Mike Lynch currently resides in San Jose, CA with his wife, Kathleen, and two children. He graduated from San Jose State University in 1986 with a B.A. in History, and San Jose Christian College in 1994. Mike has written, Dublin, a book chronicling the history of Dublin, CA. Published by Arcadia Press, it was released in 2007. In March 2009, Mike’s first novel, When the Sky Fell, is scheduled to be released by Silver Leaf Books. Mike has also published short stories in several magazines, including “Surf’s Up,” a story awarded “Best of Show” in the Residential Aliens 2007 flash fiction contest. His latest novel, After the Cross, took first place in the Dead Robots Society’s 2008 1st chapter writing contest, and his latest short story, “Beyond Horizon’s Edge,” took 1st place in the 2009 Preditors & Editors Reader’s Poll.
Mike: This may be surprising for some, but I was not much of a reader growing up. Movies and television were my genres of choice. The flickering images of far off worlds and strange, alien civilizations during my growing years are what fueled my imagination. This makes it all the more strange that I would suddenly come to a realization in 1981 that I could write a novel.
Even though the first draft of my novel only took three months to write, it was so filled with spelling errors and story elements I wasn’t happy with, that I couldn’t bear the thought of editing it so soon after finishing, and so I shelved the manuscript until 1996. With the advent of the personal computer, I dusted off my novel and started plowing through the laughable dialogue and poorly realized characters.
Brandon: I met Mike over the Internet four years ago...we were both Sci-fi writers and Christians, so we had an automatic camaraderie. We exchanged a few critiques on each other’s writing, nothing major. When he gave me the proposal to heavy edit the novel and become a co-writer, I jumped on it. I was humbled, a bit scared, and really excited. After ten weeks I’d gone through the novel twice closely with Mike.
Faced with the planet’s imminent destruction, Commander Yamane has no choice but to seek the help of the Antarans, an alien civilization he had defeated in a war a decade before. Though they have every reason not to come to Earth’s rescue, Yamane sets forth on a desperate journey to the Antaran home world, knowing that the survival of mankind is hanging by a thread.
Brandon: Since writing “When the Sky Fell,” Mike and I have co-authored two other books, and I have to say, it has been the most enjoyable experience. Writing can be a very lonely pursuit. Hard work behind closed doors. It’s like you have a secret life that few people understand, and you end up spilling your ideas upon poor, unsuspecting friends and family at every given opportunity because—my goodness, there is so much creative energy pent up in your mind you feel like you’re going to detonate.
On the other hand, co-writing a book could be a complete disaster. Feelings can be hurt, toes stepped on. It takes the right personalities to make it work. On one side, we have to be very upfront with each other on whether we like something or not—be it a word, sentence, paragraph or chapter. But on the opposite side, we have to be understanding, empathetic, and encouraging. The end result...iron sharpens iron, and we come away with a great story.
Why science fiction? And why Christian Science Fiction?
Brandon: Science fiction is a hugely broad genre. It can be near future or far future, soft sci-fi or hard. There are sub-categories such as apocalyptic, dystopian, military, alternative history, space opera, steampunk, and cyberpunk.
Like most other genres, it can either be escapist or direly relevant—or somewhere in between. Science fiction has so many gifts that other genres don’t have, and I would certainly say it’s the freest genre in terms of rules. I can’t go into those gifts because I would need twenty pages.
Why science fiction? Well, in the case of “When the Sky Fell,” I would answer: because you can have good guys and bad guys duke it out in cool spaceships! You can have high adventure, experience amazing galactic wonders, and you can have great characters who carry out their struggles in these fascinating settings.
Why Christian sci-fi? I find it hard to exclude the biggest influence in my life, God. I know Mike shares this sentiment. We write from within our worldview, and that is a Christian worldview.
Mike: I agree wholeheartedly with Brandon. With science fiction, I have the freedom to write about far off worlds and places that exist in my imagination. To me, it is much more enjoyable to write about people and places that are not bound by the limitations of our present existence.
As far as why Brandon and I wrote a Christian Science Fiction novel, we also recognize this particular genre gives us the opportunity to talk about issues that have a huge impact on people’s lives, but at the same time, in a way that allows us to communicate ideas and concepts that are easier for the reader to accept than if we told them in a more straightforward manner. This was the strategy Jesus employed when He communicated the truths of God’s kingdom through the use of parables. Brandon and I wanted to do the same thing with “When the Sky Fell.” Using the science fiction genre as a metaphor, we were able to incorporate the gospel message into the story in a way that is both entertaining, but still communicates the truths of the Bible.
