Monday, September 21, 2009

SPECIAL interview with my friend and soon-to-be-world-famous author (prophetic, yes?) Kaci Hill

*insert wild applause here*

So, everyone who knows me should know I'm an avid Dekker fan. Kaci and I "met" online through Ted's message boards. I met her in real life at the 2nd annual Gathering and saw her again at the 3rd. I've gotten to know her better now that I'm a moderator, too, and I'll tell you I like her more and more all the time. She really has her head screwed on straight and is so very talented. (Yes, I like certain adverbs.)

Anyway, I asked her a bunch of weird questions--well, maybe not weird, but certainly invasive and time-consuming--which she was kind enough to answer. Here's the transcript for your enjoyment.

First, a few words about Kaci for those ignorant enough not to know already (kidding):

Writing has been a way of life for Kaci Hill since she was a child. She wrote long-hand until high school and felt lazy when she received her first laptop. During and after college, she found a unique love in substitute teaching at both the junior high and high school levels. When she's not dealing with drama and English, tutoring, editing, or grading, she reads, blogs, or frequents The Circle, home of Ted Dekker's message forum. It was in The Circle that Ted read some of Kaci's work and asked her to co-write what would become her first published novels with him, Lunatic and Elyon. Kaci lives in Texas with her family and yes, she has seen the bats.

1. When did you start writing?
I’ve been telling stories since before I could actually write. I started putting pen to paper as a fifth grader (at the latest). My sophomore year I got a laptop and started going back and forth between writing by hand and using a computer. I didn’t start considering writing as a profession until somewhere in college, however. It’s just something that’s always been a part of me.

2. How many completed novels have you written?
I’m honestly not sure. Several.

3. What is your favorite genre to read? To write?
I read mostly suspense/mystery and supernatural fiction, only recently coming into the fantasy world. My writing…I like to think it tends to cross genres, mostly in the alternate reality and fantasy-esque worlds. But then, people tend to consider anything that doesn’t quite fit in a box “fantasy.”

4. List some of your favorite and most influential books (fiction and nonfiction).
Fiction: I cut my teeth on Peretti and Bill Meyers, Ted, of course, Robert Liparulo, Brandilyn Collins, Kay Arthur’s Israel, My Beloved, Karen Hancock, Donita K. Paul, Tim Downs, Stephen Lawhead, Tosca Lee, Clay Jacobsen’s Interview with the Devil. That’s…a lot of supernatural influence. Sad part is I know I’m forgetting someone. I will say my middle school years were saturated in the end times and supernatural stories (Blood of Heaven trilogy among them).

As for non-fiction: Josh McDowell (mostly his speaking), Dallas Willard (lately), John Piper, J.I. Packer (Knowing God), A.W. Tozer, Andrew Murray, Voice of the Martyrs’ various books, Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God, the Understanding the Times authors, Kelly Minter, Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Ergun Caner, David Nasser, and, again, I know I’m forgetting several people.

5. How does your faith make its way into your fiction?
How does it not, is the better question. In 2003 (I think) I decided to make a point to try to leave my faith out of it, and it turned into one of my most blatantly faith-inspired writings. Honestly, I see the supernatural as merely something outside our range of perception, but something no less tangible, just like some light and sound is outside our range on the spectrum. Moreover, faith is never in a vacuum, and I think that to speak as if the Scriptures are no more realistic than Greek mythology is to deny a key element of our faith. The history of Christianity seems to be getting lost, the heritage and inheritance, and I think that’s largely part of the frustration we see today. So my faith is in my fiction because, honestly, faith and religion are a part of life, and there’s no escaping either.

6. Describe the Books of History series and give a brief glimpse into Lunatic and Elyon.
It begins with Johnis, Silvie, Billos, and Darsal in Chosen, when the four are given a secret mission by two Roush to retrieve the four Lost Books of History. And from there things go a bit crazy. They eventually cross into the Histories and…that’s all I feel comfortable saying. Lunatic picks up where Chaos leaves off, with three of them returning into the world they left behind, only five years later. For readers, again, that makes Lunatic two and a half years after the events in White.

7. What do you hope readers take away from Lunatic and Elyon?

Lunatic and Elyon are largely about loving the enemy, and the idea of living as a missionary among people who may well kill you. There’s a lot going on, sacrifice, prejudice, the seductive nature of evil—but it all, in the end, boils down to who your heart belongs to. The love of Elyon, the love for Elyon.

8. How did you make acquaintance with Ted Dekker and eventually come to co-write with him?
I met Ted at a book signing, and also joined his website, where I eventually became a moderator. We traded writing-related emails, and the mod staff had several teleconferences. I also used to post excerpts, which he evidently read. Eventually he contacted me saying he was looking for a co-writer and asked me if I was interested, and would I send him some samples.

