Friday, April 24, 2009

Interview with Debut Author Stuart Vaughn Stockton

I've blogged earlier about my excitement over new Christian publisher Marcher Lord Press. I love how they're giving opportunities to authors whose work is so fresh and unique. Stuart Vaughn Stockton, one of their latest authors, has a book that definitely fits into that category, and he graciously granted an interview to Dimensions, even though there's a lot going on in his life right now. When I told my husband that Stuart's first novel was released on April 1 and his first child was born on April 2, he asked me, "What did he do on April 3?"

Probably collapsed with exhaustion, I would think!

Here's my interview with Stuart:

Your debut novel, Starfire, was just published with Marcher Lord Press. Can you tell us a little about the book?

Starfire is a science fiction action-adventure story about a young warrior who is imprinted as the protector of a mysterious artificial intelligence and must make his way through a growing war in order to find the one weapon that may just be able to save his empire from a surprise invasion. But that weapon may also doom his world. The warrior, Rathe, must fight his way through deadly battles, discern ancient prophecy and uncover treachery in his quest for the Starfire.

This sounds to me like the kind of story with a long history. When did you first conceive of this world and its characters?

The first character of this world sprang to life riding a pogo-stick during a science class in Jr. High. Obviously it has come a long way from then, with the large-scale world creation kicking off in high school. So I’ve been working on the world and characters for a good part of the last twenty years. You can read the whole history of building this world here:

A novel with no human characters is pretty unique. Did that make it a difficult sell to publishers?

Well if the characters had been something like elf or dwarf non-humans that may have made it easier, but the whole alien dinosaur angle pretty much made selling Starfire to traditional CBA publishers almost impossible. At the same time that is what helped make Starfire the perfect fit for Marcher Lord Press. It’s just the kind of weird they look for and understand.

I hear two different kinds of advice given to writers whose works don't exactly fit a particular genre or market. Some say follow your heart and write the story you're passionate about, and it will eventually sell. Others say we have to remember that writing is a business and we should therefore study the markets and adapt our writing to fit. What would you advise?

I would advise that you decide whether your passion is in writing the story or in being published. But for the first novel you write, write the one that stirs your passions the most. Then if that novel doesn’t seem to be finding a market try to find a story you can be passionate about that is more marketable. Don’t get hung up on that first novel, most don’t sell and can become a black hole that eventually sucks away your creativity and passion as you constantly tinker and submit. Always move forward with your writing. And most importantly, seek out God and give your writing over to Him.

Obviously you have a love to speculative fiction. What are some of your favorite books and movies--especially ones that inspired your writing?

The books that have most inspired my writing are mostly fantasy titles by R.A. Salvatore (especially his Cleric Quintet) and Weis and Hickman’s Dragonlance Chronicles. Stephen Lawhead’s fantasies and science fiction was also an early influence on me.

Some of my favorite movies are Dragonheart, Into the Woods (A stage musical) and the original Star Wars Trilogy.

Do you ever encounter Christians that are a little leery of speculative fiction? What would you say to those folks about the Christian's place in reading--and creating--works of fantasy or science fiction?

Actually I haven’t encountered Christians that are leery of spec-fic. I’ve read about them online, but I haven’t met any in person. What I would say to them though is that is that fantasy and science fiction gives us ways to explore the truths of God and his creations in ways that can challenge our imagination and help us see things from new angles. But I can understand that the genres aren’t for everybody.

This book isn't the only major life event for you this spring, is it?

Nope! On April 2 my daughter Victoria Elizabeth was born! This is the first child for my wife and I and has eclipsed the release of Starfire a bit. But I’m okay with that. She is precious and beautiful and a little bit stubborn. I love holding her and watching all the various faces she makes.

That's a lot to have going on at one time! How are you handling it all?

I’m just taking it one day at a time and trying to keep everything balanced and support my wife as best I can as we explore this wonderful new chapter in life together.

What is this about a Brandilyn Collins character being based on you?

When Brandilyn started writing her Kanner Lake series, she had a character who would be writing a science fiction novel. A rather odd and eccentric fellow who was all wrapped up in his created world. She remembered me from an ACFW conference where I had spoken in my Saurian language and a bit of my writing she had read and asked me if she could use my story for her character’s book. I was thrilled at being asked, and even had a chance to blog as the character, Ted “S-man” Dawson on her character blog Scenes & Beans.

It’s been a real fun fact-meets-fiction-meets-fact story as in the last book of the series Ted had sold Starfire to a publisher which actually corresponds well with when the real Starfire released from Marcher Lord Press.

Thanks, Stuart! And congratulations on all the wonderful things going on in your life!


  1. Congratulations, Stuart! To you and Tiff! How sweet to have a new little baby girl.

    And congrats on your newly published novel!

    "I would advise that you decide whether your passion is in writing the story or in being published." This was so funny to me, since I've been realizing just how obsessed I am with getting published and realizing that's not really a good thing. I'm determined to give it over to God and still keep my motivation strong without being so obsessive! It gets tiring, obsessing all the time.

  2. Thanks, Stuart! My nephew turned four the day your daughter was born. They just get more precious to you with time--although that stage when you don't have to chase them around the house and stop them from throwing family heirlooms in the lavatory is pretty special. LOL Enjoy it while it lasts!

    Congrats on the book as well! When I read "alien dinosaurs," I went back and reread it to be sure I was hallucinating from too much studying. LOL Your book sounds like the sort one of the teenage boys I have in the after school program where I work would love.

    And, Robin, yes, I'm still around. I'm just clawing through the textbooks and work to get a glimpse of the sunlight of leasure literature before getting buried again under all those papers I've got due. 'Hope all's going well!

  3. Thanks it's been a very busy/blessed month for me and my wife. :)

    And yes, I think the teenage boys in your program would love this book. :)

  4. This is exciting! I am working on building a fictional/ part- fantasy world of my own. Can't wait to check it out, and support Marcher Lord in the process! I'm headed to Hollywood. Maybe we can get some of those Marcher Lord books made into films at some point. (super optimistic, but why not?)