Today I am interviewing author, Vicki Lucas. She has four books published with many more in progress. I have read two of these books, Bound and Devil's Pathway. These are in two of my favourite genres, angels and demons and spiritual warfare. I have thoroughly enjoyed them and been encouraged in my spiritual walk. Seeing these genres are always action packed, entertaining, and sometimes controversial, I wanted to find out more about these novels, especially since Devil's Pathway has vampires included! What better way to do this than to interview the author.
So I hope you will find this interview with Vicki, insightful and entertaining.
Welcome Vicki, and thanks for stopping by today. How about we start with you telling us a little about yourself, your work and how you got into writing.
I’ve struggled all my life with deciding what I should be when I grow up. While I adored horses, and had my own, everyone told me that I couldn’t make any money in that world. So I got my B.A. in psychology, only to decide I didn’t want to pursue that any further. I lived in Macau for 6 months teaching English and returned to the States to get my degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. I loved teaching. After eleven years of teaching, my husband and I moved back to the Northwest where our families are from, and that’s when I changed my path again. I went to buy my nephew a book when he was 13, and I couldn’t find one in the secular book store. I went to the Christian bookstore, and the workers told me that they didn’t have a young adult section. Later I talked with my nieces and nephew about what Christian authors they read. The conversation finished with “You should write one, Aunt Vicki.” And so I did.
How do you come up with the character names in your books?
For Devil’s Pathway, I figured out how old the characters are and when they were born. Then I looked at popular names in that year. You can even narrow the search on Google by state. Then I glance through them until I find one that “fits.” I normally look at the meanings of the name as well and see if that matches them.
Have you ever written yourself or people you know as a character in one of your books?
Myself? No. Not intentionally. As for people that I know...everyone is fair game! Honestly, I’ve taken things from people, but I’ve never written a complete person into a book. Yet.
When did you decide to make a career of writing?
It was when I began to write my first book about five years ago. I was looking for a job and began writing in my free time. As I learned more about the industry, and as I fell in love with writing, it became my career.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Real life! Since I’m married and I have a two year old, I catch up with housework and spend time with them. We live in the mountains, so there’s plenty of time for playing in lakes and rivers, hikes, and exploring God’s nature. Of course, I love to read and watch movies as well.
Is anything in your books based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Since I write fantasy, it’s pretty much imagination. I think our life experiences shape what we write, though.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
I’ve received so many great pieces of advice. Here are a few. First, just write. You can always go back and edit. If you never write anything, then you never make any progress. Second, be brave. Tackle subjects that stretch you. Make the conflict and action deeper and stronger. Be brave when you promote your book. Third, be patient. Writing, especially creating a career out of it, takes time. We’re in a marathon, not a sprint. So just keep moving forward.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read all you can about how to write. Read all you can of anything! Decide what you like and what you don’t. Then don’t be afraid to break the rules and be creative. Take risk, and take time to write every day. Of course, be patient. Writing is hard, hard work. But it’s rewarding.
Who are you reading right now?
My reading always varies. I’m working through the Maze Runner series right now. I just finished re-reading quite of few the Black Stallion series. I finished a few Christian fantasy books, and one of my favorites this year has been The Book Thief.
What tools have you found most successful in advertising/marketing yourself and your books?
I haven’t done a big push on marketing because I believe that it’s useful to have other books for readers to buy when they come to look at your books. But I have used some email marketing, Facebook, and Twitter to spread the word about my books. Amazon has a marketing campaign system now that is fairly useful.
Did any specific author(s) motivate you to begin writing?
My mom published her first book when I was very little. I grew up with her five books that were published through Moody – a series of a girl detective named Jodi. I spent my childhood and teen years on the living room floor with a stack of papers, reading through her manuscripts. She taught me all I know about writing when I decided to try my hand at it, too. Now we edit for each other, support each other, and discuss plot points. Of course, other authors like Elaine Baldwin, Jansina Grossman and many others are a great support, but Mom has always been a strong support and motivator. Of the authors I haven’t met, of course C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have a strong influence.
What have you learnt about becoming an author?
It’s hard, amazing, and we need other authors. We have a romantic idea of someone sitting beside a lake typing away, but the process of getting your thoughts onto paper so that it communicates the same idea to another person is tough. Not only that, but often when the subject matters are difficult like human trafficking or abuse, it can drain the writer and take the writer through a rollercoaster of emotions. I have wept while writing certain scenes. I’ve laughed. To me, writing is an amazing time. I love taking the reader on twists and turns that they don’t see coming, and I love finding the cliffhangers to tease the readers along. I’ve also learned that we need each other. I have learned so much from my writer’s group where we edit each other’s work. I’ve received prayer from my author friends when I’m at the end of my rope, and encouragement when tired.
