Here are my answers to some frequently asked questions about being a writer.
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Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I guess so, although maybe I didn’t always know it. When I was a kid, I wrote plays that my sister and our friend would perform in our basement. In elementary school, my friend Scott and I co-created a book series about an alien spaceship that crashes on Earth and turns its occupants into different animals from every country of the world. Our teacher let us staple them together and put them in the class library—my first “published” books.
Then there was a dark age for a while. In high school and college I felt pressure to follow certain career paths and job prospects, and honestly it took several years to really unearth and bless the desires of my heart. I experienced a personal renaissance in which I had to reject some deep-seated lies in my life and begin to write stories again.
What do you like to write about?
I like big themes about humanity, God, and the Gospel of sacrificial love. Isaiah 61 is one of my favorite Bible passages, and many of my stories are about freedom for the captives and release from darkness in one way or another. My favorite genres are low fantasy and magical realism because I love the intersection of the rational world and supernatural causes—that’s pretty much how I experience my life and faith.
So if you write Christian fiction, does that mean your books are preachy?
Usually, I can’t stand books with self-righteous protagonists who never do anything wrong. I like characters who make mistakes and have faults—also known as real people. Good stories have themes and messages, but not every ending has to tie together neatly with a bow. While I certainly don’t shy away from writing about topics that matter to me, I hope that my books will challenge a reader’s thinking instead of telling a reader how to think.
Where do you get your ideas?
Many writers say this, but I agree that the best way to get ideas is simply to pay attention. A snippet of conversation in a coffee shop, a story on the news, a chance encounter, a stranger in the airport, a bizarre dream—any of these can spark an idea that I’ll save for later. I wholeheartedly agree with the adage, “write what you know,” but sometimes knowledge about a topic comes in unusual ways. I keep a journal, and often my best ideas come from whatever I’m wrestling with or experiencing in my own life. Reading is also an excellent inspiration, and I try to read a variety of genres and authors.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
I find leaving my computer to go exercise or walk outside is a great way to get over a hurdle. Sometimes ideas come more easily if I’m not actively looking for them. If it’s really bad, though, I end up just working on something else for a while so I’m not spinning my wheels on the same chapter all day.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
So many! It depends on what I’m talking about. Some fiction writers who’ve influenced me at various points in my life for different reasons are Philip Pullman, David Mitchell, Jonathan Stroud, Dan Brown, K.A. Applegate, Isabel Allende, and C.S. Lewis. Dan Allender, John Eldredge, and Donald Miller have also impacted me with their nonfiction.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Definitely teleportation, like Nightcrawler in X-Men. I’d be able to go anywhere in the world whenever I wanted to.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I love linguistics and languages. I used to be a Spanish teacher, and in school I studied six languages other than English (including ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Latin). I welcome nerdy conversations about word origins and semantics any time.
Are you working on another book?
Yes. My next project is a pretty significant departure from The Evangelist in Hell, but still with some speculative and fantasy elements. That’s all I can say for now, but stay tuned for updates.