Friday, August 22, 2008

Interview with Dean Briggs

I am so excited to spot light Dean Briggs. His new book Book of Names is very intriguing and I think both adults and teens would find this a great book. You can read the first chapter in yesterdays post. If you would like to win a copy of this novel. Please leave a comment and a way to get in touch with you.

*Please tell us a little about yourself.
Well, let's see: I'm nearing forty and starting to gray a little, but not too bad. I'm in good health, but find myself creaking a bit after exercise. Way too short of breath climbing the stairs, but still quite lackadaisical about that darn treadmill. I'm lucky to have found love twice in one lifetime, and way too proud of my kids. I think Battlestar Galactica is the best show on television, and Macs are the only computers worth powering on (yeah, I'm one of those people). I like coffee, but I'm not a Starbucks fanatic. I'm tech savvy, but still a bit confused by the whole social networking thing. I want to go to Ireland again, this time for a month. Finally, if you must know, I wish I liked gardening, but I don't. Instead, I like the idea of gardening, but not the work. :)

*What is the craziest experience you have ever had?
Finding myself falling in love again, when I did not think love would ever be possible. I remarried, gained four more kids, restarted life, and the whole thing has been amazing.

*We know that you are a parent of eight children and with that you must have some amazing advice for parents. What is the one thing every parent should do or know?
Helpful tip: When there's too much noise in the house, just turn the TV up louder. Ha! Just kidding, of course. (In reality, my wife and I maybe catch one show a week). Having eight kids is certainly challenging, but I doubt if it really qualifies me as an expert. Even so, I think my advice could be summed up in two words: be deliberate. Be involved. My wife and I share an equal commitment to involvement. Think about it: the older you get, the faster time flies, right? It's so easy to get caught up in the busyness of raising children---feeding schedules, diapers, toddler moods, Little League, etc.---especially when they are young---that around about age 8 or 9 you realize half of this child's life with me is gone. You have another 9 years, or 5 years, and then they're off to college. That is a sobering thought. So make the memories now, in the middle of the busyness. Don't get so caught up in the process of job, soccer, lawn mowing, laundry and meals that you miss the pleasure of the moments all those things are meant to afford. And yes, deliberateness goes beyond memories. It means if we tell one of our kids to do something, we follow up. We don't just offer a prayer and assume it gets done. For all of the hair-pulling frustration this might cause the child, the sense of personal value it instills is worth it. Involvement (even on chores) tells them, whether they know it or not, they matter. They occupy a place in the family that bears weight, has consequence. In and of itself, the chore matters, too, so we're building excellence. But even more, they matter, and that's why they are receiving our attention until the job is done right. We also schedule time each week to spend with our kids individually. In the midst of all the busyness, we realized it simply wasn't happening. A week, a month, might slip by, and we'd find ourselves looking at each other and thinking, we've been around our kids a lot, but not really with them. And you know what? In this Wii-XBox-iPod-Digital world, we have found that our children look forward to, and depend upon, that time more than any other moment in the week. From our 7-year olds up to our 17-year old. They want that time. Deliberate in love, in discipline. Deliberate enough to upset them with firmness, and surprise them with gentleness. Deliberate = time. Attention. But the payoff is relationship, and children with a healthy sense of security and placement in the family.
*Other than Grace and Salvation, what is the greatest gift you have ever received?
Forgiveness. Not only from the Lord, but from people I've hurt. I don't know if it counts for the question, but I love to laugh, too. I love making people laugh. It's like a gift to me every time it happens. More specifically, I love everything about the process and pleasure of humor, wit and sarcasm. I've been fortunate in my life to have witty friends, spouses and family. It is constant source of joy.
*Tell us about The Book of Names.
A bit of backstory is required, and it is marked with pain. In fact, attempting to summarize almost feels brutal and violating. Nevertheless, here's the condensed version: after 16 wonderful years of marriage, I lost my wife to cancer. Even now, typing those words, it all seems so unbelievable. We had a fantastic life together. I was, and in many ways still am, utterly shattered. I was 36 years old at the time, and had four boys to raise. After a long, grueling period of numbness, anger and grief, I decided it was time to write again. I needed to write again. In spite of my history of medical thrillers (The God Spot - 1999, The Most Important Little Boy in the World - 2001), fantasy has always been my favorite genre. I decided to tell a tale my boys could relate to. I did so as a method of grieving, as therapy, as a gift to my four boys. It's an adventure, an unabashed fantasy full of magic and adventure. Readers will be able to enjoy it on those terms. But for us, it's real life, also. A story of loss, displacement, courage---our journey together, longing for another world, while trying to live well in this one. In fact, the names of the heroes are the names of my four sons (close variants, anyway).The premise is Narnia-esque: After their mother's untimely death from cancer, four brothers must relocate from all they've ever known to rural Newland, Missouri. Little do the boys realize the move is no accident, but the result of years of research by their father into the location of a particular Ancient Civilization Portal. The discovery of this portal transports the two oldest brothers, Hadyn and Ewan, to the world of Karac Tor, where they must join the fight against evil in a mind-blowing world of magic, myth and legend. In the Hidden Lands of Karac Tor, names are being stolen from the mystical Book of Names, and it falls to the Barlow brothers to figure out what is happening. Other books in the series will involve other combinations of brothers. Through the perils of Karac Tor, the boys will discover more about themselves, grow as brothers, and learn to live heroically.In the process, hopefully, a range of emotions can be felt and released, that go beyond merely sword-and-sorcery heroics. In a small but important way, it has been healing for my heart.

