Now that I have read and reviewed his book, (my review can be found here) I wanted to explore more of this novel and the author as I was intrigued by the uniqueness of the spiritual warfare aspects described and the background of the author after reading of his bio at the end of the novel. What better way to do this, than through an interview?
I engaged C.A (Charles) for this interview, and here is what he has to say about himself and the complex world of the supernatural, Christian worldview of spiritual warfare.
Charles has much to say and this interview contains a lot of his testimony. It really does tie in well with the background to his novel. Please do not let the length of this interview deter you from reading it in its entirety. It is well worth it and you will be able to see the hand of God in his life. This is very encouraging, honours God and shows what a might God we serve.
Having said that, here we go!
Charles, it is great to have you drop by and put an end to my curiosity concerning your novel and yourself! I am really looking forward to this.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background/testimony.
It’s hard to know really where to start when I describe where I come from. For those that know my story, I would be the last person on the list who would be “qualified” to write a fiction novel, especially one of the caliber of Call to Arms as you have described in your review. I was not an English nor a Creative Writing major. My degree is in Computer Science. I’m a math and science geek. I’m currently a substitute teacher at a local high school here in El Paso, Texas and I’m seeking to become a full time math teacher. Most people would expect me to be good at technical papers, not fiction. But when you give your life to Christ and tell him, “I don’t know what you want me to do, but I’m available. Use me as you want,” things tend to happen that surpass your wildest dreams.
When I said I was not qualified to write a novel, I really meant it. Growing up, I had all sorts of both physical and mental difficulties. I did not have reading comprehension until I was 12 years old. I could tell you what was on each page, but I could not tell you why it was there. But when I turned 12, it was like God turned a switch on, and it came fast. I wasn’t much of a reader until after I had already started writing. I did read, but I wasn’t voracious. I also had moderate physical difficulties. I could not do two things at once, like sitting upright and eating. My joint and leg structure had specialists tell me, when I was six, I would never run, have difficulty walking, and not to expect any improvement. God brought me through all that. When I was 15, I started fencing and that sport did wonders for my development to now, I am at least decent at just about every sport I try.
Spiritually, I was raised in a Christian home and when I was six years old, my parents took my family and I on our first mission trip. I’ll address more about that later. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savoir when I was seven, and I have never turned back. I also have a gift of spiritual discernment. As I’ve become more aware of the gift, I have been seeking to learn how to use it, but there were many times growing up where I would say something completely out of the blue, and that something would be exactly what needed to be done. I have a gift of a child-like faith that isn’t childish, where when God speaks, I believe it without question. There would be times where I would share something very profound that blows everyone away and when they ask me where I got that, I would respond with “God just told me that the other day.” I could easily go on and on about this.
Despite your physical and mental disabilities, God gave you a glimpse of what was to come. Wow!
What inspired you to get into writing?
As I mentioned above, writing a novel was not on my agenda or dream to-do-lists. Yet, despite that as I think back, I was a writer. I was constantly writing stories as a kid. For school, when we were told to write a story, my teachers would think 1-3 pages. Mine would be 15-20. I often had a journal where I would often write and re-write the same adventure story. But even though I was long-winded as a writer, I wasn’t a good story teller then. My main character was always me, I had no character arcs, and ultimately it ended up being one action scene followed by another. You could say I was trying to live out a dream of being a sword-fighting hero through writing.
Writing took a bit of a back seat when I started fencing. I no longer had a need to write about an epic sword fight. I was actually living it through the sport. But during the Summer and Autumn of 2005, the door to write opened again. I was part of an on-line forum with C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia as the theme. And in anticipation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe coming to film, I would give a depiction of what the final battle scene could look like. And that was a hit in the forum. Also, a friend of mine and co-worker at the time was working a potential story and he asked me to write some of the battle/action scenes. So at this point, I was starting to see that people were liking what I was writing, a big step from anything I had written in the past.
The big turning point came in November, 2007. Another friend of mine had written the first draft of a fictional biography. He had taken his life testimony and wrote it in the context of a spiritual warfare, adventure novel. He also asked me for some feedback. So I read his draft and shortly afterwards, went over my comments with him. During this time, he suggested I try writing because he was so impressed with what I was telling him.
So I decided, “What the heck?” I gave it a go. This time, I purposed to take myself out of the story, do it in 3rd person (all my previous stuff was 1st person and as I’ve learned, this is not a good idea for a new writer), and make sure I had good character and story arcs. I set out for a medieval/fantasy thriller as a means to test the waters. I created a few characters, came up with a few locations, and completely made up the story as I went. In three months, I had 280 pages for over 160,000 words. And it was a decent first draft. I then sat on it for a month and as I started to look at the editing process, God told me to set it aside and start thinking of another writing project. A project that would end up as Call to Arms.
