Ask me anything

Got questions about me or my books? The floor is yours.

A social media service called Formspring makes it easy to ask and answer questions. It’s sort of a “FAQ” that you make instead of me, by asking the stuff you really want answered.

Got questions about something that happened in one of my books? Or about me and how I work? This is the place to ask!

Head over to Formspring and ask me anything you want.

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Gigging

In case you’re wondering why I haven’t posted anything in a few weeks…

I’ve been workin’ it as hard as I can. In case you didn’t know, I am now blogging at:

In the midst of all this, I’m also hard at work on Vigilante, my 6th novel (due Summer 2011), as well as tons of publicity efforts surrounding my current novel Nightmare. I’m reaching out to anybody and everybody who might be able to give Nightmare some much-needed PR. I’m also working on an upgrade to thenightmareiscoming.com, which is soon going to go major interactive, with lots of cool goodies related to the search for the paranormal.

Stay tuned.

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Adding to the conversation

Last week, I posted something that got a lot of people talking, both here and elsewhere on the Net. In it, I talked about the difficulties of being sequestered in the Christian marketplace, where, despite what I write about, mainstream readers will rarely find me — and patrons of Christian bookstores might not even be the right audience for what I do.

Around the same time, entirely by coincidence, my friend and fellow novelist Eric Wilson poured out his heart to readers with a post about his own issues with “Christian industry,” which also got a lot of people talking — only in Eric’s case, not all of the response was positive. Some was exceedingly negative, in fact. He boldly asked if it might be time for “Christian Fiction,” as a genre, to die, because it’s more of a hindrance to authors than a help.

This got me thinking about a conversation I had years ago with a friend of mine. When I first met Leo Partible, I decided to interview him for an article, because I was fascinated to learn that he was among a large group of Christians operating inside Hollywood, bold and unashamed of their faith. And none of these Christians were ever victims of “religious profiling,” if you will — aka, Hollywood’s well-known bias against Christians and Christian beliefs. I couldn’t wait to find out how they were getting away with this, and as we talked about Leo’s background, our conversation turned toward the “Christian” industries — Christian Music, Christian Movies, Christian Fiction, etc. — and their impact on society, or lack thereof.

Here’s the relevant part of the interview:

Robin: Do you find that infiltrating culture by being in it is like walking a tightrope?

Leo: You know, I don’t think it should even be a problem. Because I don’t think C.S. Lewis ever had a problem with it, or Tolkien or anybody else. So long as you’re very truthful about who you are and what you believe, then that’s it. I find that people who have a problem talking about their faith, are usually people who don’t know as much about their faith or how to communicate it. C.S. Lewis was able to move between worlds; he would use pagan imagery in stories and then he would use Christian imagery, and no one ever called him on it. Maybe it was a different time and a different world, but even in today’s world, you don’t have people getting mad at Bono for quoting scripture. Because everyone knows that he’s being honest about it.

The problem is that evangelical culture is way too aware of who they are. To the point that they feel like, “I must talk about Jesus now,” every moment of every day. But if you have to do that, then maybe you should question whether or not you really believe in Jesus Christ. Because if you did, you wouldn’t have to force yourself to talk about Christ — it would simply come out of you naturally.

We spend so much time being insular about our subculture. Christian bookstores, Christian t-shirts, Christian bracelets and bumper-stickers and all these things that have been stamped with the “Safe For Us” seal of approval. We’ve been programmed with this mindset for so long, it’s no wonder that some people are made uncomfortable by you working in comic books or Doug Jones acting in movies like Hellboy.

It’s sad for me, because I go to a Christian bookstore and I don’t see Madeleine L’Engle on the shelves. I see probably a quarter of C.S. Lewis’ books. I don’t see Lord of the Rings. I don’t see Anne Lamont or Flannery O’Connor or any of the other great Christian writers. It’s just sad.

Look at Left Behind. I’m not knocking those books, but not every Christian believes in Dispensationalism. That’s one example of some peoples’ opinions within the church; and it might be a valid opinion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s gospel. Why aren’t the views of people like Anne Lamont and Madeleine L’Engle given equal exposure?

