Welcome all! I hope you are enjoying the arrival of Spring where you are in all it’s incarnations. As for me, it actually snowed here on the first day of Spring. Shouldn’t be surprised. We have a saying around here: “don’t like the weather? don’t worry, it’ll change in a minute”.
But I digress. I have another author for you to meet and some wonderful books to introduce you to. Author Brett Armstrong is with me today on the blog talking about writing Christian fiction. Such an interesting post. His books are also featured as well as…a GIVEAWAY!! So, I’ll step out of the way and let Brett take the stage for a bit.
by Brett Armstrong
The past couple weeks I’ve been hit with a heavy dose of introspection. It’s a conjunction of things that triggered it really and I mostly blame the internet. I have this uncanny ability to find the most awful battles on it and right in the crosshairs recently was a cherished element of my worldview, Christian fiction. As you may have seen from my bio, I’m a Christian and as a writer, invariably, that all-defining aspect of who I am filters into my work. Very early on in my writing career, I decided to not try to bury my faith or utterly ignore it as some writers seemingly do (you might be surprised which “secular” authors are Christians).
I tend to be a very logic driven person. I like for things to make sense, so if I get a whiff that something I’m convinced of doesn’t make sense, I kind of go into an internal huddle and start trying to sort things out. So, I set to work untangling things for myself. Most of all, I had to answer a question: Why do I write Christian fiction? I haven’t always done so intentionally. What makes me feel compelled to do so now? It certainly isn’t the favored genre of media, Western culture, or sales statistics. Those all make it very clear that Christian fiction and the faith that underpins it are marginal at best and illogical at worst.
I found myself fumbling a bit, because not only is my faith what guides my life, but it fuels my writing. I draw my purpose for writing out of my faith. You see, I believe that fiction writing, while entertaining and escapist as we may like it, ultimately owes the reader the opportunity to face aspects of reality within the world of the story, which seem too difficult to face in the real world. Stories should have a purpose, even if they seem to be fluff at first. It’s what keeps me writing after I get a wordless 2-star review and what keeps me from living for 5-star reviews. I thoroughly enjoy finding the latter, but it can’t be what defines a writer’s career nor a writer’s art nor a writer’s craft nor a writer’s purpose. As a writer, you’re going to have people picking at and disliking things that are very intrinsically tied to your being, as any artwork is, and when those storms hit, you have to be firmly grounded in the “why you write” to weather them.
I’ll try to spare the in-depth details of my inner monologue and hit the highpoints of my introspection. The first is, I decided I wasn’t going to give up on my faith. That’s huge. Never let anyone or anything diminish the significance of committing yourself to Christ. When you make that choice, everything else is defined in that context moving forward. Which means you have to be absolutely sure Christ is the real thing. It takes daily, purposeful seeking of the Truth. Like I said, I’m a logic-driven person so something arises as a challenge to my faith, I try to remember the Apostle Thomas, who initially doubted Christ’s resurrection. I seek help in Scripture and ask God to make sense of things for me. I’ve yet to find anything that can undo what God has done in me. Over time, I’ve also come to see things like Puddleglum from CS Lewis’s The Silver Chair, because logic and reason can be muddled and sometimes you must let the fog clear before committing or not committing to something: “I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”
The second major point of turning to keep me on the path to writing Christian fiction came from a post on the matter I read recently (see here). It references a study published in Psychology Today, which points out that the brain processes material read, much the same as it processes real experiences. Talk about validation. My writerly creed that fiction should prepare us to face the real world gained a biological backing! If what we read can shape who we are as readily as actual events, then it is of paramount importance that the stories I tend to write be told. My stories are about perseverance, standing strong in the faith even when it is difficult. So, if reading a story I’ve written encourages one person to “keep fighting the good fight of the faith”, then none of the tangential distractions should hinder me from doing the same.
If you stand where breakers roll into the coast for long enough, you’ll eventually get worn down. I think that is what happened to me recently. For a long time, I tried to stand on my own as I found attack after attack on not only Christian fiction, but the faith itself. I needed something to hold me up, something to refresh me. So now, you have the short of it. I found my place of rest on Christ Himself and the faith He sustains in me and in a not-so-subtle reminder that since the faith is true, telling the stories about it matters.
Thank you for those words. I found deep meaning in them as another writer of deep faith.
I like to start off asking fellow authors about their inspiration. It intrigues me. So, what was the inspiration for Day Moon?
