommend other books, and post different things bouncing around in my head. Look me up on Facebook and if you want to buy, signed, discounted, copies of my books, head over to http://www.ryannwattersbooks.com/.







Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fantasy Fiction Tour '08 - Blog Tour

BRYAN DAVIS

I'm especially greatful to Bryan for being my initial contact with the Motiv8 authors and for him recommending me to join them this year. Bryan walks the talk and is a great example as a caring father and committed Christian. This week I'd like to provide you with a short interview with Bryan. If you haven't checked out his Dragons in our Midst series yet, you need to. Fortunately for you he is finishing the 8th book in the series now... so if you get started then you'll be able to have the complete series soon!

Q. I'd like to start by asking you to give a short testimony of how you came to know the Lord.

A. I made a profession of faith at the age of seventeen, but I didn't really completely surrender my life to God until I was about twenty-five. Reading Romans chapter six about dying with Christ and rising to new life made the difference. I finally realized that faith in Christ meant so much more than mere belief and lip service. I needed to die to self and surrender all.

Q. What was the inspiration behind the "Dragons in our Midst" series?
A. I had a dream about a boy who could breathe fire. I told my eldest son about it, and he suggested that I write a fantasy novel based on the dream. He said that if I wanted to speak to children in our culture, fantasy was the way to go. After brainstorming with him for a couple of hours, we came up with the fantasy concept of how a boy could breathe fire.

Q. You've written four books in this series. Are there any more books coming up?

A. Tears of a Dragon is the last book in the Dragons in our Midst series. I’m writing a new series called Oracles of Fire. The first book, Eye of the Oracle, will be a prequel to Dragons in our Midst, and the second book, Enoch’s Ghost, and the following books will be sequels. The new series will have the same basic story world, but a couple of the minor characters from the first series will step up and become major characters.

Q. Can you name some people/authors whose works have influenced you? If so, can you say in what way these people have influenced your life and your work?

A. I really enjoy C. S. Lewis, two books in particular; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and Perelandra. I loved the spiritual parallels in Dawn Treader. The debate between Westin and the woman when he tried to get her to sin in Perelandra fascinated me. I have somewhat similar dialogues in The Candlestone and Circles of Seven, so that definitely influenced me.
The works of Francis Schaeffer had an impact on me. The God Who is There and He is There, and He is not Silent are two that come to mind. I enjoy careful, analytical thought, and Schaeffer was a master in that field. I try to carry that kind of thinking into my stories, and those who read my fantasy series will find that they are far more than children’s fairy tales.

Q. Does your faith influence the way you write? Would you like to elaborate on this?

A. My faith pervades all my writing, but my doctrinal stands on some issues make my stories quite different from most. My Christian protagonists depart from what many writers call "real" or "honest," though they portray a more "real" Christian character than what is passing for that label in much of Christian fiction. On this point I could elaborate until your ears fall right off your head, but, briefly, I reject the notion that you have to write sinful acts or tendencies into Christian characters. Sin doesn't make them "real" or "honest." It just makes them sinful, and in most fiction I find too many characters with tacked-on flaws. It really seems clich├ęd.
I believe in the overwhelming power God gives us for holy living. My characters struggle in many non-sinful ways and find the power to overcome. I like successful heroes. God gives us victory in Christ, so it makes sense to write that way. And feedback from my readers indicates that they relate to the great struggles my characters go through, and they are inspired by my characters' successes. I believe this portrayal of obedient faith is what is truly real and honest.

Q. What were some of the challenges you faced in writing these books and getting them published?

A. Since these books are faith-based, the mainstream publishers didn’t show any interest. I often heard, "Too spiritual" or "Too Christian." The Christian publishers at that time weren’t producing fantasy at all, and certainly not a series about dragons. I couldn’t find a significant Christian fantasy series for young people that had been published in the last thirty years. It didn’t matter that the Chronicles of Narnia had been one of the greatest sellers in history. In fact, when I mentioned that to one editor, hoping the Narnia success would open a door, he said, "You’re not C. S. Lewis."

Between agents and publishers I collected about two hundred rejection notices, which I might use to wallpaper my office someday. I rewrote the first book about twenty-four times, changing it drastically in some of the rewrites. I think I made it even more radical as time went on, perhaps thinking that it might just end up as a story for myself and my family.
I finally met Dan Penwell of AMG Publishers. He had already contracted with me for a non-fiction book called The Image of a Father, and although AMG had never produced fiction, he took interest in my weird dragons story. AMG liked it so much, they started a fiction line with the series, and it has become their best selling line of books.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish with these books? And what, in your opinion, separates these books from other books written in the genre?
A. I’m not a fan of most fantasy, because it seemed that the characters would get out of difficult situations by suddenly learning a magical spell or an undiscovered power, or maybe a new character would come along and save them. It was too easy. I wanted my characters to use their gifts from God along with strength of character, faith, and perseverance to work through their problems.

I don’t know of any other Christian fantasy that blends fantasy elements into the real world. Most either take place in another world or follow contemporary characters as they travel to another world. Although my characters take a couple of journeys into alternate dimensions, the base world, where most action takes place, is in our world and in our time.