I can tell you why; my first job was at a Christian bookstore. Everything that goes through those stores must first go through a filter. Usually the filter is nothing more than the reputation of the publisher or record label or whoever publishes that product.

And whenever a customer would walk into that store, it went without saying that they knew that everything they would find inside those walls would be “safe” to expose themselves and their children to. The problem with that is that we’re relinquishing all power of discernment when we walk through those doors. We no longer have to take personal responsibility for the quality or accuracy of anything we expose ourselves to, and that terrifies me. You can check your brain and your faith and everything else at the door.

Exactly. You nailed it, exactly. My concern is that these retailers are not taking in all materials created by Christians — they’re taking in stamped and “approved” materials that are very mediocre. If it continues, then teenagers and young adults are not going to go there looking for their spiritual brainfood. They’re going to go looking for materials by Christians that’s outside the Christian bookstores.

Wal-Mart’s already gearing up for that, and other places are, too. If they don’t watch out, these big stores are totally going to take over and the mom and pop stores will diminish in great numbers. Either they’re going to move with where God is taking Christian culture, or they’re going to fade away.

It’s worth noting that this interview took place in 2004.

Oh, and that Christian bookstore that was my first job? It went out of business a couple of years ago.

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I write like…

Apparently, in Nightmare, I write like Stephen King.

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

And in Offworld, I write like Arthur C. Clarke.

I write like
Arthur C. Clarke

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Whodathunk?

I don’t put any stock in these results — the algorithm seems to analyze the text for certain keywords — but it’s silly fun. Who do you write like?

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No, he doesn’t.

God does not hate fags. In fact, God isn’t in the business of hating anyone. Look it up. It’s right there in the Bible: “God is love.” It doesn’t say “God loves.” It says he is love. Love is baked right in. It’s his defining trait.

I hate stupidity and ignorance. I hate intentional obliviousness. And I’m pretty sure that God hates those things, too.

I hate that my books don’t sell more so I can support my family. And stuff like this — like the big signs being held in that picture — make me hate the people holding them. What would these people, who are picketing San Diego Comic-Con, think of me — a Christian who loves pop culture and has loved attending Comic-Con six times? Should I expect them to throw up a picket line outside my house next? (Or maybe they’ll move on from inflammatory media statements to the next logical step: guns and pipe bombs.)

I don’t want to be identified as having anything in common with people like this. Even though these people are in the very miniscule minority, they represent a way of thinking that the majority of Christians are guilty of from time to time, having been once guilty of it myself: an insular, self-serving, us-vs.-the-world mentality. This very mindset, in lesser degrees, is exactly what leads to safe, sterile stuff like “Amish fiction” — the current genre du jour in the Christian Fiction world.

Am I wasting my time publishing my books in the Christian marketplace? I know there are lots of intelligent readers there, but there are also plenty of small-minded readers who are afraid of anything that doesn’t fit within their nice little walls of safety and lukewarm beliefs. This thought that my books are in the wrong market has been the predominant thought in my head lately (and this post is probably ending in a very different place than where it started because of it). Offworld, in my opinion, deserved more attention than it got; several major Hollywood studios expressed strong interest in the concept, but they never purchased the movie rights because the book wasn’t a bestseller. It should have been in the science fiction section of your local Barnes & Noble or Borders, just like Nightmare should be on the New Releases shelf. Instead, my stuff is stuck in the back corner whereChristian Fiction books collect dust and wait to be sent back to the publisher.

I love my publisher; they’ve been nothing but great to me. And I love my readers very, very dearly. I just need more of them. And I can’t help wondering if I’ve maxed out on the number of “Christian spec fic” readers out there who are willing to go to the Christian Fiction section (or to Christian bookstores) to find the kind of thing that I do. Read this article; it sums up everything I’m pondering.

So anyway… I’m done with my soapbox for today. To restate: God does not hate fags. But I don’t think he’s crazy about people who live like this life is a fight between us and the rest of the world. And he and I both aren’t wild about readers who think authors should never dare to step a toe outside of what they consider safe and normal.

It’s the same disease, just different symptoms.

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