Please Welcome...Austin Boyd
What a joy to have Christian author Austin Boyd as our
interview guest at WhereTheMapEnds.com.
This is the third in a series of three interviews with up-and-coming
authors in Christian speculative fiction. There are many excellent
candidates for this category, but I have selected these three because
of their outstanding contributions to the fiction we love and because
of their interesting stories.
Austin is an intriguing guy. He's a former Navy pilot with 32 years
flight experience, a NASA astronaut finalist, the holder of patents
for top secret anti-terrorism inventions, a marketing VP for a
multi-billion-dollar defense contractor, an outspoken advocate of
crisis pregnancy centers, and the father of four children.
When it comes to his writing and his writing career, Austin is a
machine. No, really: he's cybernetic. How else can you explain his
iron discipline (up at 4 a.m. every morning to churn out his writing
quota for the day), his dynamic presence as a speaker, and his uncanny
marketing savvy and endless energy? I'm telling you, there are
positronic parts in this man.
Austin writes hard-SF thrillers based on actual technology in
development or in existence. His cautionary tales about the
colonization of Mars or bioengineering are as sobering to consider as
they are fun to read. He also writes military-flavored action stories.
And now the interview.
WhereTheMapEnds: Catch us up with what's going on in
Austin Boyd: I’ve been researching my next novel
series, diving deep into the intricacies of Islam. Oliver North and I
are releasing a book series in the fall of 2009 that will touch, in
part, on Islamic issues and Muslim characters. I’ve been knee deep in
books by Bernard Lewis and novels by Joel Rosenberg. It’s fascinating!
I’ve also been working hard at marketing my NavPress series [The
The Proof, and
The Return], developing an audio book of the
first three chapters of each book and a DVD of interviews, posters,
and promotional material. It’s been a very busy spring.
WhereTheMapEnds: What is your favorite speculative
novel of all time (Christian or secular) and why is that your
Austin Boyd: It’s a toss-up between three favorites:
Dolphin Boy (Ballatine Books, 1967) by Roy Meyers,
The Wizard of Oz by
Frank Baum, and Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I grew up on all
three, and they are all favorites because they put imaginary worlds in
my grasp… worlds I could escape to in my mind. As a child I dreamt of
writing in a way that took others to imaginary places, too. Now I get
to live that dream.
WhereTheMapEnds: So is that what made you want to
write speculative fiction?
Austin Boyd: My parents were the inspiration, in a
circuitous kind of way. More than anyone else, I wanted my mom and dad
to see Christians…and Christianity…in a way where we (Christians)
weren’t perfect, just forgiven. I wanted them to see real people
dealing with real problems, and upheld by God’s hand of grace and
love. And I wanted to create a 400-page tract for them, one that did
not read like a tract, a fun, action-packed novel infused with the
essence of Christ, inspiring my parents to want to know more about our
WhereTheMapEnds: That's a great story, Austin. My own
first novels were, in a way, an effort to witness to my dad. So how
was your first idea for a Christian speculative novel received (by
anyone: spouse, friends, parents, agent, publisher, readers,
Austin Boyd: My parents thought it was a great idea
[the idea behind The Evidence]. My wife thought I was nuts. Maybe
that’s because I spent so much time on a task that was, in her mind,
And then there was the terrorism plot… No one believed me in 1996 that
a terrorist would fly an airplane into the Pentagon to attack it. They
thought that strained the limits of credulity. When the attacks really
happened in 2001, I put the novel on the shelf for two years and
almost trashed it. I’m glad now that I didn’t.
WhereTheMapEnds: So am I! What is your favorite
speculative genre to read? To write? If they’re different, talk about
Austin Boyd: I like action thrillers best. I think…
I am just now diving into Joel Rosenberg’s work. It looks like it will
be fun [to write in that genre] but the old classics that I mentioned
above are the books that I can never forget. I’d like to write one
book like The Wizard of Oz or Tarzan in a lifetime. Wouldn’t we all?
WhereTheMapEnds: I'd like to write something that
endured like those and inspired generations of writers like those did,
that's for sure. Tell us, Austin, you're fairly new to the Christian
publishing industry, what's your take on it? How would you
characterize the current state of Christian speculative fiction
writing and/or publishing?
