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Interview with Michael D. Warden

Michael Warden
Michael D. Warden is the author of the fantasy novel Gideon’s Dawn (Barbour Books, 2003). Here he discusses his approach to writing fantasy in the tradition of Tolkien.

EBG: Could you give a quick description of the story and setting of Gideon’s Dawn? What are some of the major themes?

MDW: Gideon’s Dawn is a complex epic of heroic adventure set in a unique, mysterious world where two magical languages—one born of Creation, the other of Destruction—are building toward an ultimate war for dominance.

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The main character in the book is a graduate student named Gideon Dawning, an enigmatic and somewhat unlikeable young man who’s studying geology at UT in Austin. Early on, we figure out that Gideon isn’t terribly balanced as a person. He’s cynical, isolated, and sad. He suffers from violent sleepwalking episodes that have forced him to live aloof from the rest of the world. But then, through a series of amazing events, he finds himself mystically transported to a very different sort of world—a world where words can literally kill. Once there, he’s quickly pegged as the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy regarding a great deliverer, and is set on a path to fulfill an incredible calling he neither wants nor believes is true.

At its core, Gideon’s Dawn is a story full of questions—questions about the real power of redemption, the doors that faith can open in an ordinary person’s life, the impact of hurtful words on the human heart, and the ways we all try to wriggle around these issues without ever really confronting them. It’s also a story about the importance of friendship, and the abiding need in every human heart for deep and true community.

EBG: It’s clear that you put a lot of effort into world-building for Gideon’s Dawn. How did you develop the detailed history and geography of the Inherited Lands? Was it developed as you wrote the story, or did the history and geography come first?

MDW: I did about six months of historical research before I began writing the first book. It was in that time that I created the history of the Inherited Lands, drawing much of the detail from the histories of various cultures, and stories from the Bible. Creating the geography of the lands came naturally as I created the stories that led up to Gideon Dawning’s arrival. I wanted the Land to be permeated with history, because I knew how important that was to conveying a sense of trueness and depth to a story. You can’t travel through Europe without getting a profound, almost mystical sense of the hundreds of generations of people who have been there before you. I wanted Gideon’s experience in the Inherited Lands to be like that—steeped in history, tradition and ritual.

EBG: The epic scope of Gideon’s Dawn can be compared to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. What do you consider your major influences that shaped your approach to this story?

MDW: Tolkien is a hero of mine, so I naturally looked to him for inspiration in how I approached these books. But I also gleaned insights from other authors, including Herman Melville, C. S. Lewis, and Robert Jordan. What I remember most about these authors’ works is the impact they had on me. I knew the stories were fiction, but they nevertheless resonated in me as being real and true. They have a sense of continuance about them. You get the feeling that the stories in those books have been going on for a long time before you came along, and once you’ve finished the book and put it down, the story still goes on without you. It was important to me that The Pearlsong Refounding trilogy had the same effect on people who read it.

EBG: Gideon’s Dawn introduces several complex characters. What is your approach to characterization? Did you know all the details about the characters before you started writing?

MDW: As with the historical research, I started getting to know the characters months before the writing began. I don’t know how other authors go about creating their characters—for me, it became a sort of interview process. I’d create a rough outline of a character—let’s say Donovan Truthstay, for example—and then I’d start asking him questions to find out what he was really like. In that sense, I don’t really think I create the characters in my books. I may introduce them to the story, but then they tell me who they are. Donovan was particularly interesting to me. When I first created him, I really didn’t like him much. He seemed so stoic and uncaring. But the more I learned about his story, the more I came to see him for the truly heroic character he is. Now he’s become one of my favorites.

EBG: What is the greatest benefit that you hope readers will receive by reading Gideon’s Dawn?

