R.J. Sullivan Blog Interview: Kathy Tyers Part 2
Q: When you wrote the first Firebird books as secular novels, were you aware of the salvation message even then, or is this something you drew out in the rewrites? Did writing for a Christian Fiction house help bring out the message you wanted, or create problems you had to work around?
KT: The Bantam Books version was more of a “cultural conversion story,” but I feel the potential always was there. I had a great time thinking through Brennen’s heritage from a religious viewpoint, brainstorming possibilities and running them past my friends. The assistant pastor at my church was a particular help with Fusion Fire, which deals with the existence of evil within and without.
Q: What surprises can readers of the secular and previous Christian Fiction versions of the Firebird series expect in this new re-release?
KT: My favorite “surprise” is a set of maps, beautifully adapted from my hand-drawn originals by the gifted Jamie Upschulte. The new titles continue the family saga for two more generations, and our heroes are there. Just a glimpse in Wind and Shadow. More centrally in Daystar.
Q: Okay, here’s the question I’ve been dying to ask for years. Would you agree with my assessment that Crown of Fire seems to indicate your struggle as a believer wishing to serve God with your talent juxtaposed with the temptation of chasing bestselling fame as a “name” author on the wildly popular Star Wars books? Did this create a dichotomy in your career path? If so, how did you approach this then and how do you approach it now?
KT: It’s actually more complicated than that. Crown was originally supposed to be Books 3 and 5 of that expanded series I proposed to Bethany House. And the Star Wars books were all written by invitation, so honestly, it wasn’t possible to “chase fame” by writing more and more of them. By the time Crown was contracted to be published, I was far more emotionally invested in the Firebird series than in Star Wars, although I will always owe SW a deep professional debt. I even considered turning down the invitation to write Balance Point, because I was writing Crown when the offer came. My Bethany editor, Steve Laube, essentially said “are you nuts?”
Q: In the mid-2000s you went “off the grid” on a sabbatical for several years. Was Kathy on a “walkabout?”
KT: You might call it a walkabout, or maybe a pilgrimage. When my husband eventually lost his battle with alcohol abuse in 2004, I was too physically and emotionally exhausted to write. I took in a German exchange student for a year. I attended a C.S.Lewis conference at Oxford and taught at a writing conference in Pennsylvania. Then I went back to school.
Regent College in Vancouver, BC calls itself the unSeminary. It offers programs for Christians from all professions. Its focus on God as both Creator and Redeemer means that people who work in the arts—all the arts—are respected, challenged, and nurtured in community. It was a perfect fit, and I got used to working under a new kind of stress. Writing papers was comparatively easy for me (and I loved doing research in their fabulous library), but cramming for exams all those years out of undergrad … yikes! I studied Christian thought and culture, Biblical books, systematic theology, history, Hebrew, postmodernity, exegesis, etc., and sang in a gospel choir—and for my thesis project, I was required to create a full-length work in my chosen art form. I assumed God would nudge me in a new direction, possibly poetry. What took shape, starting just a few weeks after I arrived in Vancouver, was a novel about Firebird and Brennen’s sons. That book, Wind and Shadow, has a different tone from the original novels. Of course—I was in theology school when I wrote it!
Almost as soon as I came back home, I stumbled on an idea for a contemporary fantasy, which I am also writing. With The Annotated Firebird, Wind and Shadow, and Daystar under contract at Marcher Lord Press and Holy Ground well underway, I think the walkabout is officially over.
Q: How does it feel to find your newsgroup of fans still active with discussion and anticipation, patiently waiting for your return into the spotlight?
KT: That group has become a circle of friends, no longer focused on my books but on each other. I love that! I hope they still get a kick out of the new books.
Q: With social media, ebooks, the internet, etc., how have these innovations changed how you will go about promoting your upcoming releases versus the methods of the early 90s?
KT: The changes in my promotion calendar have more to do with my new publisher than anything else. Marcher Lord sells online only, so there probably won’t be any book signings. The focus will be on email, interviews, and conferences—starting with the February 2011 “Writing for the Soul” conference in Denver. It’s put on annually by the Christian Writers Guild. I’m scheduled to teach a two-day intermediate workshop on Point of View as well as a clinic on writing dialogue.
Q: Through the years I have known many openly Christian authors of secular fiction, who struggle with guilt and even receive judgment from other believers for their content. Many writers (I subscribe to this viewpoint) feel that holding a magnifying glass on the sinful nature of mankind struggling in our fallen world is a valid use of their gifts and not a contradiction to their beliefs. Do you have a response?
KT: At Regent College, I was exposed to some authors who’ve written thoughtfully about many aspects of being a Christian author, poet, musician, filmmaker, potter, etc. Let me point your readers toward Dorothy L. Sayers, Madeleine L’Engle, Nicholas Woltersdorff, Kathleen Norris, Jeremy Begbie, Alan Jacobs, and Maxine Hancock. Essentially, I agree with you: the real questions aren’t about superficial censorship but the sacramentality of creation, our honest humility in art and art criticism, and being choosy about which hill we really want to die on.
Q: Thank you very much for agreeing to this interview, Kathy! God Bless and I look forward to reading the next chapter in the adventures of Lady Firebird and the writing career of Kathy Tyers.
KT: All my best to you too, Bob. Thanks!
Learn more about Kathy at:
Yahoogroup: Lady Firebird Signup page: