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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

CSFF Blog Tour: George Bryan Polivka, Day 2

Greetings all! Welcome to Day Two: The Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka. The cover you see above is the recently released 2nd book in the Trophy Chase Trilogy. I'm a big fan of trilogies, and so far...this one sounds like a winner. Love the title "Hand That Bears the Sword." Very evocative. It makes promises to the reader, and from all accounts, it lives up to those promises.

Today, from Harvest House's website, an interview with George Bryan Polivka:

First things first: take us back to the beginning and explain how you became interested in writing. Have you always wanted to write fantasy fiction? What inspired you to start?
I’ve always written. I wrote my first book, which I also illustrated, when I was seven– or eight–years–old. It was a comical spy thriller. I have no idea what happened to it, but I know it was never published. It was well–accepted by its target audience, though, which consisted of my parents. I’ve been writing ever since.

I became interested in fantasy in high school, when a friend gave me a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. I was deeply, deeply moved by the trilogy and read it several times. I wasn’t a Christian, and these books spoke about good and evil, light and darkness, in a way I had never encountered. Then the same friend introduced me to Narnia. Eventually, I followed the light to its source. So, truth–filled fantasy has always been extremely important to me. I wrote my first novel just after graduating from college, almost got it published, and then wrote ten more before Harvest House found one they liked.

How did you dream up the premise for the Trophy Chase series, and how did you develop the idea of the Firefish?
The Legend of the Firefish is neither my first nor my latest novel, but something I started about a dozen years ago. I can’t remember the exact sequence of events that triggered the creation of Nearing Vast, but I know there were multiple inspirations. Before I graduated with my English degree I had done two years in Bible college, planning to go into the ministry. I was not expelled, but dropped out. When I wrote the first draft of Firefish, I’d been in the business world for ten years or so, and was impressed (not always positively) by the risks entrepreneurs were willing to take. That was about the time that the Internet began to take off, and there was a serious glow around new technologies in general. I remember thinking that a man with no fear could harness a new technology, even a very dangerous one, and exploit it to make himself rich. Or, he could try to use it for good. Out of all that, somehow, came Packer Throme, Scat Wilkins, and the Firefish.

Have you had any experience aboard sailing ships? What do you think it is about a seafarer’s or pirate’s life that is so captivating?
I’ve been on tall ships, and to me they are poetry. I’m not sure why that is, but there is nothing on earth that speaks to the longing of the soul quite like the sea, and nothing that gets to the heart of the sea like a tall ship. And this trilogy is really about longing, about different longings, and where they lead when you follow them. That’s why I chose this setting.

Tell us about Panna and your motivation to create such a strong female character.
I remember being in a college English class when my professor, a woman, stated flatly that “men can’t write believable women characters.” I took it as a challenge. I think good writing is about getting inside people’s heads, finding what’s unique and interesting about them, discovering motivations, and then letting them be themselves for good or ill in different situations. Strong women are strong in ways that men just aren’t, and they make different mistakes. I find those differences compelling and interesting and worth exploring.

I know that a woman’s traditional role is more service oriented, while a man’s is more control oriented. But for generations women have managed to control through their service—and I don’t mean by being manipulative (though of course that has been known to happen!). I mean by giving love sacrificially, for the reward of having given it. Sacrificial love may appear soft on the surface, maybe unmanly, but it is an extraordinarily powerful force that shapes everything around it. And in healthy situations, that love is returned in full measure with devotion. That’s the fundamental family dynamic, usually driven by the mother. And it’s also the heart of the Christian message. It’s what God did, and does, for us. Panna doesn’t reflect all that perfectly, of course. If she did, she wouldn’t be very believable. But it is her basic orientation, part of which she fights against, part of which she embraces with great passion. I think people want to see how all that turns out for her, which makes her both strong and compelling.

One of the great things about the Trophy Chase trilogy is watching Packer and Panna’s love story unfold. So does this mean you are a romantic at heart? What dragons did you slay to win your own lady’s heart?
Jeri and I have been married for more than 25 years, and we do have our own love story, and it’s quite a yarn. It’s got romance, comedy, tragedy. Add children, and you get the whole gamut, like it or not! In Firefish, we’re seeing Packer and Panna at the outset of their life together, when everything revolves around romance. Jeri and I met when we were teenagers. So yes, I drew heavily on the only love story I know. How could I not? But we’re a private couple. You won’t get me to kiss and tell!

