Monday, September 10, 2007

Interview with Lisa T. Bergren

I was excited to get the opportunity to interview Lisa T. Bergren, the author of The Gifted series, including The Begotten, as well as numerous other Christian fiction and non-fiction books. Check out my review of the first book in her new medieval series by scrolling down to my August 22nd post. Here is the complete interview:

Hi, Lisa. Please tell us a little bit about what sorts of books you have written in the past.

I'm a "follow my nose" kind of writer, so I've written a little in a lot of areas--contemporary Christian romance (Refuge, Pathways, Firestorm); historical women's fiction (Captain's Bride, Deep Harbor, Midnight Sun); contemporary men/women's fiction (The Bridge, Christmas Every Morning); children's books (God Gave Us You/Two/Christmas); women's book/Bible study (What Women Want); devotionals (God Encounter and The Busy Mom's Devotional); and now supernatural historical suspense (The Begotten, The Betrayed). God continues to move me to new things, new challenges. I enjoy that!
Will you explain how the novel, The DaVinci Code, inspired you to write The Begotten?

I loved the pacing and mystery of that book--and it was the first novel in a very long while that I stayed up all night reading. The end frustrated me, of course, with the author's heretical conclusions, even as a fictional novel. I set out to find a biblical mystery that I could write and still stay true to Scripture, but include some of that same intrigue, pacing and fun of The DaVinci Code. A couple of biblical scholar friends mentioned the "lost letters of St. Paul" and I was set.
This new series, beginning with The Begotten, is set in the fourteenth century. Have you always been interested in medieval settings, or did you only become interested in the middle ages when you decided to write this series?

I've wanted to write of castles and knights and ladies for a long while (it's the old romance writer in me). The only problem was that I needed this to be set pre-Reformation, pre-Renaissance, so I had to delve even deeper in my historical research than planned. The world really changed after the Reformation/Renaissance, and much of what we learn of the medieval period is after that time. But I love, love, love learning--and am delighted when reviewers compliment me on research. My hope is that I give readers a glimpse of the past--without any of the agony of tedious research--but by just being engaged in a great story.
(And she definitely accomplishes this!)
I found The Begotten very bold and daring, which I loved! Was there ever a question of who would publish this novel, a Christian or secular publisher? Even though the themes are overwhelmingly Christian, which might put off secular publishers, this series contains a lot of supernatural elements, healings and miracles, which I thought might make it too daring for some Christian publishers.

From the beginning, I hoped this would be a crossover novel. After all, I set out to write a type of "Christian fictional alternative" to The Da Vinci Code. All of the fun; none of the heresy, you know? Salt and light for a dying world...So I hoped a secular publisher would pick it up. Penguin was just launching Berkley Praise, so it was the perfect timing/answer for me...a Christian publisher within a bigger ABA house, hopefully garnering wider distribution than might be possible with a Christian publishing house.
For all the writers reading this who are still trying to get that first elusive contract, will you share your journey to publication?

Oh, I hate to tell this story because it's so much more competitive these days. When I was starting out 15 years ago, I noticed there were only historical Christian romances on the market. I simply filled the hole by writing a contemporary Christian romance (Refuge) and a publisher (Multnomah) jumped on it. It did so well, we ended up building a whole contemporary romance line (Palisades) together, because by the time my first novel came out, I was working for the company. I've seen others break through by being the first to write mystery or Chick Lit or something else unique. But Christian fiction has come so far, there are fewer holes to spot! A lot of it is in who you know.
Do you have any advice for the experienced writer who is struggling to find a way to get their novels in front of agents and editors?

I can't say enough about the value of going to a Christian writer's conference where a publishing house you like (and think your book fits with) will have representation. Get in front of that person and pitch! And remember, that pitch has to be like a movie pitch--get your words together and the hook down so if you end up in front of that acquiring editor, you can give your 5-10 sentence spiel with ease. You need to know (a) genre, (b) why your book is unique from anything else out there/and what's similar that was successful, (c) what your hook is. A hook isn't "this is a great story." Think visually. Think how that deep-voiced movie pitch guy would talk about your book.
My pitch for The Gifted went something like this: "Picture this: A group of people with unique spiritual gifts, a group prophesied to come hundreds of years before they were born, are now coming together. Forces of evil--and even the Church--hunt them. Can they do what God has asked of them and survive? It all begins in my first book, The Begotten. It is the first in an epic trilogy uncommon to the Christian market in scope. It centers on a cast of characters--fallible, real human beings with supernatural gifting. And although it's a medieval, it has contemporary application for believers. Think pacing that approachesThe Da Vinci Code at times and an epic feel, like Lord of the Rings, from the start. That's my series."
After you finish this series about "The Gifted," what is your next writing project?

I'm thinking about a Colorado historical series, since I live in Colorado--more your standard Christian women's fiction. And I'm thinking about a bigger 18th Century Barbary Coast epic trilogy, more on the order of The Gifted. We'll see where God leads. :-)


Chaos-Jamie said...

Oh, to be so prolific...or to be able to write such a variety of stuff! She's so encouraging. And I LOVE this series!

Robin Johns Grant said...

Sounds like a great series. You're filling up my to-read stack again, Melanie. Sigh...