Please Welcome…Matt Koceich
(*Originally posted October 2010)
This month our interview guest is Christian speculative fiction novelist Matt Koceich.
Matt is an elementary school teacher in Arlington, Texas and is blessed with a loving wife and four children. He recently had the opportunity to complete a five-day writing residency with Jerry B. Jenkins as part of the Christian Writers Guild Craftsman course.
Matt has also been known to use the left side of his brain to construct crossword puzzles for USA Today.
So now, on with the interview…
WhereTheMapEnds: Catch us up with you. What have you been up to lately?
Matt Koceich: By God’s grace, my wife and I had the chance to travel to Ethiopia where we adopted our son, Yakob. Twenty-two hour plane ride each way built some serious sitting skills. We fell in love with the people and culture in Addis Ababa and can’t wait to get back there.
Lately, I think about the whole Africa journey to meet our little one and how we’re all adopted children of God.
WhereTheMapEnds: Congratulations! International adoption is something near and dear to my heart, as well. (Click here to relive our trip to China to get our little Sophie.) What is your favorite speculative novel of all time (Christian or secular) and why is that your favorite?
Matt Koceich: The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. I love the parallels to Eden and the creation story. The character names and places Lewis created are spot on: Digory, Polly Plummer, Queen Jadis, and the other world of Charn!
One scene that stands out is when Digory and Polly find a bell with a sign that dares them to ring it, but also warns them against doing so. It’s a great example of our human condition with regard to our desires for things that look appealing but cause hardship. I won’t ruin the story in case you haven’t read it, but I will say that Digory rang the bell.
Also, I read that it took Lewis about six years to pen The Magician’s Nephew. With a house full of children (and our new baby boy), I think that might be how long it takes me to write my next book.
WhereTheMapEnds: What made you want to write Christian speculative fiction?
Matt Koceich: I was always interested in the Garden of Eden account. The Tree of Life is the Bible’s bookends appearing in both Genesis and Revelation. It sort of reached off the page and tugged at my heart. Writing Christian speculative fiction lets me explore my faith and allows me to experience God’s Word in new ways.
WhereTheMapEnds: I love it when it is the Bible itself that spurs speculative stories. How was your first idea for a Christian speculative novel received (by anyone: spouse, friends, parents, agent, publisher, readers, reviewers, etc.)?
Matt Koceich: I felt like a traveler at an airport who makes it through security but gets stuck in the terminal because of a delayed flight. My idea of using the Tree of Life as a main plot point was well received, but I started feeling like I could wallpaper my bathroom with all the rejection slips that came pouring in.
WhereTheMapEnds: Rejection letters are the badge of the serious writer. Pity the new writer in our electronic age who doesn’t get a bulging file full of them. All they get now are e-mails! So, Matt, what is your favorite speculative genre to read? To write? If they’re different, talk about that.
Matt Koceich: I love reading fantasy, but my favorite spec genre to write is supernatural thrillers. Fantasy is awesome because I get to explore new worlds. When I write, I feel like I’m trying to make sense of the real world with characters that walk through life and have the same struggles of faith that I encounter. Writing thrillers with supernatural components allows me to merge the two genres.
WhereTheMapEnds: What advice would you give to someone who aspires to write and publish Christian speculative fiction?
Matt Koceich: Thank you for asking this question. I say that because, for me, this is truly the most important piece of the Christian writing life. Don’t look for your worth in the outcome. Enjoy the journey. As you write, remember that your real identity is who you are in Christ. His grace is enough. Not a “published” novel plus God’s grace, but simply God’s grace. Write the story God has placed in you. Don’t try to write what you think a publishing house can sell. Let the rejection letters motivate instead of discourage.
WhereTheMapEnds: Back to Lewis, I see, and his radical idea of mere Christianity. Not Christianity and math reform, but simply Christianity by itself. Good advice. So what’s the best book or seminar on fiction writing you know?
WhereTheMapEnds: Garshk, thanks, Matt! What’s the best part about writing and publishing Christian speculative fiction?
Matt Koceich: Creating possibilities. Giving the reader a glimpse into the unseen. Turning eyes to places that haven’t been charted yet.
WhereTheMapEnds: Ah, yes, places beyond the spot where the map ends. Ahem. What writing project(s) are you working on now?
Matt Koceich: I finished outlining scenes for my second novel, The Breaking. In the second chapter of Genesis, we read about a land of gold called Havilah. This land will be the backdrop for major scenes in the novel.
WhereTheMapEnds: So, what’s a cool speculative story idea you’ve had lately?
Matt Koceich: A woman has the ability to hear people’s prayers. At first the pleas are overwhelming, bringing with them constant migraines and stressful dreams. Then in the midst of the chaos, she hears a certain victim’s plea for help. The woman can’t stop searching until she can try to save the victim. When she finally finds the victim, she realizes that the real nightmare has only begun.
WhereTheMapEnds: Ooh, sounds awesome. What’s the best speculative story (Christian or secular, book or otherwise) you’ve encountered lately?
Matt Koceich: The Last Christian by David Gregory. It’s set in the near-future and mixes together science and religion for a good, thought-provoking read. Brain transplants that give people the chance to live forever and the death of Christianity in America paint a very grim future for the “last Christian.”
WhereTheMapEnds: What else would you like to say to the readers of WhereTheMapEnds.com?
Matt Koceich: Thank you for spending some time reading this interview. I hope my writing journey helps people realize how much they are loved by the Lord. Thank you, Jeff, for the chance to share my story. Blessings to everyone at Where the Map Ends and the best publisher in the known universe, Marcher Lord Press.
That’s All for This Time
Glad you could stop by, Matt! May God continue to bless your writing endeavors. You can find Matt online here.