MDW: That we’re all called to greatness in our own way—and no matter what you’ve been through or how deeply you may think you’ve screwed up your life, that genuine greatness of heart is still within your reach. All it takes is faith, and an authentic, sincere choice to go after the Truth. Brokenness is not a real hindrance to nobility and heroism—if anything, it’s a prerequisite. In the end, it’s always our choices, and not our circumstances, that define us.

EBG: A cursory reading might suggest that the Wordhaveners are engaging in magic spells. How does the Wordhaveners’ use of the words of power differ from occult activity?

MDW: The fact of the matter is that words do have power. That’s the way God designed us. Our words matter. The Bible is rife with examples of how a well-placed blessing or curse shaped the life experience of a person or a nation. Gideon’s Dawn highlights this supernatural reality, first through Gideon’s own life experience with his abusive family, and then through the world of the Inherited Lands itself. One of the key messages of the books is simply this: Words CAN kill—they can kill your heart, they can kill your will, they can kill your desire to believe—so be careful what you say, even to yourself.

That has nothing to do with occultism. Rather, it speaks to an innate supernatural truth of our existence as beings created in the image of God.

EBG: What do you think makes a Christian fantasy novel distinctively “Christian”?

MDW: Actually, I don’t like the label “Christian fantasy” or “Christian fiction” because I think it creates a false separation in the marketplace that isn’t really helpful to God’s cause. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, Enger’s Peace Like a River—none of these are labeled as “Christian fiction,” but they all carry great depth of meaning for anyone who follows Christ. And the absence of that artificial label broadens the appeal of those books to include readers who’ve never darkened the walls of a church. I prefer to think of my books simply as great stories that make people think more deeply about their lives. The fact that I’m a deeply committed follower of Christ has a powerful impact on my writing, of course—just as it did with Tolkien. But I don’t think Tolkien would relish the thought of his books being labeled as “Christian fiction.” I’m with him on that one.

EBG: Based on your other published works, it sounds as if you have a diverse writing background. Could you describe your previously published books?

MDW: My other books (to date) include…

  • Alone With God: Biblical Inspiration for the Unmarried, a daily Christian devotional guide for singles. Published by Barbour Publishing.
  • Extraordinary Results From Ordinary Teachers: Learning To Teach As Jesus Taught, an in-depth look at the strategies and cost of following in the steps of our Master Teacher in modern times. Published by Group Publishing.
  • Small Group Body Builders, a practical guide for any Christian leader involved in small group youth ministry. Published by Group Publishing.
  • Get Real: Making Core Christian Beliefs Relevant to Teenagers, the landmark youth ministry book that challenges youth leaders to build a strong biblical foundation in the next generation. Co-authored with Mike and Amy Nappa. Published by Group Publishing.

EBG: The ending of Gideon’s Dawn clearly paves the way for a sequel. What is the next title in the series and when should we look for it? What is your vision for the series?

MDW: The next book in the series, Waymaker, is scheduled for release in the fall of 2004. The third book, The Word That Prevails, will follow the next year.

EBG: Is there anything else you’d like to add for readers at the Edenstar web site?

MDW: I love hearing from you! Please drop my website at, introduce yourself, and read the latest happenings in my world.

EBG: Thank you, Michael!

Interview with Theodore Beale

Theodore Beale and flaming sword
Theodore Beale is the author of two books in the Eternal Warriors series: The War in Heaven and The World in Shadow. Here he discusses them, along with news of the third title, The Wrath of Angels, and his views on writing. Photo of Theodore Beale supplied by the author; flaming sword included at no extra charge. 

(Photo credit: Jeff Wheeler)

EBG: Can you give us a quick synopsis of your first two novels, The War in Heaven and The World in Shadow?

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TB : The War in Heaven can perhaps be thought of as a retelling of John Milton’s Paradise Lost by C.S. Lewis if he’d played a lot of Warhammer while listening to Metallica. It’s about a journey into and out of evil by a protaganist who is not in the least unwilling to experience everything. There’s war on a grand scale, but seen from the point of view of a teenage boy who’s privy to some of the angelic intrigue going on underneath. It’s that old story: Boy meets fallen angel, boy storms heaven with Hell’s legions, boy transformed into evil demigod while his sisters try to stop him from destroying himself.