I love the way two seemingly unsimilar past times, fencing and writing, merged and became the spring board for you becoming a writer in your own right! Not just a coincidence, I believe!
What was the inspiration for writing Call to Arms?
As I wrote my medieval thriller, ideas for different story ideas kept popping into my head. I knew that I wanted a spiritual warfare novel to be my key story of all of them. I wanted that one to be my best work out of all of them. But I wanted more practice. I wanted to continue working this medieval thriller. I also wanted to do a story that would be a modern take on “What would happen if Zorro were to be needed to today?” I knew that my “brand” so to say would be adventure/sword fighting thrillers so I wanted to keep with that theme. I wanted more practice writing stories before I got to my spiritual warfare one. But after I had finished this first draft of my medieval story, God kept pointing me towards that spiritual warfare novel. So in April 2007, I started it. I wasn’t quite sure how to really get it going, but as I was in college at the time and I was walking to catch a bus to get to church, I got this image in my head. And it answered the question: “What would it look like to see someone in the spiritual realm be “born again”?” And I absolutely loved that image. I won’t spoil it here, but I took that image and I started working a story line around that image.
In this process, I took some of the stories I had heard and stories I had witnessed in regards to spiritual warfare and dealing with demons from while I was in the mission field and used the ideas from that as key plot points. I also remember watching one of the Harry Potter movies as I was preparing this novel. And I thought to myself, “This movie praises the use of the occult and unaware children could easily start dabbling into it, not knowing what truly lies behind.” So I wanted a story that would address the real nature of the occult.
As you mention in your review, Peter, I have strong, Christian characters. I mentioned growing up on the mission field and I frequently worked with strong Christian teenagers. We called them “Junior Staff”, teens that were mature in their faith, had plenty of experience through previous mission trips (many were annual repeaters or more), and were showing signs of leadership capabilities. I had seen some of these teens in action, and so I wanted to show that teenagers today could execute that mature, walk-the-walk, stand strong in the faith relationship with Christ. Perhaps my favourite character in Call to Arms is Zack Saxon. He is a fearless kid, almost reckless. He came about when I watched a couple of boys, only 9 and 10, fearlessly and almost recklessly witnessing to a homeless man apart from the main group.
All these factors came to play as I started writing. In just six weeks, I finished with 250 pages at 130K words.
Totally agree with you about Zack! He is also one of my favourite characters!
What was your goal for your readers? What kind of responses were you expecting?
My initial goal for this book was to raise awareness about spiritual warfare. I had seen too much of the church in general effectively be clueless about the battle we are in, let alone what the stakes are. As a Christian author, I wanted a story that would be more than just a fiction version of a sermon. I did not want my story to pull readers out to where I would essentially “preach” to them. Every Christian fiction novel needs to have quality substance that does teach practically how to help the reader out in their walk with Christ, but that should be done through the story, not through the author directly to the reader. I wanted a story that would show what happens when we try to stay on the sidelines and wait for God and Satan to “duke it out”. I wanted a story that shows that children are targeted by Satan early, but also that a child does not have to wait to be an adult to engage in the battle. I wanted readers to see that this stuff is real, so I used a few true encounters I had endured to demonstrate that. I do believe I met my goals.
I honestly did not know what kind of responses I should expect. I knew people liked reading my battle scenes but creating two complex story lines and weaving them together, I honestly did not know what to expect. What I got was far above and beyond what I imagined. All but universal praise for the story weaving, the character development, the action scenes, and the staying true to Biblical truths. I had a few people that did not care so much for the spiritual aspects but even then they were very impressed with the story structure and my writing ability.
Charles, having read A Call to Arms, I can honestly say you have exceeded your goals in this book, and you have also educated the reader in the reality of spiritual warfare. I believe that Christian Fiction should educate and edify the body of Christ and you have achieved this very successfully.
Now, describe your journey of becoming published. How did it help your relationship with Christ?
After I finished my first draft of Call to Arms, I let it sit for a while. I wanted to come back to it with a fresh mind. And as I came back to it, I realized I had material that was too dark and too descriptive for a young-adult reader, my target audience. I wanted to reach youth with this novel and as Charles Jackson, a friend of mine who wrote the endorsement, says: “It is a middle-school boy’s dream fantasy. “ But my first draft was truly what some authors like to call a vomit or barf draft. It was not good. It did not have good story structure. How I had crossed the two worlds was too unclear and not effective. Some scenes were a bit too unrealistic to follow. And other scenes went into material that my target audience should not be reading into the details I had revealed. And looking back, it was material no Christian publisher would have accepted. So I took a few characters I liked, a few key plot points I liked, and I scrapped the whole thing and started over again.
