An interview with author Frank Luke, who gives one of the best arguments for why it is not immoral for Christians to read and write fantasy I've ever seen.
How did you come to write your book?
Rebirths started as a short story called “New Life.” I'd written several of those, and had an idea while feeding my youngest about a new character. I'd been wondering about a necromancer who appeared in my-unreleased-starter novel. How did she come to be? “New Life” explored that. She's the antagonist even though she's working with the main character. I sent the story to an editor. He wrote back that it needed a sequel. That sequel novella, “This Body of Death,” came back from him that with another piece that length, the three together could go in a single-author collection. “New Life,” “This Body of Death,” and “Once Called” were that collection. That publishing house folded, and I've taken the book indie since.
Have you always wanted to write? Or did it suddenly come upon you?
I've wanted to write for as long as I can remember. I first started writing Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfics in junior high and high school. I stopped writing any fiction of length during college and seminary, but that creative itch just was not satisfied. The last year of seminary, an idea started forming, and I went with it. I've been writing ever since. Someday I may pull that novel out and give it some attention.
Some people feel Christians should not write fantasy. What is your take on this issue?
I've read some of those arguments. They never held water for me. I can't see anything inherently sinful about writing fantasy. If it was, then Christians shouldn't even read fantasy, but there is no argument you can make against reading fantasy that doesn't cut out all fiction (read those, too). Granted, there are types of fiction that Christians should stay away from. I'll just name two obvious ones: torture porn and erotica. But we aren't talking about anything like that.
I write fantasy because it touches the spirit in ways that other genres don't. One reader of Rebirths, a widower, said Derke's grief over his wife's death mirrored his own path through grief. I believe the breath of life that God gave our first parents is that human beings create art for art's sake. We don't paint to mark our territory. The primary purpose of song and dance is not to attract a mate. We do those things because we are creative, as God intended us to be. If you eliminate all forms of art, you eliminate life. God wants us to live life abundantly. Why would we even think of saying that the art of story telling is off limits to Christians? Instead, we should be writing the very best fantasy.
Two of the foundational fantasy authors were devout Christians, George MacDonald and Tolkein. Christians writing fantasy today aren't entering Satan's territory. We're staking our place on the front lines of a war to keep what our predecessors started. Yeah, there's a lot of junk out there in fantasy writing, but name one genre that doesn't have junk. Those who say Christians shouldn't write fantasy say we should be focusing on writing Bible studies. One reason they give is that there are a lot of junk Bible studies out there, so we need good Bible studies to combat the bad. That applies to fantasy and sci fi. The bad needs to be countered with the good.
Some would also have a problem with Rebirths being a dark fantasy–people have said they read it in full light because some scenes are downright scary. It's the same thing. There is nothing inherently sinful about horror. Writing to showcase gore, death, and debauchery is wrong, but spine tinglers are not the same category. I couldn't do a slasher story.
You mentioned that someone complained that the book was “too Catholic” but you, yourself, are not Catholic. Could you explain how this came to be?
As a Christian writer, I have to be true to God and to the story. The story wouldn't work any other way. I didn't sit down and say, “ah how subversive would it be for a Pentecostal pastor to write a book with a Catholic character.” I like tradition and don't do things just to stick it to the man. The scene pointed to is where the main character asks the priest to shrive him. It takes place in the thirteenth century, there are no indications anywhere of Derke doubting any of the sacraments, Derke has had his issues with the Father in the early parts of the book, but he has repented and returned to faith. In that final scene, with an Orthodox baptism and communion already taking place, for Derke to not confess would be out of character.
Who are some of the authors/books that inspire you and your work?
Rebirths has been described as “imagine if CS Lewis wrote an Elder Scrolls novel.” I can see that, though I've never played Elder Scrolls or even know if they have novel tie-ins. Also in Rebirths is a dwarven priest named Father Phaeus. I was reading a lot of GK Chesterton when Phaeus came to be. The next writer didn't inspire Rebirths because I only found him a year ago, but I have to list John C. Wright. There's more than one shout out to him in Seven Deadly Tales, a book of mineexploring the seven deadly sins that is not related to Rebirths. For example, the demoness refers to Satan as “Fixer,” and in another story, a character makes the comment about how the Hugos used to mean something.
How has writing surprised you?
Two things surprise me the most about writing. What amazes me the most is how the characters and stories take on a life of their own. If you try to force the story in the wrong direction or take the character out of character, the whole thing suffers. I'm working on a companion set of stories to Seven Deadly Tales right now. I expected the stories at Joshua's Pawn Shop to be sweet, whimsical tales or short adventures highlighting the cardinal virtues and heavenly graces. Nope. “Fun and Games” clocked in at 14,500 words, and “Legacies” is 33,000 and still growing.
The second thing that surprised me is how much fun it is! If I'm not having fun writing it, you're not going to have fun reading it. Even my dark writing was fun to write.
Are there plans for a sequel to Rebirths?
Weavings is in the works. More people have asked me about the Joshua's Pawn Shop stories, so I'm giving it priority. But Rebirths and Weavings are planned to be part of an open-ended series. Rebirths was three connected novellas. Weavingsis a set of three vignettes, highlighting an event in Derke's past, each followed by a novella showing how those events are still impacting the present. It also features the greatest adventure of all—romance. Derke and his love interest marry and begin the adventure of family while still serving in their ministry. At this point, those stories will feature the Wild Hunt, lycanthropes, and the king of nightmares.
What do you do when you are not writing?
It's either family or church besides writing. I make sure to spend time with my wife and our sons. Also, I'm an associate pastor, and so I'm usually working on my Wednesday night series. I can also be found preparing stuff for the church's Royal Rangers outpost. I'm the Ranger Coordinator for our relaunched outpost.
Rebirths will be on sale for 0.99 from Wed the 16th of March until the 23rd.
To read more:
Franks blog: http://frankluke.com/
Where he answers Bible questions: http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/users/363/frank-luke
Seven Deadly Tales: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B019BJAS3Y