9. What are some things you wish you had known about authors and publishing before you started the process?
I think on some level I’ve listened just enough to people who’ve done this for decades that I can’t say anything surprised me. I think I can say, however, that this has been the most intense editing process I’ve ever engaged in. More or less, I don’t think I fully appreciated how many people go into the process before, and how much goes just into the preliminaries.

10. What is your favorite part of writing? Least favorite?
I’m not sure I have one. I will say, by drafts five and six I’m honestly reaching the point of mental exhaustion. There were a few days I couldn’t remember which version we were on.

11. Are you a planner or a seat-of-the-pantser or a mixture of both?
I’ve moved from total SOTP to a combination. To date, I rarely look at my notes once they’re written, but I do storyboard some now, though I tend to equate it to planning a road trip. And I will reorganize, revamp, and rewrite those notes multiple times, often without looking at previous notes—and finally learned that dating them is…helpful.

12. Which comes first? Plot or characters?

As far as when ideas come…either. As to which is more important, neither. Plots are nothing without characters; characters alone do not a story make.

13. How do you get into the heads of your characters?
I generally just sit down and start writing. I also tend to write many apocryphal scenes (meaning they aren’t part of the “canon” of the story). Occasionally I act out a scene, but only if I need the visual. I also tend to use the Google image search to get ideas for scene setting. It’s like meeting anybody else—the longer you’re with them, the more you know.

14. Do you do a lot of research?
I don’t do a ton, but it’s mostly on an ‘as needed’ basis. For Sins of the Son, for example, I spent a month and a half comparing religions and reading mythology. For Lunatic and Elyon, I mostly consulted the other Circle books.

15. Where do you get ideas for your stories?
More accurately, where don’t I get ideas? If I sit long enough something will come to mind, caliber notwithstanding. I’ve gotten ideas reading books, watching movies, driving down the road and noting a billboard, TV ads, real life stories, and…just people-watching.

16. What is your best advice to up and coming novelists?
Two things. One, be around people—the real ones. Other writers, people who hate to read, etc. And they aren’t assets; they’re friends. Two, keep writing. More accurately, keep learning.

17. What is your last completed work?

18. What are you working on now?

Cinderbeast (sequel to Bogswallow) and a potential, untitled project that’s only in the brainstorming stage.

19. What are your future plans as far as which project to put forth next?
TBD. I obviously want to publish on my own. At the moment it’s a matter of the right story in the right place at the right time.

20. You have a friendship as well as a working relationship with Ted. What is he really like?
I already felt I knew Ted fairly well, so I can’t really say he took me by surprise or anything. If you went to the Gathering, the Ted you saw is Ted. For those who didn’t, he’s passionate about everything, and he’s been a great friend, co-worker and mentor. He doesn’t get mad or impatient, and he’s been a constant. Honestly, working with Ted was great.

21. Tell us what it’s like to work closely with a professional editor.
Enlightening. Again, nothing too profound, other than with multiple editors you really do have to pick a direction sometimes. And, really, most of the time the editor is right.

22. Parting words?

Thanks for letting me play.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

GREEN, by Ted Dekker - my review

What started out as an epic trilogy now becomes the Circle Series with Green: Book Zero. Electrifying readers everywhere, Dekker now brings us full circle with a novel that ties up all the loose ends from Black, Red, and White, and draws from Showdown, Sinner, and the Lost Books of History also. Talk about all-encompassing. It still amazes me that over all these years, Ted has kept this massive story cohesive, absorbing, and meaningful.

So much happens in Green, it would be impossible for me to give a rundown of it, especially without using spoilers. But since I’m used to doing reviews without spoilers (over 200 in the last 4 years) I’m going to stick with what works for me.

Thomas Hunter’s world is not Paradise. His son Samuel is questioning every belief the Circle holds dear, and threatening to destroy them all by waging war with the Horde. After years of non-violence some are indeed ready to take up the sword and follow Samuel into battle to finally rid themselves of evil once and for all.

On our earth, 36 years after the Raison Strain, Billy Rediger (most recently seen in Sinner) is back with an agenda of his own--find the one remaining vial of Thomas Hunter’s blood--but for what nefarious purpose? Can Kara stop him before he,too, falls off the deep end?

Everyone’s reality is turned up on its end in this apocalyptic conclusion. Time travel abounds as does the violence and treachery in both worlds. Good or evil: which will triumph? Will Thomas and his beloved Circle survive? What will become of the Horde and the Eramites? Of Samuel?

Nothing can prepare you for the final moments. Go in with your eyes and heart open to the love of Elyon and encounter the experience of a lifetime. I know I will forever be changed because of Ted and this series in particular. No one I know of in Christian fiction has created such an apt depiction of our history and the workings of our God in such fashion. We can only hope and pray that Ted’s mind is brimming with more genius and he continues to share it with us.

For more in depth discussion, visit join the Circle Series group. Dive deep.