Please Welcome...Linda Rios Brook
This month our interview guest is Christian speculative fiction novelist Linda Rios Brook.
Linda spent many years in television working with ABC, CBS, and NBC as the president and general manager of affiliates in Texas, Florida, and Minnesota. In 1991, she found herself in the middle of frenzy in both the secular and Christian media when she resigned her position from the Gannett-owned NBC affiliate in Minneapolis over an issue of religious freedom.
The following year she, along with her husband, Larry, and a handful of investors, bought an independent television station out of bankruptcy in St. Paul, MN, for $3.2 million. They managed the station for seven years then sold it to a large media conglomerate for $52.5 million net to the shareholders. After that she ran a private foundation for a few years for the advancement of faith through media.
Linda also completed four years of education for ministry through the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, and she has a doctorate in practical ministry from the Wagner Leadership Institute.
In addition to The Reluctant Demon Diaries (the fourth title of which, The Redeemer, released May 3rd, 2011), Linda has written three non-fiction books, Wake Me When It’s Over, Frontline Christians in a Bottom line World, and Jesus for Adults.
And now, the interview...
WhereTheMapEnds: Catch us up with you. What have you been doing lately?
Linda Rios Brook: I am presently the teaching pastor at Covenant Centre International in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. My favorite assignment at CCI is leading a Wednesday night discussion group called “Relevant Faith.” It is an interactive class that examines the challenges and issues of today through a faith lens. The people who participate come from a wide band of religious and cultural experiences, meaning they see the world in diverse and sometimes unorthodox ways.
The purpose of the class is twofold: (1) to demonstrate that it is indeed possible for reasonable people to passionately disagree without splitting the church (it is a laboratory for respectful consideration of the deeply held beliefs of others), and (2) to allow people to practice talking about the faith component of life lived at the speed of the Internet, and to prepare them to join as followers of Jesus in conversation with the rest of the world.
WhereTheMapEnds: What is your favorite speculative novel of all time (Christian or secular) and why is that your favorite?
Linda Rios Brook: To me the gold standard for speculative fiction are the Peretti books This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. These books are written by one who understands the nature of evil.
WhereTheMapEnds: What made you want to write Christian speculative fiction?
Linda Rios Brook: To be completely honest, I decided to write the first book of the series, Lucifer’s Flood, as a fictional account of pre-creation and re-creation of the earth when I couldn’t find anyone to take it seriously as nonfiction. In fiction form, the ideas that have provoked many readers to take a second look at what Scripture says—and doesn’t say—are the same ideas that made publishers nervous to consider it for nonfiction. As one editor said to me, “It’s not that we think you’re ideas are wrong; it’s that we’re too small a house to handle the controversy.”
WhereTheMapEnds: How was your first idea for a Christian speculative novel received (by anyone: spouse, friends, parents, agent, publisher, readers, reviewers, etc.)?
Linda Rios Brook: Most people were instantly
intrigued when I asked the premise question: What if an angel fell by mistake?
The typical response was, “It’s a movie.”
Linda Rios Brook: Although I am not sure they would be classified as speculative, Dr. Greg Boyd’s books God at War and Satan and the Problem of Evil were mind-benders for me. I believe angels and demons exist in a parallel dimension, and that between their reality and our own is a thin veil. Once in while, something from “the other side” penetrates the veil and purposefully interacts with humans for good or evil.
I read a lot of history of ancient religious cultures, Fingerprints of the Gods, and books on quantum physics— that is, quantum physics for dummies :) —to try to grasp the concept of alternative universes. Sort of like Einstein without the IQ.
WhereTheMapEnds: The idea of the veil between our world and the spirit world is behind the Celtic concept of samhain, the night once a year when that barrier is thinnest. It’s the Gaelic holiday behind Halloween. So Linda, how would you characterize the current state of Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Linda Rios Brook: E-books and the Internet have brought chaos into the traditional financial models of success. With hundreds of thousands of titles released each year in some form, one has to wonder how traditional publishing houses must change for survival—and what that means for writers who consider this a career.
WhereTheMapEnds: We do live in interesting times, don’t we? I like to call it Revenge of the Writers. For so long, publishers have dictated what can and can’t be published, resulting in the marginalization of many excellent authors and genres. Now, for good or ill, that power bloc is being swept aside.
