Welcome to Worldbuilders, a series of guest posts and interviews by my fellow authors of Christian speculative fiction. Today’s interview is with Tiger Hebert, author of Dragon’s Fire.
Next week, we will feature an interview from Cynthia P. Willow, whose newest book, Shelley: A Christian Paranormal Novella, released on March 12, 2016.
Now on to Tiger!
Tony: Before we get into your book and your writing, I’d like to ask you a few personal questions. First and foremost, let me ask the most important personal question I have for you:
Coffee or Tea?
Tiger: I’d have to say tea. I do like coffee, if it is appropriately diluted with enough creamer and sugar, but alas, it does not like me.
Tony: As someone who slices off about 6 or 7 pots of coffee a day, I forgive you. I will try not to hold your “drink” affiliation against you for the remainder of this interview.
Tell us a little about your real life. Does it give you inspiration for your writing? Does it get in the way of your writing, or are there times when you get help, from people or circumstances?
Tiger: While I love building worlds full of exciting places and people, it is really a very small part of my life. I am a Christian, a husband, and a father to three small children. I also work full time doing Quality Assurance work, so I have to find ways to fit writing time into the cracks. It is challenging, but we can always find time in life for the things that are really important to us.
Tony: Well said! Family is very important to me as well. Since we’re on the subject, where did you grow up? And how did your childhood affect your writing?
Tiger: I grew up in a small, rural town in Maine. My childhood was very… interesting. I experienced a lot of things that kids shouldn’t experience, but I think it helps me see and hopefully write about brokenness, it’s effects, and unconditional love in a very honest way.
Tony: In my experience, most writers are avid readers. What is your favorite book/character?
Tiger: I am indeed an avid reader, it’s just a matter of finding time to squeeze it in. That is why love audiobooks so much! While I love the work of Tolkien and CS Lewis, I am currently in love with Brandon Sanderson‘s work, especially the Stormlight Archive series. His is a mainstream author, but his worldview is apparent in his writing, so it is a lot cleaner than the work of many of his contemporaries. I think my two favorite characters at the moment are Kaladin Stormblessed and Dalinar “The Blackthorn” Kholin. Both are complex men with a myriad of internal struggles not to mention a world on the brink of destruction, and you have some fascinating journeys.
Tony: Tell us about your writing process. Do you write with a pen, typewriter or computer? Do you listen to music? How often do you write?
Tiger: I do have a few little notebooks and tons of sticky notes, but I do all my actual writing on my PC. I do have Scrivener, but I actually still do most of my writing in Word. It’s familiar and comfortable.
I have focused on building better habits this year, and one of my top priorities was making sure that I at least write something every day. I have had days where it’s not even two-hundred words, but it’s progress. Currently I haven’t missed a day this year. My writing is usually done during my lunch breaks at work and in the evening when the kids are in bed.
I do occasionally listen to music. I have created a pretty massive Epic Instrumentals playlist for writing, I think it’s like six or eight hours long now!
Tony: What is your writing style? Do you see yourself as a Christian who writes speculative fiction or an author of Christian speculative fiction? What do you think defines Christian speculative fiction?
Tiger: I generally don’t carry around the labels because it turns people off, and they never even give it a chance. That being said, I never shy away from questions about my convictions, I’d just rather my readers discover that on their own. I think Christian speculative fiction is really just fiction that in some way points back to the Christ. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the gospel itself, but I do think it needs to point to Jesus.
Tony: What is the message of your writing?
Tiger: To me, my message is kind of two fold. While I attempt to have some form of theme for each book, there is also one general over-arching theme for it all. The Chronicles of Aurion is really, at its core, about the bondage of sin. I think throughout the story, you find different characters who all have different struggles and pitfalls making them unique, but still uniquely human. Dragon’s Fire on the other hand presents some questions about faith and hope. Whereas the book I’m currently writing has a whole different minor theme. Yet all together, I think the overall theme is that apart from Christ we are lost, but with Him, nothing is impossible.
Tony: What advice would you give to new writers who wish to write Christian speculative fiction?
Tiger: It’s simple. Seek God, read, and write. Do them every day, the rest will take care of itself.
Tony: Which taboo subject do you think is the hardest sell for a Christian speculative fiction author: ghosts, vampyres, magic or aliens? And why?
Tiger: For me personally, I would say that any type of magic and anything dealing with sexual content. It’s not that they can’t be handled in a God-honoring way, it’s just that people often make snap judgments when they see or hear anything relating to those subjects. I think that writers can still honor God while delving into topics like that, but it can’t be done haphazardly and truthfully, it can’t be done with human wisdom. We really need discernment and guidance from the Holy Spirit to understand IF it is a topic that we should address, and if so, how?