How long did it take you to write Devil's Pathway?
Devil’s Pathway took almost two years. It was a challenge. Between vampires, angels and demons, I had to get very aspect of it right. That required a lot of research and a lot of editing. Some scenes were very hard to write in the flow of emotions, and some of the fight scenes were tricky to get right.
You write well. Have you always found this to be an easy feat? Some authors such as Tom Pawlik engaged in a writing course with popular and prolific Christian author Jerry B Jenkins before they wrote their first novel. What have you done, anything? Would you encourage budding authors to do so?
Thank you! No, it’s not easy! I’ve read a lot of books on the craft of writing. I go to all the writer conferences that are close to me, and I read a lot. However, much of it is allowing others to read through the book and editing it. I find a variety of people to read the manuscript and give thoughts on it. I would encourage budding authors to read everything they can on the craft of writing, take classes if they can afford it, and go to conferences. But there is an aspect of creating something new and different. I think too often we take these classes and try to follow a pattern. I believe a book is a creative work of art, and while there are rules and patterns to follow, a writer shouldn’t be afraid of trying something new. Of course, everyone needs a great editor who isn’t afraid to speak the truth.
What led you to write in the genres of fantasy, spiritual warfare, speculative fiction?
Narnia. It all starts with Narnia. I read the whole series when I was six. Narnia set a strong love for fantasy in my life. When I started writing, I knew it had to be in the genre I love best. As for spiritual warfare, I love This Present Darkness and many of Ted Dekker’s books, but it was really God who led me to write about spiritual warfare.
Do you plot your novels by extensively plotting it out (plotter), or as it comes to you (pantser, that you write by the seat of your pants) or was it a bit of both?
Both! I started as a strong plotter with my first two books carefully planned out. But with Devil’s Pathway, I knew the start and the finish. I just didn’t know all the time how I was going to get there. I enjoy this process a little more for it allows the sudden burst of inspiration to come crashing in and take the story somewhere I didn’t foresee. However, I always end my writing time with thoughts about the next scene. That way I can brainstorm while doing dishes or walking the dog.
What sort of research did you do for Devil’s Pathway?
Oh, goodness. What research didn’t I do? I had to research history since some of the story takes place in an abandoned mining town. Florence, that town during the Gold Rush, existed, as well as some of the people I included in the book. I researched blood types, which we’ll talk about in a minute. I also had to research some of severity of injuries and procedure of crime scenes. I did some on vampires as well as what the soul is. But a lot of my research revolved around the angels and demons. I had to go back to the Scripture and see what the Bible states. I read many books on this topic and talked to many people whose opinion I respect.
What were the struggles with writing about angels? What were some lessons that you learned?
Great question! Angels are tough. I believe that they don’t sin, but I believe they are not infallible like God. That means they can make mistakes. Then you have to decide what the difference between sin and a mistake is. For example, if I’m playing piano and I hit the wrong key, that’s not a sin. I also believe that angels have emotions like God and humans do. However, like Jesus and God, I don’t believe they sin in their emotion. Just like Jesus in the temple was filled with righteous anger, I believe angels feel anger, joy, and all the emotions we do...without sin. I poured over the scenes with angels, making sure the motives for the feelings were correct.
How did you come up with the names of the Angels? Why are the names of the demons fairly common, Blaise, Goddard, for example? I understand the vampire names are common names that we are all used to as these characters were human before they were turned.
I studied the names of the archangels, and then I noticed that even the angels in the Jewish Talmud, who we don’t include, have the same pattern in their names. All of the names have –el in them. So I chose Hebrew names that include the –el as well as a subtle way to point to God, since –el is used for God often. Yes, the demon names are a bit more common. I went to Latin, Greek and Hebrew for names/words that sounded evil with meanings that fit.
From the first chapter, we see that Nic, the main character, hates the colors red and white and often has memories take over his awareness. What’s wrong with him?
Here’s a mild spoiler, so move on if you don’t want to read this! Nic, the main character, has been through some horrible events in his life. Due to this, he has PTSD. This was another aspect of research. As I read more of this disorder, I was amazed to find how many people suffer from PTSD are non-military. Anything from a simple car crash can trigger it and force the brain to relive the tragedy over and over without any warning. One of the exciting aspects is how people are finding relief from it, some through relationships with horses (which is hinted at in the book), and some through their relationship with God. More of this will come as the series progresses, though.
While I was reading Bound: Alpha Mission (Angel Warrior Files Book 1), I had a sneaking suspicion that you had some connection with this story. Upon questioning you about this, you admitted this to be so. Tell us about this.
Yes, there is a personal connection! My dad was one of the missionaries in this book. I heard this story since I was a child. When I was writing Devil’s Pathway, the story came back to me. What was actually happening in the trees that night? And then I had to write the story down. Mom and Dad helped me a lot in getting all the details, on the human side, right. I am very honored to be the one to share this story because it shows God’s mighty hand and leading.
