FEAST is released, contest announced

Merrie Destefano’s sophomore book, FEAST, was sent out into the world this morning. I am marking the release date with a recap of a previous interview. But the real party will be Thursday when I post my review of FEAST and tell you how you can win a signed copy all for yourself.

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Jane: AFTERLIFE (Merrie’s first book) is a fantastic mix of old-school science fiction and older-school pulp noir, set in a near-future New Orleans… FEAST, your upcoming book to be released in June, seems to be a different animal altogether, the teaser copy indicating something more along the lines of vampires and werewolves. How does your faith play out in fantasy like that?

Merrie: Like I mentioned earlier, the faith element is stronger in some stories than others. Obviously my worldview colors what the characters are allowed to do and the conclusions that they make. I think FEAST has a moral quality to it, but the faith element isn’t nearly as strong or as outspoken as it was in AFTERLIFE. Although it’s never mentioned in the book, the premise for this story was found in Proverbs 29:18: “Without vision, the people perish.” In my mind, I changed that to, “Without dreams, the people perish.” So, the paranormal creatures in the book harvest people’s dreams, but if they take too much, the people die. Basically it’s a parallel for how we can’t survive without hope or dreams, and the fact that Satan strives to steal our hope. The creatures in FEAST aren’t bad in themselves, although some of them have base desires that drive them to commit evil acts—just like humans.

Jane: Have you been given any static for writing fiction as a Christian? Have you been surprised by the reactions you’ve observed?

Merrie: Actually, I’ve had a pretty good response, which was a bit surprising. I think everyone brings their worldview to their fiction—sometimes it’s their political views, sometimes views on conservation, sometimes it’s their faith-based views.

Jane: What was your journey to published fiction author like, both “real world” and spiritual?

Merrie: Like every writer/author, there were a number of bumps in the road along the way. I started writing books and short stories in my twenties, then stopped for about fifteen years. Then I wrote, designed and illustrated a series of four gift books that I sold to Thomas Nelson, which was pretty cool, except that this happened right when that publisher merged with Word. As a result, my books got dropped. I got to keep the money—again, very cool—so I was able to stay home for two years and really work on writing books. After that, I got a job as the publisher at The Word For Today, which I believe was totally a God-thing, since my experience up until that point was in graphic design and illustration. At this point, I had worked in publishing for about 15 years, but still, this was my first job as an editor/publisher. I worked there for 3 years, then got laid off. After that, I got a job as the senior editor on Victorian Homes magazine and Romantic Homes magazine. I eventually became the editor of Victorian Homes, the founding editor of Cottages & Bungalow, and a contributing editor of Romantic Homes. But honestly, my heart has always been in books, specifically novels. I just love making up stories. When I got laid off from my position as editor of Victorian Homes, I decided that I was going to focus seriously on becoming a published author. I believe that God answered that prayer. I got laid off in April and my agent sold AFTERLIFE to HarperCollins/Eos in August. Since then I’ve been working full-time as a novelist and a freelance editor.

Jane: Thank you, Merrie, for your time. I know you’ve been busy lately with convention appearances and a myserious new Work In Progress! I can’t wait until the day we don’t have to do interviews via e-mail and can have real coffee in real time in person.

Merrie: Jane, thank you so much for inviting me on your blog today! All your questions were great. And I wish you the best in your writing!

Merrie’s books are Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles at HarperCollins Eos and Feast: Harvest of Dreams, available today from Harper Voyager. Her website is http://www.merriedestefano.com/. You can read her blog at http://merrie-destefano.blogspot.com/.

After “Afterlife”, Merrie Desefano and What’s Next

I love a “chewy” book, one that keeps you thinking about the story and themes after you’ve turned the last page, and for me Afterlife was just that. Chewy. What ifs kept bouncing around my head for days and my fellow soccer moms were about to throw me through the goal posts themselves if I didn’t shut up about it. Would I chose a re-do in  a perfect body once this one was completely worn out? Could that be justified within a Christian faith and a Bible that states, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27)?

While she’s not going to settle my internal debates, Merrie Destefano did graciously answer some other questions. So, pour yourself a big mug of coffee and join us while we chat!

Jane: Afterlife is a fantastic mix of old-school science fiction and older-school pulp noir, set in a near-future New Orleans. What parallels between the world of Afterlife and “real” life are your favorites? Are there any parallels that make you anxious for the present or future?

Merrie: I think one of things that I liked most about working on Afterlife was the fact that this story had a strong religious dynamic. Not every book or story has that and I think it’s important that, if faith is part of a story, it has to be an organic element. It can’t be painted on. So for me, I liked looking at how the resurrection process in Afterlife might affect our faith. Would it change our major world religions and, if so, in what ways? And also, how would this play out on a personal level? Does it make me anxious for the present or future? No. I’m one of those people who believe that God is in charge of the big stuff and the details. I’m not really worried about how science is going to change our world. I think the important thing is to keep your eyes focused on the One who created the world.

Jane: Why, do you think, is it so easy to sell a physical resurrection, even if it isn’t permanent – but so difficult for people to buy the real one?

