Today we are interviewing Christian speculative author Brian Godawa. Brian has been a professional filmmaker, writer, and designer for over 20 years. His creative versatility was born of a passion for both intellect and imagination, both left-brain and right-brain. The result: Brian is an artisan of word, image, and story that engages heart, mind, and soul. Just think, “Renaissance Man.”
As an award-winning screenwriter, his first feature film was To End All Wars, starring Kiefer Sutherland. But his skills and experience quickly expanded to include writing and directing feature films, documentaries and video promotionals.
In his early years, his marketing and advertising art direction helped establish a profitable in-house ad agency for a publisher and a profitable start-up boutique design firm. In recent years, he has remained a graphic design freelancer.
But Brian is also an author and international speaker on art, movies, worldviews, and faith. His popular book, Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment, is used as a textbook in schools around the country. He is a contributing scholarly writer to various journals and professional orgs, and his articles on movies and philosophy have been published around the world.
When he isn’t reading, watching movies, or loving on his wife, he is reading, watching movies, or loving on his wife. He knows, he knows: He should get out more.
Please welcome Brian Godawa!
1) Everyone seems to have a “how I got published” story. What is yours?
I didn’t get published until I made a movie. After my first movie, To End All Wars, was made, I knew that publishers would consider me more of an expert to write about the topic of movies and worldviews, which is what I was interested in doing at the time. Educating the church how worldviews work through storytelling. So when I contacted InterVarsity Press, they quickly snapped up my idea for Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment.
At the time (over 10 years ago) there really weren’t any books about how to integrate faith into your movie watching or storytelling. So since I had written the movie that World Magazine called the “Chariots of Fire” for this era, well, I got their respect. Poof! I became an expert. Publishers need to see that you bring something more to the table than merely a well written book. You need some kind of “expertise” or achievement to make you stand out. What is funny is that I didn’t get invited to speak at colleges and churches around the country until I had a book. It seems that they see you as a true expert if you have a book. Of course, that’s not true, but that’s how it works.
My self-published novels has been more exciting. Even though I was a published author, my novel series Chronicles of the Nephilim (retelling Bible heroes like Noah, Abraham and David) were evidently not good enough for Christian publishers or agents, so they would not publish them. I know that more than one did not know what to do with the frank depictions of depravity in there, you know, sex and violence. It just wasn’t typical for the Christian audience, even though it was typical for the Bible. But I went ahead and self-published, and now all seven of my Chronicles of the Nephilim novels are in the top ten or twenty of Biblical fiction on Amazon for the past three years. I am beating out all those establishment published authors and Christian readers are loving them! I think they are guilty pleasures
2) When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
In college I wrote, directed and performed street drama. But I saw that the one who wrote it was the one whose ideas were being communicated, so that’s what I wanted. I stopped acting and wrote and directed. But also writing is the one aspect of making movies that is more solitary and less involvement with people. I am kind of a recluse, so that was appealing. But really, I held off writing novels “until I was older and couldn’t get movies made anymore.”
Well, that is pretty condescending of me, so when I had a few bad years of income with my screenwriting a few years back, I began writing novels to expand my options. Suddenly I learned that not only do I have more control over the content than in a movie, but it really is a much fuller 3D experience of the world of imagination. Writing a movie, I can see it in my head, but writing a book is like being there. That was when I realized my bias against novels was wrong and I was a novel writer.
3) Tell us a little about your books.
I promise you, I am not a Conspiracy Theorist Christian End Times Nephilim Nut. But when I studied the theology behind the Nephilim and the Watchers in the Bible, I was so blown away by the storyline that I have never seen in the Bible that I just had to retell it. I call it the “War of the Seed.” It starts in Genesis 3 with God’s messianic promise that the Seed of the Serpent would war with the Seed of Eve. Then in Genesis 6 the angelic Sons of God mated with human women who birthed giant Nephilim warriors. These unholy hybrid “Seed of the Serpent” were part of the reason that God sent the Flood. But they don’t stop there. Giants show up in Abraham’s time, and then the Promised Land is crawling with giants in the days of Joshua. They go on until David finishes them off during his reign.
The premise of my series is that I am retelling all the stories in the Bible that have Nephilim giants in them. I am up to seven out of eight novels right now. The latest coming out November 12 is David Ascendant. Now, you think, “Goliath,” right? Well, actually, Goliath was not alone. In 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, there are five other giants that are described as seeking out David to kill him Three of them are named. One of them is Lahmi, Goliath’s brother (revenge, anyone?). It’s right there. I kid you not. So I decided to tell the story of those five Philistine members of a warrior cult dedicated to killing the Messianic Seed of Israel. But I also go into David’s passion for God, weakness for women, and penchant for blood.
4) What are some of the strongest influences on your writing?
