Please Welcome…Leathel Grody
(*Originally posted April 2007)
What a joy to have Christian author and computer game designer Leathel Grody as our interview guest at WhereTheMapEnds.com.
This is the first in a series of three interviews with up-and-coming authors in Christian speculative fiction. There are many excellent candidates for this category, but I have selected these three because of their outstanding contributions to the fiction we love.
Leathel is the owner of both the Lethal Publishing Corporation and the Lethal Games Corporation. Through these venues he produces his own Christian science fiction and fantasy products—novels and computer games.
You can see his Christian MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) here.
Leathel’s Web pages are by far the coolest-looking sites I’ve found dedicated to Christian speculative fiction. Case in point: Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Central.
He’s an accomplished computer graphics artist, obviously, and his self-published novels have artwork throughout.
And now the interview.
WhereTheMapEnds: Catch us up with what’s going on in your life.
Leathel Grody: Most of my time has been juggling between finishing up Into the Darkness: Book Two of The Foundations of Hope Trilogy, which is due out May 2007; working on the 3D Online game for the series, which is due out December 2007; and being a husband, and father of three.
WhereTheMapEnds: What is your favorite speculative novel of all time (Christian or secular) and why is that your favorite?
Leathel Grody: I would have to say Terry Brook’s original Shannara series will always hold a special place for me. They were the first novel size books I ever read. They are also what got me into reading fantasy and science fiction.
WhereTheMapEnds: I loved those books, too. The stories and the covers and the titles left me all but powerless not to buy and read them! So that’s what made you want to become involved with Christian speculative fiction?
Leathel Grody: Right. I have always read secular fantasy (Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan, etc..) and that is actually what I had originally planned to write in the beginning. Having a very anti-fantasy wife though, led me down the path of how to write fantasy and also please my wife. At the time, I had never heard of any Christian fantasy books. Can’t say I read Christian novels either. But my journey led me to develop a fantasy with a Christian base.
WhereTheMapEnds: Too funny about your wife’s involvement. Ah, the power of those closest to us. How was your attempt at publishing a Christian speculative novel received?
Leathel Grody: So far Faith of the Unforgotten has been received rather well by all who have read it. Even though it is a non-allegorical Christian fantasy, it is not preachy so it has been accepted by both Christian and secular fantasy readers.
WhereTheMapEnds: Excellent. So what is your favorite speculate genre to read? To write?
Leathel Grody: Christian Fantasy. I have moved from reading secular fantasy to now reading only Christian fantasy. Although I do have some Christian science fiction ideas kicking around.
WhereTheMapEnds: How would you characterize the current state of Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Leathel Grody: I’m afraid the terms Christian fantasy or Christian science fiction still scare many publishers. Even mixing the two words in a church environment can cause problems. Thankfully though, the genres are growing and publishers are taking more chances in releasing new titles. The genres are still small, but I think the next few years they are going to grow pretty well.
WhereTheMapEnds: You’re more optimistic than most of the folks I talk with. I hope you’re right! What have you seen that encourages you about Christian speculative fiction publishing?
Leathel Grody: The readers. I personally know that every Christian bookstore that receives copies of Faith of the Unforgotten sells out. It is as if the readers just can’t get enough of the new genre and are grabbing up the titles as fast as they come in.
WhereTheMapEnds: What have you seen that discourages or frustrates you about Christian speculative fiction publishing?
Leathel Grody: To get accepted by one of the larger publishers is hard. It doesn’t matter what genre you write. But the publishers that are taking a chance on the Christian science fiction & fantasy genres have already filled their quota for the next couple years with current or new authors. I understand why, and there is not really much that can be done until the genres grow, but it is frustrating for new authors.
WhereTheMapEnds: I don’t know if publishers have quotas, per se, but I do know that they don’t take many speculative titles and they sometimes like to wait and see how things turn out before accepting any new ones. Okay, so, what would you like to see changed regarding Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Leathel Grody: I am not sure much can be changed until the publishing industry really understands readers are interested in Christian speculative fiction. So readers, write those publishers and tell them so!
WhereTheMapEnds: Good idea. Letters can be effective. However, if you want to speak the language publishers understand best, speak with your pocketbook. When publishers do come out with Christian speculative fiction and they sell poorly, it reinforces the idea that no one wants this kind of novel. You might buy these when you see them just as your way of sending a message to publishers.
So what do you think Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing will look like in three years? Five years? Ten years?
Leathel Grody: I personally think the genres are going to grow. It will probably take another five years, but I am hoping by then we will have enough titles that the bookstores start implementing specific Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy sections. I really look forward to when that happens.
WhereTheMapEnds: May it be as you have spoken! What advice would you give to someone who aspires to write and publish Christian speculative fiction?
