Please Welcome…Eric Wilson
(*Originally posted May 2008)
What a joy to have Christian novelist Eric Wilson as our interview guest at WhereTheMapEnds.com.
I first met Eric when he was an aspiring novelist and I was an editor at Multnomah Publishers in Oregon. We had communicated a few times via e-mail and I had taken a look at some of his early writing. (His memory of my feedback to him about it: “Ouch!”)
One day we got to meet in person when he was passing through town. We got together for a nice talk in the park and he gave me my first introduction to orange-carrot Sobe.
But perhaps that Ouch played a part in Eric’s journey toward publication, because now he’s got six Christian novels out, a new speculative trilogy on the way, and a very loyal fan base.
Eric’s wife and two teenage daughters have stuck with him through what he calls “thick and mostly thin” as he’s pursued the dream to be a Christian novelist.
His new series from Thomas Nelson, the Jerusalem’s Undead Trilogy, looks to break new ground for those of us who love Christain speculative fiction. Read below for more.
And now, without further ado, here is the interview.
WhereTheMapEnds: Catch us up with what’s going on in your life.
Eric Wilson: My entire career and spiritual health teetered
on the edge at the end of 2006. I wondered if God was even on my side. Maybe I’d done something so horrible as to deserve a lifetime spanking.
I sat on a hill overlooking Nashville, listened to Switchfoot, prayed, cried, yelled, prayed, cried, and finally came to some sort of peace.
I decided that when I died I wanted people to say, “He never gave up.” Maybe I would never succeed at the things I’d set out to do, even the things I felt the Lord had put in my heart, but I would never give up. That seemed like a better goal than becoming a couch potato or a corporate kiss-up. I surrendered all over again to God’s will for me.
A month later, Thomas Nelson signed me to a three-book series, the Jerusalem’s Undead Trilogy. Based in Christian and Jewish tradition, it’s a modern vampire series.
WhereTheMapEnds: Wow, that’s some serious writing. But a dream coming back to life…was that a vampire joke? So Eric, what is your favorite speculative novel of all time (Christian or secular) and why is that your favorite?
Eric Wilson: I’d have to go with Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s breadth of backstory and world-building is unsurpassed. What really hooked me, though, is his honest dealing with good and evil, not just on the large scale but even in the individual heart. Gollum is such a tragic, loathsome, sympathetic character. Don’t we all have a bit of that sinful nature wrestling within?
WhereTheMapEnds: Indeed. What made you want to write Christian speculative fiction?
Eric Wilson: As a kid I did a lot of traveling with missionary parents. I was often stuck in vehicles for long hours. So I read. The Chronicles of Narnia showed me the power and symbolism available in fiction. Later, John Christopher’s Tripod Trilogy opened my eyes to out-of-the-box ideas and suspense.
WhereTheMapEnds: How was your first idea for a Christian speculative novel received (by anyone: spouse, friends, parents, agent, publisher, readers, reviewers, etc.)?
Eric Wilson: My first novel, Dark to Mortal Eyes, was my way of putting scriptural ideas from Ephesians into a modern paranormal story—issues of marriage, forgiveness, and spiritual warfare. When I explained the story’s concept of eyes being opened in a supernatural way, a number of people told me they got chills. My wife, on the other hand, started going glassy-eyed whenever I’d talk about it—which, admittedly, was a lot.
The first editor to see it was…you. Yes. You, Jeff. And you gave me invaluable, though temporarily depressing, feedback. You sent me an email saying I had some great books in me but I still showed the marks of an amateur. You suggested I study Self-editing for Fiction Writers, rewrite (argh), then shop the book around.
After crying tears of disappointment and anger, I followed your instructions. Eighteen months later I had a contract. I now worship the ground you walk on and lay bottles of Orange-Carrot Sobe at your feet.