Movies. My storytelling was forged in the furnace of screenwriting. Of course, that is a different form of writing, but I contend that Hollywood story structure is the best structure to follow for any storytelling. Novels could benefit a lot more from it. So I write my novels like you are watching a movie. A lot of action. Character is revealed through choices and action, rather than through long ponderous inner monologues. Like a movie, I don’t want any chapter to be boring but to have something to draw you to the next chapter. So movies have influenced me more than other novels. But the biggest novel influence would be Michael Crichton, who was of course a novelist who wrote like a screenwriter. His work is intelligent yet entertaining. That is my goal.
5) Who are your books aimed at? If applicable: What are some of the challenges of writing for your audience?
I think I tend to write darker spiritual material for adults or more mature young adults. But because it does tend to be related to the Christian faith, that tends to be the audience for my novels. So I am always balancing between being true to the depravity of the world in my story and recognizing the limits of the sensibilities of some Christians regarding sex, violence, and language.
6) What was your favorite book as a teen?
Lord of the Rings. Could there be any other?
7) What is the one author, living or dead, who you would like to co-write a book with someday, and why?
Actually, I am doing it right now. Charlie Wen, who used to be the visual development director of Marvel Studios is currently working with me on a graphic novel. Why I want to work with him is because he is an illustrator who can give visual reality with an awesome style to the story that we have come up with and I am writing. Seeing my writing take flesh the way we want it (and not some big finance money person who doesn’t know anything about good storytelling).
8) What are your hopes for your future as an author?
To write until I die. I don’t want to retire. I want to create, always create. Even though I am making a monthly income on my writing, I really just want to make a better income at it. It’s only starving artist wages right now. Enough, but not as stable as I want it to be.
9) If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
Other than Jesus… A dinosaur (that wouldn’t eat me) cause I’ve always wanted to see a real dinosaur; Denzel Washington, so I could pitch him a script of mine that I want him to act in because he’s my favorite actor, and the apostle Paul, because I have a lot of theological questions I need cleared up.
10) What were some of the challenges for you writing your book?
King David is the most known character of the Bible. My concern was how could I write something interesting that others have not already done a hundred times before about this complicated man of God? David and Goliath is so clichéd I couldn’t imagine wanting to read a novel description of that event. Of course, that is only one scene in the story, but it typifies the difficulty. But I found it. I am confident no one has thought of this, AND it is entirely Biblical.
11) What do you want readers to take away from your book?
That men and women of God are complex and complicated mixtures of good and evil. God uses flawed sinful people to achieve his will, even the most important stuff AND that the bizarre stuff in the Bible like giants, holy wars, Watchers, and necromancers calling up Saul can make sense within a certain storied understanding.
12) In what ways does your faith impact how you approach writing?
I create universes of transcendent morality and meaning. I do not tell stories of human potential and self salvation through good works. That ends in despair for me because I know that no one is good. I don’t believe in generic “good vs. evil” because that is a self-delusion that only leads to death. Good and evil is rooted in a personal origin that defines it for us. There is no abstract “goodness” or “evil” out there. It is all very personal. My faith drives my stories of humans being brought to their own brokenness in order to see their need for transcendence.
13) What can you tell us about any future releases you have planned?
The next novel in the series is Jesus Triumphant. Now, you might think, there are no giants in the gospels. Are there? Not giants. But the spirits of the dead giants are. Demons. The Bible nowhere says that demons are “fallen angels.” That is a Medieval notion that we picked up and now falsely assume. The Bible doesn’t say at all where demons come from. But there is an ancient text that does. That is the book of 1Enoch. Though it is not Scripture, it is quoted favorably by Scripture (in Jude and elsewhere). Get a load of this:
1 Enoch 15:8-16:1
“But now the giants who are born from the (union of) the spirits and the flesh shall be called evil spirits upon the earth, because their dwelling shall be upon the earth and inside the earth. Evil spirits have come out of their bodies…They will become evil upon the earth and shall be called evil spirits… they will corrupt until the day of the great conclusion, until the great age is consummated, until everything is concluded (upon) the Watchers and the wicked ones.”
When it comes to spiritual warfare, Jesus was no pacifist.
14) Star Wars or Star Trek?
Star Trek. Star Wars just gets worse with each new film, whereas Star Trek gets better, or rather, reinvents itself with unique relevance. Whether it was the original TV series (still unbeatable) or the Wrath of Kahn and the Search for Spock, to the new TV series spinoffs and the J.J. Abrams feature.
15) Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like cocoa, raspberry tea, chocolate?
Oh baby, espresso over ice. The problem is, I have had to stop because it is causing me physical pain. Which is a real quandary, because I get actual creative breakthroughs when I drink it. I think better. So, I quit, and then periodically fall off the wagon when I need a breakthrough. Other than that, black iced tea, unsweetened.
16) What is one thing you’ve read that you wish you had written, and why?
Jurassic Park. It was a lifelong desire of mine to see a live dinosaur, so that was the ultimate fantasy for me. Don’t you already know that, though? Plus, it did make gazillions of dollars.
17) What have you learned about yourself through your writing?
That the very same evil in villains is in me. The only difference is that I have not fed it to grow within. But we are all capable of doing so without the grace of God.
Thank you, Brian, for joining us today! Here is where you can find him online: