by C.J. Darlington
Kaci Hill Interview
pretty laid back, a bit intense, and think God laughs more than anything
Lunatic & Elyon, co-written with Ted Dekker, are Kaci Hill's first published novels. Between substitute teaching and grading and editing papers, she is a moderator for The Circle, Ted's internet forum.
C.J.: You’ve been telling stories ever since you were little. What was it that first drew you to storytelling?
Kaci: I think I just have a vivid imagination that runs away with itself. Being a voracious reader, my mind had plenty to work with early on, I suppose.
I hear you cut your teeth on Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and that it was actually the first adult Christian novel you read as a kid. What did you think of the novel after reading it, and what do you think of it now?
I’ve read it once or twice since then, but it’s still been a long time since I read those. I think the concept of spiritual warfare and how Christian communities come together still fascinates me . . . and I love battling angels and demons (Tal was my favorite, so you know). Am I completely convinced it happens that way? Maybe, maybe not. Most of what we think about angels and demons is speculation anyway, which is great fodder for storytelling.
We’d love for you to tell us that story about how you got your first rejection letter at eleven-years-old! :)
Oh, that. There’s not much to the story, other than I’d written a short story (and by short I mean fifteen pages, single spaced, in Word) about a runaway slave girl, which largely tells you what I was studying in history class. I must have read Harriet Tubman about that time; it sounds about right. Anyway, the girl has a friend whose name escapes me, and it was about justice, really, in the end, and how unjust slavery was. I’m not sure what prompted me to send it in, but I got a big manila envelope, pulled the address off the back cover of one of my books, and mailed it in. I dumped coins and dollars into the envelope for ‘shipping and handling.’ Hey, I was eleven. And as I’ve said, I forgot about it for awhile.
Anyway, months later we were at my grandparents’ house for something, and Mom or Dad had gone to check the mail. They called me in the room and asked me if I’d sent anything to this publishing house. I had to think about it a long, long minute before saying something to the effect of, “Oh. I guess I did.” So they all laughed and said, “I think this is your first rejection letter.” To which I replied, “They wrote me back. Cool.”
It’s such a cool God story about how you ended up co-writing Elyon and Lunatic with Ted Dekker. Could you share it with us? I hear you weren’t looking for this opportunity, but it found you!
Yes, very much so. Mom bought Heaven’s Wager . . . right before we left for Yellowstone right after I graduated high school, and that was my first Dekker book. So on, so forth. I found his site online, joined the website, met Ted at a book signing, eventually became a moderator. We traded writing-related emails, and the mod staff had several teleconferences. I also used to post excerpts, which he evidently read. Eventually he contacted me saying he was looking for a co-writer and asked me if I was interested, and would I send him some samples.
You probably get this question a lot, but how did the co-writing process work? Did you do the writing and he edited? How much freedom were you given in the storyline?
Simplest answer: Ted took the lead on the storyboarding. I had the first draft, and we both did revisions.
Was there ever a time when you thought the story should go one way and Ted the other? If so, how did you guys work things out?
Not really. Though we did change our minds a few times.
What is the number one thing your experience with Ted Dekker has taught you about writing?
Persevere. And pace yourself. Oh, and theme not only matters, but you can use it as an anchor for the whole story. And it’s okay to storyboard.
Of all the characters in the Lost Books series, who is your favorite and why?
Occasionally it depends on the book. Johnis always reminds me of a younger version of Thomas Hunter, to be honest. The other three heroes are a riot. Darsal really grew on me in Chaos, which turned out to be a good thing. But I like each for different reasons, so it’s hard to choose a favorite.
Who are some authors you enjoy reading now, and why do you enjoy them?
I’m currently reading Robert Liparulo’s Germ, and just finished The Enclave by Karen Hancock. A new favorite is Tosca Lee. Bob and Ted both keep me on my toes. Karen has a lovely way of merging the supernatural and physical realms. Tosca has a striking way with words. Others include: Donita K. Paul, whose books have provided profound insight on life as servants of God; Stephen Lawhead, who can do amazing things with single scenes and moments; D. Barkley Briggs, whose book simply astonished me. John Olson’s books Shade and Powers. . . this list could really go on. As far as nonfiction goes, I’m reading some of Dallas Willard and Priscilla Shirer at the moment.
