Please Welcome...Chuck Black
This month our interview guest is Christian speculative fiction novelist Chuck Black.
Writing Christian fiction had never been part of Chuck's plan. His plan had included studying to become an electrical and electronics engineer to work on cutting edge technology, training to become an F-16 fighter pilot, and serving the Air Force as a test pilot.
God allowed Chuck to live the first two parts of that plan, and then He diverted him into a whole new adventure...that of becoming an involved father of six children. It was because of his deep passion to ensure his children understood the epic adventure of being a Christian that Chuck began writing.
Two series, twelve books, and twelve audio dramas later Chuck says he now knows that God's plan is so much better. He's loved the entire journey.
And now, the interview...
WhereTheMapEnds: Catch us up with you. What have you been doing lately?
Chuck Black: I am a partner in a small plastics company where I work as a product and automation design engineer. I still love that job but the two series of books I've written and future works are consuming more and more of my life. I am considering plunging into full time writing and promoting the works God has given me to write. In the corner of my mind I wonder how much I would miss my engineering work though.
WhereTheMapEnds: Well, I sincerely hope the plunge works for you. God willing, it will. That’s the Holy Grail for novelists. But if it doesn’t work as well as you’re hoping, then maybe you can…come to rediscover your love of engineering later. [grin]
What is your favorite speculative novel of all time (Christian or secular) and why is that your favorite?
Chuck Black: During my younger years, I loved science fiction and unfortunately there wasn't much Christian work from which to choose. As a teen The Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher captured my imagination. It had a hero who was flawed but heroic, a story that was epic yet believable, and secondary characters who were sometimes more valiant than the main character.
As an adult however, the one book that has inspired my walk as a Christian and my writing as an author the most is Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness. I love his portrayal of spiritual warfare. With my military background, spiritual warfare connects well.
WhereTheMapEnds: How was your first idea for a Christian speculative novel received (by anyone: spouse, friends, parents, agent, publisher, readers, reviewers, etc.)?
Chuck Black: I wrote my first book, Kingdom's Edge, exclusively for my children, and they absolutely loved it. The truth is that I was a bit disappointed because my goal was to get them excited about reading the Bible, not a fictional story. Then I realized that Jesus taught the same way. He used short fictional stories called parables to capture the hearts of people, and then He taught them something spiritually significant.
Because of my children's response, I shared the story with my wife, Andrea. Now you must realize that I had never written anything like this ever before, and my wife is an English teacher by degree. When she finished the book with tears in her eyes, she told me that I had to get the story published.
I didn't want to wait years for a publisher, so I had five copies printed up under a pen name and shared them with people who would give me honest feedback. It was scary because they didn't know I was the author. Their feedback was very positive, which I took as a sign to press on. Through our five-year self-publishing journey God gave amazing encouragement. In 2006, Multnomah picked up the books with tremendous enthusiasm and began republishing them.
WhereTheMapEnds: Great story. What is your favorite speculative genre to read? To write? If they’re different, talk about that.
Chuck Black: I love spiritual warfare. Everything I think about in terms of living the Christian life, speaking in seminars, or writing a new novel seems to be driven by it.
WhereTheMapEnds: How would you characterize the current state of Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Chuck Black: Just as in the film industry, I would describe it as "catching up." And by catching up I mean in the quality of the work. However, it is also my opinion that in our attempt to "catch up" with the secular world in quality, we often make the mistake of trying to imitate the secular world. I see Christian speculative fiction getting more grisly, sensual, and ungodly, often compromising God's call to be uncompromising in biblical standards.
The world cheers moral decadence but quietly hungers for truth, and we must be careful not to get lost in the noise of the cheering. God has called us to be the light of this world. I hope and pray that we as a Christian body of readers and writers don't pursue the secular success by imitation thereby not appearing to be any different as believers in Jesus Christ, Son of the most Holy God.
WhereTheMapEnds: Good point. We should never prostitute our message or ourselves to be liked by the world. On the other hand, different Christians are comfortable drawing these lines in different places. I have good Christian friends who swear, drink, dance [alas!], and do all kinds of things that other good Christians would never do. It’s not for us to judge the servant of another.
