Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Interview with E.G. Lewis, author of the Seeds of Christianity Series
Today’s interview is with E. G. Lewis, who is in the process of publishing a book series. If the book is anything like his website, it will be amazing. I have reviewed many a writer’s blog and found them interesting but nothing like this one. It is more like reading an online magazine. It is layered with multiple textual details and replete with beautiful photos. The research alone to do the stories has to be extensive. I’ve listed the info for accessing his site at the end of this interview. It is a must read!
Tell me a little about your background, prior to writing these books. Your bio says you grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and spent years in Kentucky's Appalachian hill country and now live in Oregon. Was it your journalism career that sent you across the country? Or was there something more?
There was definitely something more. When I was the editor of a small town weekly newspaper in Southern Ohio I commented on something an Oregon editor wrote. She wrote back and we began to correspond. We spoke on the phone, I visited Oregon and, as they say, the rest is history. We’ll be celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary this year.
You write what is termed Christian/Biblical Fiction. What is your background?
I have no Jewish background, other than several Jewish friends, or formal theological training. I have, however, spent untold hours over the past ten years researching and studying Judaism and the Early Church. I’ve developed a tremendous respect for the spirituality of Judaism and the many aspects of Christianity derived from it. The things that the Early Christians accomplished are incredible…especially when one realizes that many of the first converts belonged to the lower echelons of society.
In your Seeds of Christianity Series, you currently have 2 books in publication. How large of a series do you expect this to be?
For a long time I envisioned it as a trilogy. However, last summer it became clear that we’d need a fourth book to get the job done right. So, after lots of discussion and re-arranging of publication schedules, we settled on a four-book format: Witness, Disciple, Apostle, and Martyr.
How did you formulate the idea for this series?
At church one Christmas Eve service I imagined a young shepherd girl going to the stable on that first Christmas. So I set out to write a short - Mitch Albom, Richard Paul Evans short - Christmas tale. This “little” book grew into the Seeds of Christianity Series which begins with the birth of Christ and ends seventy years later in Rome with the death of Peter and Paul. Witness opens in the stable with a young Rivkah seeing Mary with the Christ Child and asking to hold him. But Mary and Jesus are soon gone and Herod’s soldiers begin killing the children of her village. Amidst the barbarity of Roman occupation, Rivkah marries and raises a family. Life is good until the day she encounters Jesus once again…this time on his way to crucifixion.
The second book, Disciple begins with the Pentecost experience and tracks the formation of the early church. Rivkah and her family convert, and must flee to Antioch during Saul’s persecution. In Apostle, they deal with the bitter memories of Saul when he returns as Paul. In Martyr they leave Antioch to assist old friend Peter in Rome where they encounter Nero’s persecution.
How did you go about doing research for this series for the historical aspects?
My rule was that the books be both Biblically and historically accurate. I studied the practices of ancient Judaism and read the writings of the great Rabbis. I studied the early church and the rise of Christianity, pored over maps of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Rome and read the Church Fathers and the works of historians such as Josephus, Eusebius, Tacitus, Juvenal, Cassius Dio, and Suetonius. When I couldn’t find the answers myself, I corresponded with Rabbis, University Professors, Historians and other experts. It’s been an exciting, faith-filled journey.
Tell me about your search to find a publisher.
The story of Cape Arago Press is an interesting one. When I completed Witness I followed the usual query process and found an agent who loved Rivkah almost as much as I did. Biblical fiction is never an easy sell and at that time the Christian publishers weren’t interested. She ran it by the New York trade houses instead. They eventually passed, but by then several CBA editors expressed interest. Through two more rounds of submissions Witness garnered praise, but no offers. She released the book to me, suggesting I place it with a small publisher.
The small publishers I found were all doing literary fiction. That’s when a group of us, both writers and non-writers, formed a partnership that became Cape Arago Press. I had books ready to go, so mine were the first ones out of the chute. Since then we’ve made offers to other authors that weren’t picked up and are currently working to acquire several books. Another of the partners will also be releasing a book very soon.
How did you go about the publishing process?
Clearly, my experience isn’t typical. Witness took about four months from the time we decided it’d be published until I actually had a hard copy in hand. There were design considerations, cover art to secure, typesetting and layout, copy editing and so on. We do everything in house. Though small, our group has all the necessary editorial, graphic and financial skills needed.
What type of publicity does Cape Arago Press do to promote your book?
Big, little, or in between, I don’t think any publisher gives their authors much support now days. They’ve done some targeted mailings, paid for bookmarks and posters, and experimented with various internet promotions such as ads on Facebook, Google, and Yahoo. Price promotions such as Twofers, BOGO, and that sort of thing have worked as well as anything. They’ve also purchased a block of Kindle Book of the Day ads to run mid-to-late 2011.
What ways do you promote your book?
The same things most authors do. Book stores are few and far between here on the Coast making signings difficult, but I’ve done a few. I also spearheaded a Book Fair at our local Mall. I’ve had blog tours and individual spots such as this one. I’m on Facebook, Goodreads, The Book Club Network, etc. I never include details of day-to-day First Century life without thoroughly researching them.
You also share additional information on your blog, Sowing the Seeds, don’t you?
As a service to my readers, I maintain the blog (http://www.seedsofchristianity.com/wordpress/), it’s a venue that allows me to share the fascinating and eclectic aspects of this research with those who are interested in knowing more.
What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known earlier in your writing career?
Fiction need not be intimidating. Writing has always been a part of my life. I’ve written for regional and national magazines, done technical writing, even wrote and directed training films, yet I always shied away from fiction. I thought novelists were New York types who smoked a pipe and had leather patches on the elbows of their tweed jackets. I wasted way too much time standing on the shore when I should have been out there swimming.
What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?
I’d say go for it. Read a lot, study a lot, write a lot and please, please don’t expect to get rich. Whenever the radio announced school closings because of snow, I had a friend who called in to remind them the school of hard knocks remained open. Writing can be a rough and tumble business and at times there are more downs than ups. Very few garage bands end up like the Rolling Stones, few aspiring actors become Stars, and few writers become a powerhouse like Stephen King or John Grisham.
The good news is your book doesn’t have to be a NYT Bestseller to change lives. Every once in a while God encourages us by pulling aside the veil a tiny bit and letting us peek inside. For instance, I work hard to portray my Biblical characters as the ordinary people they were rather than the exalted saints they became. I’ve had people tell me my books enriched their prayer life and helped them see the Bible in a whole new light. To quote Mark Twain, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
Yes, in this day and age of writing we all appreciate the compliments that we receive. I hope you have enjoyed this interview with E.G. Lewis. If you would like to learn more about him and his writing go to his blog at http://www.seedsofchristianity.com/wordpress The publisher’s website is: http://www.caapearagopress.com
His Tbooks are available in hard copy from internet sellers such as Amazon, B&N, Powell’s, etc. Ebooks are available through Kindle, Smashwords, and other Ebook retailers. They are also on Google Books.