The World in Shadow is a much darker and smaller book, even if it’s longer. It investigates the petty cruelties of life in the modern world, their effects on individuals, and the way in which the forces of evil take advantage of those who are weak and wounded. The plot revolves around two unpopular boys, whose anger is twisted and manipulated by the Fallen in order to wreak havoc on the community. Unlike most people, I wasn’t asking why after Columbine. I know why it happened, as did most of the kids there. This book wrestles more with with the question how.

EBG: What are their most significant themes?

TB: Redemption is the theme of the first book. Responsibility is the theme of the second.

EBG: You have an eclectic background: game designer, newspaper columnist, producer, band founder, martial artist, and soccer player. What prompted you to write a novel, and a series no less?

TB: I started reading early and I haven’t stopped since. I started dabbling in writing short stories, very bad, very cliched science fiction stories, when I was in college. After getting a rejection letter from Asimov’s, I switched to writing novel length stuff—not that I actually finished any, you understand.

The first novel I ever attempted was an imitation of Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame series, but with Traveller standing in for Dungeons and Dragons. The one thing that stands out for me now, having re-read it last year, is that even then there was a gritty, almost brutal element to my writing. That being said, the world didn’t lose much by my stopping after chapter five. It was derivative with a capital D.

I’ve since learned that I’m just not good at writing short stories. I need to have a bigger canvas on which to paint. My ultimate goal is to bring the fantasy genre back to its source and write the first big Christian fat fantasy novels ala George Martin and Robert Jordan. I want to write a series of 600-page monsters and really dive into the whole world-creation concept.

EBG: Nearly all Christian science fiction and fantasy is published by Christian houses. How did yours find their way to a general publisher?

TB: I was writing secular science fiction for them when I became a Christian, so it was a natural progression. I love working with Pocket Books, they’ve been very good to me. However, because of my publisher being secular, I’m almost completely unknown to the CBA market. I spoke with a VP at one of the large CBA houses the other day; he’d never heard of me or the Eternal Warriors books.

EBG: The angelic culture/society (on both sides) is complex. How did you research all this? Which sources did you use?

TB: There’s a great book called An Encyclopedia of Angels that collects all sorts of myths and legends from a wide variety of sources. That was a big help, and then, of course, I just made a lot of stuff up. The basic hierarchy is a modified version of St. Jerome’s listing of angels.

EBG: Your angels are grittier than the ones on Touched by an Angel. What responses have you gotten because of this?

TB: Parable Bookstores actually refused to allow The War in Heaven to participate in a catalog promotion because, in their words, “it’s too intense.” No problem with sex, violence or language, since there isn’t any, but apparently the vivid nature of the novel was simply too much for them. I took it as a compliment, even though it clearly wasn’t intended as one.

After that, I didn’t even bother submitting The World in Shadow to them. If the first one was too intense, someone probably would have keeled over dead reading that. But most readers quite like the fact that the angels have distinct personalities, even if some of them are downright evil. Of course, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

EBG: Do the characters behave themselves as you write, or do they sometimes take over?

TB: I always dislike it when writers talk about characters “taking over” since it smacks somewhat of self-glorification to me. I’m sure they mean it and I understand what they’re saying, but it always strikes me as posing. You know, “look at me, I’m so doggone creative and artistic, I just can’t help myself!” Writing is rather more prosaic than many authors—and readers—would like it to be. That being said, I often do find myself modifying dialogue and occasionally the plot itself as my understanding of the characters evolves through the course of the novel.

EBG: How do you think writing has changed you?