You also state in Bound: Alpha Mission (Angel Warrior Files Book 1), that the demons have feathers. Doesn't this imply that they have bird like features? From my readings of fiction that involve demons, the most common description of their wings is similar to that of bats, where there is a leathery membrane between their body and "arms". This is the first time I have read of their wings being like feathers. What was your rationale for this?
I think there’s a balance between the types of wings. I’ve seen the use of feathers in a lot of the movies and books. The bat wings are used a lot, too. I liked the feathers because they can drop, and I love the idea of a huge battle with the air filled with feathers floating to the ground.
In both Bound and Devil's Pathway, you do not mention that angels have wings. How do you support this in Scripture? What about the demons?
If you read the descriptions that Daniel, Mary, and others put about the archangels they saw, they never mention them. (It’s a common belief that Gabriel is an archangel, although never named as one, because of the important messages he gave Daniel.) However, Isaiah mentions wings with the Cherubim and Seraphim. Besides, I thought it would be fun to do something different. As for the demons, I have no support. However, I do believe that they try to warp everything that God made. If they could, why wouldn’t they strive to change their appearance? It also gave me a place to work in their pride.
As the book progresses, Nic becomes involved with vampires. Do you believe vampires exist?
No, no, and no. It’s amazing to me the recent growth in people who think they do, but no. I don’t believe they exist. That doesn’t mean they’re off limits for a fantasy writer, though! And they were a useful tool to examine aspects of ourselves and our relationship with God.
What is the purpose of including vampires in the book? Why did you decide to write a book about them?
I decided to write about vampires for three reasons. First of all, I was at a writer’s conference in 2009 when I heard many people mocking the idea of vampires in Christian fiction. “It can’t be done.” Well, that was a challenge to me. Why couldn’t it be done? But it had to be done right, so I played with the idea for a few years before settling on the plot. The second reason I wrote about them is that it gives you a lot of ways to examine what we believe. For example, can you lose your soul? Do we even have a soul? And if we do, are you a body with a soul, or a soul with a body? Can you exist without your soul? Bible-based Christians believe we can exist without a body (when we go to Heaven). And isn’t life about who is the master of our soul, whether God or Satan? These are just the beginning of my questions! Finally, I wanted to write about them because so much in popular culture is glorifying vampires. Stephanie Meyer hit it big with Twilight where some of the vampires are good and only drink animal blood. I wanted to balance this viewpoint with showing how vampires are the opposite of everything God desires for us. Besides, they’re just plain fun.
In Devil's Pathway, you have included in Nic's physiology a rare blood group, the Hh blood group. I know a little about this as I am a Registered Nurse and just happen to work at a Blood Service. This rare blood group is also known as the Bombay Phenotype. This is a brief rundown on this blood group,
The Hh blood group contains one antigen, the H antigen, which is found on virtually all Red Blood Cells and is the building block for the production of the antigens within the ABO blood group.How did you find out about this rare blood group? What led you to include this into the plot and prophesy? I must say that due to the nature of this blood group and its unique characteristic, (that this type can receive blood only from those who are also H deficient), it really added a unique element to the plot and you used this well as a characteristic of the person in the prophesied person. Very clever, especially when this actually exists.
H antigen deficiency is known as the "Bombay phenotype" (h/h, also known as Oh) and is found in 1 of 10,000 individuals in India and 1 in a million people in Europe. There is no ill effect with being H deficient, but if a blood transfusion is ever needed, people with this blood type can receive blood only from other donors who are also H deficient.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2268/)
When plotting this book, I wanted an extremely rare blood type for the prophesy to give the vampires and demons a clue of who Nic is. And it had to be real. Google became my friend. Everything I found said that AB- was the rarest, but I had to find something more that most people didn’t know about. So, honestly, I did more research until I found the Hh blood group. As I read about it, and what would happen if someone received the wrong blood type, I had to put it into the book. There’s more in the next books related to this type of blood.
One of the vampires is not happy being one and desperately seeks to be free of this curse, in a conversation with Eli, the angel, this vampire states,
I never chose this life, and I hate what I am....did I lose my soul? Is there no hope for me? I've been thinking that maybe I don't have to be like this. I was forced into this life, even though I fought as hard as I could. But I don't know if I can ever by loved by God again.
Eli then states,
You think you lost your soul....but that's not the truth. The Devil is your Master. He holds your soul. It isn't lost.I can see that some Christian readers might take task to this and consider that you have deviated from biblical doctrine. To me, you are saying that Satan is the caretaker of the vampire's souls and they could be redeemed by accepting God's gift of salvation. I say this as the case for this is very well supported by Scripture in the Blood for Blood novel by Ben Wolf that I mentioned in my review. From Eli's comment about this vampire's soul not being lost, you imply that there could be further development and exploration of this theology in this next installment. What are your thoughts about this? Any bible verses that you consulted and base this on?