In Christian fiction, authors are drawing those lines in different places too. Who knows but that a novel that includes some of the things you’re referring to might reach a reader who wouldn’t be able to push through a book that seemed to be a bit too prudish for him or her. I’ve said before that a Christian with tattoos and piercings would be able to witness effectively in a biker bar long before choir-boy me would be able to.
Let’s do be sure we’re not leading anyone into sin, but let’s also celebrate the efforts of those who can present Christ to people we might not be able to reach.
What have you seen that encourages you about Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Chuck Black: I see fresh new minds bringing amazing creativity to a whole new genre. I see Holy Spirit inspired writing that dazzles both young and old through inspirational adventures that are coming to life in the pages of a book. At a recent book conference, an aspiring self-published author gave me a children's book on spiritual warfare that was beyond the quality in look, feel, and content than any other children's book I have ever read, and I've read a lot of the them! That is what I find encouraging.
WhereTheMapEnds: What would you like to see changed regarding Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Chuck Black: I would like to see a commitment to hold strong to biblical principles in what is being taught and promoted in our literature both as writers and publishers. Since all we are and believe in as Christians originates from Scripture, we dare not carry the title "Christian" on our work if it is contrary to our defining document.
WhereTheMapEnds: Amen to that. And we can also give grace to those who interpret the Bible earnestly but come down in different spots from us on certain doctrinal issuesWhat do you think Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing will look like in three years? Five years? Ten years?
Chuck Black: I think it looks exciting! I see
the secular world becoming more accepting of our work as the quality
continues to increase. This is happening in the film industry, and it
is exciting. It is also beginning to happen in the literary world, and
we should seize the opportunity. But we must be careful as we go so
that our ultimate purpose, to preach the gospel to all
nations, is fulfilled.
I attended one seminar where a prominent Christian music producer advised his listeners to keep a "fruit" file for encouragement, because there will be voices that tell you not to press on with the work God has given you. My "fruit" file has given me much inspiration during difficult days.
On a very literary, practical note, I heard some great advice in a Charlie Rose interview of John Grisham: Write one thousand words a day, and you will write a novel.
WhereTheMapEnds: What’s the best book or seminar on fiction writing you know?
Chuck Black: I honestly don't have extensive experience in this area, but I can share what book helped me immensely in my early writing. My first editor at Multnomah sent a book to me entitled Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. I found it to be an excellent tool.
WhereTheMapEnds: Talk about our defining documents. LOL. Fabulous book. Every novelist should own it. What’s the best part about writing and publishing Christian speculative fiction?
Chuck Black: I attend a lot of book conferences where I am blessed to be able to spend time with families and the young people who are reading books. For me, the best part about writing (and this keeps me going!) is to see the excitement in the eyes of a youth who has been inspired to serve God more valiantly because he or she has read one of my books.
WhereTheMapEnds: What writing project(s) are you working on now?
Chuck Black: I am actually at the beginning of two projects. One is a new Christian fiction series and the other is a book for dads using my military background to offer encouragement and advise to young fathers.
WhereTheMapEnds: What’s a cool speculative story idea you’ve had lately?
Chuck Black: It's so cool I'd have to shoot you if I
told you! Sorry…
WhereTheMapEnds: Okay, I'd rather live. What’s the best speculative story (Christian or secular, book or otherwise) you’ve encountered lately?
Chuck Black: I just finished a book by James Byron Huggins entitled The Reckoning. It was published in 1995, and I enjoyed it immensely.
WhereTheMapEnds: What else would you like to say to the readers of WhereTheMapEnds.com?
Chuck Black: God recently opened the door for a film(s) to be produced on the Kingdom Series books. Jess Stainbrook of Rivertree Films purchased the option for the rights. He is a strong believer with a heart to see the kingdom of God expand through quality Christian films. One of his films is just now releasing: Seven Days in Utopia starring Robert Duvall.
Please pray with me and my family as Jess pursues this enormous project. We both agree that this needs to be of Narnia quality and scope.
That's All for This Time
Another awesome interview! Thanks again to Chuck Black for stopping by. Be sure to visit him online.
If you missed any of our previous interviews with other speculative authors, including Frank Peretti, Jerry Jenkins, Karen Hancock, Tosca Lee, and Ted Dekker, you can read them here.
Come back next month for an interview with another heavy hitter in the world of Christian speculative fiction.