TB: I’m far more solitary than before. When I was younger, I was a bit of a lone wolf by necessity. Now, I absolutely cherish that time alone, whether I’m planning to write or not. I’m never bored, because I’m always constructing something in my head. It throws me off sometimes, like when someone asks me a question and I have no idea what’s going on in the conversation because I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to work in a little quantum mechanics to underlie some ancient Elvish wizardry.

EBG: What kinds of sacrifices have you made because of your writing?

TB: I haven’t made any significant sacrifices, being very blessed financially, although writing is a really bad field to go in for if you’re in search of fame or money. I’m sure my net worth would be more impressive if I’d stayed on the full-time career path, but that holds almost zero interest for me. Material things are great, but I value time far more highly.

EBG: When should we expect to see The Wrath of Angels [the next in the series]?

Pocket’s got it scheduled for spring 2005, if I recall correctly. I’m very close to wrapping it up—it’s due at the end of March. This one took longer, as two false starts led to about sixty thousand unused words. That’s practically a book in itself, or it would have been twenty years ago.

EBG: Would you tell us a bit about it, please?

I think The Wrath of Angels will surprise readers of the first two books in much the same way that the different nature of The World in Shadow surprised people after the first one. I’m not the least bit interested in writing the same book over and over again. I can almost guarantee that whatever you’re expecting, you won’t be expecting this. I can’t say if it’s particularly good or not, but I daresay it’s rather different. If not downright strange.

The one similarity is that I’ve drawn a bit on Spenser’s Faerie Queen in the way that I drew on Paradise Lost in the first book. Not much, but it’s somewhat of a starting point. Sort of. The book dives deeper into the internecine battles between the Fallen and how the Divine angels attempt to use these to further the cause of what C.S. Lewis called the Divine Invasion, working to save mankind one soul at a time. Scopewise, it’s somewhere in the middle of the two previous books.

EBG: Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?

Don’t look for the magic bullet. Just sit down and write. I usually don’t like talking with aspiring writers because all too often, so many of them are far more intrigued with the idea of writing than they are with the reality of writing itself. Writing is nothing but perseverance—everyone has plenty of ideas—the main thing that separates the professional from the permanent amateur is the willingness to sit down and bang something out, even if you’re not in the mood. It doesn’t get any easier once you’ve got a contract, quite the opposite, actually.

EBG: Do you have any final thoughts for Edenstar readers?

TB: If you’re interested in the books, or if you’ve read the first two and are waiting for the third, check out the various short stories on the web site at There’s almost an entire book’s worth of stuff up there and it’s all free for the reading.

EBG: Thank you, Theodore!


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The New Amplified Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
The Ball and the Cross, by G. K. Chesterton
The Annotated Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton and Martin Gardner
The Man Who Was Thursday : a Nightmare, by G. K. Chesterton
The Man Who Was Thursday : a Nightmare, by G. K. Chesterton
The Napoleon of Notting Hill, by G. K. Chesterton
Hinds’ Feet in High Places, by Hannah Hurnard
Hinds’ Feet in High Places, by Hannah Hurnard
Mountains of Spices, by Hannah Hurnard
Lilith, by George MacDonald
Lilith, by George MacDonald
Lilith, by George MacDonald
Phantastes, by George MacDonald
A Charles Williams Reader, by Charles Williams
Descent Into Hell, by Charles Williams
War in Heaven, by Charles Williams
Many Dimensions, by Charles Williams
Lord of the World, by Robert Hugh Benson
The Necromancers, by Robert Hugh Benson

Interview with Randall Ingermanson

Randall Ingermanson
Randall Ingermanson is the author of the Christy award-winning novel Transgression (Harvest House, 2000) and co-author of the Christy award-winning novel Oxygen (Bethany House, 2001) and sequel The Fifth Man (Bethany House, 2002). Here he discusses his new novel, Premonition (Zondervan, 2003).

EBG: In your new book, Premonition, we return to the story of Rivka and Ari that began in the novel Transgression. Could you give a quick recap of how it is that two modern characters happen to be trapped in first-century Palestine?

