1) Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always loved books, but I don’t recall having any childhood aspirations to write them. Like most kids who love words, I used to write stories; and of course in high school, I had to experiment with poetry. But I can’t say I had any passionate dreams of being a novelist.
2) So what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you step aside and make room for someone who has been passionately pursuing this his whole life?
None of this was my idea, believe me. I wrote a couple of novels when my kids were growing up, just to see if I could, I guess. I wasn’t sure at the time of my motivation; it was just a hobby. Once I’d gotten it out of my system, I put it behind me.
Or so I thought, until early in 2002. I was working only 12 hours a week at my part-time job. The older kids were grown and out on their own, the younger two were in high school, and we’d just gotten a computer for the first time ever. Cleaning up after breakfast one morning, a thought came to me: I should write a book, but be serious about it this time.
What a thought! I tried to brush off the idea, but it burrowed in. Eventually I figured it must be the Holy Spirit, not a tick, so I prayed about it. I didn’t want to waste that amount of time and effort until I was certain it was what the Lord wanted me to do. More accurately, I tried to get out of it. He kept urging me forward, though, so I took a deep breath, said another prayer, and dove in.
Two hundred thousand words and nine months later, I typed The End and said to God, “Okay, now what?” True to form, He’s led me step by step through the entire process and continues to do so day by day.
That’s the novella version of what maybe should have been a two-sentence answer: I’m here because this is where the Lord has brought me. It’s Him I pursue passionately, and His will for my life, not the act of writing itself.
3) How long did it take you to get that 200,000-word monstrosity published?
I never did. That was a practice run, a learning experience. It underwent a number of revisions and incarnations during which I tried making it a series, then a trilogy, and finally cut it down to one 120,000-word novel. (In case you’re wondering, I liked the trilogy form best.) But eventually, it was time to move on.
While I still struggled with that project, I read a little nonfiction book called The Gospel in the Stars by Joseph A. Seiss based on the premise that when God created the heavens and the earth, He portrayed the gospel message through pictures formed by the constellations. The book was difficult to understand, but the theory intrigued me, so I decided to write a piece of fiction in which the characters discovered this story in the stars. A couple chapters into it, I realized I’d finally found my calling. Though I’d never been a fan of science fiction, writing sci-fi was the most satisfying fun I’d ever had.
4) So if you didn’t read much science fiction until you found yourself writing it, what did you read? Other types of Christian fiction?
Early on, Christian fiction was mostly romance, and so never interested me. Beside that, I found the quality of the writing to be pretty poor. When my oldest was in high school, I bought her a historical series that came highly recommended. It sounded like something I’d enjoy, and she loved to read, so it seemed like the perfect gift, something we could both make use of. I read the first book with a feeling of a happy anticipation, fully prepared to enjoy the whole series. But it was so poorly written I wanted to cry with disappointment. I’ve been following Christ since I was sixteen years old, but for many years, I shunned anything called Christian fiction.
That’s why, when I sat down to write my first novel, I had no intention of writing Christian fiction. Before I’d gotten very far, though, I realized that the “old, old story of Jesus and His love” is the only thing worth writing about. But I was determined to do it well. To write with depth, to create a thing of beauty, to give the reader an enjoyable experience that directs her thoughts toward the truth of God.
I can’t say I’ve yet arrived, but I’m working toward that goal. And, I’m happy to say, I’m not alone. In recent years we’ve been seeing greater variety in the realm of Christian fiction, and the overall quality within all the genres is improving. We all still have a long way to go, but I’m no longer embarrassed to admit I write Christian fiction.
5) Tell us about this sci-fi venture of yours. What’s the story about?
The Story in the Stars is the first in the Gateway to Gannah series. The protagonist is a young woman whose planet, Gannah, is under siege by a massive plague. A medical research vessel comes to their aid, and the doctor assigned to the case, from the planet Karkar, hates Gannah with a deep-seated racial hatred. The story takes them through a series of adventures, through which they learn to understand one another despite their differences—one of their biggest of which is spiritual. She believes in God but he doesn’t, and it’s something they have to hash out.
The second in the series, I, will be released this summer. It picks up about ten years after I ends and tells of more adventures by the same characters. It has a lot of tension held together by a spiritual thread, but at least by now they’re on the same page in that regard.
The third book, I, is complete but we don’t have a release date yet, and I’m currently drafting the fourth. The publisher is also talking about some other possibilities, but there’s nothing certain on that so I don’t want to be more specific.
6. Is there a way for readers to learn more about you?
I blog at YsWords.com, though not as regularly as I probably should. I don’t have a pattern or a schedule, so it keeps everyone guessing as to when I might post next and what I’ll write about. I do try to make each post worthwhile, though, instead of just rehashing the same things other writers blog about.
I’m also the contest administrator for the blog Novel Rocket. It’s a lot of fun and I’ve met some good people through that.
I’ve never been able to figure out what to do with Facebook, though you can find me there. I’m also on Twitter @yanderson101.
7) Where can readers find your books?
My publisher, Risen Books, is a small press and uses the POD model, so the books are not available in stores. You can purchase I online in print and ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or the publisher’s website. If you live near me, you can also find it at Dayspring Christian Bookstore in New Philadelphia, Ohio, or the Gospel Bookstore in Berlin, Ohio. I expect the rest of the books will be available through the same sources once they’re released.