WhereTheMapEnds: That explains all those orange bottles I keep seeing outside my home. Dude, don’t be a stalker. [grin] So Eric, you’re an industry insider now: how would you characterize the current state of Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Eric Wilson: I’m excited about the wealth of creativity out there, more than ever before. Yet the real obstacle seems to be the publishing models within the Christian market.
Most readers of Christian speculative fiction don’t shop in Christian bookstores. Most of my fans buy my books from secular outlets. As long as publishers focus all their efforts on playing it safe to please a small segment of readers in the local Christian bookstore, Christian fiction in general will continue to struggle—unless, and please forgive me for stepping on anyone’s toes, you are Karen Kingsbury, Lori Wick, or Wanda Brunstetter.
I have nothing against the above-mentioned authors, but last month’s Christian fiction bestseller list had only one male author in the top ten. The New York Times list had seven males in the top ten.
This isn’t a male/female issue for me (I happen to like books by Bodie Thoene, Francine Rivers, Tricia Goyer, Brandilyn Collins…ah, yes, and Tosca Lee!). It’s about the marketing of “safe” titles to a specific reader in Christian bookstores. I just think we keep trying to crack a walnut, while a whole orchard of nut trees surrounds us.
(Yes, the subtle reference to speculative authors’ nuttiness is intended.)
WhereTheMapEnds: You’re definitely preaching to the choir here. Preach it, brother! Yes, as folks can see in Tips 16-18, the demographic served by the CBA industry is not a demographic that, as a group, embraces Christian speculative fiction. It’s the primary reason I’m launching Marcher Lord Press. Eric, what advice would you give to someone who aspires to write and publish Christian speculative fiction?
Eric Wilson: Sit down and write. No more excuses. If you don’t finish a book, you’ll never get published. It’s that simple. Learn your craft. Read and write. Don’t preach. Let Jesus be an intrinsic part of your life, and let His truth shine through your stories—no matter how dark or edgy they get.
When it comes to books on writing. Self-editing for Fiction Writers is still my favorite. I’m also a fan of The Elements of Style (craft), Bird by Bird (the writing life), Write Away (more craft), and On Writing (a mixture).
WhereTheMapEnds: What writing project(s) are you working on now?
Eric Wilson: I’ve just finished Field of Blood (releasing in October 2008), book one in my Jerusalem’s Undead Trilogy. Check it out at www.JerusalemsUndead.com. What do you think of that cover Thomas Nelson came up with? I’m now working on book two, Haunt of Jackals (July ’09).
WhereTheMapEnds: The cover is amazing. Really great. What’s the best speculative story (Christian or secular, book or otherwise) you’ve encountered lately?
Eric Wilson: I loved Anne Rice’s new Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana. Wow! I’m also really into John Olson’s Shade, a Christian vampire novel coming out this fall. I’m loving Lawhead’s Raven King Trilogy, and Byzantium was amazing. Enjoyed Secret of the Swamp King, by Jonathan Rogers. I loved the writing in Matheson’s I Am Legend. I liked Max Barry’s Jennifer Government and Sue Dent’s Never Ceese. Loved Demon, by Tosca Lee. Dekker’s YA Books of History are very good. Heretic, by Joseph Nassise was a lot of fun. I’m hoping to read Polivka’s Legend of the Firefish soon. I’m looking forward to Koontz’s Odd Hours, and…Okay, I’ll stop there. Hi, my name is Eric. And I’m a readaholic.
WhereTheMapEnds: LOL, I guess you are! Well, what else would you like to say to the readers of WhereTheMapEnds.com?
Eric Wilson: To partner with the Creator in the creative process is humbling and mind-blowing. Write with those two ideas in mind, and you can shake the world!
Oh, and if Jeff gives you tough-love advice, listen to the man. It worked for me.
WhereTheMapEnds: Great advice. Especially that last. [angel halo appears] Well, thanks for your time, Eric. Great hearing from you. Thanks for what you’re doing to bring fans of Christian speculative fiction more great novels to read.
That’s All for This Time
Another great interview! Thanks again to Eric for spending time with us. Be sure to visit him online.