You are the author of 9 self-published novels. Two of your works have won awards, and your book “Devil Went Down” made it to Harper-Collin’s Editor’s desk through Authonomy in 2014 and received a positive review. What book did you enjoy writing the most?
I’m floored that you want an interview from me, and it’s making it difficult for me to focus. Ha!
Anyway, that’s a very difficult question. I once heard an author describe her books as children. This idea totally works for me, because each one is very different, endears itself to me in different ways and caused me to face a specific set of challenges as an author. But if I had to give a direct answer, I would say that Devil Went Down was a ton of fun. It was the first time I experimented with writing from the perspective of a male MC. As a woman, trying to think like a man, and one that had been alive for centuries, was quite the task.
Running a close second was Dawn Rising. It was a blast rocking back and forth between the male MC and the female MC, as well as jumping in and out of the past. There are some great characters in it, too.
‘Devil Went Down’ was definitely a fun book. I think it was the first book I put on my Authonomy shelf, and the only one I ended up purchasing for my Kindle. Could you give us a brief synopsis of the book?
Honestly, one of the things I abhor about entering competitions and sending in queries to publishers is writing the unavoidable synopsis. Here are my thoughts on this: asking a novelist to write a synopsis is like asking a quantum physicist to write a recipe on an index card.
But here we go…
God and Satan have a little bet going in the prologue. The book then opens with Damian, the MC, who the reader loves immediately but isn’t quite sure “what” he is. As the story develops, the reader discovers that Damian is, in fact, and agent of Satan, or Lou, as he is affectionately called in the book. Weird stuff is happening with centuries-old memories, unpaid debts, and unrequited appetites. Eventually, Emma is introduced and just at the right time. Damian is in the middle of an undead crisis, which is much the same as a mid-life crisis for someone as old as he is.
The plot continues with Damian’s struggle to resist his evil nature and bad habits while still carrying out his directive from Lou. Damian remembers what it’s like to really love someone again, and this soon leads to him remembering what forgiveness means. Without giving away the whole book, the reader gets to watch Damian’s transformation unfold. It’s not without great sacrifice, but it does have a promising end.
(Side note: the book has two distinct parts and I do not have plans for a sequel at this time.)
I love Emma’s character and Damian’s as well. One thing I found really interesting was that you depicted him as an actual historical individual (or at least one known by Christian traditions). I probably wouldn’t have realized this had it not been for the fact that my university’s science building was named “Sts. Cosmas and Damian.” Now, it is a little strange reading about an individual held up as a Christian saint and martyr being depicted as an agent of Satan, but it was really interesting. The changes to the legends about them seem to work. Could you tell us a little about how Damian’s character developed? How did you first hear the story of these twin brothers who died in the 3rd century (according to wikipedia)?
Another thoughtful question. Gee whiz, you’re good at this! Um, I don’t have a Catholic upbringing, and I accidentally discovered the legends/history about these saintly twins in my research of possible names for my MC. I had this idea in my head of what he was like, right down to his physical attributes. I suppose, as a visual artist/painter, I worked from a very specific mental image.
At the time, I was also into that hooky show, Vampire Diaries, and found the ongoing struggle between the two brothers of great interest. I should also note that I’m big on the meanings of names. Not only did I want Damian to have a name that spoke to his nature (damon = Greek for “to tame or subdue”), but I also wanted him to have historical and emotional depth. The more baggage, the better. That’s what really defines all the best, and most memorable, characters in literature.
The book currently ranks #2024 in Christian Fantasy on Amazon. Would you personally categorize it as Christian genre fiction?
Bahahahahaha… Christian Fantasy? Seriously? I had no idea that Amazon was classifying in that manner. I didn’t set out to write a book with a Christian agenda, although I am a believer.
The idea for the book really sprang from an intensive study of the book of Job in the Old Testament. It has always fascinated me that God and Satan are having this casual conversation in heaven, probably over coffee, and then end up betting over some rich guy’s life. It has pricked at my conceptions of both God and Satan and opened a Pandora’s box of creative options for how to extend that one moment in scripture.
More than anything, Devil Went Down is a work of fiction, inspired by faith, and I personally would categorize it as Paranormal Urban Fiction.
That’s good. Christian Fiction definitely has a reputation of being heavy on agenda and weak on character development and plot. It’s an issue in Christian Film as well. It is more propaganda than it is literature.
I’m actually very thankful one of my English professors stressed recognizing the difference of forcing a message and recognizing how your faith and background unconsciously influence your imagination. There seems two extremes both based on seeking others’ approval. One is forcing out an agenda in your work. The other is shying away from allowing your imagination to be as Christian as it is.
One thing I was really impressed with when reading your work was how well written it was. I definitely admire your work a lot. Can you share with us a little about the journey you took to develop that talent?
Thank you! I’ve had no formal training in writing, journalism or the like. My degree is actually in fine art, of all crazy things. But I think I’ve always been a wordsmith. Great movie lines stick in my head, and I quote them later when the occasion arises. I get a big kick out of researching what famous people said. In fact, I have an entire wall of my office covered with sticky notes, each one bearing a quote from a famous person. One day I’ll memorize them all. I’ve kept journals on and off over the years, written lots of letters, and then emails when the Internet was invented.
Now I write for a living. Through some fluke of incredible luck as a result of a chance meeting with someone running for elected office, I landed a correspondence job. It has been wonderful. I have to say that my learning curve in this position was pretty steep. Drafting official documents isn’t the same as spouting fiction and killing off characters whenever I feel annoyed. Editing is also a huge part of my job and something that I do with my personal work, as well. I edit the “hell” out of my books. Ha, get it? Yeah, not great at jokes.
All in all, this has been quite the journey. Thanks so much for asking!
No problem. I think many people end up on paths not related to what they got their degree in. What’s that saying? ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.’
Thanks agreeing to the interview. Before we go, are there any last things you’d like to say to the readers of the blog?
My pleasure, Angela! Wow, there are so many things I could say, including inviting everyone to read my personal blog at opheliawritesablog.blogspot.com. But what I most want to drive home to your readers is this:
- Anyone can write and write well. I simply decided one day that if an unknown Stephenie Meyer could take that first step that led to publishing a 5-book saga based on a dream she had, then so could I.
- Anyone can self-publish. Any format, any day, and at practically no cost. Traditional publishing methods are in such a fluid state right now that you could literally offer a university writing course titled “Anything Goes.”
- Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. At least two of my books were self-published and available for a span of a couple of years, before I pulled them back down, gave them complete overhauls and re-published. One even had a title change. Don’t marry your book. Don’t feel obligated to leave this or that, or avoid changing him, or writing a death scene for someone else. You have the freedom to make it whatever you want it to be.