Tony: Tell us about working with any people who help you create your books. Do you use Beta readers? Hire an editor or proofreader? How do you get your covers? Especially a cover as glorious as the one you have on Dragon’s Fire! Seriously, I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but… It’s Just. So. Awesome.
Tiger: Great questions and thank you! Since I have both worked with a publishing house and am now shifting to self-publishing, I have gone a few different routes. Now that I am self-publishing, I do rely heavily on a group of trusted Beta readers, and they are fantastic. I also have one Beta who is really focused specifically on consistency and readability for the non-believer. I have two that specifically comb through for editing items in addition to focusing on content. That being said, I do plan to hire a professional editor in addition for the next book as it will be too large to rely on proof-reading alone for editing.
Cover art is another interesting challenge, because I am so picky when it comes to what I want, and that type of art can get pricey. It took a long time to get the cover for Dragon’s Fire right, and the rest of the books will be no different. We are actually in the middle of cover design for my upcoming release, The Chronicles of Aurion. Fortunately I have a working relationship with a wonderful artist named Caleb Havertape, and he is doing a great job.
Tony: Tell us about one of the characters in your book. What about them appeals to you? Are they anything like you? Why are they important to the plot?
Tiger: I really enjoy working with most of my characters, because they all have a purpose. But I do have two favorites, and it seems that they seem to be the same for my fans. Those two are Theros, an orc warrior and Dominar, the dwarf. I really like Dominar, because he is this simple sometimes silly character who really has a gentle, grandfatherly touch to him. I wish I could say that Dominar was a reflection of me, but the truth is, I’m not there yet. The more impatient and irritable characters are often a more honest reflection of myself.
And Theros… well, you’ll have to read Dragon’s Fire for that 😉
Tony: A born salesman! I like that. Let’s put those God-given skills to the test: Tell us about your newest book. Make us want to read it.
Tiger: The Chronicles of Aurion is a story of two priests who set out on a journey to recover one of the Elder Stones—long-lost artifacts of tremendous power. Through their journey, they explore the stones’ dark, war-torn past. As the priests come closer to reaching their goal, they begin to fully see the tragedy that has followed the stones.
The Chronicles of Aurion is a novella that serves as a prequel to my first novel, Dragon’s Fire. The Chronicles of Aurion is not your traditional prequel though, instead of exploring the backstory of a particular character, it is more about exploring the backstory of the world and these mysterious Elder Stones. The exciting story is a dramatic re-telling of some of the world’s most pivotal events, thus shaping the rest of the series.
The Chronicles of Aurion is my soon-to-be-released book. We actually have a Kickstarter campaign underway for it right now. We have successfully raised the minimum funds needed, so it should be available in the next two months. The campaign however is still going strong as we strive to reach some stretch goals before time runs out! (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tigerhebert/the-chronicles-of-aurion?ref=discovery)
Tony: How many books do you have out?
Tiger: Dragon’s Fire is the only one available at the moment, however The Chronicles of Aurion will be available before the end of spring 2016.
Tony: What else are you working on? What is your current WIP?
Tiger: My current work in progress is The Halls of the Fallen King. The book takes place just a few short months after the events of Dragon’s Fire. I won’t give away any spoilers, but this book has been a blast to work on so far and readers are going to love it! In this book, five of the characters from Dragon’s Fire will venture off to explore an abandoned dwarven kingdom. They are in search of the source of the magical energy that is being released from the ruins. As they journey deeper into the earth, the discover much more than they ever bargained for—and they will be changed forever.
Tony: Where can we buy you books? How can fans connect with you?
Tiger: I love connecting with fans! It is such a priviledge to have someone share their thoughts about your work. I love it! I am most active on twitter (@Tiger_Hebert), but they can also hit me up on my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTigerHebert) or on my website (www.TigerHebert.com).
Dragon’s Fire and my future books (print & ebook) can be ordered at most major retailers and of course they can find it at Amazon (myBook.to/DragonsFire).
Below are some great reviews of Dragon Fire, if you’re still not sold!
Do not let the fact that this is a debut novel from an unknown author prevent you from reading this novel. If I did not know that this was this author’s debut novel, I would have considered that I had read a well constructed novel from an experienced author!
The first thing that I noticed from Hebert is that this author has two things that stand out, a very vivid and deep imagination and a passion and love for his God. Both these unite and help form the basis of this well crafted novel. Hebert’s imagination shows itself firstly in the well developed world building where he describes the world of Aurion and its two main continents of Darnisi and Antirri. This forms a launching pad for Hebert’s description of the different species that populate this land, specifically that of the Darnisi continent in this novel. Here we are introduced to dwarves, orcs, elves, humans, centaurs, and minotaurs. Goblins are described briefly and are more of a side plot line. Rather than have these species being separate despite living on the same continent, he has created links and connections via the history of Aurion and as the novel progresses, these connections become very important and contribute to strengthening and cohesiveness of the plot.