Merrie: Wow. Great question! I think if I knew the answer to that I’d be Billy Graham. I think we all have a natural desire for immortal life, so that may be why a physical resurrection is appealing. As far as the real resurrection, that involves belief in the spiritual world—things that we can’t see or feel—and it’s pretty hard for most people to trust in something they can’t see. Hard, but not impossible.

Jane: While Afterlife is a beautiful stand-alone book, the subtitle is “The Resurrection Chronicles.” Are we going to see some familiar characters in the sequel(s)? And (if you can drop a girl a hint) when?

Merrie: Thank you for the compliment! I’m really glad that you enjoyed Afterlife. Basically, if Afterlife sells really, really well, then there will probably be a sequel. Or maybe two. I do have ideas for subsequent books. But my contract was for two stand-alone books that were already written.

Jane: Feast, your upcoming book to be released in June, seems to be a different animal altogether, the teaser copy indicating something more along the lines of vampires and werewolves. How does your faith play out in fantasy like that?

Merrie: Like I mentioned earlier, the faith element is stronger in some stories than others. Obviously my worldview colors what the characters are allowed to do and the conclusions that they make. I think Feast has a moral quality to it, but the faith element isn’t nearly as strong or as outspoken as it was in Afterlife. Although it’s never mentioned in the book, the premise for this story was found in Proverbs 29:18: “Without vision, the people perish.” In my mind, I changed that to, “Without dreams, the people perish.” So, the paranormal creatures in the book harvest people’s dreams, but if they take too much, the people die. Basically it’s a parallel for how we can’t survive without hope or dreams, and the fact that Satan strives to steal our hope. The creatures in Feast aren’t bad in themselves, although some of them have base desires that drive them to commit evil acts—just like humans.

Jane: Have you been given any static for writing fiction as a Christian? Have you been surprised by the reactions you’ve observed?

Merrie: Actually, I’ve had a pretty good response, which was a bit surprising. I think everyone brings their worldview to their fiction—sometimes it’s their political views, sometimes views on conservation, sometimes it’s their faith-based views.

Jane: What was your journey to published fiction author like, both “real world” and spiritual?

Merrie: Like every writer/author, there were a number of bumps in the road along the way. I started writing books and short stories in my twenties, then stopped for about fifteen years. Then I wrote, designed and illustrated a series of four gift books that I sold to Thomas Nelson, which was pretty cool, except that this happened right when that publisher merged with Word. As a result, my books got dropped. I got to keep the money—again, very cool—so I was able to stay home for two years and really work on writing books. After that, I got a job as the publisher at The Word For Today, which I believe was totally a God-thing, since my experience up until that point was in graphic design and illustration. At this point, I had worked in publishing for about 15 years, but still, this was my first job as an editor/publisher. I worked there for 3 years, then got laid off. After that, I got a job as the senior editor on Victorian Homes magazine and Romantic Homes magazine. I eventually became the editor of Victorian Homes, the founding editor of Cottages & Bungalow, and a contributing editor of Romantic Homes. But honestly, my heart has always been in books, specifically novels. I just love making up stories. When I got laid off from my position as editor of Victorian Homes, I decided that I was going to focus seriously on becoming a published author. I believe that God answered that prayer. I got laid off in April and my agent sold Afterlife to HarperCollins/Eos in August. Since then I’ve been working full-time as a novelist and a freelance editor.

Thank you, Merrie, for your time. I know you’ve been busy lately with convention appearances and a myserious new Work In Progress! I can’t wait until the day we don’t have to do interviews via e-mail and can have real coffee in real time in person.

Jane, thank you so much for inviting me on your blog today! All your questions were great. And I wish you the best in your writing!

Merrie’s books are Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles at HarperCollins Eos and Feast: Harvest of Dreams, soon to be released by Harper Voyager. Her website is http://www.merriedestefano.com/. You can read her blog at http://merrie-destefano.blogspot.com/.

If you could do this again… would you?

If you were guaranteed to get a brand-new physically perfect body every time the body you are in dies – would you be less careful with it than you are now?

That’s just one of the questions I’ve thought about since reading Merrie Destefano’s debut novel Afterlife– a cyberpunk/gothic thriller that explores a futuristic New Orleans in a world where no one really dies anymore unless they want to.

The theme of eternal life has been a fiction fodder for, well, forever. Like The Picture of Dorian Graythere is a dark side to remaining in the light. In Merrie’s dystopian world one unintended consequence is the ban on new births due to a globe overwhelmed by a populace that will not die. Correction, their bodies do die, but scientists have found how to capture the essence of one’s being from their DNA and re-use that DNA allowing someone to be “re-born” up to nine times before the DNA is exhausted. Fresh new bodies of the user’s design await them, usually model perfect and 21-years-old.

What makes Merrie’s book highly unusual in the genre is the introduction of faith and religion. What if you believe one life is enough? What does that do to your social standing in the world? After all, becoming a Stringer (someone who strings lives together) is not a death-bed decision. First-timers are given the option to choose resurrection as a part of their school curriculum. And what about the vast segments of the global population that cannot afford resurrection? Are there revolts? What about the black-market imitations that are bound to spring up, how reliable or monstrous are those results?

I’m not going to ask Merrie those questions because that stuff is in the book and you can read it for yourself. (Just make sure you’ve got a nice uninterupted block of time!) However, Merrie has agreed to answer questions for me next week. What questions would you ask?