Written by Brock Eastman
In 2008 I moved to Colorado Springs as a newlywed starting out on a new adventure. My wife and I accepted a position with Focus on the Family and were excited about our new life together in a place new to both of us. Yes it meant new friends, a new church, a new community, but it also meant those things were both of ours, not just the church I grew up in, her high school friends, and a city with the same old familiar haunts we visited through our season of dating each other. We were beginning a new adventure together and like the early pioneers had little idea as to what we might experience. What we did find were many of God’s blessings ahead, including the beginning of my writing career. I hope to share parts of this adventure with you in my column this year and perhaps inspire you on your journey.
If you’ve ever been to Focus on the Family you’ll know they have a beautiful campus with a wonderful bookstore and of course Whit’s End. But this article isn’t about my favorite audio drama Adventures in Odyssey (Whit’s End,) it’s about the bookstore and a very special lady I met there. A lady who inspired me in my writing career, her name is Donita K. Paul. Many call her the Dragon Lady.
I’d only been working at Focus for a few short months when the bookstore hosted a book signing with author Donita K. Paul. I’d never heard of her, in fact even though I was working at a ministry I wasn’t a big reader of Christian fiction, for that matter I was hardly a reader at all. But I thought, well this is cool, I can meet a real live author. Although I admit I was a bit nervous I crossed the parking lot and got in line. My small bit of anxiety was quickly washed away as I heard her laughing with some kids and saw her bright smile. She’d set up a wonderful table with the first four books in the Dragon Keeper Chronicles, she had a ‘prize dragon’ (a stuffed dragon you reach into it’s mouth and pull out a prize,) and every color of pen you could imagine.
When it was my turn I scooped up each of her books and she asked what color I would like her to sign them in. I chose a different color for each book and made sure the color of the ink matched the book’s cover. We had a brief delightful conversation, she told me about the series, I told her I was new to Colorado Springs and had started at Focus on the Family. She welcomed me and assured me I would love it here. We said goodbye (as there was still a long line behind me) and I took my books to the counter, checked out, and left.
That night when I started reading the books I fell in love with not only fantasy fiction, but Christian fiction. The Dragon Lady had woven a story (about our Redeemer and about sacrifice) into this fantastical world she had created. I flew through the four books and then had to wait. It wasn't until almost a year later when the fifth book finally released and saw her at the local Borders store where she was signing again; pens, prize dragon, and all. You see Borders was my wife and I’s favorite place to go. Again Donita was a joy to be around and I could tell not only was she passionate about her writing and characters, but she was passionate about using this medium to share the love of Jesus with others.
So fast forward a year or so. By now I had been consuming Christian fiction and was working in the product marketing area of Focus on the Family. I was working on kids’ books and my favorite brand Adventures in Odyssey. I’d also started to learn about the publishing industry itself thanks to my co-workers and new friends at Tyndale. Having fallen in love with Donita’s writing, I’d dusted off a manuscript I’d written in 2005 and prepared it to show publishers. A few short months later I had a contract for The Quest for Truth and while there were many other author and industry friends along the way that inspired, coached, and encouraged me, the reality of my publishing journey started with Donita K. Paul’s series The Dragon Keeper Chronicles.
And as with that first series, her latest series is continuing to inspire and captivate. In April of last year I wrote about the first book in her new series Realm Walkers. Donita continues the adventure and excitement in the second installment Two Renegade Realms (Available now from Zondervan.) The series isn’t just for kids, its a series for adults who love fantasy and science fiction. The characters are loveable, the story will keep you turning the page, and the world she created, although makebelieve, is believable because of her writing skill.
Donita inspired me through her writing and I know she will inspire you. Before you check out Relam Walkers make sure you’ve cleared your calendar for the next few weeks, because once you’ve finished this series, you’ll be grabbing her other books as well. But before you do here is a brief Q&A about Two Renegade Realms with Donita K. Paul.
Brock: In three words what is at the heart of Two Renegade Realms?
Donita: Preparation requires leadership
Brock: Names. How do you come up with the names of your characters and places?
Donita: My female protagonist was named after a favorite actor, Bill Bixby. Totobee-Rodolow was named after the dog in Wizard of Oz. Cantor was named after singers in formal church services. Tegan was named after President Reagan. I know. It’s a stretch.
Brock: Were there any characters or scenes that were cut from Two Renegade Realms? Can you share about them or even include some of the text that was cut?
Donita: Um, I edit so rigorously as I write that I rarely get to the end and have to cut scenes or characters. The last time I did that was in my first book published. The editor had me cut a segment with a cute dog, a cute kid, and vile villains.
Brock: What is the message that you hope readers take away from this book?
Donita: Be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Know enough to make wise choices
Brock: Give us a hint on what to expect in the third book.
Donita: Since it is the last book in the trilogy, you can expect to have everything wrapped up all nice and tidy. You can expect a bumpy ride to get there. Specifically, in an attempt to create bogus realm walkers, our evil ne’er-do-wells are ruining the lives of innocent, and not so innocent, normal folk.
Brock: After this series completes do you have other series or books in the works?
Donita: I have no contracts at present, so I’m assigning myself some fun projects including another reader http://bit.ly/HouseonTrollHill ; a new picture book http://bit.ly/DragonandTurtle ; another Sage Street adventure http://bit.ly/2TicketstotheChristmasBall ; and some old-fashioned prairie romance http://bit.ly/TamingtheWildWind . Plus, we are celebrating the tenth anniversary of DragonQuest. Lots of things to keep me busy!
Brock: What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Donita: READ! Your brain subconsciously accumulates information about writing do’s and don’ts while you read. It accumulates examples of shabby techniques and stellar prose. What you like to read is what you will be most successful at writing. I don’t mean genres. You can read westerns and write thrillers, but the style and syntax of your favorite novels will bleed into your approach to storytelling.