Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Interview with Ian Thomas Curtis: Dragonsong (Part 2) – and a Giveaway

We’re continuing with our interview of Ian Thomas Curtis, author of The Canticles of Andurun: Dragonsong. Today he talks about the characters, the role of faith in the story, his favorite authors and his own faith.

The story of Dragonsong is an epic-like story. But it is also the personal story of Justias, who's not only called to be a dragon slayer but has very familiar conflicts with his father, William. Their relationship is marked by both tension and love. These "stories within the story" are found throughout the book, and seem designed to knit the main story together.

I love side plots. That is the simplest explanation. I feel that writing a good novel (especially a novel of this type) should be like making a rug: you use many different strands to weave it into one coherent whole. The challenge and the joy is to bring many seemingly unrelated plot points into a position where they begin to fall together and reveal a larger whole. The over-arching story is Justias’ great quest to slay the Dragons and liberate his people; but I hope the reader pauses to enjoy the many rabbit trails I’ve left along the way. Sometimes being diverted is fun, and it gives the story room to grow, in my opinion.

The novel is strongly undergirded by faith, and yet it's not overwhelmed by it. And elements of the Bible and religion have a definite influence -- the required branding by the dragons, the clerics and zealots who serve the dragons, and the faithful like Reverend Cerson who believe in "the One." Speak a bit about how your own faith influenced the story.

Justias in many ways reflects my own faith, or lack of it, for most of my life. The Dragons and their Clerics represent, to some extent, the organized religious institution. Reverend Cerson represents the believer’s simple and faith-based relationship with God. Yet I must add that I wasn’t intending Dragonsong to be an allegory in any strict sense. I did use biblical references, quotes, morals, etc. because I wanted to teach God’s sovereignty and man’s accountability toward Him. In Justias’ case he wanted vengeance no matter what; it would be a hard lesson for him to see that his own way is not the best way because we can’t see further than the moment we’re in. The dragons could be likened to Satan and his demons who crave the worship that only belongs to God, and direct man’s attention away from knowing and building a relationship with Him, to building religious systems that replace Him. When I realized the vital nature of what Christianity meant, that it was nothing short of approaching God through Jesus Christ and coming to know Him and be known by Him, it was an epiphany. I wanted to show a character going through something of the same ordeal as I did and being conformed from doing my own thing to thinking God’s thoughts after Him. Dragonsong is my attempt.

What authors do you like to read?

After the Bible I enjoy a lot of non-fiction authors. I like Dave Hunt, A.W. Tozer, Roger Oakland, Charles Spurgeon, Erwin Lutzer, and many more. I love expositional material, commentaries, or devotional work. As for fiction? I don’t read a lot of fiction, actually. I just read Paradise Lost by John Milton, a trio of plays by Shakespeare, the Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, and I’ll be turning to Poe soon. I enjoy the Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Sword of Shannara (Terry Brooks), the Screwtape Letters (Lewis, of course), and Lloyd Alexander’s series of fantasy. I love a good fantasy story where the heroes and villains are sharply defined; good is good and evil is evil. I don’t mean boring cliché and lack of creativity, but I have no interest in reading when the hero is as vile or duplicitous as the villain.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Random or particular? Randomly, I like watching Scooby Doo cartoons and have a mild fascination with monkeys. In particular, I have been writing in one form or another since I was eight (give or take). I liked writing horror stories at first, and then turned to writing fantasy, but had the most awful problem—even into my twenties—of finishing a novel-sized fantasy story. No; I have never suffered writer’s block. I just had other ideas for other stories that would intrude, and I would set down what I was writing, begin something else, and never go back. I lacked self-control and temperance: something God has given me to complete The Canticles of Andurun.

I began dating Gillian (my wife) in my late twenties, and finished writing Dragonsong not long afterward. We married after about 21 months, and had our twin girls, Mabel and Lorna, almost two years after. Our third (Gabriel Benjamin if a boy and Kendra Elizabeth if a girl) will arrive early July, 2011.

I haven’t always been a very good Christian. I was very self-centered for most of my teens and twenties, which led to numerous poor choices on my part: A carnal relationship with my first girlfriend that lost me my best friend, followed by a marriage to an unbeliever that nearly cost me my entire family. The marriage ended after less than three years and I came to the realization that all of my choices in life had one ultimate end: gratification of self. I was so in love with myself that God was nowhere on the horizon.

Jesus finally managed to get my attention after my divorce and I began a slow and uncertain walk that was strengthened through new Christian friends and a new fellowship with my parents that I did not possess earlier. I still stumble often, but I know now that when I fall I can be cleansed and restored to fellowship with my Lord; I know that my spirit is willing, even if the flesh is weak. I know Jesus Christ is my Savior, and therefore I have a foundation on which to build my marriage, fatherhood and writing. I love being a father and a husband, and I am inclined to believe that God gifted me with creative ability to glorify Him through fictional stories.

I am a fundamental Christian: I believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God for faith and practice, and that justification is by faith alone in Christ alone, totally divorced of works or merit. I believe that the Bible teaches only one way to salvation and God: faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I like to teach through my blog, and I’m glad to God how much I learn as I do so! No, I have never been to college and I do not have any credentials after my name; I am a doctor of nothing. Yet Christ was pleased to call the common men to Him. Had He wanted the men with the credentials, He could certainly have had them. And I am certainly common in this regard.

I have a deep love for fantasy writing, and without doubt the Bible was my primary source of inspiration for crafting my tale; though I confess that elements of other novels and such have colored some of Andurun. Solomon said there was nothing new under the sun, so I just want to take an old idea and give it a unique spin. I hope I have achieved that. It is my hope and desire to sow a little biblical truth and wisdom throughout The Canticles of Andurun for the believer, and to provide something to think on for the unbeliever; I also just wanted to give the reader a good story to plunge into!

Related: Ian talks about the book on YouTube.


It won’t be a surprise that I like this book – and I like it a lot. So much, in fact, that I’m giving away a copy, shipped directly from Amazon. Just leave a comment in the comment box, and your name will be entered in a random drawing. The giveaway will close on Sunday, April 3 at midnight, and I’ll announce the winning name on Monday, April 4.


Louise Gallagher said...

Scooby Doo and monkeys? Now that's a combination for a fantasy tale!

I love how he describes not having writer's block but other stories intruding.


Maureen said...

A remarkably honest and open interview.

I chuckled also at Scooby Doo and monkeys.

Maude Lynn said...

Excellent interview!

I'm definitely intrigued.

Duane Scott said...

This is definitely an author I could read and enjoy I think.

How honest! :)

And cool...

I had a pet monkey in Ghana.

Tim Ward said...

I love seeing fundamental Christians writing Fantasy. I pray for the best for you Ian and look forward to reading this book.

Anthony Rosenthal said...

Monkeys are fascinating creatures...

I look forward to reading the book in whole, and will likely buy a copy if I do not win this one here. What I have read of Ian Curtis' work, tells me it would be a great read. I think his love for God, as highly as he speaks about it outside of his fantasy world, could only be magnified in his story as when writing, I believe we show or tell a bit of our hearts we normally cannot put into words.