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Rich Christiano[Jeff Gerke]

Interview: Ray Hansen

[Ray Hansen in 2000] Ray Hansen is the author of The Ecklesia Project, published by Xlibris Corporation. Ray lives with his wife and their three children in Washington State. He took part in the list in July, 2000. Jay Carper, Manuel Edwards, John Fast, Will Linden, Ron Oakes, and Thomas P. Roche asked the questions, and here is an edited version of the question and answer sequence.

TR: Tell us about your writing career – how many books, etc. have you written and is there a web page or something similar devoted to your works?

While I have had some work published in some no-name literary magazines, this is my first published novel. I would welcome visiters to my web site at: www.seanet.com/~rayh/ (am going to be looking for a better domain name soon!)

My book is the first of a trilogy... I also plan on writing some non-fiction and hopefully be able to do some public speaking at some churches in the future (and bring my books along, of course!)

TR: How did you come to write christian-based SF?

I have always been a big sci-fi fan and have had a vision of doing something which would reflect a Christian perspective and even be evangelical in nature without being boring or "preachy"... I didn't want to, for example, write about a pastor who lives on mars...

I write in allegory. I have sort of described my work as George Lucas and Gene Rodenberry meets C.S. Lewis and John Bunyan! ;-)

TR: What is your educational and career background?

I will be graduating from Bible school this year with my degree in theology and biblical studies. I also have a background in communications and currently work in quality managment for a large insurance company.

TR: What is your Christian testimony and denominational preference?

I am an Assembly of God boy. I grew up in a Christian home and learned all the wonderful Bible stories, etc. However, when I went off to college at Arizona State University and was faced with a tapestry of different ideas and philosophies, I knew it was time to take a serious look at what I believed. To make a long story short, I studied long and hard to try to find some solid evidences for my faith... and I found them plentiful! I decided that because God was undoubtably real and the evidence screamed that Jesus was who he said he was...then it was time to give him 100% of my life...

TR: Where do you live? Married, with children?

I live in Washington State, USA. I have been married for 11 years and have three wonderful children. Andrew (age 7) Lauren (age 3) and Isaac (age 2).

TR: Which author(s) would you say have had the greatest influence on your Christian spiritual life? On your literary work?

Without a doubt I would say CS Lewis. JI Packer also falls in there as well.

TR: Do you have a "writer's philosophy"?

Pretty simple... to write what I love and pray God chooses to use it somehow in the lives of others...

TR: What advice would you give to the aspiring writer?

Do what you love... write for the sheer joy of writing... even if it's never published... do it simply because you love it... and if others get to enjoy it as well... then that is a bonus!

TR: What do you like most about your books, characters, plots, etc? What do you feel are their greatest weaknesses? Anything you would change?

I like that fact that while I strive to maintain the flavor of a Star-Wars / Star Trek type of genre, my plots are original and full of surprises... I love writing in allegory and hearing how people have been able to read between the lines. Some of the allegory is obvious and some of it is not so obvious.

TR: Which current authors do you make it a point of to read their new stuff when it comes out?

I've really been enjoying the LaHaye books (Left Behind series) Sort of reminds me of Christian soap opera... heh heh... (they can get a little too "preachy" sometimes though!)

TR: What level of interaction do you have/have you had/do you want with your readers/fans?

I've had a number of book signings and received e-mail and Amazon.com reviews. One young reader made it a point to bring me his Star Wars card collection to show me... that was neat... It's fun to have people appreciate your work and feel comfortable enough to just come up to you and talk to you like they've known you their entire life.

ME: I'm at a bit of a disadvantage because I've only recently ordered your book. I don't have it yet, so I can't ask any questions specifically about it. However, I note that it was published by Xlibris, an on-demand publisher. This is a route I've also considered, so I'll ask about that. What led you to go with an on-demand publisher? How did you come to select Xlibris?

I was originally offered a contract by another publisher (Appalousa Press) but they went bankrupt before my book actually made it to press. It was by means of dialogue with some of their other authors that I chose Xlibris. I have been very impressed with the wonderful quality of their work as far as the actual product goes. They are inexpensive (ala free for their basic package!) and are an absolute joy to work with. Plus... (and this is the biggest point with me) I get to retain my copyright!

ME: Did they provide any editorial services, or did you do your own editing? I suppose a third possibility is that you might have contracted the editing.

I did in fact contract my editing out to a college English professor. Lesson learned... go with an actual editor or a magazine editor... just because a person has a doctorate in english, doesn't necessarily make him a good editor!

ME: What do you expect a real editor to do that you failed to get in this contract?

I believe that a real editor is just that... a real editor. Someone who may be a wonderful grammarian, etc. may not necessarily have the experience to edit a large work for publication.