What have you seen that encourages you about Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Linda Rios Brook: Let me speak to the only circumstance I know anything about. The publisher of The Reluctant Demon Diaries is Realms, a division of Charisma Media. Although more than once they asked me to write a defense of the theology, the editors were willing to give me a wide berth in presenting the well-known characters of the Bible in ways most people had not considered before.
You see, the story follows the history of the Jews based on Jewish commentary of Scripture, which most Christians have never read. Those commentaries suggest things like: that Abraham would have been satisfied to have Ishmael be the heir, that Bathsheba was a victim not a seductress, that Jael and Deborah were girlfriends (at least in Satan’s explanation), and that David may have been “the man after God’s own heart” but he was also a terrible father and husband and lived a torturous life after he had Uriah killed. Very non-traditional interpretations.
So Realms took a risk that their audience would be able to process a completely different look at the humanity revealed in these stories.
WhereTheMapEnds: Bravo for Realms! Interesting stuff. (Back in the day, I had the honor of spearheading the launch of Realms.) Okay, well, what have you seen that discourages or frustrates you about Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Linda Rios Brook: It seems to me that some publishers are of the mind that readers of Christian books somehow live in a more antiseptic world than the rest of the earth people—or that Christian readers and viewers of Christian television are the same people, which I strongly contend they are not—but that’s another issue.
WhereTheMapEnds: To your first point, I agree that we don’t live in another world. But there is a sense, based on what kinds of Christian fiction sell well and which kinds do not, that these readers prefer to read about a more antiseptic world than the one they find themselves in. I can see that point. I don’t necessarily want to read Christian fiction that feels just like secular fiction, at least in terms of R-rated content, for instance.
To your second point, I think you’re probably right.
What would you like to see changed regarding Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Linda Rios Brook: More risk.
WhereTheMapEnds: LOL. Well, as the economy continues to founder, I think you’re going to see less and less risk from traditional Christian publishers. Publishing is really gambling, so it’s a risk anyway. But now they’re wanting the safest bets they can find. It’s the small publishers (like Marcher Lord Press) that can seize the opportunities we’re seeing now.
What do you think Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing will look like in three years? Five years? Ten years?
Linda Rios Brook: There will be more risk. There has to be. There is a 500-year shift taking place in the faith today, according to Phyllis Tickle, N.T. Wright, and others. The local church is realizing that its audience has changed. Publishers will be challenged to realize it as well.
WhereTheMapEnds: What advice would you give to someone who aspires to write and publish Christian speculative fiction?
Linda Rios Brook: Write, but keep your day job.
WhereTheMapEnds: Exactly. Find something to support yourself while you’re pursuing your dream. So what’s the best book or seminar on fiction writing you know?
Linda Rios Brook: I have never read a book nor attended a seminar on writing. But I am sure I would be much further ahead in my novelist career if I had.
WhereTheMapEnds: What’s the best part about writing and publishing Christian speculative fiction?
Linda Rios Brook: When I sit down to write, I don't really know where the story is going that day, and sometimes I can hardly wait to see how it ends.
WhereTheMapEnds: The fun of discovery in writing.
It's like nothing else. What writing project are you working
WhereTheMapEnds: How funny that you wanted to go with
nonfiction first, and now you’re right back to it. Wonderful for you. What’s a cool speculative story idea
you’ve had lately?
WhereTheMapEnds: A guy's gotta try. What’s the best speculative story (Christian or secular, book or otherwise) you’ve encountered lately?
Linda Rios Brook: Love Wins – Good News for Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell. Whether it is speculative or not depends on how bound to traditional Calvinistic doctrine the reader might be.
WhereTheMapEnds: Interesting choice. So what else would you like to say to the readers of WhereTheMapEnds.com?
Linda Rios Brook: Let me thank you, Jeff, for being
invited to your site. I love feedback and continued dialogue with
people of differing points of view. I can be contacted at
www.reluctantdemondiaries.com or on Facebook.
That's All for This Time
Another awesome interview! Thanks again to Linda Rios Brook for stopping by. Be sure to visit her 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.