As part of Splashdown Books' August blog tour, I'm sitting down with publisher supreme Grace Bridges to discuss her novel Faith Awakened. Grace has been a real friend to me over the last year or so, not only publishing Rift Jump (plug!), but also coaching me behind-the-scenes on how to navigate these murky publishing waters. In fact, she likes me SO much that she'll be staying with our family sometime in September. Hopefully we shall survive the encounter. That all depends on how well she deals with small children and copious amounts of AC/DC :p
I'm happy to have her on the blog and I hope you all check out her book and all the fine authors at Splashdown.
Greg Mitchell: Let’s start with an easy(ish) question. What’s Faith Awakened all about?
Grace Bridges: It’s about two women whose apparently divergent stories are more connected than they think possible. A near-future disaster scenario, a computerised survival system, a lot of questions about the mess that living can be, and a good dollop of my own story too.
GM: What was the initial inspiration behind Faith?
GB: Even as a kid I always had an overactive imagination and I used to wonder if “all this” was really real. If there was some other, darker reality outside of it. And if that was the case, then I didn’t want to wake up. Eventually I got something on paper when I was about 14 – just a concept really – started writing in earnest 7 years later and the writing took yet another 7 years.
GM: Take us back to the beginning. Why become a writer? Not only that, by why a writer of speculative fiction? How’d you catch the bug?
GB: I’ve been a voracious reader ever since I could first make out the letters of the alphabet. Being homeschooled allowed for plenty of reading time as part of regular learning, and I fell in love with the rhythm of language and the different styles I saw. I absorbed everything – words, flow, effect. Then one day it started coming out! As for science fiction? Well, gotta blame the Star Trek and Doctor Who reruns of the 80’s for capturing my young imagination. “To boldly go…” is a catchphrase that became something I aspire to myself, even if it’s just in the mind.
GM: As a publisher now, you’ve had countless submissions pass your desk. What’s probably the number one mistake you see in new authors?
GB: Sending me their first drafts or something that looks like it. Honestly, people, I know you’re excited, but please do the work and make your book publishable before I see it. As a bit of an aside, I look more favourably on subs from people I know, so we can both get an idea of what it’s like to work together. The invitation is always open to look me up on Facebook. Let’s get connected.
GM: What do you look for in a story? I’m not asking about guidelines for Splashdown—I just mean, you, personally. What is it about a story that grabs you as a reader?
GB: A deep, personal voice, getting inside a character’s soul; a quirky, unusual plot; vivid description with just enough detail to set the scene and hint at the rest. I also love unusual word use and weird things like metafiction, though I don’t come across it often!
GM: With Splashdown, you’re out there on the fringe, trying to bring very specific types of stories to a specific niche—namely Christians who enjoy speculative fiction, but want something a little stranger than the typical mainstream Christian publishers are offering. Do you feel that you’re making progress in that area? Is the audience there?
GB: Apparently there are people who know about us, and that’s great! That niche is only so big though, so I’m looking to expand it in a couple of directions. Look at all the recent blockbuster movies – weren’t most of them speculative? Everyone who watches those would like our books. That’s the one crossover I’d like to see. The other is into the mainstream and so I’m increasingly keen on stories whose faith elements are organic and not blatant. There are many books in the mainstream that include Christian characters, though not so much speculative and there’s no reason good enough for me.
GM: We’ve spoken of this before and I know you can’t say much without giving away some key spoilers, but isn’t there a sequel to Faith Awakened in the works? What are you at liberty to discuss about that project?
GB: It is written, mostly edited, and on the way to being published…somewhere! Yes that’s right, this indie publisher is looking for another publisher. Call it validation, call it spreading my wings. I have published two of my own novels and I could do it again, but I’m curious to experience the other side of the table.
GM: Ha, ha, well that is certainly an unexpected move. Way to challenge yourself, though. How exciting.
GB: As for the story, it’s hard to say without spoilers because it runs in parallel time to Faith Awakened and the endings of both tie together. Like Faith, it begins in Ireland, but this time it does not stay there. Call it an epic roadtrip with a touch of romance and…maybe a cyborg? And of course virtual reality remains a big part of it.
GM: You’re a huge proponent for independent publishers, even writing out this very useful guide so that, practically, anyone with a kernel of talent and sheer force of will can turn themselves into their own independent publisher. Aren’t you just essentially creating your own competition?
GB: Let’s face it. I’m going to have lots of competition anyway. Some of it is bad. I hope my recommendations can help remove some of that badness, because it’s what gives indie publishing a bad name. The world is plenty big enough for all the books that can be written, not to mention that most of them don’t even come close to my genre. I’m just trying to help make them good ones. You’ll notice in that article I make a big deal out of quality – in story, in editing, formatting and design. Quality is the number one thing for me and I want it to be every indie publisher’s top priority too.
GM: Books, books, books. Let’s move on to TV and movies! What are some of your favorites?
GB: Let’s see, we’ve already established that I’m a Trekkie (fave series: Voyager) and a Whovian (10th Doctor, he’s mine!). Movies – Back to the Future trilogy, Narnia, Star Trek IV, VIII, IX and 2009; plus some anomalous historicals such as The Scarlet Pimpernel (with Anthony Andrews, the full version is free online - lots of action and great one-liners) and Pride & Prejudice.
GM: Any parting words?
GB: Thanks for having me, and for your insightful questions!
GM: You're most welcome! See you in September. Brace yourself for the mighty music of AC/DC!