But that is part of the journey of a first-time author. I persevered and my second draft had much better material and a stronger story. I also revised how I described my two worlds to what is there now. But it still wasn’t done yet. I then had to re-write the whole back third of the novel again because of reorganizing a few scenes. But it was getting stronger and stronger.
At this point I was starting to explore how to get my work published. And I found a Christian publishing ‘pre-screening’ company called Writer’s Edge Service. Writer’s Edge Service will take the plot summary, first three chapters, and author info, and with detailed feedback, they will determine if a publisher would consider looking at a manuscript. After six revisions and editing phases, I submitted it to them and they loved it. My anonymous reviewer said “It was the best depiction of spiritual warfare for the everyday believer that I had ever read.” That’s part of what makes Call to Arms stand out from a lot of other spiritual warfare fiction novels. My characters, while spiritually mature, are believable and attainable for the average reader. The average reader can live their Christian walk similar to how my characters do.
So with that review, I immediately had contact from several publishers. But they were self-publishers and all of them required some money, money that I as a college student did not have. I was tempted but I had to wait and see. Through this though, I found out about an American Christian Fiction Writers Conference and I did have enough time and money to go during my Spring Break that year. So I went and it was good. Small, but good. During an appointment I had with Rene Gutteridge, she told me I needed to look for a real publisher because my work was good enough to not need to look at self-publishing. But I still did not know much about the publishing industry and how to separate out what was what.
Shortly after I got back from that conference, I received contact from Lighthouse Christian Publishing. I did not know they were self-publishing at the time and they charged a very low fee to cover initial costs: just $300. After praying about it, I decided to go for it. So I published this work under the title Battle Cry: Adventures in the Kingdom of Heaven. But after it was published, I soon saw two glaring issues. One, the cover was just a stencil sketch. I thought that was going to be used as a basis for a much better cover. The other issue was that they did not do the final editing job, the final fine tooth comb of spelling and grammar that I thought they were going to do. Both were due to my lack of understanding of the system. But that being said, my initial readers were able to get through all that and they could not believe what I had written. So I had quite a dilemma. I had an awesome story but with problems. And I wanted to write more. How could I continue to promote it, knowing the issues? God provided the answer shortly afterwards.
I got the opportunity to attend the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park, Colorado. I had to wait four years, from when I first heard of it until I got to go, because it was always held during Finals Week in college. But I finally got the chance to go and there my eyes were opened. The CCWC is one of the biggest and best writers’ conferences in the US and I learned more than I could comprehend during that week. It was also there where I got the chance to meet with Ramona Tucker of OakTara Publishing. I learned that very rarely will publishers look at the same work that was self-published. But Ramona saw something in my manuscript and she wanted me to submit it, with a better editing job, some content changes, and with a title change. And in the next month, I did that. I fixed the spelling/grammar issues, tweaked a few scenes partly in anticipation of the second book in the trilogy, and changed the title to Call to Arms. OakTara loved the book, gave me one of the coolest cover designs I’ve ever seen, and it was released on May 1st 2014, just in time for me to return to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference for the 3rd time, but this time it would be as a speaker and the topic: spiritual warfare. I have now finished my trilogy for The Battle Cry Saga and am waiting on OakTara for determining when the best time to release them.
Seems to me that God was teaching you to be patient and to let Him pave the way for you to get Call to Arms published. You have certainly done that and now are reaping the benefits.
Your author bio says you grew up as a missionary kid. Where did you serve? For how long? With whom? How did this experience influence this book?
As I mentioned above, I grew up on the mission field. My parents joined with International Family Missions (IFM) when I was six years old, in 1990. My family was more in the support side, where we worked behind the scenes and were not directly doing the ministry as much as the teams themselves. IFM had a vision: to teach families how to do ministry as a family unit and it was here that I got to see many children of all ages (and adults) live and walk their faith. Many mission organizations either took teenagers or empty-nester parents. Rarely were kids allowed to go and handicapped people were rarely allowed to go. Partly because many of those short term trips involved work projects to go along with their Gospel sharing. But IFM was different. We hardly did work projects. We just did “visits in Jesus’ name”. We focused our ministry to Juarez, Mexico because it was so close to the US border and because it had the 3rd world culture to get the groups out of their comfort zone. El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico are literally sister cities. The only thing that separates them is a river, which happens to be an international border. El Paso/Juarez is the largest international metropolitan area in the world. And because of the proximity, we could take our teams to El Paso (just a one day drive from the Denver, Colorado area where we were from), have them stay on the US side every night and for a week at a time, take them into Juarez daily to do ministry.
