By Nate Kenyon
Marooned in a desolate canyon half a planet from home, a lone survivor struggles to separate reality from illusion.
Dassa’s landing craft crashes 10,000 kilometers from her intended destination. Taking refuge in a canyon from the blizzard that rages atop the rim, she learns more about her native planet than she ever wanted to know. Even if she manages to find her way home, does she have a home to return to?
Author Yvonne Anderson recently answered some questions about her new novel:
Tell us where the inspiration came from for the world of Gannah.
As creator of the world, I thought it might be fun to start the way God did: with a garden, like Eden. The word Gannah is from the Hebrew word for garden, and many characteristics of the world and its society reflect what seems like Eden to me. But since a perfect world would make for a boring story, I had to allow some imperfections to enter. Like our fallen human nature, for instance. People make a mess out of everything.
WORDS IN THE WIND is book #2 of a series. What do you find the most rewarding–and most challenging–about writing a series?
When starting a new SF or fantasy novel, you have to spend a lot of effort building a believable world, establishing the setting, creating the history and background, and so forth; when writing the next in a series, that work is already done, and you can jump right into the story. The hard part there is bringing the reader up to speed without loading the opening chapter up with too much backstory. You can’t skip all the foundational stuff, because some of the readers will be new to the series and won’t already know those things. But neither can you afford to weigh down the story with explanations. It can be a tricky balance.
You started writing later in life. What made you finally sit down and put those first words to paper (or screen)?
I plead insanity. Too bad it’s hard to get an acquittal with that defense.
What drives you to continue today?
The same thing that made me get started several years ago. However, since I didn’t really give an answer to that question, I guess I’ll have burden you with a little backstory after all.
I always loved books and enjoyed writing the occasional story when I was a kid, but I don’t recall having a burning to desire to be an author when I grew up. And once I became an adult, I was too busy to think about such things. I’m not a very good multi-tasker. If I don’t focus on the business at hand, I’m too easily distracted and will end up getting nothing accomplished at all.
But once my kids were grown—or enough so that they no longer required so much of my attention—I felt an unexplainable urge to write a book. It came out of nowhere but was almost a compulsion, and it wouldn’t let me go. I struggled with it for a number of years before I finally came to terms with the fact that I was a writer; like it or not, I have to write.
That’s the story from a merely human perspective. Looking at it from the spiritual aspect, I’d have to say I felt led to write. And I intend to continue to follow the Lord’s leading, wherever it may take me; I’m not calling the shots, just along for the ride. Consider the fact that a few years ago, I didn’t much care for science fiction and had even less use for Christian fiction. But now, God’s got me writing Christian sci-fi. This was definitely not my idea, but I’m glad I’m here, because I’m loving it.
Writing fantasy and science fiction holds its own challenges. How do you create worlds–do you rely on research to support the alternate universes you build, or is it more of a creative process in your head?
I make things fit within the same framework of natural law under which we all live. But I don’t have a technical mind and don’t understand how things work in the real world, so I can’t attempt to explain how things work in the worlds I create.
When I initially drafted THE STORY IN THE STARS, the first book in the series, my exposure to science fiction in any medium was limited. The first book had a distinct “Star Trek” feel because the original ST series was one of the few experiences I’d had with sci-fi. Once I found myself embarked on this unexpected course, I started educating myself, so I have a little broader understanding of the genre now. But Gannah will always be the product of my imagination more than building upon the work of others.
There is an undercurrent of faith in your works. How conscious are you of weaving that into your plot and message? Is it always in the forefront of your mind, or does it just come naturally as you go?
Faith isn’t an undercurrent in the Gannah series; it’s the foundation. It’s always in the forefront of my mind and it comes naturally as I go, because it’s what defines me.
Words like “faith” and “God” are subject to a variety of interpretations and understandings, and I try not to be ambiguous about which faith and which God I refer to. The most affirmative review I’ve received to date was a one-star lambast of THE STORY IN THE STARS on Goodreads. From everything the reviewer said, it was plain she understood exactly what I’d hoped to convey and was offended by it. I’m gratified to know the story got the point across, but it’s never my goal to offend anyone. Nevertheless, I’m aware that issues of faith can be polarizing. I don’t claim to judge; I merely express a viewpoint, which the reader may investigate further or reject out of hand as he chooses.
You’re on the staff of Novel Rocket, one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers. How did that come about, and what do you do for them exactly?
The blog was the brainchild of a former critique partner, Gina Holmes. She and I met virtually early in both our writing careers. She started the blog, then called First Novel Journey, as a personal record of her efforts toward publishing her first novel. She was curious how some of the more successful writers managed to break into the business, but she found little information on that subject. That led her to interview some of her favorite authors in order to learn from their experiences. The effort yielded some great blog posts, but the project snowballed and threatened to bury her, so she asked some of her writing friends to share the load. After they’d been at it a while, she asked me if I’d be willing to do a monthly post. I started out spotlighting a different writing award or contest each month. A couple years later, I began to run out of awards to write about and wondered about the possibility of conducting a contest of our own. So since 2010, I’ve been administrator of our annual contest for unpublished novelists: Novel Rocket’s “Launch Pad” Contest: Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile. It’s been fun and absorbing, I’ve met some good people, and it’s way more interesting than those other posts I used to do.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently drafting the fourth and final book in the Gateway to Gannah series. Have been talking with the publisher about some other possibilities connected with Gannah, and am also mulling over a couple entirely new story lines as well as a possible nonfiction title. I look forward to seeing where the Lord leads me, and pray He never asks me to write romance. (Shudder.)
Yvonne Anderson lives in rural Ohio with her husband of 37 years and two of her four grown kids. She also has three grandchildren with two more on the way. Formerly a legal secretary, Yvonne works part time as a Virtual Assistant, but spends most of her time on the planet Gannah researching her books.