Please Welcome...David Gregory
This month our interview guest is Christian speculative fiction novelist David Gregory!
David is a native Texan who moved to Oregon five years ago. He went to the University of Texas, has a degree in business, and worked in compensation management for ten years before taking early retirement to figure out what he wanted to do when he grew up. He earned a masters degrees at the University of North Texas and Dallas Theological Seminary and wrote and edited for two ministries in Dallas before transitioning to a career as a full-time fiction writer.
David says he had to learn much of the art of writing after he got into the writing business. He never anticipated or even aspired to a career as a fiction writer, but God opened the door and taking that plunge was the obvious choice to make. The hard work for him came, not in getting into the business, but learning how to stay in it and manage a writing career. That’s something he says he's still learning.
So, without any further ado, on with the interview...
WhereTheMapEnds: Catch us up with you. What have you been doing lately?
David Gregory: The Last Christian was released in May 2012 by WaterBrook Press. The story is placed in 2088 and involves the daughter of American missionaries in New Guinea who, at 35, emerges into the civilized world for the first time, travels to the U.S, and discovers Christianity has completely died out here. Commissioned by God to restart it, she finds herself in a life and death struggle with the world’s leading artificial intelligence industrialist, who has invented a way to download the human brain’s operation into artificial form, essentially offering technological eternal life.
I’m currently working on a political novel to be released during the 2012 presidential election cycle. My writing interests tend to vary widely!
WhereTheMapEnds: Yes, I can see that. I love the idea of technology providing a way to cheat death. It's the perfect topic for Christian novels to explore. R. E. Bartlett did so with her The Personfid Project and the sequel, the MLP debut novel The Personifid Invasion. What is your favorite speculative novel of all time (Christian or secular) and why is that your favorite?
David Gregory: A Wrinkle in Time. I loved it as a child and still do, for the battle it portrays between good and evil and the overcoming power of love. Much more recently, I loved The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. It was so unrelentingly bleak, I couldn’t put it down. The message of hope and grace at the end of the book was powerful. I felt the same way at the end of Children of Men, by P.D. James.
WhereTheMapEnds: What made you want to write Christian speculative fiction?
David Gregory: I never really set out to write speculative fiction, or even fiction, for that matter. I started writing my first book, Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, my last semester in seminary. I wanted a book that I personally could use as an evangelistic tool, and this story came to me about Jesus meeting with a modern day agnostic. I never dreamed it would become a top seller or even be picked up by a publisher.
That door having opened to me, however, I find speculative fiction not only fun to contemplate but also a great way to touch readers with a message that’s on my heart.
WhereTheMapEnds: It's interesting to me how many people interviewed on this column have said they never intended to write speculative. I love how God directs people to writing what I believe is His favorite genre. [grin] How was your first idea for a Christian speculative novel received (by anyone: spouse, friends, parents, agent, publisher, readers, reviewers, etc.)?
David Gregory: Extremely well, since it became a bestseller. The funniest response I had came from one of my favorite seminary professors, whom I asked to read the manuscript and provide a theological critique. He did, and the first thing he wrote on the manuscript was, “This was better than I expected.” I think that was a compliment.
WhereTheMapEnds: Awesome. It makes you want to know what he thought you would produce. What is your favorite speculative genre to read? To write? If they’re different, talk about that.
David Gregory: My reading tends toward science fiction, though more of the C.S. Lewis variety than Star Trek. (I like my Star Trek, etc. in TV and movie form.)
I’m not sure my fiction writing falls into a specific speculative genre. But everything I’ve written—almost every book idea I have, as a matter of fact—involves imagining something that wouldn’t ever really happen and creating a story around it.
I think imagining the world in a different way provides a great platform from which to challenge people to think about what they believe, which is what much of my writing is about.
WhereTheMapEnds: Ah, yes, the power of fiction in general and of Christian speculative fiction in particular. How would you characterize the current state of Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
WhereTheMapEnds: Go, Jim! What have you seen that encourages you about Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
David Gregory: The most encouraging thing, I think, is that the quality is getting so much better. You will still read critics on Amazon that say, “This isn’t great literature,” etc., but most literature isn’t great from a classic perspective.
What’s heartening is that authors—often new authors like Rubart—are developing stories that are so creative and that touch people’s hearts. That’s what I look for in a book.
WhereTheMapEnds: What have you seen that discourages or frustrates you about Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
David Gregory: Ask me after I see how my next book does! I found after The Last Christian came out that people were labeling it as “Christian science fiction,” which I think pigeonholed it a bit. I never envisioned it that way while I was writing it, although it is placed 80 years in the future and does have an artificial intelligence plot line running through it. I was just projecting current trends out a few decades and writing a story about what my main character might encounter.
WhereTheMapEnds: Well, for future reference, projecting into the future to imagine what it might be like is science fiction. Speaking of predictions about the future, what do you think Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing will look like in three years? Five years? Ten years?
David Gregory: The stories will continue getting better. The audience will continue growing. The field is wide enough, and untapped enough, that the future looks quite bright. Plus, I think more movies will be made from these books. The Narnia movies. The Book of Eli. The movie version of The Shack is in development. There’s a real market for such material.
WhereTheMapEnds: I certainly hope you're right. What advice would you give to someone who aspires to write and publish Christian speculative fiction?
David Gregory: Have a good story that comes from the heart, that you are passionate about, and write it well. There’s always a market for that. Don’t try to guess what the market is seeking. By the time you finish the book, the market will likely have changed.
WhereTheMapEnds: Good counsel. What’s the best book or seminar on fiction writing you know?
David Gregory: I recommend the annual American Christian Fiction Writers’ conference. It’s not cheap, but it has a wealth of good instruction, encouragement, interaction, and invaluable meetings with agents and publishing house editors for anyone trying to break into the business.
WhereTheMapEnds: Indeed, the ACFW conference is the best Christian writers conference for fiction. What’s the best part about writing and publishing Christian speculative fiction?
David Gregory: Getting paid. Ha! But seriously, not too many people do what I’m currently doing, which is writing Christian speculative fiction as my only source of income. Most everyone writes on the side, or their spouse brings in additional (or the primary) income.
When I was writing Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, I had the luxury of simply writing when I felt inspired. No one was waiting for it, and I took a year and a half to write 100 pages. There’s something to be said for that approach, for the quality it can produce, and for the pure enjoyment of writing. Now that I actually have a writing career, I have to be more intentional about my writing, which has been an adjustment for me.
Apart from the career aspect, though, it’s so very meaningful when someone tells me how one of my books has touched them, been meaningful in their life. Some writers primarily want to write a great story, which is fine. My motivation has always been to positively affect people’s lives. When that happens, it’s very heartening.
WhereTheMapEnds: What writing project(s) are you working on now?
David Gregory: I’m working on a political novel that I anticipate being released during the presidential election cycle in 2012. Political speculative fiction. Is that a genre?
WhereTheMapEnds: If enough of any kind of novel comes out and does well, it's a genre! What’s the best speculative story (Christian or secular, book or otherwise) you’ve encountered lately?
David Gregory: Almost every episode of Fringe, on Fox.
That's All for This Time
Thanks for chatting with us, David. May God continue to bless your writing career. You can find David online here.
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 read them here.
And be sure to come back next month for an interview with another mover and shaker in the world of Christian speculative fiction.