My most recent book, Day Moon was initially inspired by a creative writing assignment that required us to go out and find people and events to fill a “writerly scavenger hunt”. It was raining that day so I was standing all alone under the portico of the English hall, looking out across the campus and I saw the library across the way. The English hall was built in classical Greco-Roman style on the outside, but the library was very modern with huge glass windows. Standing there in the dreariness and seeing its bright lights, I was struck by the contrasts I was experiencing. I started on the assignment’s completion, writing a story sketch about something we found in our hunt. Mine was a college student in the near-future, looking out on rainy day the library and waiting. The what, why, and all the questions that followed that moment became Day Moon.
It seems obvious now that many of the themes and motifs of the book are reflected in that single scene which eventually became the start to chapter one. Remnants of the past standing in conflict to progress, isolation…Most of my writing begins in the same way. A scene strikes me and if gripped tightly enough, I ask questions. Story-writing for me is exploring. Writers discover things I think and in writing act as guides so others can find the worlds they have uncovered. There’s a lot more that went into what became Day Moon, but it was that first glimpse of its world that got me to take the trek through it.
Interesting. I love this. Ted Dekker talks about writing as creating a “fictive bubble” in which the writer explores questions and thoughts about emotions and humanity in front of the reader. Your thoughts here remind me of that.
I always set the stage, if you will, for my writing sessions. Music is a big part of that as more often than not, I need some kind of instrumental music to help get my creative juices fired up. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?
I don’t always listen to music while writing, but when I do, I have a whole mixture of music that plays on shuffle, with certain songs tending to get me fired up to write different books. If I hear Clint Mansell’s “Lux Aeterna”, I think of book one in a fantasy series I’m writing. If I hear Toby Mac’s “Love Broke Through”, it’s book two of the same series. But if I hear Taylor Swift’s “Safe and Sound”, I jump right back into Day Moon’s world and series. The other music ranges in terms of effect on me, depending on whether the music is highlighting an underlying theme of each book. Music does a great job of taking big sentiments and putting them into very intensely focused experiences, which then fuels me to write about that same idea.
Overall, I tend to develop an affinity for a pretty wide range of songs and listen to them over and over again.
I agree. One art form fueling another…
Can you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.
Day Moon is a dystopian book and it’s written very much in the vein of older works like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. It’s not so much an action-adventure in a post-apocalyptic world as a look at what our world seems to be becoming. A warning of sorts. The tech and socio-cultural trends of the present are leading to a sort of dark place.
The book deals extensively with philosophical questions of reality and how we relate to and the uncounted costs of advancing technology. It was less obvious when I started writing the book, but thanks to the Russian Facebook election scandal is becoming something we are all becoming more aware of: what we find in the digital world might not be real. The problem is, even if we guessed that as a possibility before, we’re kind of like a person who has been put on life support. The apparatus breathing air into us has become something we depend on so much to make it, that we can scarcely be taken off. People shared knowledge, learned, and taught and preserved knowledge before the internet. But the internet has made it so easy to propagate ideas (and to thereby manipulate them) that we’ve lost the ability to protect truth and knowledge from perversion. It’s been generally established that mass misinformation spreads faster than truth over social media. We’re facing a crisis of where to turn for the truth and with the general distrust that’s been building in government, technology, etc. there’s a tremendous vacuum of authority building in the West. Something is going to fill it. Day Moon, which does have chases fights, and the like, tries to show what that world just down the road looks like.
Again, this is interesting, your perspective. I do think there is a lack of absolute truth for so much of our generation and the next. Because it has been watered down and redirected by so much misinformation. Not to mention moral relativism. People wonder what is truth? Does it exist? Or is there only the truth from a certain point of view?
Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?
I’m working on a number of things. The first draft of the sequel to Day Moon is nearing completion. It really extends a lot of the themes of the book and applies them to other burgeoning technologies while increasing the stakes both personally and externally for Elliott. That book, Veiled Sun, has been on a bit of a hold though, because I have the first book in an epic fantasy series, Quest of Fire, due out this June. Book one is The Gathering Dark and features a pair of very different teens living hundreds of years apart. The more contemporary teen, Jason, listens to the story of the other teen, Anargen. As the story goes, Anargen and his friends are caught up into a quest to mediate peace talks between two rival kingdoms. But something more is going on beneath the surface and the order of knights to which Anargen belongs is despised by both parties. There is also an arcane evil, believed to be a myth, fighting to ensure Anargen and his friends don’t find a lost treasure meant for them. As Jason listens to the fairy tale/legend, he finds himself wondering how true it is and inevitably being pulled into it as well. The series is definitely for those who like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Chronicles of Narnia.
