Friday, October 26, 2012

Interview with Author Eric Wilson

By Jeff Reynolds
Halloween's right around the corner, but you're having a hard time finding a Christian vampire novel to read? Is there such a thing? (Okay, I'm talking about a vampire story written by a Christian, not one about vampires who are also Christians.)
This month, I have the honor of interviewing Eric Wilson. Wilson has several novels and novelizations out, including Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy, which you've probably guessed is the Christian vampire stories I'm telling you about.
Jeff Reynolds: While my focus is more on the Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy, I can't neglect that three of the books you've written have titles that some people might recognize, like Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof. (You also wrote the novelization for October Baby, which came out September 1st.) First, how did you get that gig? Second, did it require a lot of contact with the Kendrick brothers? Or was it more like being in a room after all the other kids left and having the toys all to yourself?

Eric Wilson: My publisher put me in contact with the Kendricks, knowing that they wanted novelizations of their films. After a long interview process, I was chosen to do the books. I had a blast. The Kendricks gave me lots of freedom. As long as I kept everything in the films in the books, I could add subplots and backstories. They were great to work with. We brainstormed and laughed, then I tucked myself away and wrote like crazy (with each book being completed in 4-6 weeks).

JR: I've read the first of the Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy, Field of Blood. (The other installments are Haunt of Jackals and Valley of Bones.) What inspired this series?
EW: I was, and still am, annoyed with the amoral view of vampires in current culture. Traditionally and symbolically, they represent evil. They are a counterfeit of Jesus's blood providing immortal life. I wanted to write a trilogy for the mainstream market, without Christian lingo, that would go back to historical and biblical foundations for the concept of vampirism. My foundation for the stories started when I saw an article from Jerusalem, describing a 2000-year-old family grave discovered in the same field where Judas hung himself. What if Judas's blood had seeped into those graves? I had to explore the idea. I've traveled in Romania and Israel, so those countries were great inspiration for the setting.

JR: On your website (address given below), you wrote in a letter to critics: I've always aimed to reach those on the fringes of faith--ones who have wandered from the church, but still have a seed of belief; and ones who are too nervous to come through our doors, yet have a desire to know more about the God we serve. How has God used your books in general and the Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy specifically in reaching those you've described?
EW: Sadly, the Christian market is more intent on providing "safe" alternatives than world-changing art, whether in music or literature. That means it is very difficult in this market for a writer to reach those outside the church. Many Christian consumers want tidy stories with easy lessons and black and white morals, though in the real world, life doesn't always work that easily. I've tried to write stories (aside from the novelizations) that are nuanced in character development and biblical ideas. They're not tied up with pretty bows. I've found a core readership of Christians who love the multifaceted elements of my books.

With the Jerusalem's Undead Trilogy, I also found a core readership of nonbelievers. I've received numerous emails about the powerful symbolism of the thorns (sin) in the veins. I've had people say they were about to go feed their own addictions (fill in the blank), then thought of those thorns and chose not to do so. I've had others tell me they had never read a Bible, but went and bought one after reading the trilogy so they could learn more about the Nazarene Blood. It's been a great launching point for dialogue about sin, infestation, and the power of redemption and grace versus the attempts to find freedom on our own good efforts (such as Gina tries to do at the end of book one).

JR: Last year we had a speaker at the ACFW Indiana Chapter talk about branding. It seems having both Facing the Giants and Field of Blood in your bibliography isn't a textbook example. How do you/your publisher effectively market books intended for two distinct and not necessarily compatible audiences?

EW: I've never cared a whit for branding. I care about writing what God puts in my heart, but my ideals tend to get in the way of practical concerns. To my detriment, that has affected my sales. Some people doubt that the guy who wrote Fireproof could write a good vampire story. Others wonder why a guy who wrote a highly original vampire trilogy would waste his time with preachy storytelling like Facing the Giants. The reality is that I'm an out-of-the-box thinker, constantly wrestling through scriptural issues, but I'm also deeply committed to the Bible being the truth. Both aspects are part of who I am. I try to be true to that.

JR: Christian vampire stories sound a bit unorthodox (though it's clear the Collectors in your series technically aren't vampires; in Field of Blood one mentions they like the taste of garlic). How controversial has this trilogy been? If so, how do you use the controversy to your advantage as an author?
EW: Vampires are a demonic representation of evil, always have been traditionally. In that sense, my Collectors are very much vampires. And most novels nowadays have played with those old standbys--garlic, mirrors, and such. I didn't ever write this as a "Christian vampire" trilogy. First, it's not Christian vampires. Second, I wanted it to reach nonbelievers.

The controversy only came from those who hadn't read it and assumed I was "of the devil" or I was trying to "cash in on the
Twilight books by fleecing the Christian flock." If people don't do their research and know a little about me (I'm a deeply devoted Christian, husband, with a Bachelor's degree from an accredited Bible college), then I don't worry too much about their jabs. But, the reality is that the trilogy would've sold much better outside the Christian market.

When Thomas Nelson first signed me for the trilogy, they had an imprint called WestBow that was aimed at mainstream readers. That imprint folded soon after I came on board, and that meant the trilogy got bogged down in an Amish-driven market of that time.

JR: More recently, in addition to the October Baby novelization, you've written a novella and have released the first two installments of a new series. Would you like to tell us about these?
EW: For my own career survival, I've tried to be more aware of branding. My more recent books have been more specifically written for the Christian market, while still dealing with complex issues.

One Step Away
is about a modern family targeted by a shadowy figure from their past. When they get $6,000,000, they don't realize they are part of an experiment. On a twist of the story of Job, they are blessed instead of cursed to see if they will turn their backs on God.Two Seconds Late is a modern twist on the story of Esther. A young woman is dating a state politician, and she discovers a conspiracy to get human tracking implants legalized, for the safety of children and the elderly. She has no idea that big business, politics, and even a Russian assassin have stakes in this, and she alone has been raised up for "such a time as this."October Baby was a blast to write. Based on the screenplay by Theresa Preston and the Erwin brothers, it is a nuanced story. about a 19-year-old girl who discovers that her parents are not her birth parents. In fact, she was an abortion survivor. This sends her on a coming-of-age quest to find her birth mother and the facts surrounding her birth. I was able to add subplots and layers. The book will make you laugh and cry. It's full of humor, drama, a bit of romance, and somehow avoids getting preachy on this delicate subject. The abortion-clinic nurse is one of the heroes of the story, for example.

JR: Thank you for your time, and have a blessed day.
EW: I appreciate it, Jeff. Thank you. May all of us discover the power of the Nazarene Blood, and be free from the thorns that try to entangle us.

Eric Wilson's Webpage:

And if you'd like to see the trailer for either Field of Blood or One Step Away?

1 comment:

  1. The reality is that I'm an out-of-the-box thinker, constantly wrestling through scriptural issues, but I'm also deeply committed to the Bible being the truth.

    Never change, Eric.