*What do you want your readers to walk away with after reading The Book of Names?
I want people to think, "Wow, that was good! When's the next one coming out?" I want them to feel emotion, be stirred with thrills and chills, be thoughtful, and then by Chapter 2 imagine themselves right in the middle of the story. Everything else is gravy.
*Why do you choose to write for the Christian market?
Good question. Frankly, I was close to abandoning it, and pursuing ABA publication. The secular world gets fantasy. Years ago, I had tried to publish fantasy, before Harry Potter made the genre cool again, and before Peter Jackson and Walden Media caused a resurgence of interest in Tolkien and Lewis. Suddenly, it seemed Christian publishers began to realize all over again that redeemed imagination is a good thing. Then came Bryan Davies, Donita K. Paul and Wayne Thomas Batson. I was heartened by their success. I wanted to join them, and raise the bar. I wanted to create a compelling YA fantasy fiction series on par with great past and current secular series. Sad, but true: though age appropriate, my kids have zero interest in reading most CBA-YA fare, even though they devour secular fantasy. Why? In my experience, classic ABA-YA fantasy fiction (L'Engle, Cooper, Alexander, LeGuin, etc.)---even when written with pre-teen or teen protagonists---is not "dumbed down" in an attempt to appeal to those ages. Rather, they are written in a literate, engaging manner that adults can enjoy as well. (The most obvious recent example is the Harry Potter phenomenon; however, I, like many Christian parent, take issue with the series as a whole). So...I am not interested in trite, patronizing, preachy kid stories. Never have been, never will be. I'm interested in compelling narratives and interesting, authentic characters that draw readers young and old into a bang-up good fantasy adventure, steeped in a worldview of authentic struggle and faith. Our kids aren't too young for that, they're begging for it! So through the books and the website (, I've tried to build an immersive milieu in which readers can deeply invest themselves.

*I often here that writers have to have certain thing around them when they write such as chocolate, tea or mood music? What do you have surrounding you when you are writing?
Oh boy, confession time. I imagine my writing habits would be appalling to most pros. I simply don't have the time to separate myself completely from the noise of life to "do writing." Often, come evening, I'm out in the living room laying on the couch with my laptop on my stomach, typing away. That way I at least get to be around my kids, rather than locked away. Sometimes the noise level is prohibitive, and I have to retreat to the bedroom. My only fetish is to turn on some Enya or other ethereal melodies (or Narada or Windham Hill instrumentals), and get to work.

*Thank you so much for dropping by. Any last words for the readers? Where can readers find you in the future?
Hopefully, on the shelves! And at my web site or Shoutlife or Facebook page. I'm trying to focus as much time as I can on building writing into a full-time career. So if readers enjoy my stuff, hopefully they'll tell others and help spread the word. I'm thankful for blogs like this that help me connect with my audience. I'm putting the finishing touches on Book 2, Corus the Champion, and starting Book 3, The Song of Unmaking, even as we speak. Thanks for letting me drop by!

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