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Interview with Morgan Busse

Morgan Busse writes speculative fiction. She lives with her husband and four children in the Midwest.

What or who inspired you to become a writer?
My husband. I always had an active imagination, but I never grew up wanting to be a writer. It wasn’t until after the birth of our second child that I needed a creative outlet and my husband suggested writing. I just smiled and nodded.

Then on a trip to Seattle, I had this idea of a woman who—when she touched a person—could see inside his/her soul. When we arrived back home, I got on the computer and started typing out that first scene.

My husband has continued to be my inspiration and cheerleader. There are days when I want to quit and throw in the towel, but he doesn’t let me. He helps me make time for writing, cooks and takes care of the kids when I have a deadline, and is my first reader. I don’t know where I would be as a writer without him. Wait, yes I do. I wouldn’t be a writer!

Why do you write speculative fiction and could you define what that means?
Speculative fiction is the umbrella term for anything that is science fiction or fantasy related (including high or epic fantasy, time-travel, spiritual warfare, steampunk, hard science fiction, etc…).

As far as why I write it, I never set out to write Christian speculative fiction. In fact, I wasn’t sure what place that kind of book had in this world. Sure, there was Lewis’ Narnia series and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. But with all the controversy over Harry Potter years ago, I didn’t know what to think. I read Star Wars, Terry Brooks, and such, but Christian fantasy? I didn’t think so.

It was actually the Harry Potter controversy that made me start thinking about Christian fantasy. Could fantasy and Christianity mix? Could a good book be written where neither the faith element nor the fantasy element were compromised? Like I said, I never set out to do that, but in the end that is what I wrote.

Daughter of Light began as a story in my head. It was a place to play with some interesting fantasy ideas. A fantasy book with a hint of faith. But as the years went by and I found myself traveling down dark roads and facing one crisis of faith after another in real life, Daughter of Light began to morph into an exploration of what it ultimately meant to follow God.

Through speculative fiction, I am able to explore what would a Christian look like if the externals generally associated with Christianity were taken away like church attendance, Bible studies, or Sunday school. Now I’m not saying those are bad things (not at all), but sometimes our Christianity is defined by where we go or what we do, not by who we are.

I am also able to paint word pictures with fantasy that I could not do if I wrote about this world. For example: sin. In our world, sin is a hidden part of our nature. We see the results of sin, but not sin itself. But in a fantasy world, I can show what we look like with sin: naked, broken, with blood on our hands. Unable to heal ourselves. Helpless and bound to darkness.

Of course, there is a fun aspect to writing fantasy. I get to write outside the box and ask “what if” questions. What if we could see people the way God sees people, would we still love them? What if we could heal, but it meant taking on the hurt and pain, would we? What if you found out you’re really from another dimension (that’s a fun question!). What if you discovered you’re not human?

This is why I write speculative fiction.

Where did the idea for Heir of Hope come from?
Heir of Hope is the final book in the epic fantasy Follower of the Word series. The series revolves around Rowen Mar, a young woman who discovers a mark on her hand and with that mark can not only see inside a person’s soul when she touches them, but reflect back what that person is on the inside.

This power has different consequences. Most people fear her power and think she should be put down because of it. Others see opportunity if they can harness her power. And in Heir of Hope you meet a third group of people who want her to join them in their cause.

Ultimately, the Follower of the Word series is about what it means to follow God. Not only is it a journey for the reader, but it has been a journey for me as well as I have explored my own faith through this story.

Has your writing required any research? What type?
Yes! Sometimes people think that if you write fantasy, you get to make everything up. In some ways that is true, but there is still a lot of research that undergirds the worlds I create.

I base a lot of my governments, religions, even monetary currency on real places and systems here in our world. By doing so, it brings a certain realism to my stories.

What type of books do you read for pleasure?
Pretty much everything. I love to read! I especially enjoy historicals and have been tempted to branch out into that genre, but find myself intimidated by all the research, which is ironic since I already do quite a bit of research for my fantasy novels.

What type of theme or message do you hope readers will take from this book?
That in darkness there is light. My characters discover that following God is not easy, and on their own they can’t do it. But when all seems lost, God is there, and has always been there, even when they didn’t see Him.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I write from my heart and soul. As a follower of Jesus Christ, my spiritual life comes naturally across the pages. I am not afraid to tackle the questions of doubt, fear, temptation, and suffering. Those issues stem from my own walk with God and what I have experienced. Perhaps that is why reviewers have commented on how real my characters are.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
The moment I finally laid my writing down before God. It took years—and my husband losing his job—to finally relinquish my hold on my dream of becoming a writer, and to place that desire in God’s hands.

When my husband lost his job, I had to go back to work full-time. And with four young kids, I could only handle so much. So that afternoon, I knelt before a window and cried. I put my writing away to help my family out. It was in that moment I finally let go. Two weeks later after I started my job, I received the email that Marcher Lord Press was interested in Daughter of Light.

Since then I find myself constantly going back to God. Writing is hard work! Then you place your hard work in front of the world to critique. If I didn’t have God, I don’t know what I would do sometimes. He brings the calm to the writing storm.

Do you have your own writing space? Describe where you write.
I work on a laptop so I write everywhere: on my bed, in the kitchen, in the living room, at a coffee shop, even outside. The only requirement I have is I need it silent when I am writing (which, with four kids only comes when they are at school or in bed). I do have an office and when I need to switch to editing mode that is where I go.

With a husband and four children, do you have problems carving out time to write? How do you fit everything in?
When I first started writing, my kids were four years old and younger. I would write during their naps and at night when my husband was at church meetings. I used those years to learn how to write: I read books on writing, attended conferences when I could, and practiced what I learned.

Now that my kids are in school, it is easier to keep a schedule. I write one thousand words a day, every weekday. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you do that over and over again for a year, you have a finished book. I am a slower writer than most, but I produce a pretty clean rough draft, which makes up for all the time it takes to write it.

When deadlines come up, my husband takes over the family and lets me have the eight to ten hour days I need to get my edits in to my editor. He’s great in that way and I appreciate his support of my writing. In turn, when I don’t have a deadline, I make sure I am there for my family when they are home. It is a good system that lets me pursue writing, but not at the expense of my family. And they respect me and my writing because of that.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Don’t forget to live your life. It can be so easy to get caught up in writing and pursuing the dream of publishing (or the hard work required after you sign the contract) that you forget about the people in your life. Don’t. The writing will always be there, but the people may not. I never wanted my children growing up believing that writing took their mother away. And if I don’t spend time with my husband now, I won’t have a marriage later on.

Even take time for walks or coffee with friends. I find that my most authentic writing comes from what I experience in life. But if I don’t live my life—if I am always on the computer, living in my writing world—I will miss out on the real life stories taking place around me. You only live once, don’t let it slip by.

What other parting words do you have to share?
Writing isn’t the end-all. God is.

Thanks for sharing with us, Morgan Busse!
Thank you so much for having me!

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