Give a warm welcome to Mr. Matthew Dickerson, the author of a three-part fantasy series, entitled The Daegmon War. You can check out my review of Book 1, The Gifted, here. Book 2, The Betrayed, was recently released.What was the most challenging part of writing The Betrayed, your most recent book? What was your favorite part of writing this story?
The most enjoyable part is always the discovery—getting to know the characters better, seeing how they respond to different situations, learning what happens, and (very often) being surprised and delighted (or sometimes surprised and saddened). The greatest challenge goes hand in hand with that. Writing requires great attentiveness. I need to be carefully listening to the characters, and noticing details in the landscape, the history of my world. It’s like being an explorer or a naturalist.
The delay in this book was more of a frustration than a challenge. The publisher that started the series by publishing Book 1, “The Gifted”, wasn't doing very well and decided to back out of the fiction market except for children’s fiction. They fired my editor and the Vice President. I later learned they were already strongly leaning toward this decision when the first book came out, so they spent $0 on advertising. I’ve been entirely dependent on word-of-mouth to get out news about my books—hoping people will post about it on social media, or tell friends—and I had to take over publishing myself in the middle of the series. I guess the one good thing that came from this is more freedom to let the book follow my own vision.
How would you say that your faith has influenced your writing?
Madeleine L’Engle spoke of writing fiction with the metaphor of “walking on water”, which is to say that writing itself is an act of faith. Trusting the story maybe means trusting the Great Story, and the teller of the Great Story. Just like following God requires letting go of control, following a story also requires letting go of control and letting the story take you where it needs to take you.
But I guess another aspect is that I can’t imagine a world that was not created, and in which there is not a loving Creator at work. So that vision is certainly present in my writing, even though I try not to be “religious”.
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Do you have a writing “ritual” such as a favorite beverage or writing spot? Do you plot your novels or fly by the seat of your pants?
As my earlier answer suggests, writing is very much an act of discovery. That is, writing the first draft is. I let the story (and its characters) take me where it needs to go (and where their choices will inevitably take them). I get to know my characters, and as I do I see how they act and respond to situations. The hard work really is the revision—the focus on prose and the discipline of making every word just right, and also sometimes cutting or completely rewriting large portions.
One exception is that my two medieval historical romances—including the relatively recently published novel The Rood and the Torc--had more of the plot worked out in advance, in part because I was dealing with real historical events and characters. There was still very much a process of discovery, but it had more to do with how things would happen than with what would happen.
You have a strong interest in J.R.R. Tolkien and his works. What sparked that interest? Is there something specific about Tolkien you really enjoy talking about?
Well the interest has been sparked mostly by reading a great deal of Tolkien’s writing. And rereading. First delighting in his work, and then studying it and seeing just how much craft and wisdom is in the writing. I get invited very regularly to speak on Tolkien, and I think some of the talks that I most enjoy giving—because they are things I most enjoyed learning—are about his environmental ideas, his moral vision, the way his theistic and Christian worldview are so central woven into his works, how he draws on past myths and stories.
Finally, if you found yourself alone in a dark alley at night, which book character would you choose to be with you and why?
Depends if my primary goal is to learn something there, or to get through the alley somewhere I need to be, or if I just wanted to escape the alley. Luthien would be a really good choice, I think. She took pretty good care of Beren in a very dark situation. Gandalf would be a pretty good choice, especially if my goal was to learn something important there. I think he could make it light if he needed to through some sort of spell. And there is nobody I’d rather have if there were Balrogs around.
Although speaking of spells, having Harry Potter wouldn’t be bad if I just wanted to disaparate out of there. I think, though, Harry might be the sort who would get me into deeper trouble before I got out of it, and there does seem to be a high body count when he is around. So I guess I’ll stick with Luthien or Gandalf. And if they aren’t available, then Aragorn or Faramir.
Although I think having Morgan, the Prince of Hed, would also be a very good choice, particularly if there was some riddle I needed to solve. Morgan is, after all, a riddle-master. And very powerful. At least he becomes powerful.
Thanks for joining us, Matthew!
If you're interested in The Betrayed, you can find it here, or at another online outlet, such as Amazon.
Don't forget to stop back in tomorrow for a review of The Betrayed.