Interview With Simon Rose, Author of Science Fiction Fantasy For Children

Carma: I thoroughly enjoyed The Heretic’s Tomb and I liked the way you got Annie into the past and out of the walled up room at the abbey. What was your source of inspiration for The Heretic’s Tomb?

Simon:I’m pleased you enjoyed the book. It was inspired by my own love of history and I have always enjoyed time travel stories. Many novels have medieval settings, but to me some historical periods, such as the era of the Black Death or the mystery of the Princes in the Tower depicted in The Sorcerer’s Letter Box, for example, are the most fascinating and the most suitable settings for a good adventure story.

Carma: What are your writing habits? Do you work on an outline before starting the actual story?

Simon: Yes I do. I always work extensively on an outline, determining all the twists and turns of the plot, before beginning the actual novel. This outline is usually at least one paragraph for every chapter and can be up to 5000 words.

Carma: What goes on inside the mind of the fantasy writer?

Simon: All kinds of things – ancient mysteries, the unexplained, the paranormal, science fiction themes, time travel ideas, parallel universes, alternate realities, weird and wonderful characters and a whole lot of ‘what if’ scenarios.

Carma: What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are trying to break into the fantasy genre?

Simon: Try to be as original as possible and not copy something else, even if it has been popular. Write about what interests you in this particular genre rather than jumping on any bandwagon.

Carma: Who is Simon Rose? Describe an ordinary day in your life.

Simon: I’m not sure there is an ordinary day. If I’m not traveling or at a local school or library, I do spend much of the day working on the current book project, as well as on marketing, correspondence and so on, but also have children to take care of, pets to feed, household chores to do and so on.

Carma: What type of books did you read as a child?

Simon: I became immersed in science fiction as a boy and read a lot of science fiction novels and collections of short stories, as well C S Lewis, Tolkien and other fantasy writers. At high school, I studied a great deal of history and have retained my interest in the subject up to the present day. I also read a tremendous number of comic books as a child. Pure escapism perhaps, but comic books were great for the imagination. On TV, the original Star Trek series springs readily to mind, along with many other influences.

Carma: How do you set about promoting your novel? How many hours a week do you spend on book promotion?

Simon: I do some form of promotion every day, whether for the books or for myself, usually online though the website, blog or via e mail correspondence regarding author visits, summer camps, writing services, festivals and other events.

Carma: How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

Carma: There are lots on resources on line and elsewhere with regards to publishers, but a good thing to do is to research which houses are publishing the same type of material that you are writing. If you are writing fantasy for ten year olds, see who is doing that and then check their website to see if they are accepting submissions, Similarly, if you are writing teen fiction, see who is doing that and again be sure to check out their submission policies. There are also publishers who only deal with non fiction, prefer to specialize in regional issues, those who only do picture books or who do picture books, but don’t accept stories about animals and so on. It can be a long process, but is well worth it.

Carma: What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you? Any special strategies you’d like to share?

Simon: All authors have to be prepared to do as much as they can to promote their own work. Get a website or blog or both, even before your first book is published, forge a good relationship with your local bookstores in order to secure book signing events, look into ways to talk about your work at festivals, other events and especially at schools and libraries. You may produce the greatest book ever written. However, no one else is going to see it if your book doesn’t become known to potential readers.

Simon is available for presentations, workshops, Author-in-residence programs in Canada and the United States. Simon’s upcoming book due in Spring of 2009 is Doomsday Mask.

Thank you for this interview Simon.

Historical Fiction and Writing – The Rose Trilogy: The Thorn, The Judgment, The Mercy

In some historical fiction, the reader can identify specific individuals, events and dates as the backdrop of a story. Others tell stories about a people and time in general, rather than a specific event or person. Considered the queen of Amish romantic historical fiction, Beverly Lewis scored again with The Rose Trilogy: The Thorn, The Judgment and The Mercy. One could not help but compare / contrast our lives with that of the Amish. To review this trilogy, I have chosen to do just that compare / contrast “The Plain Life and the Fancy Life.” As writing students progress essays expand beyond five paragraphs.

The Rose Trilogy: The Thorn, The Judgment, The Mercy

By Beverly Lewis

Beverly Lewis introduces us to the Amish of the Pennsylvania Dutch region, the People, through this trilogy and over 80 books. While the story of Rose Ann Kauffman begins in 1985, we can easily find ourselves in similar situations. God’s people of all times have found themselves faced with the challenge of living in the world, but not of the world. Amish talk of this struggle as the contrast of “the Plain Life with the Fancy Life.” Looking at three areas we will examine this challenge: separation from the world, courtship in this world and discipline in the church.