If there is a glue that binds everything together in this novel, it is the spiritual aspects. Hebert does not hide his love of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is where his love of Jesus shines through and reflects his personal relationship with Jesus. He has not hidden the biblical truths of forgiveness, salvation, repentance, God’s agape/unconditional love, biblical spiritual warfare. None of it comes across as preachy or condescending. I believe it would not be offensive to the any reader who may be struggling with their relationship with God, those who are seeking God or provocative to those that do not believe in God at all as it is not directed at this last group at all. Hebert has successfully woven these biblical themes/doctrines into the plot, its history, its prophecy, and essentiality to the life of all the species of Darnisi. It becomes the fabric of this novel. It is not out of place like it has been in some other fantasy novels; in Dragon’s Fire, it has its rightful place and fits extremely well. The culmination of this spiritual side to Dragon’s fire is when Hebert introduces the promised one, the Frelsarine, described in the prophecy of ancient texts as the mighty warrior king of God sent from heaven to bring light to the world of Aurion that is in darkness and under the grip of a new darkness. His name is Aneri’On. Hebert has portrayed Him as He is in the bible, Jesus, king, warrior, victor, saviour, healer, sacrificial lamb, redeemer, forgiver to name a few.
I was very emotional at Hebert’s portrayal of Jesus as Aneri’On, described above. Solely because it reinforced in me who He is, why I believe in Him, why I need Him and why I need to surrender daily to Him. This portrayal of Jesus and His interaction with the characters is one I will never forget. One of the things I expect from Christian fiction and have stated in the “Why Christian Fiction?” page in this review blog is that,
- it has entertained me immensely,
- it has encouraged my walk with God,
- it has not deviated from known biblical doctrine, and it will not, I believe, lead a non believer astray or promote false doctrine,
- it honours God,
- it does not encourage worship of the created (eg angels) instead of the Creator (God).
One aspect I thought clever on Hebert’s part was the use of exact phrases from the bible used in a different but also similar situation to that of the bible with the same meaning and importance retained. I chuckled at this when I realised what Hebert was doing. I look forward to more of this.
The fight scenes are very realistic and I felt that I was there fighting with all the various characters in their various fighting skills and weapons used. I do not know if Hebert has practiced writing fighting scenes and developing battle strategy but he has successfully portrayed these very convincingly. This is a highlight in this novel as the plot deals with physical and spiritual warfare so there are many instances necessary to have this executed successfully. Hebert does not disappoint. Most authors struggle writing fight scenes and most hate having to do write them. This does not seem to the case for Hebert.
With any fantasy novel, there needs to be successful world building to make the world of the novel believable, credible and realistic to the reader. Hebert does this very well by including,
- a map of the Darnisi continent with its cities and basic topography,
- various species of beings and their history,
- ancient prophecy,
- spirituality based on bible and the gospel
- demonic oppression and possession
- supernatural intervention of spiritual beings
- The Chronicles of Aurion, a series of short stories that serve as a prequel to the Beating Back the Darkness series.
- basic ancient language, carvings and symbolism that ties in with the history and spirituality of the races of Aurion
I must mention of Hebert’s writing style. It is smooth, concise, no hiccups, I understood straight away what Hebert was describing. This definitely contributes to a well paced and fluid narrative overall. An important quality that defines a good writer is their ability to show and not tell. I have mentioned in previous reviews that showing engages the reader to what is being described while telling disengages the reader. None of the latter is found in Hebert’s writing. Great asset to have in a debut novel and writing expertise.
I have only one aspect of the novel that I struggled with. I have stated that Hebert is very proficient at writing/plotting fight scenes and he did this very well in the training he described between Isiirial and Seratu. I just felt that it went on for too long if he was using this to show the budding romance that was developing between the two of them. But despite this, it did not sabotage or derail the plot just slowed the flow and pace somewhat. Minor hiccup and not a major distraction.
I must also encourage future readers to read The Chronicles of Aurion before reading Dragon’s Fire. While these first three shorts do not show a direct link to this novel, they do show more of the depth of imagination and world building that forms the basis of this current instalment and provide some background history of the various species of beings in Dragon’s Fire.
This is one wonderful reading experience. Well crafted, refreshing, totally absorbing and very much escapism. I have been edified with the presentation of the Gospel and adherence to biblical principles and doctrines without compromise. Very much entertained and encouraged.
I eagerly await the next instalment with great anticipation.