The ministry we did was not work projects but consisted of evangelism, church visits, VBS Bible clubs, sport camps, feedings, and simply just spending time with the people. After we visited with one of the children’s homes, they told us: “Other groups paints our walls and build our fences, but you were the first group to just play with us.” My parents remained involved with IFM for 22 years total. In July 1999, we moved to south-east El Paso to manage the ministry base we used to house and facilitate these teams. We’d host a team of 35-40 people, comprised of mostly families, but we also took toddlers, the elderly, grandkids, grandparents, handicapped, the works. I was also one of the “handicapped” because of the challenges I had growing up. My parents quickly realized that God was going to use me when I was eight years old. I was in my own world while the team was doing ministry at the prison in Juarez. The men were inside with the men, while the women and children visited with the wives and kids visiting the men. Our director was speaking to a group of pastors that was interested in what we were doing and he asked me to get a “Worldless Book”, a felt booklet that contained five colors (gold, black, red, white, and green) and this booklet contained the Gospel message. I then shared the Gospel with this booklet to these pastors along with all the verses that went with it. And the pastors were totally amazed that a child (not knowing my story) could share the Gospel so simply.
In this time of ministry, we saw God move in many different ways. We did a kite flying event with kids at another children’s home and God stopped the heavy winds so we could do it. In another event, we planned a massive feeding, but God sent the strongest windstorm in recorded history, which meant heavy dirt. Many people know about blizzard conditions with snow. We know the same conditions with dirt. But we had to close down because of this dirt storm. As a result, we found another orphanage that we had been trying to find for several years. And they were down to their last few carrots on food. We had enough for them for a week. We’ve seen food multiply numerous times, sometimes with leftovers, sometimes where the last apple or slice of meat went to the last person. We’ve seen miraculous healings. One woman we witnessed to in the market one year accepted Christ. Two years later she found us and told us that very day she was healed of cancer and was in the markets doing exactly what we had been doing: sharing Christ.
One thing I observed during this time, which I mentioned above, was that teenagers and even kids as young as 7-10 could display a true Christian faith with that innocent, child-like faith that is not childish. I’ve seen little kids share the truth with full grown men who had lost everything. I’ve seen teenagers take leadership where a number of adults would not. But these mature youth showed me that teenagers and younger could walk that kind of Christian life. And I wanted to demonstrate through my book one way that could look like.
My parents and I separated from IFM in January 2012 to move on to another direction God was taking us. IFM itself had ceased to bring groups to Juarez, mostly because of a brutal war between drug cartels. That war has mostly ended but IFM is seeking the Lord on what to do from there. In the meantime, my parents have moved on and are currently waiting on the Lord to direct their steps.
Those are amazing experiences and very unique to have while growing up. I can see how they have influenced the plot of Call to Arms. You have definitiely shown in this novel that teenagers and even those younger can take the leadership role. Again, the character of Zack comes to mind. James as well.
You say you experienced a number of encounters with the demonic. Tell us about one of them and how it played a role in your writing?
Spiritual warfare has always been a favorite topic of mine. In writing Call to Arms, I used some of my personal experiences in dealing with demons and I used some of the experiences I heard from those involved first-hand. My first draft did not use as many of these encounters as my later drafts did. My first draft was more about getting some of the principles down, but one very interesting thing about writing I have learned is this: when you write about a certain topic, you have a tendency of dealing with said topic. And while the majority of my experience in ministries was helping facilitate the teams from behind the scenes, I got to see a lot of stuff and hear about a lot of things going on. As I mentioned above, after writing my first draft, I had to scrap my entire story and re-write it. Between those drafts, I had the most significant encounter with the demonic I had personally been involved with.