ME: There are also various critiquing services out there. Do you know whether that's the same thing as hiring an editor?

Actually, I probably will use Xlibris' editing services next time... (they do charge a fee, but it is very reasonable.)

ME: What have you done to promote your book?

I have had book signings, news articles, web site promotion and good ol' fashioned word of mouth. I have a radio interview in the works as well.

ME: Is there anything you will do differently in promoting your next book?

I'm going to be doing a lot of different stuff with my web site. (Like registering a real domain name for starters!!!) I plan on doing some more one on one contacts as well. Mostly I plan on getting a few titles under my belt and take them on the road in a speaking ministry type of context. (I was invited to come speak at an elementary school recently) (by the way... that's a great way to get your name out there...elementary schools love to have authors come and talk to the kids....)

ME: Have you identified your market? If so, please describe it.

Absolutely... Never (this is rule number one) start a project without identifying who you are writing for.

In a nutshell, I'm after the same individuals who buy the Star Wars / Star Trek novels. (not necessarily Christians!) I strove to produce a sci-fi story that would appeal to both Christians and non-Christians. (I call it the world's largest tract!) :-)

ME: Do you block out scheduled times to write, or do you just grab time when you have it?

I'm a night owl... I usually write in the evening when the family is in bed.

ME: How do you come up with ideas? What about story development? I generally start from the global concept, then work down from there: the one-line description of the story, then a four-paragraph summary, then I expand that to four pages. Then I prepare a "back story," i.e. everything the author knows about the story, although not necessarily in the order in which the reader learns of it. Then I write up a chapter-by-chapter summary and work out sub-plots and fix plot holes. Only then do I begin writing the story itself. Do you do it differently? If so, how?

My book actually started off as a comic book (I love to draw) the story was originally very simple. After showing it to a few friends they made the comment that "Hey... this would make a great book..." so I was off...

The Ecklesia Project was a seven-year project. I learned a lot.

I do start with a basic story outline and then create three or four more detailed outlines including sub-plots. This is an absolute necessity. I also discovered the need to do what I call a "character list" with a few paragraphs describing every character in the book... right down to hair color, attitude, favorite sayings, etc. I found that without this I would forget who was what and even do things such as change the hair color half way through the book. As the story progresses and evolves I keep it handy to write notes in the margins....

ME: Do you have a favorite place to work? Any particular routine?

My computer is in my bedroom (dear God, please grant me my own den someday!) I find that each time I sit down to write the first paragraph or two are the hardest... then... it's like a run-away freight train... I don't want to stop!

ME: Hemingway said that the author shouldn't discuss the story until it's done, because otherwise he releases creative energy and motivation that should go into the writing itself. Do you agree with this?

I never thought of it quite like that, but I sort of agree... sounds sort of mystical... I don't show anybody (even my wife) even the outlines until the first draft is completed. Once I type out the last page and go back and do my initial edit...then I pass it around for comments.

ME: How do you do research?

I use the encyclopedia a lot (for the science part) and I also have a couple books I'm using right now that have been very helpful for my second book in the series. One is called Beyond Star Trek: Physics from Alien Invasions to the End of Time, and the other is Marine Sniper. The second book is a biography of the most famous US Marine Sniper, Carlos Hathcock (book two of my trilogy has a good chunk of "guerrilla warfare" stuff in it.)

ME: Do you find the Internet to be just another time sink?

Um... unfortunately... yeah... I spend way too much time playing Age of Kings on the internet... :-)

JC: Under what conditions to you prefer to write? Do you listen to music? Do you have snacks or drinks nearby? Do you lock yourself in a soundproof closet?

I think choice "c" most closely resembles my preferred work environment. I am a night owl. I generally write when my family is asleep or they are off visiting grandma and grandpa... I shut myself in alone with my thoughts and allow the "movie in my mind" to begin to play in slow motion.

That's what I love about writing... I feel like I am creating a movie in my mind that slowly reveals itself over time.

Do you have any ideas or thoughts you are working on for potential future directions of new novels, projects, etc.? How do you go about sifting through various ideas to decide which to work on?

Actually the next few years are charted out for me... The Ecklesia Project is the first of a trilogy. The second book should be ready to head to the publisher sometime before Thanksgiving. I also am working on a collection of short stories... (of course if some zine ends up buying one, I won't cry if I can't include it in my "collection!")

Simultaneously (and at the same time :-) I also am working on some non-fiction stuff... one is a book on how to share your faith with the cults... (that one is actually completed and going through the editing process right now – I have much experience in this arena and would like to pass it along. I also was Northwest Director for Discipleship Dynamics (a ministry to teach people how to share their faith.) I am in the process of completely revamping that as well.

