Faith and Art with Michael Blaylock
I've had the pleasure of getting to know Michael on Twitter over the last 6 months or so, and I can say with confidence that he's a great dude. I've been looking forward to publishing this interview for awhile now, because it is just that good. He talks about some difficult stuff, namely, where faith and art can intersect, and I love hearing his thoughts on it. Without further ado:
I started writing over ten years ago (whoa) after playing too many video games. Fanfiction worked surprisingly well for me, then I grew to original fiction and I got my BA, which did nearly nothing, but I never stopped having fun. I self-pubbed my first novella in February of 2017, and I mostly write fantasy of some sort or another, but in a weird twist, I've also got a contemporary Christian fiction that a publisher is currently reading.
Okay, tell me about this "R-rated Christian" thing.
Christianity has been often cast as G-rated or you're going to Hell. While there's nothing wrong with family-friendly material, that's not all Christianity is. The Bible was written for grown-ups, not children. Ezekiel 23:20 is one of the most sexually-explicit things you'll ever read, yet it's God's word. So instead of ignorance, I encourage maturity, to understand what's actually good or bad and why. I blog about sexual addiction (which I've experienced), cuss words may appear in my books (what makes the s-word so bad, anyway?), and I believe grace and wisdom are more important than legalism.
What inspires you and/or why do you write?
Honestly, I write because I enjoy it. I love creating worlds and crafting stories. At some point, I often find some point or message I want to tell, but if I don't like the story, I'll throw the message away. A story without a message can be entertaining, but a message without a story is a sermon. I adore art in many forms and I aim to create and share as much as I can. So I may get an idea while reading a book, watching a movie, playing a game, etc.
How do you feel your faith has impacted your craft?
I wouldn't have the craft without it. People who read my book Ferryman have given it positive reviews, but the story would not exist if I hadn't read Proverbs 29:2: "When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice. When the wicked rule, the people groan." It showed me that power is not a bad thing, only how it's used. Understanding salvation caused me to write a more scandalous story, Hypocrite, which a Christian publisher is reviewing right this very moment. And further learning about God's love generated the diversity for my work-in-progress, Dodecon. And going along with the R-Rated Christian thing, really unpacking freedom and true faith (as opposed to legalism) compelled me to write stories that weren't necessarily "clean," but still showed God, as a deity, or even just as an artist.
Biggest challenge for you, and how have you overcome it? (Or how are you working to overcome it!)
Currently, I'm writing a fantasy novel about twelve different cultures coming together. That takes a buttload of research, planning, and characterization. It's an arduous, often tedious task. In the chapters I'm writing right now, I've had to look up airships, sky cities, Roman architecture, and Latin just to get a basic feel for this one location. It's also frightening, as a Christian, to write characters and lifestyles I know other Christians will not appreciate, but they work for the story. I'm worried they'll think that because "X" exists, I fully endorse every aspect, which isn't true. I'm making fiction, not how-to manuals
What do you consider your biggest strength? (Don’t be shy!)
Ever since high school, I've been told I have a knack for dialogue. It's pretty much my favorite thing to write either way; I particularly prefer it as an exposition device, as opposed to expository paragraphs. It's also easier to get across comedic timing in dialogue because you can break up sentences into natural spoken beats.
Any other advice for authors, based on your unique experience?
Get yourself out there in one way or another, but only in ways you enjoy. You can't just expect that people will know or care that you wrote a book. Join writing groups online, use Twitter hashtags, hop on Wattpad, go to conferences, the options are endless, but get out there. Learn, connect, and grow your fanbase. However, don't force yourself into a mold just because some book told you to. I don't have an author Instagram account like others because I'm not interested in Instagram. However, I enjoy Twitter and I'm getting fairly good at it. It's how I've met my best beta readers and this very author interview. You may do better on Youtube or some other medium. Be brave and creative, but hone your strengths.
Where can other authors or readers connect with you?
I'm mostly on Twitter: @fencingwithink. I also have a blog, fencingwithink.com, and I run have a monthly email list for updates, free reads, and special announcements. You can join that on fencingwithink.com by clicking "Subscribe." You'll also get a free copy of my novella, Ferryman.
Where can your work be found?
Currently, I only have one book out there, Ferryman, which can be found on Amazon or joining my mailing list. The mailing list is also where I post any scraps I'm working on--early chapters, short stories, poetry, ideas in the making, and so forth.