I was using my first draft as a witnessing tool for a co-worker of mine at the time. He had expressed a strong interest in spiritual discussions, though not always about Christianity. So I used my first draft as a means to get him to open up about the need for the Gospel. But in this encounter, I awoke a demonic stronghold that had laid dormant in him. It started with trying to get some written feedback from him about my novel. Because he did not have a printer, we had to do it via e-mail. But attempt after attempt after attempt, nothing came through. Then something did and it was not the feedback he was trying to send. It was messages from a demonic entity. Each one got more and more sinister, but I was seeing what was happening. I hammered him with the Gospel, recognizing what was going on and day by day, it got worse and worse. I knew he was aware of demonic activity and other “spiritual issues” so I very cautiously watched him, seeing if it was some sort of sick prank. It was not long afterwards that the demonic stronghold manifested itself through him and I started to engage with the demon directly through my co-worker. But I did not quit and I kept presenting the Gospel. I was the only believer in the store where we worked, so I had no physical backup. I also had Acts 19:13-17
in mind. That is the time where the seven sons of Sceva tried to drive out a demon and it went very poor for them. I used that passage of Scripture for one of my scenes that you pointed out in your review. I knew I was in a very tight situation, and the only help I could get was prayer support from a distance. During my final day at that job, I got the chance to give him the Gospel one last time, but in the end, he would not submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
I was shaken. Hard. I was sifted like wheat. But I held my ground. I was reduced to my foundations, and my foundations were on solid ground. This encounter did change my life but it made me stronger in my faith. It took about six months for me to be able to tell this story in detail and when I do, it usually takes about an hour to tell it. This is the short, short, short version. But I have an awesome T-shirt that was very appropriate for this encounter. I got the shirt at the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference. It says this: “Be careful what you say or you might just find yourself in my next novel.”
Most of us would never have such an experience! Most of us would reel in fright at such, but you show how the battle belongs to God and He is the Victor. I loved how you added that part of the verse from Acts in your plot! More realism and very clever! When I was reading A Call to Arms, one of my first thoughts was that these spiritual scenes could not just be from your imagination, I figured they were God inspired or that you would have had to at least experienced them. Now this does not surprise me from what you have experienced first hand.
Is there any of the demon entities that you have included in the novel based on any that you had experienced in the above encounters from your past? For me, Kivuli comes to mind. Am I correct?
Yes, you would be correct. Kivuli was based on the demon I encountered through my co-worker. And how could I not use that encounter? I was writing about spiritual warfare and I got a first-hand detailed experience in it. I used it for four of my chapters.
I knew it! He seems too evil and devious to be just from your imagination! One formidable opponent but defeated nonetheless, or at least in this novel!
You describe sword battles with extreme detail. How did you learn about this? How do you use this sport to preach the Gospel?
The first thing I remember that got me interested in sword fighting was during one of the mission trips I was part of. I don’t remember a huge amount about it, but I specifically remember a skit the team had done involving spiritual warfare. And it had a sword fight in it. The skit involved some people trying to witness to a lost soul, but a demon comes, takes him away, and gets him involved in easy to act out sinful activities like drinking, gambling, etc. But then a saint comes in with an angel at his side and while the saint witnesses to the lost soul, the angel and the demon engaged in a sword fight to epic music. I remembered that skit, including the guy who put it together. I had always been interested in sword fighting since that time and I would always dream about being involved in one.
Just before I turned 15, some 7-8 years later, I was watching the movie The Princess Bride and something clicked in my head: Fencing. My sister had tried it with a friend a few years earlier but I never made the connection that I could check it out. So I asked about it and my parents got me fencing lessons for my 15th birthday. And I absolutely loved it. I could not do the team sports, though I was one of the most enthusiastic players. I didn’t engage with teammates nor understood team interactions that well. And I didn’t have the skills to play decently either. But fencing, being an individual sport, was perfect for me. After I started fencing, my physical abilities started to shoot up. I was suddenly able to play other sports. Basketball and soccer were my two best, outside of fencing. I was never the best fencer in competitions, but I didn’t care. I was having fun. I got the privilege of travelling to regional competitions and Nationals four different times. My best event was my senior year in college. I travelled with my team to a national collegiate tournament in Chicago. I fenced along with my team and I was pitted against the best fencers from other teams the entire tournament. Rarely did I get their weaker teammates. That semester, to fill in enough credits for full time status, I took three PE classes, soccer, basketball, and kenpo karate (more kickboxing) to go with competing for the college fencing team. I was in the best shape of my life, and I brought my A-game. It was so much fun. Many people do not understand how intense the sport is. When I competed to qualify for Summer Nationals in 2009, I started at 8 in the morning and I was competing the whole day until 7 in the evening. That’s 11 hours of fencing. Brutal but awesome.
