Welcome to Worldbuilders, a series of guest posts and interviews by my fellow authors of Christian speculative fiction. Today’s interview is with Keith Robinson, author of the Origins Trilogy and the Tartarus Chronicles.
Next week, we’ll be talking to Tyrean Martinson, author of the Champion Trilogy, so mark your calendars for that.
Now let’s talk to Keith!
Tony: Tell us a little about yourself, Keith.
Keith: Although I write sci-fi, action/adventure novels, I actually have a master’s degree in music education! I am a professional violist/violinist, and I am a full-time Orchestra teacher in the Kenosha Unified School District in Kenosha, WI.
Tony: So how does a string teacher become a sci-fi novelist?
Keith: The short version is that I was the music pastor at a church for 4 years. During that time, I was asked to teach an adult class on apologetics. At that time, the Left Behind series was very popular. I was so impressed with the apologetics material I was discovering for the class, I made the comment that someone should take this apologetics stuff and do an action/adventure series that incorporates it, much like Left Behind did with end-times prophecy. As an avid sci-fi/fantasy buff, my mind started thinking of various stories that would work. Eventually, I just decided that maybe I was the one that should try that idea. The result was my first novel, Logic’s End, which is now in its second printing.
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?
Keith: I wrote my first novel with a pen on paper! Now, there’s no WAY I could do that! I write on the computer.
I DEFINITELY listen to classical music and movie soundtracks. However, I use music that I’m very familiar with so that I’m not actually listening to it, but using it to create mood.
As a public school teacher, I get my summers off. So, that is when I crank out about ½ to ¾ of a book by writing 3-4 hours a day about 3-4 days a week. During the school year, I’m lucky if I get in 3-4 hours a month!
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?
Keith: For the Origins Trilogy and the Tartarus Chronicles, I specifically set out to present apologetics arguments in the books. So, for those I would say I am a Christian who writes speculative fiction. However, with my next series, Starsong, I consider that to be more an author who writes Christian speculative fiction.
I believe that Christian speculative fiction is defined as fiction that contains Christian principles and/or leads to reader towards the God of the Bible within a plot that uses supernatural and/or science-fiction/fantasy characters or settings. I’ve never actually looked up the definition, so I hope I’m close!
Tony: What is the “message” of your writing? (For example, is your purpose to encourage old-fashioned values, encourage romance, or do you have different purposes in different books?)
Keith: As I stated earlier, I make a point in my first two series to weave apologetics arguments into the plots of my novels. My hope is that my readers will not only enjoy the story, but will also learn some answers to questions that many people have about Christianity. For example, my first series answers many questions about biblical creation as well as several scientific arguments against evolution. However, I strive to make the apologetics topics an important part of the plot. The way I approach it is that if you take out the apologetics material, the plot won’t make sense.
In my third series, I will probably include less pointed apologetics and more general Christian principles. I will say that the more I write, the more I consciously try to create characters that young people would want to emulate. We don’t have enough positive role models for the next generation. We need more Aragorns and Samwise Gamgees.
Tony: What advice would you give to new writers who wish to write Christian speculative fiction?
Keith: Know your theology! It is fun to come up with creative ideas, but if they conflict with scripture and sound theology, you could be leading others astray! We, as writers, have a heavy influence on those who read our material. In many senses, we are teachers. James 3:1 gives a sobering warning that we should take seriously. “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
You should always write what you know. I would DEFINITELY recommend drawing inspiration from your family, job, etc. It helps flesh out your stories and brings more realism to the plots.
Tony: Which taboo subject do you think is the hardest sell for a Christian speculative fiction author: ghosts, vampyres, magic or aliens? And why?
Keith: I think that it would be the hardest to include aliens in a story and still make it theologically sound. Vampires and ghosts can easily be explained as demonic in nature. Magic can be seen as acceptable if done in another universe or reality (such as Narnia or Middle Earth). But with aliens, you have to deal with the origin of those beings. As one who specializes in countering evolutionary arguments, I think the only way to include aliens properly would be to have them be created by God in a completely different universe or reality. This is the approach I am using in my next series.
I think you run into serious theological issues if you try to have aliens in our universe. For example, the Bible states that “all of creation groans” because of Adam’s sin. That means the entire universe is in a fallen state because of Adam. Did the alien’s sin? If so, did Jesus die for them as well?
Tony: Tell us about your newest book. Make us want to read it.
Keith: My newest book is entitled, Bab al-Jihad and is the 3rd book in the Tartarus Chronicles. Through the course of this series, I present the basic beliefs of each of the major religions of the world (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism) and build a logical case for the truth of Christianity.
Tartarus is an underground world two hundred years in the future, and possibly on another planet. People are brought from different parts of earth to this underground world through these mysterious portals that appear randomly and suck travelers into them. Once in Tartarus, no one can escape. No one has been able to discover how to reverse the portals.
Six major cities have sprung up since the first people to arrive. The first book takes place in the city of Elysium where Gunther, a particle physicist, is on the verge of discovering how to reverse the portals. However, the government has other plans for his research. In order to survive, Gunther takes his research and tries to flee the city. On his heels are genetically and technologically altered human soldiers called Guardians. His only chance at success is to team up with a group of unsavory characters.
In the second novel, Gunther and his new companions enter the city of Dehali. Hiding from the local military, and knowing that the Guardians are still hunting him, Gunther works to complete his research. He soon learns, however, that the stakes have been raised: Tartarus has become unstable and may soon collapse. Now, it has become a race against time not just for his own life, but for the lives of the entire population of Tartarus.
In the third and newest novel, the group travels to Bab al-Jihad to rescue two members of their team who were taken captive by the Muslim Imam Ahmed and his army of soldiers that pilot large war machines. Time is running out as earthquakes increase. Working undercover, the team tries to plan a rescue when help arrives from a very unlikely source.
The series will conclude in book four, Labyrinth, which is due out in the summer of 2017.
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?
Keith: Raptor is the code name of one of the main characters in the Tartarus Chronicles. He is the leader of a small gang of mercenaries and criminals. The journey that his character endures throughout the course of the series is crucial to not only the apologetics arguments, but the overall plot as well. He starts off as an atheist, but has his beliefs challenged by a two-part prophecy given to him by a trusted former mentor. The first part of the prophecy comes true, causing him to begin taking spiritual matters more seriously, and he begins to search for answers about what the various religions teach. By the end of the series, it is more than just logic that turns him toward the truth.
Tony: What’s your next project? Tell us so we can’t wait for it to come out!
Keith: Although I’m still writing the Tartarus Chronicles, I have already started work on my next project that I have tentatively called Starsong. As a professional musician, I came up with the idea to merge music with science-fiction. I’m currently creating an entirely new universe where music can manipulate nature. This universe will allow me to make any number of stories. Although I won’t be using specific, real-world (earth based) apologetics arguments, the universe will be based on Christian principles and will contain generic apologetics (why does God allow suffering? Creation vs. evolution, etc.)
Tony: How many books do you have out?
Keith: I currently have 5 books in print, and the 6th one is due out by the end of this year. My first three books are a complete trilogy and deal with the topic of Creation vs. Evolution in a time travel story. My second series delves into the topic of world religions (what they teach and why Christianity is unique) set in an underground world two hundred years in the future.
Tony: Where can we buy you books? How can fans connect with you?
Keith: The best way to connect with me is to send me an e-mail from my website, www.apologeticsfiction.com. You can also order my books from that website. If they do, the books come directly from me and I would be more than happy to sign them. Of course, there is also my publisher’s website (Tate Publishing) or Amazon.