I am very pleased to introduce you to Steampunk/Sci-fi author, Michael Vetter. I became intrigued with Michael’s work after meeting him on a Steampunk forum.
I’m fascinated with this genre and have been researching it for a book I’m formulating for the YA market. I’m also leaving next Tuesday to attend the Realm Makers conference in Pennsylvania! I’m looking forward to rubbing shoulders with fantasy genre authors as I have much to learn. I have a burden to write YA books that point young people to Christ. It’s much needed.
(By the way, dear reader, if you leave a comment or question and tweet about this post (I’ve provided a handy dandy link below as well) you’ll be entered to win a free digital (.pdf) copy of one of his books — your choice! If you use any of the other buttons, you’ll be entered each time you promote this post on social media. What a deal!)
Thanks so much, Michael, for agreeing to this interview. Please tell us a little about yourself:
My father worked for Pan America Airways so I grew up around airplanes and airports in Latin America all my life. When I went to college in the U.S. I studied engineering, met my wife, Mary, and joined the Air Force. While stationed in Florida, we heard the Gospel for the first time and, after months of questions and resistance, accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. We grew spiritually through the years, served in many capacities at Salem Bible Church (www.salembible.org) while I worked in the defense industry, and recently retired. My wife and I have a grown son, two grandsons, and are involved in several ministries. Besides teaching adult Bible Sunday School and writing novels, I edit a newsletter for Grace Dental and Medical Missions (www.gdmmissions.org) and am a translator on medical missions trips to Spanish-speaking countries. We live in Salem, NH, where the one month of brilliant fall foliage makes up for long winters of snow and cold. We enjoy long road and rail trips together and kayaking in the summer.
What a fascinating journey to this point in your life you’ve had! I long to take a rail trip sometime, too. How can we find you online?
Web page: http://www.michaelvetter.net
Where do you write? (What’s your office like?)
My best creative writing is done where I’m free from distractions so that means not in my cluttered office! My home office is where I have access to my reference books for research and Bible studies. Libraries with quiet rooms or cubbyholes hidden in remote stacks are where I can get lost for hours in a complicated plot. While my most imaginative writing is best done in quiet isolation, draft editing seems to be fueled in coffee shops where I draw energy from the hum of background conversations. I don’t know if this is an odd way to write/edit or not, but it works for me!
I’m the same way about my home office. How funny. What is your process? (Spreadsheets, Snowflake, Lists/Outlines, Seat of the pants?)
Because I’m an engineer, I like to have the overall plot and flow of my book mapped out from beginning to end before I start to write. I use a “storyboard” technique learned from defense systems analysis that depicts various “threads” of a message to be sure that everything supports a final conclusion or objective. Many ideas come together on a wall-size graphic using colored-coded post-it notes, pictures, sketches, and connecting lines showing the progression of a story.
Karla: Oh my goodness. I have to interrupt here. You have no idea how giddy this photo makes me. I do the same thing and trust me, I do not have the mind of an engineer. I feel so much smarter now!
I then write an outline for each chapter in sequence and match chapters to the storyline. In parallel, I write profiles of the various main characters. Then I begin writing at Chapter 1 and expand on settings, dialog, and other details. Sure, things take unpredicted turns when I get more involved with my characters. As long as the main story line stays generally on track, I keep going. About every twenty chapters or so, (which can take me two or three months to write) I’ll then perform rough editing/surgery on the text. This is where I cut down the prose—I’m not stingy with words in my first draft—and try to come close to my page/word count target. This is also where I do a mid-course correction if the story line needs to change drastically. After about 8-9 months, I have a manuscript that I then spend 2-3 months editing. I have to admit that the creative part of developing and telling a story is my favorite part of writing. Everything after that is a chore before I can start on my next book.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on my third book in a fiction series for young boys with the working title, Flight from Egypt—Adventures Along The Nile. My books occupy a genre that I still haven’t fully characterized, but some call it retro-futuristic or steampunk.