In any movie that has a sword fight in it, I study it. And I am constantly looking at different weapons and I study how I could use that weapon in whatever way I can. I love to handle the weapons but I do not get a chance to do that too often. But I consider myself a strategist, which is something you noted in your review. I am constantly thinking about how weapons can be used and I love military strategy. I love seeing how armies move and the tactics involved. I love the Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia movies. But Narnia, in terms of battles scenes, are better despite Lord of the Rings being bigger and more epic. Here is why. In Lord of the Rings, there are not much strategies involved. Aragorn, Gandalf, or even Saruman or the Witch King are not really directing the battles. You can see that Peter Jackson, the movie director, is directing the battles. But in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, you can see that the character of Peter directed the Narnian side of the battle. And one thing I am studying now, which will make my battle scenes even better is Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Though in reading my battle scenes, you may see I had already implemented a number of his principles.
But fencing has played a much larger role for me than just competition and knowledge of swordplay. That skit I referenced above came back to memory. I contacted the guy that had compiled the music, got it, and then I started performing the skit, using any volunteers I could. Using my fencing equipment instead of the broomsticks the early renditions of this skit used, I took the skit to a whole new level.
I also had an opportunity to take my gear and do demonstrations with the missions teams we hosted. The kids in Juarez had never seen sword fighting beyond the movies and in whatever sticks they could find. And when I show up with my swords and I allow them to spar with me (using extra equipment I got for the purpose of such demonstrations) it was a huge hit. I also started doing the skit during the VBS clubs and it never got old. I used anyone willing to strap on the gear, but the closest I got to anyone who remotely knew what they were doing were with a couple tai-kwan-do black belts. Most of the time, I had sparring partners who had no clue what they were doing. But it still worked out great.
But God started telling me I could take it deeper. He showed me how to use my equipment to talk about the Armor of God. And each piece of my fencing gear performed the functions that the Armor of God did. There is more. God also showed me how to use the moves I do in competition and use them as a visual demonstration on how we can engage in spiritual warfare. The real challenge I have with this is explaining what I do so someone can understand what I do. Many people in my church had heard I did fencing and they heard I used it as a ministry tool, but very few of them had a clue of what I was talking about. In June 2013, I got the chance to do my presentation at my church. Here I finally got a chance to do my demo with a sparring partner who was a fencer and the presentation was absolutely flawless. God showed up that night. I had an anointing and I preached with power and authority that those who knew me had never seen in me before. I do not have many videos of my presentation which is unfortunate, but I do have a few on my YouTube Channel:FencerforJesus
. I do have dreams of one day opening up a fencing club and run it from a Biblical perspective, and use the sport as a method to reach youth and to preach the Gospel.
Reading this has really blown me away! That is very impressive and I would love to see a demonstration of how each piece of the fencing gear relates to the armour of God. You have shown how powerful a witnessing tool this is. Now that you mention about the battle scenes in Lord of the Rings and Narnia, I can see what you mean and agree with you.
You deal with some very challenging aspects about spiritual warfare. Is there a point of caution you recommend for readers due to content? Did you take it too far?
As I mentioned before, my first draft had content that was too strong for a young adult reader and even too strong for most Christian publishers to want to attempt to look at. At the same time, I wanted to be real with what I was dealing with. I had seen too many stories where the Christian life is depicted as a nice, lovey-dovey, cloudwalk either without challenges or with too obvious ’Biblical answers’. I’ve also seen too many stories where the villains are cookie cutter, very stereotypical with the standard misused maniacal laugh. I wanted my characters to face real situations, deal with them realistically where even their mentors do not have the right answers. I also wanted villains that were more than just evil for the purpose of being evil. At the same time, I also wanted to reveal that our enemy, Satan, does not play fair. He cheats, he targets the young and spiritually weak, and he wants as many believers out of the way as he can get. So I wanted to show how he does that, and what how he would respond when someone decides to stand up to him.
I do caution young readers about some of my material because I do not mince words on how dark it can get. I have a character get kidnapped where the kidnappers have no intention of letting him live. I have another character receiving very disturbing messages that are straight from the pit of hell. Did I go too far? I do not believe I did, but I do suspect I have pushed the envelope. The youngest reader I have had was 10 years old, and he loved it. But he had a strong Christian background and he knew me personally as an author. He did not know at the time some of my scenes were based strongly on real accounts. The material I have is very realistic and the type of events that go on could happen and have happened. But I also will clearly point out that no matter how dark it gets, we have an Advocate who will fight beside us. The question is this: are we on his side? I have not had readers tell me to this point that when the sun goes down the book has to go down too. But I was not seeking that kind of horror. I just caution readers to be aware that I deal with some very tough realities and when someone messes around in the occult, that reality is not so easy to escape.
