Karen Hancock broke new ground writing Christian fantasy novels of exceptional quality when she released Arena in 2002 and The Light of Eidon in 2003. I have been captivated by her characters and their spiritual journeys in all her books and am looking forward to more of Karen’s stories. Despite breaking her arm (yes, the writing one!) Karen found time to answer my many questions:~
Please share some of your writing/publishing journey with us
I’ve been making up stories for my own amusement ever since I can remember and started writing them down when I was about 13. I wrote an entire novel (western) in high school. After marriage and college, we had moved to northern Arizona and I had a lot of time on my hands – no car, no job, no children, my husband working long hours, few friends – and was complaining about a best seller I was reading at the time. My husband suggested I write my own book if I didn’t like the ones I read (not knowing of my previous writing experience) and the next day I started doing just that.
I was a Christian by then, having been saved in college and decided to return to my western, but make it a Christian story now, because Christianity was what excited and interested me. About six months after that I saw the very first Star Wars movie, was impressed by the analogies to Christianity I saw in it, and scrapped the western for science fiction. That subsequently turned to fantasy, and became the four books in the Legends of the Guardian King, now nearly 30 years later.
I wrote the first two volumes in that series and got an agent in the general market, but the books were not taken, and I was told to write something entirely different. So I wrote Arena, which also was rejected from the general market. Then the Lord arranged for me to go to the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s conference where I met Steve Laube, then an editor for Bethany House. A year and a half later, at Steve’s urging they bought it. When it came time for Arena to release in 2002, the reviews were so good on it, the Bethany House marketing department bought all four of the Guardian-King books – and published them, the last of the series, Return of the Guardian King, having come out last April (2007).
Why Christian fiction?
Firstly, Christianity is my passion and my life, and one is always supposed to write about what one knows and cares most deeply about. Secondly, I believe I’ve been called to illuminate in my books the reality of the unseen Angelic Conflict going on around us, and the character and nature of God as He relates to that conflict and to us. I don’t think I could write something that wasn’t explicitly Christian.
What kept you busy before the writing bug bit?
I started writing my stories down in the eighth grade, as I mentioned earlier, so I can’t recall much of what kept me busy then. [smile] However, my other interests include or have included sketching and painting (watercolour), home schooling, reading, movies, hiking, camping, backpacking and our dogs.
What project or book are you working on now?
Currently I’m working on a standalone for Bethany House tentatively titled Black Box. Unrelated to Legends of the Guardian-King, Black Box is more like Arena in that it has a contemporary setting, but is a world within our world rather than a world outside of our world. It follows a young genetics graduate, Lacey McHenry, who accepts a prestigious research fellowship at a world-renowned longevity institute, seeing it as a new start on a life that’s so far gone nowhere. But when a disturbing late night encounter with a psychopathic intruder leads to an unexpected cover-up by institute authorities, she soon finds herself in over her head, a lone mouse in an elaborate game of deception and seduction whose purpose she cannot begin to guess. The book is set in bizarre world that is part of our own, yet separate from it, and uses cults, cloning, ancient civilizations, aliens, and the nature of perception and deceit to explore the greatest mystery of all: human volition.
The first draft is due the end of March 08, with a Spring ’09 release date.
What does a regular writing day look like for you?
Seriously, it’s been a constant struggle. When I’m under deadline, I do pretty much nothing but write, eat, do my daily Bible class and sometimes exercise. Actually I’ve been under deadline for about four years now, so last summer when I broke my arm and could do nothing but lie on the couch, it was a vacation. And it’s changed the way I look at things. I’m in the process of developing a new, saner routine. One that doesn’t result in my house being consumed by dust and, in the summer months, mildew!
ON THE LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIAN KING SERIES…
Christian fantasy ~ why?
I’ve read fantasy pretty much all my life, and especially as an adult. Of all the genres, fantasy most leans toward illustrating important spiritual truths regarding why we are here and what life is about. Even secular fantasies do so–in rather great numbers, surprisingly enough. Typically, epic fantasies depict great battles between supernatural forces of good and evil, an obvious parallel to the invisible supernatural war Christians fight on earth. Knowing about this battle and our place in it gives our lives meaning and purpose. Even if we must engage in mundane activities, we can know that they have great significance in the unseen war.
