by C.J. Darlington
George Bryan Polivka Interview
"The eternal loyalties of my heart were forged in Narnia and Middle Earth. I could no more doubt the power of fiction to reveal life’s deepest truths than I could doubt the power of preaching or teaching. " --George Bryan Polivka
George Bryan Polivka has been an award–winning writer for many years, crafting professional articles, newscasts, screenplays, and television scripts, including the Emmy–winning documentary A Hard Road to Glory. He is the author of the Trophy Chase Trilogy: The Legend of the Firefish, The Hand That Bears the Sword, and The Battle for Vast Dominion. Polivka lives near Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife and children.
C.J.: I’ve heard that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis played a huge role in bringing you to the Lord, and inspiring you to write. Could you share the story of how their books impacted you?
Bryan: I was searching, as a teenager. I’d dipped into Eastern religions and found them hollow, and so I had settled into atheism when a friend of mine gave me a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. I was stunned by the reality of good and evil portrayed in that trilogy. Light and darkness were tangible, and I realized I wanted to be in the light. But I had to admit I was on a path toward deeper darkness. That was a major turning point for me. I sought the source of the light, and the power. That search led a lot of places, but significantly, to Lewis and Narnia, then The Screwtape Letters, and Mere Christianity.
Even after the writing bug bit, you wrote eleven (!!!) novels before ever seeing the publishing light of day. That’s really amazing. What kept you going through the rejections and down days?
I think it was eleven. It might have been twelve. But there were a lot. What kept me going was that I couldn’t quit writing. When I stopped (and I tried to stop), my mental and emotional equilibrium was affected negatively… I felt like something was wrong, or missing… like I was only partially involved in my own life. I’m not at all sure this is completely healthy, and I don’t recommend it to others! Rejections actually helped. I’m not good with rejection. I’d just get defiant. “Fine. I’ll write something better.” Dealing with twenty-five years of being unpublished had its own negative repercussions. But I had finally gotten almost comfortable with being a failed writer when Harvest House called.
When The Legend of the Firefish was picked up by Harvest House did you already have the other books in the trilogy written, or did you have to scramble to develop the series? :)
Oh, I scrambled. When I wrote the first book, then called Trophy Chase, I had in mind an epic story with wars and battles on land and sea. I got to about 500 pages and hadn’t even started the war yet. But there was a natural break, so I tried to get it published as a standalone book. Failing, I went on and wrote other things. When I went back to it years later, I decided I should finish the story, so I pitched it as a trilogy. I didn’t hide the fact that only the first book was written, but I did give the other two books names and basic plot lines. Then I got the contract, and had to make good on the promise. I found it humorous that I had a dozen books collecting dust on the shelf, and yet Harvest House wanted two I hadn’t yet written.
You’ve said in previous interviews that truth-filled fantasy has always been important to you. Why is that?
The eternal loyalties of my heart were forged in Narnia and Middle Earth. I could no more doubt the power of fiction to reveal life’s deepest truths than I could doubt the power of preaching or teaching.
In your books you share Biblical truth literally, unlike some of your predecessors who chose allegory to make their points. What was it that inspired you to go the literal route?
A lot has been made of this, but mainly I think it’s a curiosity… nobody does it. I never liked the “rule” that you couldn’t bring God into fantasy. Nearing Vast is just the sort of place that would have churches and priests, and so there they are. And of course they feel like they fit. I think another one of the Inklings, Charles Williams, may have inspired it in some way. He built wild fantasy into the real spiritual world, with odd little Anglican priests and spiritually minded housewives serving as heroes in his works (I recommend War in Heaven as a starter). I reversed that, though, and built the reality of God into a fictional world.
A professor once said to you, “Men can’t write believable women characters.” That’s a strong statement, and one you’ve proven wrong! Did you have any guidelines or tips you kept in mind as you wrote the female characters in your books, or did they simply come about the same way as your male characters?
I think that many men
don’t find women believable, in general. “What
in the world were you thinking?” is a question men ask all the time
(women don’t ask that, they already know, or think they know, what
men are thinking). It helps to be a student of human behavior to write
believable characters, male or female. But then a lot of it is just feel,
or intuition (I know this character would react like this… even though
I’m not quite sure why…). People surprise me all the time.
