Please Welcome…Donita K. Paul
(*Originally published June 2008)
What a joy to have Christian novelist Donita K. Paul as our interview guest at WhereTheMapEnds.com.
Ah, Donita, the dragon lady, my buddy in Colorado Springs.
Donita and I had known each other through a writer’s online group we’re both part of, but we became good friends when my family and I moved to Colorado Springs. It was the end of October when we moved, so Donita invited us to her church for their we’re-not-celebrating-Halloween “harvest festival.” It was great fun and we’ve been attending that church ever since.
We also end up inviting ourselves over to her house for the occasional Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner!
Before I met Donita I had been impressed with the cover of her fantasy novel Dragonspell. I was amazed to see a CBA novel with a cover that actually looked like something real fantasy lovers would pick up and read. Dragonlight, Donita’s fifth YA fantasy, releases this month (June 2008).
Donita says she stumbled into fantasy writing. The challenge was issued twice. Her mother said, “I think you are ready to write something different.” At the time, Donita was writing Christian romance. Second, when her crit group gave a thumbs-down to her first attempt at sci-fi/fantasy, Donita felt compelled to prove she could write in the genre and succeed.
She found exploring God’s Truth through fantasy to be exciting and has only looked over her shoulder a couple of times. Writing romance was easier, but not quite as satisfying.
Donita lives in Colorado Springs where she can be near her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren.
She has developed T-shirts for sale in connection with her novels. My favorite has a dragon symbol on it and says, “Look wise, say nothing, and eat only those who annoy you.” Truly, words to live by.
And now, on with the interview.
WhereTheMapEnds: Catch us up with what’s going on in your life.
Donita K. Paul: Lots! DragonLight is the last of the DragonKeeper Chronicles series and comes out June 17th. But not to worry! I am busy writing the next book, which is set in the same world but in a different time and on a different continent.
My daughter and I also wrote two picture books about a minor dragon and a turtle. These will come out in the fall of 2009.
A friend, who is a cognitive learning analyst and reading specialist, and I are working on Dragon Readers, which hasn’t found a publishing home yet.
Also a picture book of Wulder’s principles is in the works. In my dragon books, a character named Bardon is always quoting Wulder’s Articles, which are like proverbs, to the annoyance of another character named Kale.
WhereTheMapEnds: Wow, you’re busy. So Donita, what is your favorite speculative novel of all time (Christian or secular) and why is that your favorite?
George MacDonald once said, “I do not write for children, but for the childlike, whether of five, fifty, or seventy-five.” C.S. Lewis later echoed this statement with something about if a children’s book is not good enough for an adult, then it isn’t good enough for a child. The Princess and the Goblin was a first, a moral tale that actually entertained children.
Magic by the Lake is a secular tale. The reason it attracts me is that it humorously portrays how magic can go wrong. Even when you think it is straightforward, there is an innate twist in any magic to circumvent a normal course of events. A cranky old turtle saves the day when the children accidentally get a lake full of magic instead of a bit of magic by the lake. The mixture of realism and fantasy is measured out in believable characterization and plot.
WhereTheMapEnds: What made you want to write Christian speculative fiction?
Donita K. Paul: Money! No, seriously. If you pick fantasy because you think it’s the genre to write in if you want to become rich, you might also be inclined to purchase property with an ocean view in Kansas.
WhereTheMapEnds: How was your first idea for a Christian speculative novel received (by anyone: spouse, friends, parents, agent, publisher, readers, reviewers, etc.)?
Donita K. Paul: As I said before, my critique group was less than impressed by the first chapter of DragonSpell. In fact, I think I heard groans and raspberries and maybe a snicker the first time I presented it.
I had no idea what I was doing, so maybe the criticism was deserved. I didn’t even have a clear idea of the difference between Sci-Fi and Fantasy.
But once I worked the first pages over a couple of times and got into the swing of the story, Kale and her adventures were well-received.
WhereTheMapEnds: What is your favorite speculative genre to read? To write? If they’re different, talk about that.
Donita K. Paul: I like children’s fantasy best. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, old books by Edward Eager and E. Nesbitt are my favorites. I sometimes think that fantasy written for adults tries too hard. Exceptions to this would be Sharon Hinck’s Restorer series.
WhereTheMapEnds: How would you characterize the current state of Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Donita K. Paul: Promising. Things are looking up. It is a good time to be a fantasy writer rather than a Western writer. Those poor authors are taking a hit.
WhereTheMapEnds: Yes, talk about trying to appeal to a reader who is not typically served by Christian fiction publishers.