RI: Ari was a theoretical physicist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He cooked up a clever scheme for creating a “wormhole”, a portal through time. Then he hooked up with an American experimental physicist, Damien West, who had the skills to actually build the device. But Ari didn’t know that Damien wanted to travel back in time to kill the apostle Paul. By bad luck, Rivka got sent back in time along with Damien, and Ari followed them because he had a crush on Rivka. There was an accident and the wormhole was destroyed. At the end of the story, Damien was killed and Ari worked up his courage to propose to Rivka. But they are now trapped permanently in first-century Jerusalem.

EBG: What are some of the central themes and events as the story unfolds for Rivka and Ari in Premonition?

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RI: Their first problem is that Rivka and Ari have no money, so they’re depending on the charity of friends while Ari looks for work. But what kind of work can a physicist find in ancient Jerusalem? Furthermore, Rivka is feeling very much out of place because of the cultural restrictions on what a Jewish woman can wear, what she can do, and who she can talk to. As the story unfolds, Ari finds work doing engineering design and Rivka works as a midwife and both of them show an unusual talent for getting into trouble with certain Very Important People in Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, Rivka is cursed with a photographic memory, and she knows every bad thing that’s going to happen during this time period. Like anyone would, she wants to prevent these disasters. But since the past really can’t be changed, she just winds up making a muddle of things. Ari is obsessed with what he calls the Problem of Evil. It’s a real problem. God allows evil people to do evil things. But worse, God allows good people to do evil things. And a lot of that evil is happening to people Ari and Rivka know right now, in the last few years before the Jewish revolt.

The story culminates with the illegal trial and execution of James, the brother of Jesus. By coincidence, this is the same James whose sarcophagus may have turned up in Jerusalem last year, just after I wrote the book. I’ve done my absolute best to show the life of the earliest church–a Jewish Christian community–in first century Jerusalem. I read Hebrew and I’ve been to Jerusalem and I hang out at a Messianic Jewish synagogue in San Diego, and I’ve tried to work all that into the story in a natural way.

EBG: I understand that a follow-up to Premonition is planned. What is the title and when is its expected release date?

RI: The tentative title is Seer Woman, and it’ll be released in August of 2004. A second sequel, Three Bullets for Ari, will come out in August 2005. Also, I should note that Zondervan has bought the rights to reprint Transgression, and it will be coming out at a date still to be determined.

EBG: Any other projects in the works that we should watch for?

RI: I am currently working on a slightly futuristic novel about quantum computing, Double Vision, to be published in the fall of 2004 with Bethany House.

EBG: You’ve written a diverse range of books from nonfiction to science fiction. Is there a “typical” Randy Ingermanson book?

RI: I write about “Life at the intersection of Faith Avenue and Science Boulevard”. As a physicist and a Christian, I have a few things to say about this particular section of town. There aren’t any traffic lights at the intersection, so we get lots of accidents. I’m the guy with the flashlight and broom trying to sweep up the broken glass and get people out of the burning cars.

EBG: Many people see science, and science fiction, as incompatible with Christianity. How would you answer them?

RI: There is a line of argument that says that modern science only became possible with the Christian worldview. Why? Because Christians believe in a rational, orderly God who created a universe that could be understood. It’s true that modern science has kind of lost sight of that viewpoint, but there are still many scientists who believe in the God of the Bible. I don’t see any unbridgeable gap between science and Christian faith. There are some serious unresolved questions, but I think those questions have answers.

As for science fiction, it’s just a reflection of those who write it. Right now, that means mostly non-Christians. But there are a number of Christian writers who are doing their best to stake out a corner of science fiction again. They are a great group of people, and I’m proud to have joined their circle.

EBG: You have a full life as a family man and computational physicist. What prompted you to begin writing novels?