That is one very sobering response and it needs to be just like it is in Call to Arms. I don't think you have gone too far, yes, you pushed the envelope but I feel you needed to and I would be disappointed if you had not. You would not have educated the reader in spiritual warfare, it would have just been an entertaining novel and that was not your goal. Again, you have successfully portrayed the reality of spiritual warfare in Call to Arms.
What are your life goals besides being an author?
Being an author was a goal I never really intended to pursue until recently. Right now, I am a substitute teacher and I am seeking a full time math position. I’ve had many job interviews but I just have not yet found that opening. And that is okay. I’m not panicked over it. I’m getting by right now as a substitute, but it’s not easy financially. Among my other goals, I know God has called me to full time ministry with youth. I’m not fully sure what the final image of that ministry should look like yet. I do want to start a fencing club where I can teach the sport while also provide a Biblical basis or teaching. I am in a very interesting point in life where I can truly understand what it means for God’s Word to be a “light unto my path”. The “light unto my path” in Psalm 119, is talking about a small lantern where all you can really see clearly is just the next step in front of you. God has not shown me the long terms goals and not much in detail. But he has shown me where I need to go next and that is the direction I am heading.
Working with youth, teaching them fencing and the spiritual side of this in your fencing club. I can see you doing this and doing it very well. I look forward to hearing from you about this in the future. He has given you a great ministry, Charles!
What do you like to do in your spare time when you are not writing?
I have quite a few hobbies I do in my spare time. I’ve grown up as a gamer. I do enjoy playing video games. I’m not hard core like many others, but I do play. I enjoy action/adventure games like Mario and Zelda and I like RPG’s such as Final Fantasy. If I had to pick a favorite game right now, it would be a toss-up between The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Xenoblade Chronicles, both for the Nintendo Wii.
Other hobbies involve studies in the debate between Creation and Evolution. I am active on Facebook in a few groups in these discussions and many on the Biblical side see me as a leader in that field. I am currently going through an intense Biblical Foundation and Worldview seminar through the Creation Truth Foundation
called the “Cadre”. It is four sets of 4 days over two years and I’ve finished the 2nd part just a couple weeks ago. In this seminar I have learned a lot about Biblical Worldviews, how it is being attacked, and I have been getting a lot of the resources that I knew what the content was but now I have the source where it comes from. I already knew a lot of the material we’ve been covering but now I have the means to articulate it. The goal of the Cadre is to be able to take the material and teach it in our local circles.
In the last couple years, I have had to drop fencing from my routine due to time and money, but if that were not an issue, I would continue practicing and competing.
And very interestingly, I was never much of a reader until the last couple years when I started attending the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. Since then, I’ve started adding to my book collection and I’ve been reading more and more.
I don’t get to do it too often, but I always enjoy getting out in nature. I grew up in Colorado just outside Denver and I love going on mountain hikes. In El Paso, Texas, we do have a few trails but not many. I would hike them more, but time and weather are major factors. Summers get too hot here for hiking most of the time, but I love climbing the mountains and enjoying the view.
Overall, I am a hyper-focus type of guy. It is challenging to me to going on something, especially if I am already involved in something else. But once I get going, I don’t stop.
Charles, I am not surprised you say you are a gamer! I have not heard of some of those games, only Mario, Zelda and Final Fantasy, but never played! No shame on me please! LOL. You have a passion for the Bible and all things God, so your involvement in the Creation Truth Foundation is also no surprise. You like hiking and being outdoors, I prefer gym work and keeping fit this way! As an avid reader, I am pleased to see you are reading more, welcome to the club!
What opportunities has being an author opened for you?
The main window of opportunity that being an author has presented me is a few speaking engagements. In May 2014, I was granted an opportunity to speak at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and I co-taught a workshop on spiritual warfare with a friend of mine. Those that attended our workshop want us to come back and do a 5-hr version of what we gave in May 2015. Just recently, I was asked to speak at a small Christian home-school co-op group about my journey of being an author.
I am a leader with a local Christian writers group and I have taken advantage of using my skills and experiences to help boost the group. While most of the time we help critique each other’s works, I am often asked to be the main teacher for writing lessons. In our September 2014 meeting, I taught a lesson on “Writing Your Story”, where I gave tips and encouragements on how to take all those ideas running in your head, how to organize them, and to start writing. With National Novel Writers Month upon us, some of us are going to take up the challenge. And in January, 2015, we are planning on having me teach on the topic, “Publishing, Editing, and Beyond”. I will speak about what to do with that first draft, how to work with editors and Beta Readers, and some of the basics about publishing. It a perfect set-up and we are excited about seeing the whole sequence come together.
