Interview with A.F. Roberts, Author of “Cross Gate”

What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

I think Christian fantasy is genre whose time has come, not beginning and ending in Narnia. And when you go paranormal or out-of-this-world with it, it’s even better. What’s more supernatural than God anyway? It’s such an un-tapped territory, and I want to blow it up!

How important is research to you when writing a book?

Very. Without it, your locations and any history you choose to include lose credibility. Besides the fact that you learn so much when you do the research, you sometimes get the bonus of a discovery that gives your storyline a boost to another level.

What inspires you to write?

No single answer there. In the beginning, just the love of reading. After a storyline presented itself and solidified, it was to keep my characters growing and flourishing. Sometimes music will do it – a song lyric will blow up in my head, creating chapters worth of material. Sometimes it can be a still image, or a motion picture’s scene or line that proves to be just the right catalyst.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I do both. There’s this background plot in my head that serves as something of a guidepost, just vaguely there. Other than that, each writing session’s ideas present themselves freshly and I roll with them!

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I read plenty; my favs are Cassandra Clare (Shadowhunters) and Kelly Armstrong (Otherworld series). William P. Young (The Shack, Eve) is great; and this past Christmas I read my first James Patterson, Woman of God. I’ll probably soon make that a second, and start Zoo, that’s sitting on the shelf!

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

Once again, both. Here’s the thing, books one and two of my trilogy were written together as a whole piece, then split up later. All the mistakes made and corrected on what became the first book, still lingered in what shall be book two. So now, knowing much of what’s wrong from my first go-around, I go through book two (even some of three), and proof/pre-edit before turning it into the editor I pay.

 Have you ever left any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?

Yes, absolutely! While working through the editing process and finalizing for press on Book one, Book three which was being written simultaneously, had to be taken a break from. I’d say I was away from it for a good six to eight months. Getting back on track was a little slow, but it came back around without too many problems.

Do you attend literary lunches or events?

Indeed I do. The ‘bread and butter’ of our publishing house IS doing pop-culture events; various cons, fan fests and writer promotions. I don’t appear as often as some of our authors, but make it a point to be semi-regular at the very least.

Which book inspired you to begin writing?

The Mortal Instruments (Shadowhunters) Series by Cassandra Clare.

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?

My storytelling style tends to be far more conversationally driven by the characters as opposed to the narrative. Not that there isn’t any (it has to be present to some degree); but I like to let the personalities tell it as much as possible. I differ from other writers mostly in terms of far less description of what people look like, are wearing and the places they’re in. When I read, I get bored with too much attention to detail, and want to get to the character exchanges.

Do your novels carry a message?

Yes, several. The biggest one is the portrayal of people actually interfacing with God (the son) in one-on-one connection. There’s that notion out there of ‘the personal relationship with God,’ right? I wanted a lead character to experience it first hand, face to face – not always understanding and not always agreeing; but learning and growing from the experience of being with Him. The second main one is resolving issues, specifically with those who are one’s enemy initially – then putting the differences aside, and teaming up for a mission, a greater cause.

 Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?

Of course I’d have to say, Book two and three! It gets REAL as the sequels delve into ‘end-time’ events, with a flavor all their own! The initial core of characters is joined by new ones in EARTH-GATE, dealing with a mass-departure event in which our heroes are given the task to become the emissaries thereof. In CROSS-OVER, it’s full-on into the apocalypse, with demon-possessed masses (zombie style) and re-tooled Russian military aircraft (ekranoplans) becoming ‘arks’ to rescue the human remnant.

Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?

The ‘day-job’ is totally in step with the writer-gig; I work in a print house, where we do books and magazines! So apropos, and yes, I like it and have pretty much always been in it. I think it means more to me now that I produce a like, creative product, all my own. It very much keeps me in a greater touch with the print world as a whole.

Does your day job ever get in the way of your writing?

All – the – time! When we’re deluged at the plant, working OT, and the day’s energy is expended, there tends not to be much left in the tank to knock out chapters at the end of the day. Working the day job is the primary reason the books are nearly a decade in the works, not just years.

Is writing book series more challenging?

Good question. I suppose when your diet of reading IS mostly series books, I suspect the answer is – not SO challenging as you’d expect. Honestly, I think it would be a greater challenge to write a single stand-alone, where you have to accomplish everything in the one shot. Which I have started to give a try!

What is that one thing you think readers generally don’t know about your specific genre?

Probably how NOT pigeon-holed it is. When it comes to ‘Christian’ fantasy, that first word there gives many readers the idea that it’s going to be pretty limited in scope, and probably preachy. From what I’ve read (and written), I’d say the opposite is truer; limitless and about as ‘supernatural’ as you can get!

Which book would you want adapted for the silver screen?

In a nutshell, ALL of them, the whole dang series! Cinematography and special effects would be awesome!

Do you often meet with younger writers and discuss their ideas to help polish them?

I chose this question because I DID recently meet and discuss with a young writer who impressed me very much. I liked her story concept, attitude and the knack of craftsmanship she displayed. I encouraged her to run with it and pursue a unique idea she had on a first and third person combination I felt could serve her story well.

What’s your favorite movie which was based on a book?

That would probably have to be 2010, The Year We Make Contact, based on Arthur C. Clarke’s sequel to his monumental 2001 Space Odyssey. More recent movies I feel have done great justice to the books are Hunger Games and Divergent.

Did you have a lot of differences with your editors in the beginning while you were still becoming used to getting your work edited?

Interestingly, not many. My publisher who IS my primary editor didn’t have me deviate much from what I initially put down; and where she did, it wasn’t a big deal. We have similar mindsets in both writing and attitude toward getting-to-press: make necessary adjustments, ‘get ‘er done’ and roll them presses!

How do you think your writing style has changed over the years?

It’s much improved. I’ve grown to have a better hold on proper grammar usage and correcting the stupid mistakes right out-of-the-gate. I think also being in utter sync with my cast now really helps me/them push a better story through.

Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?

More often than not it IS ‘in the middle of a café full of people’! I’d say the bulk of my work happens in such places. This may have much to do with the fact that the coffee house I wrote the majority of CROSS-GATE in was also the meeting spot for – a writers’ group! I certainly CAN write at home in a room, and am perfectly fine to do so. But there’s something about those cafés..!