Austin Boyd: My perspective, because I am selling
those kinds of books successfully, is that the publishing industry is
doing well. I see my kind of action thriller writing out there more
today than I did five years ago. That’s good.
However, the state of publishing that I’m concerned about is the
artificial division between the “Inspirational Fiction” aisle and the
“Fiction-Literature” aisle in bookstores. I noticed today, buying all
four of Joel Rosenberg’s novels, that his Tyndale House books were in
the fiction section (not Inspirational section) at Barnes and Noble. I
would hope to do the same with my writing.
If we are going to be light for the world with our writing, one bridge
we will have to cross as writers, and ultimately as publishers, is
getting our books into the hands of the mainstream reader, what some
call a "secular" or "general market" reader. I’m concerned that we are
segregated from general fiction in almost all bookstores.
WhereTheMapEnds: I wonder how Tyndale got Joel's
books off of Death Row (er, out of the Christian fiction section) in
Barnes & Noble. Possibly because he'd written secular fiction
previously so book buyers already knew his name. Well, have you seen
anything that encourages you about Christian speculative fiction
writing and/or publishing?
Austin Boyd: The publishers are willing to take more
risks, diving into unusual books like Tosca Lee’s incredible work
Demon: A Memoir, or time travel books that take you back to early
Christendom. [Be sure to see the WhereTheMapEnds
interview with Tosca
I’m glad when I see publishers willing to tackle the incredibly
important issue of sexual abuse like Mary DeMuth and NavPress did so
beautifully in Watching the Tree Limbs and in her sequel, Wishing on
Dandelions. As long as we address only the easy issues, we will not
advance the genre of Christian fiction.
Tosca Lee and Mary DeMuth made some major impacts and I hope that more
publishers take on even harder issues. We live in a tough world and we
need to write about life in a realistic manner, but not in a gory or
prurient way, and always write with a message of hope.
WhereTheMapEnds: I agree. What have you seen that
discourages or frustrates you about Christian speculative fiction
writing and/or publishing?
Austin Boyd: I get the sense that the fantasy genre
is taking a back seat to other writing. I have heard you say, Jeff,
that you share that perspective. There are plenty of folks out there
writing Christian fantasy, but they are not finding interested
J.K. Rowling has touched a nerve in the readership of kids with her
Harry Potter series. Let’s do the same in Christian fantasy. Surely
there is a J.K. Rowling out there with a Christian message.
I’ll bet we haven’t given that Christian audience that likes fantasy
writing, largely a youth audience, the products that they deserve.
WhereTheMapEnds: Preach it, brother! Amen. What would
you like to see changed regarding Christian speculative fiction
writing and/or publishing?
Auston Boyd: In the publishing world, I’d like to see
more “out of the box” marketing ideas. I’m a marketing person in my
real job, and I feel like most of publishing uses “tried and true
approaches” to marketing, yet the entire science of marketing is just
the opposite: you have to find new and innovative ways to capture the
public’s attention. You have to do that every day.
If that weren’t true, geckos would not be selling car insurance and
nerds with cell phones in their ears wouldn’t be selling wireless
service. You have to get outside the box. I don’t see much of that
innovative thinking [in the marketing of Christian fiction].
But then, I’m pretty new to the industry. Take my comments for what
they are: the rantings of a “newbie.”
WhereTheMapEnds: You and I have talked about this
before. You know how deeply I agree with you. If any publishers are
reading this, take my advice: hire Austin Boyd as a marketing
consultant for your fiction line. He comes up with fresh ideas like
crazy. Austin, would you like to take a stab at predicting what you
think Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing will
look like in three years? Five years? Ten years?
Austin Boyd: My vision for what it looks like,
because I intend to have a hand in helping to shape this, is a lower
wall between inspirational fiction and general fiction, if in fact the
wall endures at all.
I want to see marketing and writing done in such a way that many of
our novels find their way to the general fiction aisle. I think we’ll
get there in ten years. It might only happen through publishers
creating new imprints, but it will definitely happen.
