By Janalyn Voigt
Your book reveals a variety of issues to do with freedom. One is the sacrifice of freedom. Can you think of an example from your own life of a time when you had to put something you loved aside for the greater good, so others could experience a greater freedom?
In our world today we tend to focus on rights rather than responsibilities. And yet, living a life of honor sometimes requires sacrificing what we want for the greater good. It’s almost a foreign concept in our world today but on a gut level, we still understand nobility. Shae’s struggle to accept her calling mirrors the decision each believer makes. Freedom is never truly free, especially when we win it for others.
On a personal level, I had to surrender my ideas about my writing and even my desire to live a normal life in order to write DawnSinger. In many ways, Shae’s journey is my own.
DawnSinger adeptly addresses the issue of prejudice. What example from your own life caused you to have these enlightened insights?
My father was a half-breed Native American who was orphaned and on his own at fourteen. Besides the dislike of prejudice he gave me through the stories he told about his life (and sometimes what he didn’t say), I’ve always had an innate sense of fairness. I seem to have inherited my father’s mantle.
Prejudice stands in the way of unity. What other issues keep us from living in unity, and how can addressing these issues expand the Kingdom of God?
Prejudice comes in many forms, and it’s not always about skin color. We can become so focused on our will and our way within the Body of Christ that we limit what God can accomplish through us. Christ is the only door through which we can be saved. That is the unifying statement for all denominations. If we focus on that together, we can overcome a dark world with the light of unity.
Tell us about your calling to write and how your journey as a writer went in a different direction or detours than what you initially expected.
My Tales of Faeraven series, of which DawnSinger is book one, began as a story to entertain my little girl during a drive. For the main character of my story, I twisted the name of her doll, Cinda, and came up with "Syl Marinda," a half-breed princess in a divided land. Long after my daughter had forgotten that first story, the world of Elderland took shape in my mind. I could picture its trees, creatures, and landscapes. As time passed, the characters deepened and grew, and so did the struggles of the alliance of Faeraven, a group of kingdoms unified under a High Queen in Elderland. Through several attempts, I tried to record the story as it unfolded for me, but I kept backing up in time because much of the history in the story demanded to be told. Syl Marinda doesn't even enter the scene until close to the end of WayFarer, book two in the series. She is the heroine of DawnKing, book three.
I had quite a story lodged in my mind, but I needed to grow as a writer before I could do it justice. I gleaned magazine credits, but I seemed unable to take the next step into becoming a published novelist. I needed to let go of my own vision of how my writing career would play out. It took my receiving a series of disappointments and turning away from writing for a number of years for me to do that. When I returned, I prayed about what I should write, and the answer popped into my head almost immediately: DawnSinger, the first novel of the series I'd abandoned all those years ago. Although I abandoned my writing dream, Tales of Faeraven and its people never left me. If anything they matured as I did, becoming more complex. I now knew them well.
A little over a year after I began writing DawnSinger, I signed a contract with a small press that later decided not to publish my book. That was devastating, but I saw God’s hand in it. I needed to see that I wouldn't turn away from writing ever again. I signed with Harbourlight just a few months later. I lost a contract for one novel but received a two-book contract and found an agent in a single day. Barbara Scott of Wordserve Literary agreed to negotiate my contract and to represent me.
What word of encouragement can you give our listeners as they seek to live out their own purpose? How might they discover an even deeper sense of freedom as they operate in their strengths and giftedness?
Live the right dream. It's hard enough to do what you were called to in this life, let alone something you weren't. This is a soap-box passion of mine. So many of us never examine our lives. A person can be successful at the wrong thing because it doesn't matter so there's no fear of the risks. But that's not really living. When we step out of the comfort zone and risk what matters to us most, then our dreams can come true. What that looks like for each of us is different, and that's the beauty of it.
You mention it’s often necessary to change your perspective to be ready to enjoy true freedom. Tell us about that.
Inherent in human nature is the desire to matter. And yet, the approval of man is only what we think we need to fill a spiritual vacancy. Pleasing man is like eating honey. If we take a little, it brightens the eyes, but eating too much makes us sick. God’s approval never hurts us. Understanding these things opens our hearts to humility, which expresses itself in service.
One final issue to often get in the way of true freedom is our own fears. Can you share an example of how you’ve had to deal with your fears in order to enjoy a greater freedom?
When the lights went out in a Bible study I attended, I was forced to confront my lifelong fear of the dark. It didn’t leave me right away but took constant prayer and reliance on the Scriptures. Stepping up to become a published novelist has been a similar process. It sometimes feels like I’m on a tightrope, but I’ve learned to put one foot in front of the other and never look down.
For our listeners who aren’t familiar with Christian fantasy or speculative fiction, please explain the genre and how it’s useful in communicating God’s truths to this generation.
Jesus told parables, stories that taught specific points. Similarly, allegorical Christian fantasy expresses spiritual truths with symbolism. Through books like those in the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series the publishing world has gained the attention of youth in particular through fantasy. And yet, some secular books in the fantasy genre present a warped idea of morality and of God. Christian fantasy and speculative fiction counters this with gospel truths.
Janalyn Voigt’s epic fantasy trilogy, Tales of Faeraven, starting with DawnSinger, is published by Harbourlight Books. Janalyn also writes in the western romance genre. She is represented by Barbara Scott of Wordserve Literary. Her nonfiction publication credits include Focus on the Family, Scripture Press (now David C. Cook) and Pentecostal Evangel. She serves as a literary judge for several national contests and is an active book reviewer. Her memberships include ACFW and NCWA. Janalyn lives in a quiet corner of the Pacific Northwest, where she discovers worlds of adventure in the great outdoors.
CREATING WORLDS OF BEAUTY AND DANGER
Creative Worlds: http://janalynvoigt.com/blog