I met R.L. Copple through a speculative (code for sci-fi/fantasy) Christian author’s group. He was kind enough to let me read one of his books, Mind Game (review here) for free. As you’ll see from the review, I really enjoyed it and wanted to find out more about the author. I hope to be as good a writer as R.L. one day.
Now, grab a soda, kick up your feet, and enjoy the interview…
Do you consider yourself a Christian author or an author of Christian fiction? What do you think the difference is?
Most people mean by “author of Christian Fiction” that they write fiction targeted for the Christian audience. This usually involves–to one degree or another–themes, characters, and plots that highlight or enlighten the reader about Christian related issues. For some it may mean a checklist of points a book needs to touch on to be considered “Christian,” like whether it quotes Bible verses, whether the salvation message is presented in the “correct” manner, etc. I would tend to go more with the former understanding myself, as far as seeing what marketing category a particular book falls into.
Most people mean by “fiction author who is Christian” that they are a Christian who write some, if not all, of their stories for the general market. It doesn’t mean those books don’t have some Christian themes in them, only that they are not overtly so in a way that a non-Christian would be turned off by them. In most cases when someone says this, they also mean that their Christian theology, philosophy, and morality will tend to form the foundational worldview in their stories, even if it is never directly stated as such.
I see myself as both. “The Reality Chronicles,” published by Splashdown Books, is Christian fiction. A reader will quickly pick up that the main characters are Christian, God is a background but important character, and various morals and themes of a Christian nature are regularly brought forward both in plot and by analogy/allegory. Meanwhile, “The Virtual Chronicles” is more general market, not making any specific references about God. You don’t even know whether the characters are Christians or not. But the underlying worldview is Christian based, and the moral dilemmas that are dealt with highlight that fact.
But I would add that I am a Christian first, then an author. I’m leaving it in His hands what He does with both types of stories.
How is your theology (what you believe about God) reflected in your writing?
In the Reality Chronicles, more overtly through several methods. A big one is theme. Note how often heat and fire play into the picture and what happens when it does, for instance. In other ways, fairly directly through narration or character interaction. Still others, it is hidden more by analogy and/or allegory. As an example, there is a reason the steam house is octagonal. It wasn’t something I pulled out of the air, rather it means something.
In the Virtual Chronicles, it is more subtle. One of the more obvious themes you noticed in your review involves the treatment of life in contrast to the virtual, non-real life. But you also see shades of it in the theme of trust, which runs through these novels. Jeremy is a very trusting individual. The issue revolves around how does one continue to trust in the face of continual deception? This culminates big time in the third book I just finished writing, but is yet to be published. But one’s theology and worldview will play a significant role in how those issues are resolved, or whether they can be resolved at all.
What is one thing you’d like your readers to know?
That I’m human, make mistakes, and people will no doubt see something in my writings that doesn’t totally match up with their own theology. I don’t see this as a problem. If someone is open to letting God expose them to a different perspective, I think it can be beneficial. But keep in mind, this is fiction, and I could have it wrong just as easily as any reader could have it wrong and God uses this to open them up to truth. Point being, no writer, whether of fiction or non-fiction, is infallible. And no reader should expect a book of fiction to hit all their beliefs and theology point for point. We should be willing to have our beliefs challenged as well. Evaluate everything you read based on what you know, the Bible, and God’s leading.
Who did you have in mind when you wrote Mind Game?
I wanted to write that one with a general audience, predominately Young Adult, in mind, but keep it in a framework that an adult would enjoy as well. I mainly wanted it to be fun and entertaining, and whatever themes that came out were totally unplanned. In 2006, I thought of an idea for a different twist on the virtual reality story that I thought could be fun.
Part of the hope is too that by writing some good quality, general market stories, some of those readers will enjoy them enough to give my more Christian stories a try. Even in my Christian stories, I try to not “smack people over the head” with Christianity, but let it play out naturally in the stories. So I do think, unless someone simply hates Christians, that most non-Christians would enjoy them. I’ve been told some Muslims enjoyed reading them.
Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
Several are in the works.