Do you ever find it challenging to head to your keyboard every day? What do you do when the words don’t seem to come?
Some days yes, some no. But largely, if I’m stuck, it generally means I’ve lost the thrust or simply jerked myself out of the story. When that happens, a series of events take place:
1. Reread the last few pages
2. Find some random chore and think while performing said chore
3. Scribble out notes
4. Decide I don’t care what it sounds like and just write the first words that come to mind, remembering it can always be fixed later
5. Call a friend and make them hash it out with me
6. Pray (sadly, this doesn’t always come first as it should)
7. Repeat steps 1-6
I also tend to write a lot of ‘side scenes’ that have nothing to do with the story. This helps me with characterization, mostly, and often bits of it will find its way in somewhere. Some scenes have been written multiple times, multiple ways, on purpose.
A lot of your current writing falls into the fantasy genre, but you didn’t start out reading fantasy much. When did you fall in love with fantasy, so to speak?
Oh, probably halfway through college. Keep in mind, I know The Circle Books are considered fantasy, but I wouldn’t have called them that had they not been called that by other people. I really don’t think in genre. Really, I think it was the Dragonkeeper series (Paul), Legends of the Guardian-King (Hancock), and Dragons in our Midst (Davis) that got me started reading that genre. A couple years later I read The Song of Albion. I didn’t read Lord of the Ringsuntil the first movie was coming out, didn’t read Narnia (and enjoy it) until middle school, and I know I read a couple others, just not a lot of it. I read mostly adventure, mystery, and the supernatural (including end times) genres until I guess late high school, maybe.
Could you give us a sneak peek into what projects you’re working on now? Which one excites you the most and why?
Oh, wow. Whatever I’m working on currently is usually the one I’m most excited about. I’ve finished Bogswallow, which is the first of a potential series called The Order of the Priest-King. It’s a YA fantasy. Bogswallowis primarily about this priest’s slave who’s trying to rescue these people trapped alive in Hell. It’s essentially a resurrection story. I’m working on Cinderbeast, which follows the same characters, but focuses on a young warrior who has become heir of the Priest-King but is still stalked by a demon who intends to possess him. It’s largely about swearing allegiance and devotion.
Beyond that, I have a stack, to be honest. More in the same world, but at different times and in different places. Some unrelated, such as an untitled one I’ve been playing with in which I’d really like to try to translate the fantasy-world illustrations of faith and supernatural into real-world, this-could-be-you fashion. Tentatively, I’ve dubbed it Bruising Reeds. Thus far all I can really say on it is it involves a teenage girl who’s trying to save an angel, a youth pastor with a black hole for a past, and a cultic, assassin-like guild of cannibals.
Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?
Thanks for inviting me to play. 0=)
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
Surprised to know? Hmmm . . . Oh. I didn’t use the internet or own a cell phone until college. And my friends like to keep me up past midnight and get me worked up on caffeine so I’ll be hyper. And I was once dubbed the ‘context Nazi’ for my insistence on accuracy.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Reading, hanging with friends…
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
I live at home, so technically it’s my parents’ fridge. Still. Three things: Deli meat, cheese, jalepeños.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
Ha! Probably tea. For coffee I mostly go to Buon Giorno, Roots, or, if I’m in Denton, my friend Elizabeth’s house.
She’ll like that I said that, too.
What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?
Now that’s a loaded question. I decided in middle school I really only had three goals: See the planet, write, and become a woman after God’s heart. I think if I make it to the end of the race and my old Friend and Lord is pleased with me, I will die a happy woman.
When was the last time you cried?
I don’t remember.
Three words that best describe you:
Describe myself, hm? More or less, I’m pretty laid back, a bit intense, and think God laughs more than anything else. Though my mother would say I was born forty, the kids I teach call me Captain Hook (hey, the boy who started it is named Peter), and my friends occasionally question my sanity. So I guess I’m normal. 0=)
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
I’m on this weird movie soundtrack kick. But I’m also known to turn everything off and work in total silence, too.
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.