I read it and I loved it. It is an exciting fantasy tale full of deadly pirates, sea monsters, and one man's faith in God streched to the limit.
I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed this read. Besides the excellent storytelling, I actually found my faith strengthened as I followed hero, Packer Throme, as he was forced to rely completely on God's strength, time and time again. Polivka managed to do this so convincingly--without coming off as preachy or trite--by creating a genuine character. There were no cheap, quick fixes. He played his character's faith out on hard reality over and over.
If you haven't read this story, you must. I would rank Polivka's novel with the elite in Christian fantasy and sci-fi. His is unique, but I enjoyed it just as much as C.S. Lewis' Narnia, and just as much as Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz.
I am very excited to offer everyone an interview with Mr. Polivka...
Brandon Barr: How long have you fancied yourself a writer?
Bryan Polivka: I started writing when I was very young, about the time I started reading. I loved the idea of books. Being a writer is probably less about how I view myself than about what I have to admit about myself. I must write. Therefore, I must be a writer.
Brandon Barr: Is Firefish your first published novel? If not, how many unpublished novel's proceeded Firefish? What kept you writing?
Bryan Polivka: I had written more than a dozen book-length manuscripts before Firefish was published, all but two of them novels. Firefish was about number nine or so. I'm not sure what keeps me writing, but it's been a constant throughout my adult life. If I'm not working on a project, I've got dozens of ideas circling around just begging to be brought into reality (so to speak). The busier I get, the more driven I am to carve out time to write. It's really a little crazy. In fact, the last few years before Harvest House agreed to publish Firefish, it started to feel a little crazy. I quit mentioning my writing to anyone. "Oh, I've written a dozen books and never gotten any of them published, and I'm working on the next one!" Someone needs to take a person like that aside. "Look, I love you, man, but maybe, just maybe you really aren't any good!" But I didn't ever think that about myself. I felt I just wasn't any good at getting published. So I left that side of it in God's hands, and he got me published in His timing. Which is, as always, perfect. And I see it clearly now.
Brandon Barr: Your characters were not predictable, and yet, they stayed within the character you gave to them. Did you have the characters actions plotted out in the beginning, or did they surprise chapter by chapter as you wrote?
Bryan Polivka: Both. I tend to see the finale pretty clearly, the final conflict that resolves everything. But I don't always know what the resolution will be. To use a sports metaphor, I usually know what the final play of the fourth quarter is going to look like, but I don't always know if it's a touchdown or an interception. So there are a lot of surprises for me along the way.
Brandon Barr: On the same note, are you the type of writer who knows exactly where everything is going chapter by chapter, or does the story unveil itself before your eyes?
Bryan Polivka: For me, the "unveiling" is one of the more exciting parts of writing a long, involved tale. I get to points where I have to say, "Wow, I didn't expect that. Now what?" I didn't expect it, but there it is and it's the only logical thing that can happen. It's a bit of a dance, really, between what I control and what the characters must do because of who they are. I can control circumstances, but there's only so far I'll go, or can go, to make a character do or say something. They have to want to do it, or be motivated some other very real way. I figure it's a reflection of the theological tension between the omnipotence of God and the free will of man. He doesn't force us to do good, we have to want it or it isn't real. Yet, He created the world and everything in it, and can do with us as He pleases.
Brandon Barr: One of the most fascinating characters in your story was the deadly piratess, Talon. She is truly a no-holds barred villain. Was it exciting writing her scenes? Did you find the Packer Throme's scenes more difficult?
Bryan Polivka: I don't find many scenes difficult, once I know the characters. Villains tend to be easy, because their motivations are dead simple. Heroes are more complex, because they all have a villain in them to which they have, for one reason or another, not succumbed. So, in that regard I like writing heroes better. They're just more complex. Talon, however, is human, and therefore her evil is a corruption of the image of God, and the result of her choices in reaction to her environment. All the good in her is buried very, very deep, and she is actively, ruthlessly working to excise what little she has left. But her very hatred of all that smacks of the "Vast religion" points to a fundamental understanding of its power, and she is, in an inverse way, drawn to it.
Brandon Barr: In Firefish, the faith of Packer Throme is one of the major conflicts. Do you have any advice for fellow Christian writers that would help them create such characters while not coming off as preachy.
Bryan Polivka: Preachiness is death to fiction. I hope I have managed to avoid it in all three books. The problem, of course, is that as people of faith we feel strongly about spiritual things and want to share. The advice I would give is, explore your own real motivations. Get under the surface, face your demons. I have Packer Throme in me, but I also have Talon and Scat Wilkins. Good guys are good, truly good, only as a result of God's cleansing, for which He paid a terrible price. And they are then good only to the extent that God continually cleanses. So, where are your hero's doubts? Where are his or her failures, and sins? Are they obvious and real? Get real with those, and then the faith which springs out of them and counters them has a chance to be real, too.
Brandon Barr: What do you hope readers of the Trophy Chase trilogy come away with from the story?
Bryan Polivka: I really hope they can see another path to power. I would like to think that Packer presents an example of the meek inheriting the earth, and that will get them thinking about what such a thing really means. But I don't want to get preachy here!
Brandon Barr: What writers, fiction and non-fiction, have had the greatest impact on you?
Bryan Polivka: J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis first and foremost. They showed me light when I was in darkness, and both of them played a role in drawing me to the Light. As for pure writers, I have an eclectic list of favorites... Shakespeare (the comedies), Poe, Dickens, Larry McMurtree ("Lonesome Dove"), Jack London, David McCullough... I love McCullough's histories. They get inside the times, and into people's heads. He really helped me with grounding my work in a sense of reality. "1776" is a fascinating study of people and events, and the hand of God at work to craft a nation (though he certainly doesn't put it in those terms).
Brandon Barr: I personally found "The Legend of the Firefish" gripping, both as an adventure story and as a story of faith in action. I wish you the best of luck on all your future writing endeavors.
Bryan Polivka: Thank you, Brandon. Best to you as well.
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