Leathel Grody: Going through my journey in the Christian fantasy world, my theme song has been Casting Crown’s “Voice of Truth.” The song talks about how the voice of doubt wants you to stop trying but the voice of truth keeps urging you along. Take that advice.
My other advice: write. You might have the ideas in your head but it is a whole different story to get that them paper.
Next, be prepared to learn how much you believe in your work. The road is not easy but it can be a fruitful journey. Without the many obstacles I have had to overcome in the publishing industry I would have missed many lessons that I really needed to know. So when the world tells you it cannot be done, keep the faith.
WhereTheMapEnds: What’s the best part of writing and publishing Christian speculative fiction?
Leathel Grody: Being able to write what is in my head. But on the other hand, I am not sure if that is a good thing! I seem to live in different worlds than most. But to provide those worlds to others and provide a Christian message is wonderful.
For example, each separate book of The Foundations of Hope Trilogy is an action-filled fantasy that entices the reader, but at a high level there is a main theme for the whole series. In book two, the characters will have to endure struggles in their lives, but in book three I will wrap it up and show why they had to go through or learn from those trials in order for the outcome of the series to end the way it will.
That theme is to give a foundation of hope that the troubles we endure in this world are part of a grander master plan.
WhereTheMapEnds: What’s a cool speculative story idea you’ve heard lately?
Leathel Grody: I have a new spiritual warfare idea kicking around for the next story or series after The Foundations of Hope Trilogy. I am planning a Christian First Person Shooter (FPS) video game based on the story as well.
WhereTheMapEnds: What’s the best speculative story (Christian or secular, book or otherwise) you’ve encountered lately?
WhereTheMapEnds: What else would you like to say to readers of WhereTheMapEnds.com?
Leathel Grody: Thanks for taking time to read this and make sure to check out the rest of the site. Jeff has composed a considerable amount of information here. I have gone through a good portion of Jeff’s personal stories and notes and have said, “Get out of my head!” It is very uncanny how many of his thoughts and questions have been my own as well.
WhereTheMapEnds: The 3D animation of the dirigible on your site is probably the coolest graphic I’ve ever seen on a Christian Web page. Did you do that yourself? Where can folks see more of your artwork?
Leathel Grody: That airship from The Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Central is actually not one of mine. But most of the artwork from The Foundations of Hope Trilogy and website are mine. Each chapter of The Foundations of Hope Trilogy is illustrated using the 3D art program DazStudio.
WhereTheMapEnds: I understand you’re also creating a Christian fantasy computer game. I’m an avid gamer myself. Tell us about your game, please.
Leathel Grody: I definitely do not pick the easy battles. The Christian gaming industry is even more minute than the Christian speculative fiction publishing industry. Did I mention “The Voice of Truth” was my the theme song? But seriously, the video game market is lacking in good quality Christian games. I also see it as video games could be used to help promote the Christian speculative fiction industry. Which brings me to my first project.
My first video game is a Christian Fantasy MMORPG based on my fiction series. A MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) is the largest style of video game on the market right now. They involve hundreds to thousands of people playing a game at the same time, fighting, socializing, etc.
Like the book series, The Foundations of Hope Online game takes place four hundred years from now in a medieval-like North America. Players will have the option of playing either the Saurians (lizard creatures) or humans. Battles between Saurians and Humans will take place in order to take control of certain areas and cities. For players not interested in Player vs Player (PvP) there will be questing material that will keep those gamers busy.
It doesn’t sound very Christian, huh? You might say, I am not interested in “churchy” games, nor are most gamers. There is such a stigma against preaching that just the mention that a game has a Christian foundation will make most gamers very reluctant to try it out. My goal is to produce games that break that stigma and show that games can be acceptable to both Christian and mainstream gamers.
For now, FoHO is being created solely by myself. An MMORPG created by one person is pretty much unheard of. They usually take a team of thirty people working for 2-3 years and millions of dollars. But I go back to “The Voice of Truth.”
I would never have started such a game, but I wanted a new route to market the fiction series. The waves might laugh, but I am headstrong in my path and keep the faith that this is what I am meant to do. In doing so, I have found that I really, really enjoy the job of creating games. I could do it twelve plus hours a day. It is actually addictive to model and create this world that others someday will play.
December 1st, 2007, is my planned beta launch. I have a habit of having too aggressive of schedules so we will see how that works out. My thoughts currently are to provide Free to Play up to a certain amount of hours. For unlimited access to the game you would then be charged. This will hopefully provide an incentive for teens and parents to not put the game first and family second. Family and homework should always come first.
That’s All for This Time
What a wonderful interview! Thanks again to Leathel Grody. Interesting stuff, huh? Be sure to visit Leathel online.