We’re trying something new today. I have often told you about books I have been reading. This one really had me thinking about my own cultural perspective, and since it was written by a colleague in American Christian Fiction Writers and fellow blogger on International Christian Fiction Writers, I have invited her to answer a few questions, as an “author interview” like we do on a lot of the book sites. There is even a chance to win a free Kindle copy at the end of this post. Let me know if you would like to see more of this sort of thing.
Valerie Comer’s new speculative novel, Majai's Fury, is “a fantasy tale of forbidden romance amid clashing religions and cultures.” As the Amazon blurb says:
Taifa hoped the goddess Majai wouldn’t notice she hadn’t provided a firstborn for sacrifice. But when the king demands Taifa’s life in exchange for the child she has not yet conceived, she knows she is out of time. She seizes the king’s proposal—her life spared if she neutralizes Shanh, the foreigner whose doomsday prophecies infuriate the king.
Secure in Azhvah’s protection, Shanh’s mission looks simple enough: deliver his god’s fateful message then return to his homeland. But when Azhvah allows a conniving woman to weaken the shield, many long-held beliefs are shattered. Can Shanh’s god truly desire to rescue this heathen from the fate she deserves?
Has she caught your imagination yet? Valerie does a fabulous job of world building, painting a lush capital full of canals and fountains. Read my full review on Amazon. Be warned: There is more sexual content than is usual in inspirational fiction. But then, there is more sexual content in the real world than we in the church like to think. Comer’s conclusions are Biblical, but the details in the early chapters may bother some readers.
So, Valerie, here are my questions. Majai’s Fury is a major change from your previous light romance. What inspired this book?
Valerie Comer: The honest truth is that Majai's Fury was written about eight years ago, so it was written well before the light contemporary romances that were published first. It came about as a result of a writing course I took at an online forum that walked beginners through every step from idea through critiques and edits.
Once the novel was completed and polished, I didn't know what to do with it. Indie publishing hadn't yet waltzed onto the scene and, even though it finaled twice in ACFW's Genesis contest for unpublished fiction, no publisher would touch it. It was too sensual for Christian publishers but way too "religious" for mainstream.
When indie became the new cool, I looked through the folders of the seven books I'd written before Raspberries and Vinegar. I selected Majai's Fury as the most ready-to-publish story and decided it would be my entry into indie publishing—a book not linked to my other titles, on which I could experiment with the tools now available to me.
LeAnne Hardy: Hmm. One of the advantages of Indie publishing is not having to worry about customers boycotting your bookstore because they didn’t like the level of realism in one book. Speculative fiction has the strength of being able to take us out of our own world so that we see it better. What aspects of our own culture did you want us to notice in your portrayal of Taifa’s city?
VC: I love the ability of the speculative genres to morph culture with a magnifying glass on one aspect. In this case, I started with Shanh's culture in the land of Ghairlazh. I knew I wanted a pseudo pre-messianic Judaism feel. Shanh was loosely modeled after Jonah, sent to a heathen culture to demand repentance. Then I considered how that culture might contrast.
In the end, some similarities with modern culture are inevitable. Our society certainly glorifies promiscuity and sexual sin, and God's law still stands against it.
LH: Your portrayal of Shanh’s religion challenges me to take a hard look at my own evangelical faith. How similar do you think our North American churches are to the legalistic worship of Azhvah portrayed here?
VC: I once had a long conversation with a Jehovah's Witness on my doorstep. Like me, this woman had been raised in her faith and knew nothing else to believe in. I began to wonder what it would really take to shake either of our faiths to the core and open our eyes to other possibilities. Even though that happened more than twenty years before I wrote <i>Majai's Fury</i>, looking back, I think the core of the story began there. How difficult it is to step back from your childhood faith and wonder why you believe what you believe… and is it really true? How can you know? That analysis feels heretical.
Certainly many of our North American churches seem to focus more on façade than on from-the-gut evangelism. We've become complacent as we do so much from habit rather than a daily encounter with the living Jesus.
LH: I’ve lived much of my life in Africa and Latin America where spiritism is strong. In your book, pagan “gods” like Majai are not merely lifeless statues. They have real power, albeit malevolent. Are you suggesting that false gods in the real world have real power?
VC: My parents welcomed missionaries into our home at every opportunity. Three of my four sisters raised their families amid indigenous tribes in Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, and Africa. Three of their children are now on the mission field. I have heard many bone-chilling stories of the realities and power held by shamans in places where the devil has kept people in dark bondage for millennia.
So, yes, I am suggesting that false gods have real power, given to them by Satan. But I declare that God's power is greater by far, and that He shines a bright light into these dark places.
While I remain adamant that Majai's Fury is not an allegory and therefore Azhvah is not to be equated with the God of the Bible, there are definitely some strong correlations.
LH: Sounds like you grew up in a home similar to mine! I loved the various cultures that you created. How did you go about planning the similarities and differences? Did you draw on any particular real world cultures?
VC: As I said earlier, the Ghairlazhian culture is very loosely modeled after ancient Judaism but with several major distinctions. One is that of facial scarification rather than animal sacrifice as a symbol of repentance.
I built the two cultures in tandem, going back and forth between them as I thought of additional ways to increase the contrast. The Nuomoran culture was created more as a counter to that of Ghairlazh than as mimicry of any current culture.
LH: Will there be a sequel? You left us with cultures and individuals in the midst of major transitions. I’m anxious to know what happens.
VC: When I wrote Majai's Fury, I did have loose plans for two more books in the series. At this time, I'm not sure. The next eighteen months are laid out with additional books in the Farm Fresh Romance series and other contemporary romance/farm lit titles.
Honestly, I'd need to see solid sales of Majai's Fury as well as reader demand to go back and pick up the threads. It is within the realm of possibility that the second tale in <i>The Books of Azhvah</i> could bump something else in the production line-up. Can I just say I love being indie and having this option? I'm so blessed.
LH: Okay guys, go out and buy Majai’s Fury and tell your friends, and give Valerie a good reason to write a sequel! Valerie has agreed to give away a free Kindle copy of Majai’s Fury if we have at least five comments on this page. So leave your comments with your e-mail address writing out “at” and “dot” to confuse the phishers. Your chances of winning depend on the number of comments. Void where prohibited by law.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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