I also teach piano, am finishing my college degree, work full time and help my wife raise our three kids... hey... anybody have something else to throw on my plate... I don't think it's quite full. (Tongue planted firmly in cheek.)

JF: I'm particularly interested in that, for personal reasons! How do you define "cults" and what do you include? Do you include New Agers and Neo-Pagans? Mormons? Jehovah's Witnesses?

At the risk of getting off topic a little... I define a cult in my book as follows:

"A cult is a modern religious system generally centered around one individual which differs significantly from the normal beliefs and practices of the total culture."

This is a slightly revised version of the definition given by Dr. Walter Martin.

WL: That certainly fits serious Christianity in our culture!
JF: I belong to a bizarre cult which engages in weird ceremonies including ritual cannibalism, and decorates its temples with pictures and statues of a man being tortured to death. I got into it by meeting some people in college, and my mother was very upset about it. It's called the Episcopal Church.

Actually, the word cult comes from the Latin "cultus" which simply means "to worship." So in a sense any religious practice can be considered cultic in a way. There are really two meanings to the term "cult"... there's the Webster's and there's the theological.

A theological "cult" is not limited to Christianity. While Mormons would be considered a cult to mainstream Christianity, they would not be considered a cult to... say... a Buddhist. On the other hand, the Muslims have their cults too... such as the "Black Muslim" cult.

My book takes a unique approach... It is not a book about cults... there are plenty other better books on that topic than I could ever write. My expertise is in personal evangelism. So I write about how to effectively share your faith with the cults without sounding like a complete idiot... :-)

JF: According to a review ("Something of a Revelation") in the July 14 issue of the Wall Street Journal, the "Left Behind" series assumes that only evangelicals will be saved, and all others – atheists, Hindus, Moslems, Jews, Catholics, Episcopalians " are damned. Is this accurate? Are there still people left outside of East Bumpstead, Mississippi, who actually believe that particular version of Theological Correctness?

I think that a correct way to think of this is to ignore "labels" and find out what is the true criteria for salvation.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man can come to the Father except through me."

Bottom line... only those who trust in Christ alone for salvation will go to heaven. All others will go to hell. Pretty simple. (Gasp... yes there will be some jews and Catholics in heaven... even some former Muslims!)

RO: The Left Behind series is written based on Tim LaHaye's study and conclusions. It has a clear theology that agrees with much of the American Evangelical movement. Specifically, it believes in a pre-tribulation rapture, and a requirement that salvation requires specific and exact belief in Christ. Either or both of these views have been held, and not held, by Christians throughout the life of the Church. Neither is universal today.
There is a much bigger debate about when the rapture is supposed to occur. In a recent Sunday School class at Wheaton Bible Church (where Tara and I attend), the teacher touched on this briefly and described the four theories about the rapture: Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib, Post-Trib and Pan-Trib ("It will all pan out in the end.")

Actually there really is a fourth view. Its known as the "Pre-wrath" view. This is the view I hold to. I would reference you to a book by VanKampen entitled The Sign. It converted me from a hard-nose pre-trib to a hard nosed "pre-wrath" (which ends up being more of a modified post-trib....)

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[David R. Beaucage][Kathy Tyers][James BeauSeigneur][Jefferson Scott][Walker Chandler][Alton Gansky][Ray Hansen]

[Emily Snyder][Randall Ingermanson][Theodore Beale][Steve Laube][Laura Lond][Frank Wu][Donita K. Paul][Brenda W. Clough][Bryan Davis][John Granger]

[Karen Hancock][Miles Owens][Robert Liparulo][Bryan Davis, part 2][Chris Walley][Kathryn Mackel][Gene Wolfe][Sharon Hinck][Wayne Thomas Batson][Lars Walker][Christopher Hopper][Jeffrey Overstreet]

Rich Christiano[Jeff Gerke]

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[David R. Beaucage] [Kathy Tyers] [James BeauSeigneur] [Jefferson Scott] [Walker Chandler] [Alton Gansky] [Ray Hansen] [Emily Snyder] [Randall Ingermanson] [Theodore Beale] [Steve Laube] [Laura Lond] [Frank Wu] [Donita K. Paul] [Brenda W. Clough] [Bryan Davis] [John Granger] [Karen Hancock] [Miles Owens] [Robert Liparulo] [Bryan Davis, part 2] [Chris Walley] [Kathryn Mackel] [Gene Wolfe] [Sharon Hinck] [Wayne Thomas Batson] [Lars Walker] [Christopher Hopper] [Jeffrey Overstreet][Rich Christiano][Jeff Gerke]