Q. Some Christians are a bit scared of fantasy works. I know of some who do think that it is opening the door to an unseen world. What is your take on this and what would you say to encourage Christians to embrace Christian Fantasy and Science Fiction?

A. This is a topic I talk or write about nearly every day. Yes, fantasy does open the door to an unseen world, but this is not a bad portal. 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."

The key is to provide young readers a way to see the good side of the unseen world in order to give them reason to rely on its power. God has often provided a vision of the holy for His people, and Christian fantasy is one of the best ways to stretch young minds beyond the here and now and give them a view of the heavenlies.

I believe that Jesus used fantasy elements in his stories. In fact, if I were to write a story about His miracles that didn’t include His name or where He got His power, it would be a fantasy story. Yet, Jesus made a fantasy story come to life, knowing that we learn and remember best when the story is fantastic. I wrote an article that elaborates on this subject. You can find it online at http://www.daviscrossing.com/fantasy.pdf

Most people see dragons as a symbol of evil. Why did you decide to make "good" and "bad" dragons?
Well, I think that dragons are rightly a symbol of evil. But we have to remember that Job chapter 41 tells us that God created Leviathan. He describes it as one of His greatest creations and He uses it to reveal His power. If you read that passage carefully, Leviathan has armored scales and breathes fire. It sounds just like a fire breathing dragon. That's certainly where the authors who have described such beasts got their inspiration, from this creature of God. God created this being in order to show His power. Now, I don’t believe that God created anything for the purpose of being born evil. Angels were created and some of them fell. They weren’t created to be evil, but some of them chose evil and fell. I'm putting dragons in the same mold, as a symbolic parallel to angels. They were created to be good; some of them fell. The greatest evil figure in all the world, and in all of the Bible, is a fallen angel, and the symbol of the fallen angel is a dragon. But why can’t there be good dragons as well? Some people would say that dragons are a symbol of evil. The Bible calls Satan a dragon. Therefore, all dragons are evil. Well, the fallacy there is Satan also appears as an angel of light. Does that mean that all angels of light are evil? I don’t think so. I wanted to make that angelic parallel, and it becomes even clearer in the third book, called Circles of Seven. Billy’s going to face a tremendous decision, and he'll have to discern between good and evil dragons. It’s such a great story.
I like how you interweaved Christian faith in your story, but didn’t "hit people over the head with it." Did you find it hard to strike that balance?
It really wasn’t that hard because it’s been my desire for a long time to be able to say, "I just want to tell a story that is filled with Christ." There is no soapbox; no one is standing there shaking a finger, preaching at you. I want to have a natural flow of Christian thought and Christian love, without having to say "Jesus loved you and died for your sins." It’ll flow out naturally. The reason I’m doing that is because so many people get turned off with the shaking finger and the soapbox sermon. But as we get to later books in the series, the Christian message of the blood salvation of Christ is going to come out a little more clearly. We want to hook our readers and not turn them off with a fire and brimstone, or an "Are you saved by the blood?" kind of message. It will come out later. I think you probably can tell that Bonnie is clearly a Christian, and Billy is probably not. He's got a lot of questions because he’s never been taught right. He’s in between because his father, being the dragon, revered the Bible, but he didn’t feel like he was a fallen creature that needs to be saved. This is one of these deep mysteries that I don’t think kids will get but I want adults to think about.

Q. What would you like to say to readers who dream of writing a fantasy novel?

A. I know so many aspiring fantasy novelists! It seems that’s what half the authors I know want to write, but the Christian publishing world hasn’t caught up yet with the demand, which isn’t completely they’re fault, but that’s another topic. I would tell those authors to 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.
I’d like to see another contemporary/fantasy blend like mine. I think young people of today relate to a world they recognize, and they enjoy seeing weird happenings within it.

Q.Would you like to share some of the lessons you've learned in your journey as a writer and as a published author?


A. The most impact has come through watching God provide for our needs. In order to pursue writing full time, we had to make a lot of sacrifices, but God has shown Himself to be our sufficiency. I have a long story that shows God’s provision, but to make it short, when I went to a homeschool conference to try to sell the dragons books for the first time, I was quite concerned that the slow sales wouldn’t provide enough for me to break even on this venture. As the conference drew to a close, it became clear to me that I would come up fifty dollars short. Soon after calculating that number, a man came up to me and noticed my books and my sign that identified who I was. He pulled out his wallet and said, "On my way over here, God told me to find a man named Bryan and to give him fifty dollars." He then handed me the money. I didn’t want to take it, but he encouraged me to do so, I finally did. When I got home, I recalculated my expenses versus sales, and the fifty dollars caused me to break even to the dollar.
I will never forget that lesson! God is my sufficiency, and I have learned not to sweat a lot of the issues that used to cause me concern.

2 comments:

Bryan Davis said...

Eric,

Thank you for this post. I really appreciate it.

It was fun touring with you during the Motiv8 tour!

Bryan Davis

jon m. said...

Wow! That's an awesome interview! Thank you for doing it...

High School student, Jason Derfuss films a summary video of book 1