Beyond that, I am keeping my eyes open for other opportunities. I am trying to set something up at my local school where I am a substitute, but trying to work that in with the administration is a challenge. I think part of it is they aren’t sure what I would do because it not every day a school has a published author in their midst.
All I see throughout your testimony/life is you going from strength to strength along the path that God has set for you. I pray that you continue to be an inspiration and encouragement to others in what God can do if only we let Him. You have encouraged me immensely through this interview, and of course, in your novel.
You have your first book published and this is clearly the first of a series. Where do things stand with the other books in this series? What other writing projects do you have in mind?
Yes, Call to Arms is just the first book of a series. The Battle Cry Saga will be a trilogy. I have two more books that will follow the events of this one. The second one Rak Chazak takes place about a year after the events in Call to Arms. James Proctor learns from his previous experiences and forms a spiritual special forces unit: a group of tight knit friends that seeks to find the spiritual strongholds in Silex and root them out. But in the process, the group discovers a new enemy and James confronts his greatest opponent: himself. The third book, The Mighty Gibborim, continues shortly after Rak Chazak. James leaves Silex in preparation for college, and the forces of darkness his group have been hunting turn up the heat, setting things up for the ultimate finale: a showdown where all the Christians in Silex must unite, or will they? I have finished, revised, and completed the final editing that I can do on my end and I have submitted both of them to my publisher. I am currently waiting on them to decide the best time to release Rak Chazak.
This trilogy is not the only writing project I have in mind. I am in the planning stages of a new fantasy series. Partly inspired by my friend who co-taught the spiritual warfare workshop at the CCWC, what if I were to build a world of metaphors where each aspect of the world from geological features, to weapons, to society structure, to technology, was a metaphor of something involving our Christian walk? What if I used the core story structure I had for that medieval story I had done as a basis for a new series? I’ve got a lot of ideas down, but I am taking a serious look at trying to get the first part of it set up so I could use it for National Novel Writers Month that starts on November 1st.
I have another idea in the early planning stages that would include time travel. What if sometime in the future, we were able to design a time travel machine and go visit the Biblical heroes of old? Get to know Moses or David and his Mighty Men? What if they were to come to our time? How would they be able to respond to that? What if, like in Narnia, when you return to your original time, you return to the age you were when you left?
I have a long way to go on that one, but these are a few of the ideas rummaging through my head. My Battle Cry Saga is not going to be my only books. I have no idea how it will take me to write these books. That will depend on the time I have available. But I am going to start them soon.
This excites me greatly! I would not be the only one of your readers/fans who cannot wait for the rest of this trilogy! I hope this is not too long a wait! The other writing projects sound just as exciting too! Looks like you will have me following you for the long haul!
Do you have anything to say to your fans and readers?
I just want to encourage my readers that after you finish reading Call to Arms that the spiritual battles we are caught in are real, and we need to be in position to take up arms. We cannot stay neutral in this war. We are on God’s side or we aren’t. Remember that if we are not on God’s side, we are actually prisoners of the enemy, manipulated into fighting for him. But if we are on God’s side, we have power and authority to overcome the world and its system, even if it costs us our lives. And all we have to worry about is obeying. If we obey, we win because God wins. If we don’t, we lose and God wins anyway. Join the winning side and get active in the battle so you can experience the victory too.
Charles, well said, sobering and truthful and you have successfully portrayed this in Call to Arms.
Where on the internet can you be found?
I am frequently found on Facebook. My personal wall is “Charlie Wolcott” as I have not yet set up an author page. My book has not taken off to the point where that is worthwhile to do…just yet. I am also a weekly blogger with a ministry called Worldview Warriors. Each week I put out a short blurb (about 1,000 words or 1-2 pages) about a variety topics, but mostly dealing with Creation/Evolution/Science, Worldviews, or Christian Doctrine. These blogs come out every Friday and you can find them at the Worldview Warriors
website under the blogs tab. And as seen on my author bio information, I can be reached by e-mail at Charlie@Worldviewwarriors.org.
Well, Charles, this is an amazing journey you are on and I am glad I have been on part of it through reading your novel and being transported to the world of the supernatural and spiritual warfare! I am sure readers of your books and testimony will be encouraged and their faith strengthened. I certainly have! You have certainly piqued my curiosity about the rest of the trilogy and I looking forward to reading this immensely.
Thank you for the insights into yourself as an author and the background to this very edgy, speculative world of the supernatural and spiritual warfare.