The book takes place in Egypt in the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III during the 6-9 months before Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land. The Biblical account of the plagues, Passover, and miraculous parting of the Red Sea are told through the eyes of Malik (a young Egyptian), Nathan (his Hebrew slave and best friend), and Malik’s sixteen-year-old sister Sarina. The two nineteen-year-old boys grew up together and are more like brothers. The speculative nature of the story weaves advanced, though plausible, technologies created by an inventor named Imhotep: a flying machine called the Eye of Horus, a box that lights the inside of underground tombs, encrypted signals using focused solar energy, and the Breath of Osiris that flashes across the night sky. These and other technologies, in the midst of devastating plagues, propel the three young characters as they pursue the identity of the Black Falcon who plundered tons of gold from the tomb of Hatshepsut in the Valley of the Kings. Linking their adventures ranging from Karnak/Thebes in the south to Giza/Memphis in the north is the nationwide heliographic (solar powered) signaling network used by Pharaoh and his military. As the plagues reach their climax with the Passover, some Egyptians believe in the God of Abraham and join Moses and millions of Hebrews on the beginning of their exodus journey. How many lives will the Black Falcon ruin in his relentless pursuit for more gold? Who will follow Moses through the Red Sea to safety and who will die in Egypt?
This sounds sooo intriguing, and this may be a silly question because I, for one, can’t wait to read it. But are there any other reasons readers should pick it up?
Young readers should read this and other books in the series because the characters, although living in Old Testament times, have a God-centered Biblical worldview that guides their lives through adventures in a complex, dangerous world. New and often strange technologies, not unlike those in our own fast-paced world, add twists and turns as the plot heads toward a foregone conclusion that fits the Biblical record. The fate of individual characters hangs in doubt up to the last second.
How did this book come to life for you?
I’d always wondered how all the Israelites knew what was happening when Moses and Aaron repeatedly confronted Pharaoh and unleashed plagues in response to his stubborn refusals. How could slaves working hundreds of miles away in granite quarries of Aswan, brick pits of Giza, or flooded fields of Goshen know what was going on in the palace? The usual answer, “God somehow told them,” did not satisfy me. My conclusion was that the everyday Egyptian or Hebrew had no idea what was happening until much later in the series of plagues, maybe not until the last plague, when they had fourteen days to prepare, did people understand that it was God who brought the plagues on Egypt. Even then, it’s a puzzle to me how millions of people could organize such a massive effort in so short a time. So, I came up with a hypothetical Egyptian heliographic network based on actual equipment and codes used by the U.S. Army in Arizona and New Mexico in the late 1800’s to signal long distances using solar rays. (The highly effective network was used for only a few years before it was replaced by the telegraph.) My story revolves around a nationwide “solar Internet,” the “blinkers” who run it, and the royal codes used by blinkers to inform Egyptians and Hebrews about the plagues, Pharaoh’s rejection of Moses, and God’s ultimate purpose to lead His people to the Promised Land.
I love ancient and 1800s technology! This is such a fascinating book. Who is your favorite character in the book and why?
I think that is like asking which of your children is your favorite because I invest so much into my characters. But Malik’s father, Hatep, might be my favorite because his struggle over whether to believe in the God of Abraham or the gods of his Egyptian forefathers parallels my spiritual struggle when I first heard the Gospel of God’s grace and realized that the Good News was opposite to what I had been taught by religion all my life. Hatep has to face repeated evidence in the plagues that the LORD God of the Israelites is more powerful than all the gods of Egypt and he’s frustrated, disappointed, and scared by what he experiences. As a Royal Architect of Tombs, Hatep tries to reason everything logically but finally concludes that salvation is by faith alone in the One True God.
How did you name your characters?
This is a difficult task for me since I invest most of my energies in the storytelling. Fictional Egyptian characters take their names, or slight variations of them, from historical persons although not necessarily from the same time period. Most archeological evidence points to Thutmose III as the Pharaoh during the approximate time of Moses, although none of the historical records can prove this. Names for Israelite characters are either common Biblical names or modern Hebrew names. The principal Hebrew character is Nathan because I like that name.