If a character isn’t surprising me regularly, then I don’t
feel I have a very believable character. (The Thorn Birds by Colleen MacCullough
is a great study on the differences between genders. I recommend it for
writers.) Watch the trailer for the Trophy Chase Trilogy:
Watch the trailer for the Trophy Chase Trilogy:
What has been the hardest part about writing the Trophy Chase Trilogy?
Finding the time. I value a lot of things in my life, and the time commitment was really difficult.
Of all the
your favorite and why?
Not a fair question! Like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. Talon is heart-stopping, frightening, but underneath, she’s a tragic figure. Panna is strong and frail and determined and glorious. Packer is an insecure hobbit with a talented sword and a very big God. The Firefish is terrifying and inspiring, with the appetite of a wolf and yet, somewhere deep within, the loyalty of a rescued mongrel hound. I love them all. And now that the writing is done, I miss them terribly.
What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?
The True History of the Glorious Millennial Reign of Christ on Earth.
The best fantasy novel of all time is:
This is not going to surprise you. It’s the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Nothing comes close, in my book (or in anyone else’s!).
What motivates you to get out of bed and head to your keyboard?
The story. When the story starts winding through my head, then pretty soon I wonder why I’m not at my keyboard. I find writing a novel to be a lot like watching a very long, detailed movie. The same way a good movie stays with you, and you think about it, and watch those scenes again in your head, that’s how my stories work on me when I’m writing—but for months on end, rather than just a few days.
Would you call yourself a Christian fiction writer or a fiction writer who happens to be a Christian? Why?
That’s a very interesting question. I would not be a writer if I were not a Christian. But I would be a Christian even if I weren’t a writer. I have written things that are not “Christian.” But what I am driven to write always proclaims a worldview in with Christ at the center. So… given all that, you tell me!
We’d love to hear about your next book, Blaggard’s Moon, as well as any other books you might have in the pipeline!
There is nothing on the horizon after Blaggard’s Moon. But that is not unusual for me. My “next book” starts with a feel for the sort of story I’d like to spend time living in, and I’m not ready to live anywhere else yet.
The Blaggard of the title is Smith Delaney, the sword-wielding former pirate and friend of Packer Throme from the Trophy Chase Trilogy. This book is not a prequel, really, in that it doesn’t tell the story of Packer Throme or Panna or their parents, or anything that’s central to that tale. It’s more of a standalone companion piece that happens to come before, and that introduces readers to Nearing Vast—much the way The Hobbit is related to The Lord of the Rings.
Blaggard’s Moon is truly a tale of pirates. Delaney has been left to die deep in the forests of the Warm Climes, where he will be ripped apart by some particularly nasty beasts when darkness falls. As he contemplates his fate, he recalls in vivid detail the tales told by a talented shipboard storyteller, the true story that caught him up and deposited him in his current predicament. That is the central story of the book, and it is about a vicious, rich, flamboyant pirate captain named Conch Imbry, and a dark, determined pirate hunter named Damrick Fellows—and of course, the beautiful, flawed woman they both love.
Who is George Bryan Polivka?
Husband of one wife, father of two children.
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
1) I am in some circles considered an expert in the field of online learning.
2) I was once nearly killed by an angry cow.
You think I'm going to let the comment "I was once nearly killed by an angry cow." go? :) I have to ask, Bryan. How did this come about?
I grew up on a farm/cattle ranch... we were running cattle through a wooden chute, cows and their calves. A calf balked, and I jumped in to give it a little . . . encouragement . . . and the cow behind me got upset and tried to run past me. This chute is about as wide as a cow, with walls about five feet high. The cow and I got wedged, and I couldn't breathe. If my brother hadn't been there to take a hefty piece of wood to the cow's thick skull in order to provide her a little . . . encouragement . . . I would have suffocated. But, thanks to a merciful God and a two-by-four, the day ended happily, with much encouragement all around.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I like to snow ski, though I’d rather be on a ship in the Bahamas.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
A half a bowl of Lucky Charms with fresh blueberries, and a Slim Fast shake.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
I can never find anything in my refrigerator.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
Grande Americano, half-decaf, with room.
What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?
Make a list of my goals for life.
When was the last time you cried?
Don’t get me started.
Three words that best describe you:
Change the rules.
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young,
Newsboys, Guster, O.A.R.
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.