In the spring of 2015 my friend Jan asked me to join her and another neighbor in a small writing group. They both wanted to write memoirs and were practicing by writing short (2-3 page) pieces using story starters. We met weekly and eventually were joined by another neighbor. Every time I read one of my pieces, the others were so encouraging. “You’re so good at this you should write a book.” So one afternoon I came home from a meeting, sat down in front of my laptop, and started typing. ‘Travis Illk was a seasoned world skipper; he had skipped the lines into and out of all seven worlds of the Ochen system for the better part of fifty years’ seemed to come from some internal source. Thus began The Seven Words series. This sentence was changed somewhat and moved to chapter 3, but still exists in the published version of The Sorcerer’s Bane. Once I started, it became impossible to stop. The Seven Words originally began as a trilogy but grew into the four-book series it is today as the story seemed to take on a life of its own.
2. How did you come up with ideas for The Seven Words series?
Wow! How did I come up with the ideas? Like I said above, the whole story poured out of me as though it was a reality elsewhere and I was just recording it. Not to say it didn’t need editing, it did. There was a lot of backstory I needed to cut and extra details that didn’t find their way into the finalized draft. So yes, I am a pantser, not a plotter. Usually by about the half-way point of the book I begin to see the ending. At that point I’ve taken the time to write what I call an ‘end worksheet’ which forms the basis for my final (or near to final) chapter(s).
3. Your characters are so vivid and real. How do you develop them?
As I began writing, the characters took on a life of their own. One character in particular–and if you’ve read The Light Arises (book 2) you’ll know who he is–came out the opposite of what I thought he would be. Before I typed his first words, I imagined him as a strong support for Rayne (my MC). A cousin who would join Rayne on his journey and be a friend. Boy was I wrong. The moment I typed the first words out of his mouth, his hatred of Rayne became apparent and I just went with the flow, letting Brayden be Brayden. Other than that, I’ve used my background as a Performing Arts student to put myself in the role of the character just like I would if I was playing his/her part in a play. Immersed in a given character, I would try to speak from that perspective. I think that helped me to understand each character’s voice.
4. Why did you choose to write Christian fantasy, rather than regular fantasy?
Christianity is the bedrock of my life. It would be impossible for me to write in a way that didn’t reflect that fact. It’s so much a part of me, that its truths would naturally flow out in the words I write. Words have power; the power to lift up or tear down. This is a major theme in The Seven Words; Rayne as the One’s chosen Light Bringer is called to bring the light of the One to the worlds of Ochen by sharing the Words of the One. Through all four books he is called to trust and be courageous, and to know he is never alone. These are truths I cling to every day, and the need to share them drives me to write. Frequently in fantasy today, God is shoved aside. We humans will solve our problems without him, even if they are supernatural. Oh, there is a strong demon we must defeat? We’ll call in a stronger demon to help us. We count on help from holy water and crosses (without considering why they might be effective), vampires, werewolves, or any number of otherworldly beings. We tiptoe around the fact that God isn’t some far-off, impersonal force. He is personal and active. And so, I wanted to write books where his presence, love, and power were a natural part of the action. I didn’t want to be preachy and just slap my Christianity onto the story; I wanted the reality of God (the One, the Creator-Father) to be woven into the very fabric of the story itself.
5. You’ve finished four books in a year, which is quite an accomplishment! What’s coming for 2019.
2019? Well … though The Seven Words series is completed, I am working on a sequel. Something that takes place about three years after the final action of The Seven Words and wraps up a few final loose ends (a response to requests from early readers for more about Rayne and Lexi). I hope to have that out before summer. Then I look forward to working on another project (possibly a two-book series) that I started but left hanging while writing the sequel to The Seven Words.
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Some sneak peek quotes from The Deceit of Darkness:
As the echo of Rayne’s words faded, the warmth of the One filled the area and light erupted in every lantern. The unexpected ignition sent a pulse of energy through him, and Rayne pulled an already fiery ancient sword from its scabbard.
“Hold fast to the light of the only One,” Rayne shouted, raising the flaming sword over his head. “He will never leave you nor forsake you. Hold fast to the light of the Son who has redeemed you from the darkness.”
Rayne leaped from the rocky rise and strode toward the front of the company. As he mounted and snugged the strap of the satchel containing the scroll over his shoulder, his body was rocked by a blast of the powerful surging wind. But this time it didn’t blow out from them, it moved upward to hover overhead, churning the air above the company as they moved out and headed toward Eleri. Illuminated by the fierce light of the lanterns, branches strained and whipped back and forth, and treetops bounced in the raging wind.
* * *
With his focus on Jake, Rayne almost missed Jorah’s approach. But he whirled in time to block Jorah’s clumsy attack. Then the whip caught him across his back, shredding his shirt and scoring the skin beneath. Rage, instantaneous and violent took control and the Sun Sparrow light ignited at his extremity. Blood pounding through his veins, fueled by latent darkness, screamed for action; adrenaline surged.
Rayne needed the release only violence could provide. Red haze filled his vision and he gave in to the demand, praying that he wouldn’t kill anyone as all thought vanished and he lived in the arena of pure action.
It only took a few moments, but as Rayne shook the red mist from his eyes, regret filled him. The bodies of six men littered the ground and he could see dismay and fear on faces in the crowd surrounding him.
Unsure of exactly what he had done, Rayne shook from the adrenaline rush and fear. No, oh no, please no. He ran to each fallen foe checking for pulses. They all lived. Jorah and two others were already struggling to rise as Rayne heard Mr. Slocom say, “Seize that boy. Don’t let him escape.”
But Noam was already at his side, guiding him past the circle of onlookers and Rayne was aware of the other workers moving in behind to block any pursuers. Then he was alone, running across the already harvested corn field toward the forest. Why? He cried out to the One as he ran. Was it too much to ask? Just a bit of peace? Why do you keep letting these things happen to me?
* * *
The question cut Rayne to the heart. It was a simple question; did he need anything. But with all the fear, uncertainty, and rising uneasiness he could share with no one, the answer was complicated. There were so many things he needed. The sharp pain of loss pierced his spirit like a well-placed arrow. What he needed most, in some strange way, and at this exact moment in time, was to feel his mother’s arms around him and hear her telling him everything’s going to be alright. Suddenly, unexpectedly, Rayne was crying. Not loud and fierce, but soft and quiet, as undeniable tears leaked out his eyes and ran down his cheeks.
The next thing Rayne knew, Hana had left her sword on the floor and was on her knees before him. She took hold of his hands and drew him down to the floor in front of her. Then she hugged him, just like a mother.
“There now, little one.” Her voice was a calmimg balm to Rayne’s raging emotion. “I’ve been a mother long enough to know when even the oldest and strongest of my sons needs to feel a mother’s love. For now, you are one of my sons and I am a mother for you.”
They sat together in silence, mother and child, until the first brightening of the rising sun filtered in at the small window next to the door and nibbled at the shadows in the corners of the room.
* * *
Rayne hobbled from the cottage and out into the woods on wobbly legs. He drew strength from the staff; it felt secure in his hands, stable, strong, and supportive. It reminded him of the staff Thorvin had made for him back on Veres. With determination strengthening his ailing frame, Rayne struggled to ignore the deceiving darkness within him and pushed himself forward. Away from Sigmund and his plans. Toward the fulfillment of prophecy.