I’ve written an essay that develops this subject on my website. You can find that here.
Who is your favourite character in the series and why?
Abramm. He’s my favourite character of all my books. I love his transformation, his strength, his honor, his persistence, and the ways his life and character echoes elements of the Savior.
If the series was made into a movie, who would you cast?
I’m not sure I could do it. I might have to let someone else do it, and then complain that the choice wasn’t right! It would be kind of like casting someone to play your brother or your husband – you know them too well to accept someone “pretending” to be them.
How do you come up with place/people names when creating a fantasy world?
Generally I have an idea of what flavour I want a culture to have, based on one of the cultures from our own world, and try to make the names echo that flavour. Sometimes I use Greek or Hebrew words from the Bible. Kiriath is Hebrew for city, Chesedh means grace. Elpis is Greek for hope or confidence… They have to sound right to me, too. Some of it’s sensible and rational, I guess, and some of it’s purely personal delight.
What impact do you hope these books have upon the reader?
It’s my hope that my books will awaken and inspire readers to how cool God really is, how utterly trustworthy and reliable, no matter what sight might tell us. I also hope they’ll be enlightened with regard to God’s plan for our lives as believers, and that unseen spiritual battle I mentioned earlier, where things are seldom as they seem on the surface.
ON MATTERS PERSONAL…
Actually I read more general market stuff than Christian, but I have enjoyed Kathy Tyers’s books, Lord of the Rings, Stephen Lawhead’s books. Recently I enjoyed Sharon Hinck’s The Restorer. I also like books by Robin Hobb, Connie Willis, Michael Crichton, Dean Koontz, and C.S. Forester (if you’re familiar with these you can see I’m all over the map.)
What are you reading at the moment?
Intuition, by Allegra Goodman. Contemporary novel about a cancer research lab that seems to have come up with a cure for cancer and the negative consequences of jealousy, bitterness and a rush to judgment… It’s very good.
Favourite movie and favourite line from a movie?
Who inspires you?
The word of God is my biggest inspiration, but I’ve also been moved by the Hornblower stories/films, Dean Koontz, Robin Hobb and various musical CDs and soundtracks like Gladiator, The Man in the Iron Mask, Handel’s Water Music, Secret Garden’s Once in a Red Moon and currently, the soundtrack to Transformers.
Please share some of your faith journey…
More than 25 years ago I left my college area apartment to go to a meeting with a man who would supposedly answer all my questions about the Bible and Creation versus the theory of Evolution, which I passionately supported. As I locked the front door, I remember saying to myself, “Those people think they’re going to convert me, but they’re wrong. No one can know for sure which explanation is right because no one was actually there back when whatever happened happened.”
The man did answer all my questions — every one of them. I just didn’t understand any of his answers. What I did understand — suddenly, stunningly — was the reality of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the fact that I deeply desired to know Him. Without understanding much of anything about what sin was, I acknowledged I was a sinner and believed that He died for me on the cross some 2000 years ago.
I came home utterly changed. Family members couldn’t figure out what was the matter with me. “What happened?” one asked. “Did they give you some sort of injection over there at that church?”
I was one of those wildly enthusiastic, intensely emotional converts. Evolution flew out the window and I’ve never looked back, concentrating instead on learning what the Word of God has to say about life, the world, God himself and everything else.
Some essential Aussie questions…
When/if you make the trip Down Under what do you want to see first? A platypus or a koala?
It’s a draw. I’d be equally delighted to see either of them!
Barrier Reef or Uluru (Ayers Rock)?
Barrier Reef – I’ve read too many stories about it and the Great White sharks, etc…
Would you taste Vegemite if given the opportunity?
For some reason this word makes me think of fertilizer… which isn’t terribly appetizing. I have no idea what Vegemite is. Is it cheating to go look it up on Google?
Any last words…
Ooh. Having taken SOOO long to get back to you with the answers to your Interview questions, Rel, I’d like to say thank you for your patience and for the opportunity to visit your blog!
Thanks so much Karen ~ hope the healing process speeds up for you. It has been a pleasure
My review of Karen’s most recent book, Return of the Guardian King can be found here.