Well, I’m glad you’re optimistic about Christian speculative fiction. I think in YA (youth) fiction this is probably true. Nowhere is CBA publishing more open to fantasy than in YA. But I’m not sure we’re going to see that openness extend to adult readers.
Until those YA readers become adults and start demanding it, that is. I keep saying they are the generation that is going to save us and usher in new demand for Christian speculative fiction.
So what have you seen that encourages you about Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Donita K. Paul: There are quite a few fantasy books that have been released recently or are slated for launching soon. And there is a good variety. The new books are not falling into one narrow chasm.
We have Bryan Davis‘s Dragons in Our Midst series, John Olson’s Shade, and Geoffrey Wood’s Leaper, both contemporary settings but vastly different. On the other hand, you have the sword wielders in The Raven King Trilogy by Lawhead and the Binding of the Blade series by L. B. Graham. Such a rich assortment of styles, settings, and symbolism! All good. All good.
WhereTheMapEnds: True. All good. And don’t forget Eric Wilson‘s Jerusalem’s Undead trilogy coming out soon. Well, have you seen anything that discourages or frustrates you about Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Donita K. Paul: We still hear the story that Christian readers don’t buy Christian speculative fiction. You talk to teens and you discover that fantasy and sci-fi is what they predominantly read. But somehow that isn’t translating into sales to capture the publisher’s interest.
WhereTheMapEnds: Ah, yes. I love going to Christian writer’s conferences and hearing what the teen writers are working on. They’re all writing fantasy! So why haven’t Christian publishers gotten a clue?
Well, they have a little, as we discussed above. But the main reason is that those shoppers don’t go into the places where Christian publishers sell books. That’s my take on it, anyway. And Marcher Lord Press is all about the remedy to the problem.
What would you like to see changed regarding Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Donita K. Paul: I’ll leave that up to you and your innovative plans.
WhereTheMapEnds: [blushes] Garshk! Okay, so, what do you think Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing will look like in three years? Five years? Ten years?
Donita K. Paul: I want to see more speculative books on the Christian shelves. Naturally, the secular versions are tainted with a worldview that skewers the Truth of Christ. Hopefully, we can offset that pollution with our own tales told with God’s blessing.
WhereTheMapEnds: What advice would you give to someone who aspires to write and publish Christian speculative fiction?
Donita K. Paul: Oh my, it has to be don’t quit your day job.
That’s good advice for any misguided soul who wants a career in writing. But I think it is even more true for those wandering down the path of sci-fi, fantasy, alternate universes, time travel, goblins, and ghosties.
Take pleasure in what you write, persevere, hone your craft as you would for any “normal” genre, and seek the fellowship of others who think dealing with dragons is a proper lifestyle.
WhereTheMapEnds: Verily, because humans are crunchy and taste good with ketchup. Donita, what’s the best book or seminar on fiction writing you know?
Donita K. Paul: The Key by James. M. Frey. This book relates the hero’s journey in a way I understand.
WhereTheMapEnds: What’s the best part about writing and publishing Christian speculative fiction?
Donita K. Paul: The readers, without a doubt.
WhereTheMapEnds: What writing project(s) are you working on now?
Donita K. Paul: My main project at the moment is A New Tail about an emerlindian young lady who has held her home together during her father’s absence only to discover she must undo some of the measures taken to pay the mortgage. Of course, if she doesn’t manage to set things to right it will be the death of her father and, incidentally, the end of the world.
WhereTheMapEnds: Awesome. So when someone says, “Well, dearie, so you can’t pay the rent—it’s not the end of the world,” she can testify otherwise. What’s a cool speculative story idea you’ve had lately?
Donita K. Paul: I want to send children back in time to save them from a mysterious illness while their desperate parents search for the cure.
WhereTheMapEnds: Very cool. What’s the best speculative story (Christian or secular, book or otherwise) you’ve encountered lately?
Donita K. Paul: Shade by John B. Olson.
WhereTheMapEnds: Well, Donita, what else would you like to say to the readers of WhereTheMapEnds.com?
Donita K. Paul: Let’s all encourage Jeff in his Marcher Lord Press endeavor. I’m excited about the possibilities, but a bit bummed he won’t take my prairie romance I’ve never found a publisher gullible enough to invest in. *sigh*
WhereTheMapEnds: Consider changing it so that if the mail order bride doesn’t find a husband by the end of the book the world will end. Then we’ll talk.
That’s All for This Time
What a wonderful interview, huh? Thanks again to Donita K. Paul. Be sure to visit Donita online.