RI: I’ve always liked reading novels, mostly thrillers. Back in the 80s, I somehow got it into my head that I could write as well as some of the schlocky writers I was reading. So I decided to try my hand at it. I soon discovered that . . . I was wrong. Writing a gripping story is hard! Being a stubborn kind of guy, I just kept working at it and developing my skills. After about ten years, I finally was writing well enough to sell that first book. Call me a slow learner if you want, but a lot of novelists take a long time to learn the craft. Writing looks easy, but it isn’t.

EBG: In Oxygen and The Fifth Man, you include many details about the daily lives of astronauts that suggest a lot of research was involved. How did you go about this research? Did you interview astronauts?

RI: It helped that my coauthor, John Olson, is a biochemist and that I’m a physicist. We joined the Mars Society and went to a couple of their annual conferences, where we met some of the leading experts on Mars. One of my fans lives in Houston and has a degree in aerospace. Her husband works at NASA and she goes to church with one of the world’s most famous astronauts, Shannon Lucid. When she found out we were writing Oxygen, she invited me and John to come visit. She gave us the grand tour of NASA, wangled us a long Sunday afternoon discussion with Shannon Lucid, and generally helped us learn to “think astronaut”. It was incredible. We also got a volunteer reader at NASA, a world-class planetary scientist, to read an early draft and critique it for us. At one point, I wrote a computer program to compute the trajectories of spacecraft on the way to Mars. We needed it for the storyline to work out, so I took a few weeks and wrote the software. Our editor told us we were crazy, but I wanted our facts to be exactly right.

EBG: Co-writing a book tends to be challenging, but it seems to have worked well for you and John Olson. How did you manage this task?

RI: John and I were close friends for several years, and we had come to respect each other’s writing before we ever thought of collaborating. John came up with the storyline for Oxygen and suggested we try writing it together. So we did a virtual handshake on the phone and started research. Some people would call us crazy for not making up some kind of contract, but we were happy with just that handshake. We had many long phone conversations to map out the story. Then John would write a section and send it to me. I’d write the next section and send it back. Each of us edited the other guy’s work. It all melded together so smoothly that our editor never could tell which of us wrote what. In a few cases, neither could we!

EBG: Your web site offers helpful advice for aspiring writers. Any special tips you’d like to mention here for writers of Christian science fiction?

RI: 1) Learn the craft. It takes time to learn to write, so give yourself that time.

2) Let the “spiritual meaning” of the story rise naturally out of the story. Don’t try to cook up a story to fit some grand lesson, unless you want your story to look like a thinly disguised sermon. Gack! You have to trust yourself to let any spiritual insights naturally spring out of the story. Lewis and Tolkien did that.

3) Get to know other people in the business–editors and other writers. You do that by going to writers’ conferences and meeting people. It sounds scary, but remember that editors are normal people and they rarely kill writers. Fact is, editors need writers as much as writers need editors. Also, remember that other writers are not your competition, they are your friends with whom you must cooperate in order to create a critical mass of Christian science fiction writers.

EBG: Your first book, Who Wrote the Bible Code?, clarified and defused a difficult and controversial subject. Do you anticipate writing any more nonfiction?

RI: Possibly, though I don’t have anything definite planned. John Olson and I have talked about doing a book someday on the creation/evolution question. Right now, both of us are focusing on fiction, which is what we love most.

EBG: Anything else you’d like to add for readers at the Edenstar web site?

RI: I’ve been following Christian fiction for the last fifteen years and have watched it blossom from a small field with just a few writers of prairie romances and Biblical novels. We are going through a Renaissance in Christian fiction right now. Each year, another twenty new novelists join the ranks, and some of them are first-rate. And each year, the existing base of authors gets more skilled. Overall, we have not quite reached the literary quality of secular fiction, but we are getting closer every year, and our books are clean and full of hope, which is more than you can say for most secular fiction. I’m looking forward to the day that Christian fiction will have a reputation for the highest quality. It’s a real privilege to write for the Christian market. My goal is to improve my skills with every book.

EBG: Thanks, Randy!