So many things to look forward to. A fan of those series myself, I am intrigued.
Thank you so much for being on the blog, for your post and for giving us some great insight into your process. I look forward to hearing more about your books. And, readers, more information about the giveaway can be found below as well.
A.D. 2039, a prodigious seventeen-year-old, Elliott, is assigned to work on a global software initiative his deceased grandfather helped found. Project Alexandria is intended to provide the entire world secure and equal access to all accumulated human knowledge. All forms of print are destroyed in good faith, to ensure everyone has equal footing, and Elliott knows he must soon part with his final treasure: a book of Shakespeare’s complete works gifted him by his grandfather. Before it is destroyed, Elliott notices something is amiss with the book, or rather Project Alexandria. The two do not match, including an extra sonnet titled “Day Moon”. When Elliott investigates, he uncovers far more than he bargained for. There are sinister forces backing Project Alexandria who have no intention of using it for its public purpose. Elliott soon finds himself on the run from federal authorities and facing betrayals and deceit from those closest to him. Following clues left by his grandfather, with agents close at hand, Elliott desperately hopes to find a way to stop Project Alexandria. All of history past and yet to be depend on it.
Enjoy an Excerpt
Minutes later, John was out of sight and Elliott and Lara were almost to the library. Lara finally spoke up. “So, looks like we’re trusting him after all, huh?”
“As much as we can,” Elliott responded, feeling his chest tighten. This wasn’t a pleasant conversation from the tone of Lara’s voice.
“We just gave him my car,” she stated, her voice as sleek and blunt as a baseball bat.
“To be honest it’s better if we don’t have your car anymore. They know we’re in the area. Terrance couldn’t have found us and the authorities remain in the dark.”
“You don’t know that. Maybe John tipped Terrance off.”
“I tipped Terrance off when I checked your phone,” Elliott answered, his voice low.
“Why did you by the way?”
“I just felt like I needed to.”
“You don’t trust me either.”
“No, I trust you, but… I don’t know what to think anymore. Everywhere I look there’s some kind of trap or clue to a puzzle I never meant to try to solve.”
“I guess I can understand that,” Lara said, a grimace on her face.
“Are you sure?”
“No, but I like you enough to give myself time to figure it out.”
Amazon *Day Moon is currently $0.99!!!
Also from Brett Armstrong
For decades, Roman Senator Marcus Servius labored to become a wealthy and admired patrician man. But now, his world is shattered. After he is exposed as a Christian during a time of intense persecution, his home, wealth, and prestige are stripped from him. The most painful loss of all is that of his beloved wife, Cassandra. Destitute and wary, Marcus prays he will be delivered from his enemies’ hands as he struggles to realize a new path.
In desperate need of help, Marcus disguises himself and embarks on a dangerous journey to find Benjamin Truvias, the leader of a hidden church and the man responsible for Marcus’s conversion. After Benjamin offers aid, Marcus’s life finally finds needed direction. Yet, the more he helps the church through persecutions, the closer he comes to finding who betrayed him. Caught in a maelstrom of intrigue and deception, should Marcus discover the awful truth of who caused his fall, he must choose between vengeance and forgiveness–a decision that will affect the fate of all the believers in Rome.
Destitutio Quod Remissio is the timeless epic tale of a man’s struggle to rebuild his life amid ancient Rome after he loses everything he loves and his faith is tested in ways he never imagined.
More About the Author
Brett Armstrong, author of the award-winning novel, Destitutio Quod Remissio, started writing stories at age nine, penning a tale of revenge and ambition set in the last days of the Aztec Empire. Twenty years later, he still tells stories enriched by his Christian faith and a master’s degree in creative writing. His goal with every work is to be like a brush in the Master artist’s hand and his hope is the finished composition always reflects the design God had in mind. He writes to engage, immerse, and entertain with deep, thoughtful stories. Continually busy at work with one or more new novels to come, he also enjoys drawing, gardening, and playing with his beautiful wife and son.
Connect with Brett and his books
Author Brett Armstrong is offering, for one (1) winner, a copy of either of his works (Day Moon OR Destitutio Quod Remissio) AND a $5 Amazon Gift Card. Please follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below to enter.