It should be noted that this strategy is not without precedent in our time. In the original “Star Trek” television series, Gene Roddenberry talked about the Vietnam War, prejudice, society injustice, poverty, etc. in many of the episodes he produced. He didn't come out and say, "Hey everyone, stop hating each other." He had Kirk beam down on a planet where that was happening, and showed them a better way to live. Since the audience isn't being pounded over the head with the message, they are more apt to accept and think about it. In our case, rather than telling the reader he needed to repent of his sins and find salvation in Christ, we incorporated that message into a science fiction story in a way that is still accessible to him, but in a way that doesn’t water down the gospel message.
What are some of the special challenges that go along with writing in this genre?
Mike: I am creating a world that doesn’t exist. That means it is my job to describe an imaginary world that has to come alive in the mind of the reader. My story must also be interesting, entertaining, and most important of all, honoring to God. Along the way, if I have communicated the truths of the Bible in a way that engages the reader, then I have done my job well.
Brandon: I think Mike really hit the point when he talked about making the setting and the characters come alive in an unfamiliar future world. There’s a balance of giving the reader new glimpses of what the future looks like, and grounding them in familiarity so that they can hang their imagination on something. If a reader can’t imagine the setting, or if a character is too strange and foreign, then we’ve let the reader down.
How are you reaching the fan base and/or doing your part to expand it?
Mike: We have also created our own websites, mine being www.mikelynchbooks.com, and are involved with other Christian writers who share our passion about science fiction and fantasy-based stories. We regularly participate on online forums committed to trying to convince Christian publishers that science fiction is a viable market that has enough of a fan base to warrant them taking a chances on our kinds of books, specifically the Lost Genre Guild and the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour. Silver Leaf Books already has the novel listed on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble online books sites. If people are curious about the book, they can check it out there, or just go to the Silver Leaf website (http://www.silverleafbooks.com/).
Tell us about your publisher.
Mike: Silver Leaf Publishing is a small print that has been around for about 6-7 years. Since they are new, they are not in a financial position to offer us an advance for our novel, and most of the advertising rests on Brandon and mine’s shoulders.
Brandon: They’ve been great to work with. Since they are a small press, you receive more intimate attention. It’s almost as if your success is their success, and vice versa...you’re not just one of hundreds of authors sustaining their company. Since they only have a handful of authors, the success of the company really rests with us, and so they are much more motivated to ensure our success. With a big publisher, we would be seen more as very small fish in a large pond.
What are, in your opinion, a few of the best of the best novels of science fiction?
Mike: Since I wasn’t much of a reader growing up, my experience is much more limited than Brandon’s. With that said, I would have to say Star Wars, Lucifer’s Hammer, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
What have been your challenges trying to promote your novel? What seems to be working and not?
Mike: Since our novel is scheduled to be released until next month, we haven’t had any problems promoting it…at least not yet. Brandon and I have been talking it up with family members, friends, and on the Internet. So far, the results have been very positive. However, we also recognize that people telling us they like the story is not the same thing as them actually buying the book. My biggest concern at this point is getting our novel into bookstores. Since Silver Leaf Books is a small publisher, book chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders are far less likely to stock our novel on their shelves than publishing houses that are better known to readers.
How can fans of science fiction and fantasy help the cause of expanding the market?
Mike: The best thing they can do is buy science fiction and fantasy books. Unfortunately in our culture, reading is quickly becoming a lost art. In a world of downloadable movies and instant text messages, most people today do not have the patience to spend a week or two reading a book. In my mind it is simple math, the more books people buy and read, the more they will expand the market. That is why Brandon and I appreciate the work Novel Journey is doing. If more people set about promoting the joy of reading to others, I believe in time we can reverse this trend.
Brandon: I would have to say make books cool again by talking about them. Movies and television have replaced the written word as a form of social interaction (remind anyone of Fahrenheit 451). Let’s start talking about books again and get peoples’ imaginations and minds engaged. Science fiction is one of the best genres for positing big ideas, and philosophy’s. Christians need to be there.
Thanks so much for being with us. Parting words?
Brandon: I share Mike’s sentiments. Thanks for your interest!