Are the characters based on people you know?
The Inventor Imhotep, Royal Architect Hatep, and General Herihor have some parts of their personalities and experiences based on my own. The sixteen-year-old Sarina is a mathematician and crypto-solver very much like my wife, who spends hours and sometime days working on a cryptogram that I would never dream of tackling. When I hear “I did it!” shouted from another room I know she’s cracked another one.
Oh, I love cryptology! I’m not good at it but I’m fascinated with it. I must meet your wife and pick her brain sometime.
Why will readers enjoy your book?
It’s the type of exciting, wholesome adventure that I loved to read as a pre-teen and teen myself when I grew up with characters like Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys. I loved the mysteries and action stories that planted seeds in the mind of a future engineer who wanted to build airplanes, submarines, space ships, and complicated gadgets. Today, young Christian boys should read my books for the enjoyment of adventure fiction with technologies that they can relate to within a Biblical worldview.
I think I read every Nancy Drew book growing up. What is your favorite scene in the book?
Nathan and Malik enter a large chamber in the Great Pyramid of Khafre with a gold cylinder in its center and directly under the pyramid’s golden apex . As they inspect the inscriptions on the cylinder and the tubes that rise from it into the ceiling, they hear a whine that gradually increases in pitch and intensity. This is Imhotep’s Breath of Osiris. They don’t know what it does, but the reader senses that something terrible is about to happen as the noise becomes deafening. We want to scream, “Get out now!” but they approach the gleaming object and reach out to touch it. There is paralyzing tension as the two boys can’t decide whether to investigate with captivating curiosity or flee in deadly terror.
Oh, that’s edge-of-your-seat stuff there! Can you tell us why you chose to write Christian fiction?
My principal motivation in writing Christian fiction for young boys is because there are so few wholesome books available that appeal to their interest in stories with physical action, adventure, suspense, mystery, and complex gadgets. Classical science fiction from the 1800’s (Jules Verne, H.G. Wells) fills some of this interest. But good (moral, safe?) Christian fiction for boys is meager; good Christian fiction written by godly women for young girls is abundant. Today’s young adult (YA) fiction is not suitable, in my opinion, for Christian young people, although I realize that many read it. My desire is to write speculative fiction to honor God and I hope that comes across in my books.
We’ve all heard that fiction writers should write about what they know. That has motivated me to write stories that blend engineering and technology with my understanding of the Bible and history. I’m fully committed to the inerrant, inspired Word of God. I believe we are free to speculate about what the Bible does not say, providing we do not contradict what it does say. I was encouraged by Dr. John Whitcomb (co-author of The Genesis Flood and other creationist books) to speculate in my first book about technology in an advanced pre-Flood civilization. We had several conversations in which we agreed that civilizations before and after the Great Flood were much more sophisticated than the backward cave-dwellers depicted today. I place my fictional plots in Bible times but use seemingly modern, although primitive, instruments, engines, vehicles, and devices in adventure plots.
I raised four boys and I can’t tell you how excited I am about your vision and mission. It was always difficult finding good, wholesome, engaging reading material for them. Thank you for answering the call and writing these books! Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
I inherited my love for reading and writing from my mother, Peggy Vetter. She wrote the society page of a newspaper (The Niles Daily Star in Niles, Michigan) in the 1940’s while still in college. After WW II she married my Dad in 1947 and wrote long letters to family and friends describing her “adventures” in exotic places like Guatemala, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Mexico, and Jamaica. Growing up in those countries (with no television!) we read books for entertainment. She founded, published, and edited the weekly Herndon Observer (Herndon, Virginia) for almost thirty years until a few months before her death in 2000. My second book, One World Tower-A Babylonian Adventure, is dedicated to her.
Michael, thanks again for joining us today. I am so excited to know you and to get to follow your career. I know God has an amazing plan for your work! God bless you!
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