In a spinoff from the Reality Chronicles trilogy, I have a new series I’m working on which I’ve dubbed, “The Legend of the Dragons’ Dying Field.” Two books have been written on it so far, tentatively titled: “The Magic Within” and “The Dragon Within.” I’m still editing both, but the second still needs some major work done on it. I’m planning five books in that series. Have a general outline and the first five chapters or so of the third book written. It will be Christian YA fiction.
In the Virtual Chronicles series, I just finished the rough draft for the third book in that series which I’ve titled “Virtual Game.” An international military organization known as ESEL seeks to gain control of the virtual machine technology through Jeremy, Mickey, and Bridget, who are in the midst of their own relationship crisis. General market YA, hope to be published sometime in 2013. Not sure how many more books in this series. This was to be the last one, but the characters changed that. May require a spinoff series.
I’m currently working, chapter by chapter on a science fiction for the more adult market. I’m writing each chapter as an episode format with an overall plot arc for the series. I’ve titled the first book as “Underground.” The main pov character is an agnostic, and she ends up joined with an Orthodox priest who is heading up one segment of an underground rebellion movement in a colonized sector of the galaxy. I’ve a bigger cast for this one than most of my books. I’ve published the first four chapters, but will eventually publish them all in a book once done. Christian themes are there, but I’d say this is one that could fall into general market as well as Christian, as it is more particular characters who are Christian where the Christian angle comes through at times. Otherwise, I’d classify this as an action/adventure, along the lines of Star Trek or Star Wars.
Aside from planning to update my “How to Make an Ebook: Using Free Software” in the near future, I’m currently working on another non-fiction title. This one, for the time being, is currently under wraps until near publication. Which at the moment, I’m expecting it to be published around May 2013.
I do have some other outlines done, and ideas. I’d like to finish my rewrite of the first book I wrote, which is about 2/3 done and I’ve not returned to finish it for about three years now. That series had a trilogy planned. I have a novel outlined that would be a follow up to my first published short story, “Dragon Stew,” one of my more popular stories. But with all I’m doing, not sure when I’ll get back to those.
Wow. You certainly have a lot going on! Can you tell us about your favorite book(s)?
Well, I have a lot of favorite books. Several have been influential. But I’m going to cheat here and pick three. They are special more for what they started, though the stories were very enjoyable as well.
The first is the book that got me excited about reading when I was in fifth grade: “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White. My fifth grade teacher read it in class. I enjoyed it so much I checked it out of the library to read it again for myself, and haven’t stopped reading since.
The second is “Runaway Robot” by Lester Del Ray. I picked this book up in Jr. High (Middle School for the younger generation) and it started me down the road of reading speculative fiction. I was captivated by the idea of living on Mars and other moons and planets, and what that would be like. That led to reading fantasies many will list like “Lord of the Rings” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
The third is the book that stated me writing, “The City of Ember” by Jeanne DuPrau. As my wife read that to me and my children in the car back in September of 2005, it sparked an idea for a story, which I wrote the rough draft of in October 2005. First time I had ever written a full novel. It clocked in at 94,000 words. I enjoyed it so much I decided to invest myself in becoming a writer. Seven years later and seven published books later, I’m not doing too bad at it.
Thank you so much for dropping by! I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the Virtual Chronicles series and I definitely want to check out the Reality Chronicles. Plus, who doesn’t like a good series about dragons? J
To find out more about R.L., follow any of the links below.
Author website: http://www.rlcopple.com
Published Stories: http://www.rlcopple.com/published.php
Author blog: http://blog.rlcopple.com
Author online store: http://store.rlcopple.com
As a young teen, R. L. Copple played in his own make-believe world, writing the stories and drawing the art for his own comics while experiencing the worlds of other authors like Tolkien, Lewis, Asimov, and Lester Del Ray. After years of writing devotionally, he returned to the passion of his youth in order to combine his fantasy worlds and faith into the reality of the printed page. Since then, his imagination has given birth to The Reality Chronicles trilogy from Splashdown Books, and Mind Game, Hero Game, Ethereal Worlds Anthology, and How to Make an Ebook: Using Free Software from Ethereal Press, along with numerous short stories in various magazines. In his Texas Hill Country residence, he continues to create and give wings to new realities so that others might enjoy and be inspired by them.