You are right. We will continue this theme in the next books. Vampires are interesting creatures because they are a body without a soul. It’s fascinating that the myth is the idea of a body that lives forever without a soul, while Christians believe of a soul that lives forever without a body. Even C.S. Lewis says, “We are not a body with a soul. We are a soul with a body.” Often we are so obsessed with the physical side that we lose sight of the soul. When thinking of this, and thinking that a human is a soul, could we completely lose our soul?
The other struggle with vampires is that people can be changed into vampires without consent. What if they were Christians and they lost their soul? Is there no way back to God then? I wanted to give a vampire who was forced into being a vampire a way of escape.
This leads to a nice discussion of whether or not you believe in eternal salvation or not, but I feel comfortable with what I have written because vampires are fantasy.
You have deviated from the traditional portrayal of vampires being afraid of the sun. You have Rob stating that only the legends of vampires portray this and that they can be in the sun but it hurts their eyes and that he keeps in the shade and wears long sleeved shirts. What was your rationale for this?
At the end of the book, Liam does explain this more. He talks about not being able to withstand the light of the Son, rather than the sun. Again, the traditional stories of vampires have them in darkness only, but lately there have been more stories of vampires who can walk in daylight. The movie series Blade has a “daywalker.” And of course, the Twilight series has the vampires twinkle in the sun. Honestly, I wanted to have hidden vampires in the town of Grangeville, and I needed them to be able to talk to Nic during the day, so I stretched it a bit.
Most authors find it hard to construct fight scenes. You have written these very well and I could visualise them easily. What was your experience with this?
I have taken some martial arts training, but not enough to make a difference. I spend a lot of time visualizing what is happening in the scene. Where are people standing? Can they reach here or there? I’ve even set people/things up to see how it would play out in action. Again, it took a lot of time reading through the scenes slowly and making sure everything makes sense.
Your other books are very different to Bound and Devil's Pathway. Tell us about Toxic and Rancid without too many spoilers!
It’s true! I knew Devil’s Pathway would be quite different since Toxic and Rancid are written for the middle grade readers and Devil’s Pathway is for older high school readers. Toxic and Rancid are two high fantasy novels, meaning they are in another world, and there is no traveling between worlds. It’s set up with the idea: If magic could work, why would you choose God? It’s the story of three teens who are thrown into a quest to save the world from toxic water.
What’s next? Specifically, what can we expect from the sequels of Bound and Devil's Pathway? When will these two be released? Will there be a third book to follow Rancid?
Oh, goodness! I have so many books to write! I hope to release some deleted chapters from Devil’s Pathway on my newsletter, get a sequel of Bound out, and then I’ll sit down to write the third book to follow Rancid. I also have a fantasy series for girls coming soon that I’m really excited about. In a week, I expect to release my first nonfiction book called The Truth about Angels: What the Bible Says. This book is short, but it discusses a lot of questions I struggled with while writing about angels. For examples, not sinning in their emotions, how they interact with people, wings or not, and more.
What take home message do you want readers of Devil's Pathway to embrace?
We are in a battle. There is no fence to sit on. Whether you see it or not, a war for souls rages around us every day. We need to pick up our swords and join the fight. Also, if we are Christians, we have nothing to fear. Not even death.
Anything else you would to say about Devil's Pathway?
I think a lot of people make assumptions about it when they hear what it is about. Maybe they don’t like vampires, or maybe they think demons would be too scary. But I’d really encourage people to give it a try. I’ve had a lot of readers try it and be surprised when they enjoy it.
Where can readers find You?
Website – www.vickivlucas.com
Facebook - Vicki V. Lucas
Twitter - https://twitter.com/VickiVLucas
Google+ - https://plus.google.com/u/0/+VickiVLucas/posts
Goodreads - Vicki V. Lucas
Amazon - Vicki V. Lucas Amazon Author Page
Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/vickivlucas/
Instagram - https://instagram.com/vickivlucas/
Well, Vicki, I can honestly say that I have really enjoyed interviewing you and delving into your mind regarding Bound and Devil's Pathway. Your insightful answers have enhanced my enjoyment of both novels and I look forward to seeing the vampire/salvation theme explored more in the sequels to Devil's Pathway. I will be sure to check out your new release, The Truth about Angels: What the Bible Says. I pray that this interview encourages other readers to investigate your books. They are well worth it!
Any closing comments?
Thank you, Peter, for this interview and for reading Devil’s Pathway. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about the issues and thoughts behind this book, and I found your review and questions very insightful. Thanks!