To read part one of the interview, CLICK HERE
To read my review of Blaggard's Moon, CLICK HERE
Okay, on to the interview!
BB: Looking back from today, how has your life changed since that first day you got word that Harvest House was going to publish The Legend of the Firefish?
GBP: Well, not nearly so much as you might think. Family, Church, and work still take priority, and take up nearly all my time as they always have. Most of the people I work with have some idea I’ve written some books, and either they think that’s cool or they think it’s a waste of good golf time. Friends and family are proud and excited, now and then, when a new book comes out or I get nominated for an award. But mostly I’m just the same me, doing the same things. And since I’ve always written, the only real difference is the occasional interview or book signing. And while book signings sound pretty glamorous, it’s not very. It is fun, because you get to meet new people, who are always polite! But mostly it’s explaining over and over again what the books are about. It’s not frosting on the cake, exactly, but it’s not meat and potatoes either. The writing is the main thing, and it’s not a new thing.
BB: Bryan, this next question I ask is on behalf of the many writers who will view this blogpost. It is a question that struggling writers often ponder when thinking about their futures, and the potential that they just might succeed one day as an author. You may not be famous in comparison to the world's exalted view of what it means to be famous, like the huge names of J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Myer, or Stephen King, but you've certainly encountered a good amount of that same attention, even if it is to a lesser degree. Has it been difficult handling the attention? Have you encountered battles within yourself in keeping a right perspective on your writing? Basically, have you had to duel with your ego to keep it in check as you've found some success?
GBP: I have always encountered battles to keep perspective. I don’t think you have to be particularly successful to wrestle with ego and vanity, and in fact I think I struggled with it more twenty years ago than I do now. There’s something about the knowledge of one’s own talent that must be settled within, regardless of what the external world thinks of it, or whether it even knows. I believe that I couldn’t have handled even these meager amounts of notoriety twenty-five years ago when I wrote my first novel. I believe that is one very significant reason that God did not allow me to get published. I had some real trials to survive in order to learn that God is in charge, completely, and not only to learn it, but to actually want it that way. I got published when He was good and ready for me to, when He deemed it was time, and not a day sooner. And I’m thankful for that, and looking back, wouldn’t have it any other way. His timing is and was perfect.
BB: What type of story are you working on at present? Can you tell us a little about it as a teaser?
GBP: I’m not writing at the moment, but you asked the right question. Saying I’m not writing does not mean I’m not “working on” a story! Sorry, can’t even give you a hint, because I don’t want it getting back to my publisher and spoiling a good surprise. And actually, I might yet change my mind.
BB: You've been writing novels for sometime before finally landing The Legend of the Firefish with Harvest House, could you perhaps give us a few details about your earlier work and what type of stories they are?
My earliest stuff was inspired by the style of authors like Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Walker Percy, and Joseph Heller (Slaughterhouse Five, Love in the Ruins, and Catch 22 primarily). Mine were stories about very ordinary people who found themselves in extraordinary predicaments, with elements of the supernatural intertwined. I was powerfully drawn to these authors, and wanted to write like them. I read my old manuscripts now, and realize that it was not my voice.
The first novel I tried to get published made it to the final vote of the editorial board at Zondervan in 1981, where it was turned down because a single editor "didn't have a feel for it." That was not as discouraging as it might sound, because I was young (23) and the experience told me two things: 1) I was good enough to be published and 2) God could get me published anytime He wanted. The discouragement happened gradually over the next 25 years. But during that time I never let go of those two lessons, regardless of how I felt about it.
I finally gave up on that voice in about 1993, when I looked back on all my novels and realized they were so tied into the pop culture of their day that they would have to be completely rewritten to get published. So I decided to write something timeless, literally, something that could have been published a hundred years ago or could be published a hundred years from now. That book was The Legend of the Firefish (originally titled Trophy Chase). I found myself completely comfortable there. I was working within the bounds of who I am, not who I wished I was. It took me back to the roots of my faith, which were tied up in C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
But it didn't get published, either. It wasn't until 2004 that I decided the manuscript needed one more level of polish, that the characters needed to be deepened, the whole thing needed to be a work of art that was all I could make it, that embodied the deepest pains and longings of my own life and heart. That rewrite took about a year, and that's when I graduated from author wannabe to writer. Having written a dozen books, I had finally learned the craft. That's the book Harvest House picked up, and published as Book One of the trilogy in 2007.
BB: Have you written any short stories over your many years of writing? If so, have you ever tried to publish them in magazines or online zines?
GBP: I have not written a short story in ages, since maybe 1981 or 82. I have focused exclusively on full-length manuscripts, trying to get good at that. I did fail at a couple of novels, because they ended too soon--the resolution was not as difficult as I had expected. Come to think of it, those might be short stories! But I’m not even sure I have them any more. I ought to open up the vault and peruse the ancient archives...
BB: What books, fiction or otherwise, have touched you recently?
GBP: I don’t read much fiction, but I love histories and biographies. Right now there are some really, really excellent authors out there, people like David McCollough and Stephen Ambrose. And I hate to jump on a bandwagon, but I loved Team of Rivals. I hope anyone who reads it pays close attention to Mr. Lincoln’s character, and how his personal ambition was tied up in doing something extraordinarily positive for his country and his countrymen. Here was another man who did the right thing, and in troubling times when the right thing wasn’t always obvious and certainly wasn’t popular.
The book Charlie Wilson’s War is also very much worth reading, even if you’ve seen the movie. To me, it’s a study of the mysterious workings of God in history, and while those who put a lot of faith in the government’s ability to control things find it frightening, I found it amazingly comforting. Three very flawed people with wildly different motives changed the course of history, while the great machinery of state, the ferocious designs of political parties and their agendas, and the elected power of the entire US Government had little or nothing to say about it. Proof that it really all comes down to what God wants, and who He chooses to work through in order to accomplish it.
BB: Bryan, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview,
GBP: You are quite welcome!
Well, it was a fun interview and I hope you enjoyed it. Now go check out the rest of the CSFF blog tour members also discussing Blaggard's Moon!
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Todd Michael Greene
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Rachel Starr Thomson