Rose Ann Kauffman or Rose lived with her parents in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Her grandparents lived in one of the “Dawdi (grandparent) Houses” on the property. Over ten years earlier, her mother had suffered an injury when her buggy tipped over and she fell in a ravine. Though constantly in pain, she refused to let her husband take her to a specialist. Later, as part of the story, she did decide to go and regained some health and no longer had pain. They had chosen, as a People, to live very simply. Church leader, the bishop of the district, allowed the Kauffman family to have indoor bathrooms because of Emma’s injury. Generally, modern conveniences such as motor vehicles, electricity, running water, telephones and televisions in a home have no place in the “Plain Life.” Further, the People dressed and kept their hair in a way in keeping with their lifestyle. While they did not own motor vehicles, at times they hired drivers of motor vehicles to get to places such as a hospital and rehab center. My question: “Are these things evil in themselves or is it what they may do to a person? If these activities represent sin, in and of themselves, why the exceptions? One answer to this question: The modern “conveniences” represent an attempt to draw people, especially the young, away from their way of life and ultimately destroy their entire community.

For an example closer to the “English” lives, as Amish call us, I graduated from high school in 1967. During high school and college I went to churches who taught against going to movies. One of the reasons given involved not wanting to support the movie industry. I now know that they can track sales and know which kind of movies sell. At some point I would not even watch a movie on television, though I would watch television shows. That made no sense, but I wanted to obey the “rules.” Over the years, things have changed and now preachers use movies as illustrations in sermons. Content should guide us in what we watch. We must consider if the content steers us away from the Lord; if so we should discontinue it. As seen in the story of Rose, the People and “English” evangelicals meet the challenge of “separation from the world” with gradual change. I John 2:15 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Amish practice of courtship stems from their idea of separation from the world. In this trilogy, young people of courting age attended Sunday evening “Singings.” Family members would get the young ladies to the “Singing” and afterwards the young people would pair up and young men would offer to take a young lady home. Young men of courting age must acquire a special “courting buggy” which was open to avoid improper behavior. During cold, Pennsylvania winters, the young men would have heated bricks and blankets to help keep their gals warm as they drove around the countryside “courting” or getting to know each other. One aspect of the whole process that seemed especially interesting involved the secrecy. While parents knew that their young lady spent time with someone after the “Singing” and presumably someone from one of the respected families of their community, the custom required secrecy. While the young couple may agree to marry, they do not announce it until a couple of weeks before “Wedding Season” at the beginning of November each year. Our protagonist, Rose, would have benefited from the guidance of her parents.

Apparently, Amish young people discuss whether to kiss on the lips before their wedding or to save it for that special day. “English” or evangelical young people have similar conversations. Parents of both groups want their children to marry believing people. Probably, most Amish demand more exclusiveness in this area. In one of the books, Rose’s grandparents questioned the wisdom of young people being out late at night. In a way, this surprised me because I expected that generation to be more entrenched in the custom. Rose’s older sister had married an “English” man and left the community for five years. Her departure from the People began to bother her only when her husband thought nothing of exposing their young daughter to worldly influences. Hen (short for Hannah) took Mattie Sue to spend some time with her parents and began to dress and act Amish. Brandon did not like this change. It pleased me that the Bishop and Hen’s father allowed her to stay there for a short time, but they encouraged her to do what she needed to restore her marriage. Certainly, we would see a bigger difference contrasting how non-believing people in our society would address these issues.

Finally, I address the issue of discipline in the church. In this trilogy, the first title, The Thorn probably refers to the foster son of Bishop Aaron. From the beginning he rebelled showing no interest in submitting to his foster parents or to the People. Nick and Christian, Aaron and Barbara’s biological son, never got along. At one point, Christian took Nick out and began to cut off his pony tail, a scuffle ensued and Christian died at the bottom of a ravine. Nick took him back to the house and then ran away. Not getting all of the information, everyone blamed Nick. Several Bishops in the area, placed Bishop Aaron on suspension; they relieved him of all his ministerial duties and he could only function as a member of the People. The Judgment develops the story of this act of church discipline. Finally, in The Mercy, a number of twists represent God’s mercy to His people.

In the epilogue and word from the author, Beverly Lewis mentions the heritage of the Amish as related to the Anabaptists of old and Mennonites of our day. In my experience one Baptist distinctive is the autonomy of the local church. While a local body could request help from nearby churches, no hierarchy exists like illustrated in this story. Members of the district in question did not agree with the decision of the other bishops. In the end, the bishops lifted the suspension as the truth came out.

This compelling story reveals how much alike and how different God’s people are. Of course if we would compare God’s people with the world, the differences would abound. Just looking at the areas of separation from the world, courting in the world and discipline in the church give us a good idea of these differences and similarities. May God grant us wisdom to be in the world, but not of the world!