Where do you think your creativity comes from? When you sit down to write, crafting characters like Talon, Packer Throme, and of course the illustrious Firefish, how do you get the creative juices flowing?
I’ve heard about this thing called “writer’s block,” but I have never experienced it. I don’t always feel like writing, but I never have trouble sitting down and doing it, or getting into characters’ heads, or crafting a scene. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was “just write the good stuff.” When you’ve got it in your head that you want to do a scene, and you can see it, and you feel the joy of it coming on, and you’re thinking how cool it would be if this happened or that happened, just write it. Don’t say to yourself, “Oh, I’m not there yet. I have to write all this other stuff that leads up to it first.” People tell me that the Trophy Chase books really move, that they can’t put them down. My father likes to call Firefish a “Pirate 24” and tells everyone that Packer Throme is Jack Bauer with a sword (although, for the record, I wrote Packer’s adventures long before there was a Jack Bauer!). But I think that’s why the stories are packed with so much adventure. I just write the scenes I like. And apparently other people like them too, for which I’m very thankful.

In The Trophy Chase trilogy, you communicate the Christian message overtly, rather than allegorically or symbolically. What factored into this decision?
One thing that always bothered me about Middle Earth and Narnia was that for the good side, the spirituality was always symbolic, while the evil was literal. Never seemed quite fair to me. And so I asked myself, why does it have to be that way? I don’t think mentioning God should be breaking some rule of fantasy etiquette. Why should it put people off, so long as it’s part of the story and it makes sense to who the characters are? Setting these books in Nearing Vast, with its 18th century–like environment, made it very natural to address Christianity and its trappings, the church, priests, prayer, all of it, in a way that is both fun and meaningful. It’s easier to see where God is and where He isn’t when you don’t have to deal with the cultural baggage the church lugs around today. I find that refreshing, and I’m pleased that others seem to as well.

A recurring theme in the storyline of The Legend of the Firefish is that of submitting to God’s will and recognizing one’s own weakness. How have these themes played out in your own life?
My. Okay. Where to begin? Well, what makes fantasy ring true, is... truth. My life, looked at through the very significant lens of this particular truth, could be said to be one long lesson on this topic. As a long–time evangelical, I’ve heard messages about submitting to God’s will and recognizing one’s dire weakness over and over, but it’s almost always tied to salvation. Bow your head and confess, and ask God, and He’ll do what you can’t... He’ll save you. But somehow we forget that this is how we are to live our lives every day. Somehow we don’t think that falling to our knees and humbly confessing and crying out for his mercy is an everyday occurrence and the way we should behave all the time. I’m not sure why that is. It’s not like the message is hidden between the lines in Scripture... Pride comes before a fall. The meek shall inherit the earth. The last shall be first. Offer your bodies as living sacrifices. Turn the other cheek. Think of others as more important than yourself. It was the theme Jesus lived and said we are to live as well. He was raised up and given all the power in the universe because He humbled Himself to death, we are told— and even death on a cross. And we are to do likewise.

I have had a lot of success in my life. I have powered through, sometimes, on my own strength. And then my strength has failed me, and I’ve failed. But when I have cried out to God in pain, in humiliation, in weakness, He has always answered. He has lifted me up out of trials that seemed every bit as severe as anything Packer Throme ever experienced. That’s His power, not mine. And we all go through these times. God knocks us down, or lets us get knocked down, hoping we’ll learn how to trust Him there on our knees. If I ever write my autobiography, I’ll have to title it Just Stay Down! I still need to learn that. Because “knocked down” is where the power is, and where life and joy come from. That’s where God gives strength and the only success that matters.

George Bryan Polivka, author of Legend of the Firefish

Bryan, let me know if I'm NOT supposed to borrow this interview from the Harvest Website. Not trying to step on toes. ;-)


everlastingscribe said...

Bryan writes antagonists so well! I find myself identifying more with his villains then than the heroes (I never claimed to be normal). Another delight are his supporting characters, like John Hand. They are more than just cardboard stand-ins that move the plot along when the protagonist is incapacitated or not 'in frame' they add a richness and depth not usually found in fantasy of this genre. I kept wanting to know more about the supporting characters and hope in the third installment he does more with them.

Anonymous said...

Urghh! I can't find this book!

Anonymous said...

Aye, Cap'n, I'm with you... I say we swipe the interview and share the plunder! Come on mateys, who else is in with us!!?

Anonymous said...

lotrgeek, you're breaking my heart. Amazon should have it. But if you post to my blog, I'll send you a signed copy!

(First stealing, now bribes... I'm not sure about the crowd you hang out with, Wayne!)


Unknown said...

Man that cover of The Hand the Bears the Sword is so awesome, and yes there is a certain ring to the title.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, that's very kind, but I'll just check Amazon.

PatShand said...

Wow. Reading this wanted me to head over to Amazon and order it right now, until I got to the "I know that a woman’s traditional role is more service oriented, while a man’s is more control oriented. But for generations women have managed to control through their service."

Wow. Wow. What a turn-off if ever a turn-off there was. I was expecting him to answer the "Why do you write strong females" with something like Joss Whedon said ("Because people are still asking that question"), but then he came out with that? Not for me. Not for me at all.