Some innovative publishers have already told me that they share my
vision and that they are making plans to accomplish that bridging
action between inspirational and general market products.
My [personal] tag line is “a novel approach to truth.” That’s what we
need: truth in the pages of a novel, but in a way where the novel does
not come off as a blatant Christian apologetic when you read it. Yet
the novel tugs at you to know more about this faith you’ve just
WhereTheMapEnds: What a victory that would be, to
"tear down this wall"! What advice would you give to someone who
aspires to write and publish Christian speculative fiction?
Austin Boyd: Write for God, not to get published. If
you feel led to write, then write. If publishing is in God’s plan,
you’ll understand His plan over time if you are investing yourself in
And invest in yourself. Assume your writing is not nearly as keen as
you think it is. Hire a freelance editor (I use Jeff Gerke, for one)
and let that editor kick your teeth in a few times, forcing you to
rewrite your material and learn the craft through practice and
critique. Over time, you’ll refine your writing to the point, using
your own money, that it really shines.
WhereTheMapEnds: I promise, I didn't put him up to
that prop (Austin, you'll find your cash in the usual place). What’s
the best book or seminar on fiction writing you know?
Austin Boyd: Without a doubt, Plot and Structure by
James Scott Bell. That book, along with the Bible and
Fiction Writers are the three most important books in my library…and I
have hundreds of books.
James Scott Bell provides all the basics you need to lay out a
fantastic book, and he shows you how to develop the discipline you
need to finish the work on time. Using his techniques, I wrote the
first draft of a Christy award finalist (The Proof) in 10 weeks. Get
Bell’s book! Then hire a freelance editor. Between those two, you
can’t go wrong.
WhereTheMapEnds: What’s the best part about writing
and publishing Christian speculative fiction?
Austin Boyd: Losing yourself in the story. I walk or
ride my bicycle and talk to the characters, talk through the plot, or
just pray over book ideas. I love investing myself in all the plot
threads, running some into dark quicksand corners that can’t possibly
succeed, and finally hitting on the winning option that makes the
entire book a winner. Those “Aha!” moments are the most thrilling part
of the writing process.
WhereTheMapEnds: What writing project(s) are you
working on now?
Austin Boyd: I am researching Islam for a novel
series I am writing with Oliver North. I have learned some fascinating
things about the Muslim faith, and encourage everyone to get informed
on what Muslims believe, and why.
I’m also researching a novel series I would like to complete in a
couple of years based on some new technologies that are coming in
medicine that will change our lives in twenty years or less. That
story’s still under wraps.
WhereTheMapEnds: What’s a cool speculative story idea
you’ve had lately?
Austin Boyd: I’m working on a fantasy series for kids
based on life in the woods, and critters you never ever see. Just
because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there, right?
WhereTheMapEnds: Absolutely. I was just saying that
to my brownie at lunch. (No, wait, I just ate a brownie at lunch. Oh,
no--what have I done!) What’s the best speculative story (Christian or
secular, book or otherwise) you’ve encountered lately?
Austin Boyd: I recently read 1984 by George Orwell.
It’s a fascinating look at life and Orwell’s idea of the world 35
years after he wrote the book. Some parts of it are particularly eerie
in the context of the Patriot Act and post-September 11 security
measures. It stretches your mind.
WhereTheMapEnds: What else would you like to say to
the readers of WhereTheMapEnds.com?
Austin Boyd: Write for God, not for man. Write with a
passion to share the good news of Jesus Christ, and do it in a way
that is gentle enough that readers will cross the aisle at the
bookstore to pick up your book on the inspirational fiction aisle.
Get outside the box with your ideas and your marketing, but remain
true to the Christian faith. Invest in yourself to improve your craft
and you’ll be amazed at what happens!
And when all else fails, read. Read your Bible first.
That's All for This Time
Another excellent interview in the books! Thanks again to Austin Boyd. Be sure to
visit him online.
And if you missed the previous months' interviews with other speculative
authors, including Frank Peretti, Jerry Jenkins,
Karen Hancock, Tosca Lee, and
Ted Dekker, you can
And be sure to come back next month for an interview with another mover
and shaker in the world of Christian speculative fiction.