I quite enjoyed Valicity Garris’s novel Cross Academy; my review is available here. Ms. Garris was kind enough to let me interview her about her life, writing, and what’s in store for the Cross Academy universe.
If there is one theme or concept you’d like readers to take away from Cross Academy, what would it be?
I’m not sure if there is a single word for it, but one theme/concept I would like readers to take away from my book would be to see things from more than one perspective. Cross Academy deals a lot with the Christian faith and many of the characters question God because of their circumstances. I really wanted readers to see that God has a plan in motion for everything, even though we can’t see it we just have to keep pushing through.
On your Rebel Christian blog you enthusiastically and eloquently discuss your faith, but you keep the presence of God in Cross Academy to a minimum. Was this a deliberate choice, and why?
Yes, it was a deliberate choice. The Rebel Christian is something I write for my youth group at my local church so it would naturally have more scriptural references and Christian principles than my book.
Cross Academy, on the other hand, incorporates Christianity as more of a theme than the basis for the entire story. I dealt with demons, spiritual powers, prayer, and other aspects from my faith but the mention of Jesus or God was very minimal. That’s because most members of the main cast don’t actually have a very close relationship with God. I wanted this story to show their journey as they grew closer to the Lord. They still have a lot of growing to do and as they develop, the presence of God will most definitely increase.
What’s next for the characters and world of Cross Academy?
Next I would like to explore the dark side of things. It creeps people out when I say this but I would love to dive deeper into the demonology of the book. I want to explore the demonic characters a little more and make their presence as something more than the ‘bad guy’. I think that will be tricky but I want to at least try.
You’ve cited C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as your favorite writers. Tell us about their influence on your writing.
I very much enjoyed their writing but I have to say their books didn’t so much influence my writing as they did my perseverance. I faced a lot of rejection and struggle with Cross Academy, I really had to put on a thick layer of skin when I ventured into the publishing realm. But I’d read that C.S. Lewis received nearly 100 rejection letters before he was published. J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t face so much of a struggle as Lewis but his journey as a writer wasn’t easy sailing either.
They are amazing Christian writers but above all, their success stories encouraged me to never give up.
Oh I absolutely love anime. I’m so glad you asked this question because this is something I never get to talk about. I’ve seen hundreds of shows but my five favorite series are Code Geass, Death Note, Kuroko’s Basketball, Dragonball Z, and Aldnoah.Zero.
As far as any anime that would be similar to Cross Academy, well, in terms of theme, the first one that comes to mind would be the famed Attack on Titan. There is a real struggle between humanity and the evil creatures called ‘Titans’ in the series. That struggle against extinction is definitely a strong comparison to what the cast of Cross Academy face with the antagonistic demons.
When it comes to style, I’d like to say there is no comparison! But I believe the action, the fighting, and the supernatural abilities can best be compared to the sequences of the show Naruto. There aren’t any hand signs but I think the big battles would be on par with that show.
What do you like most about being a youth pastor? What do you like least?
What I like most and least is being around other Christians my age. Seeing their growth and development in the Lord is something that can’t be described. But I also feel that it’s tough for young adult Christians to look at me, someone their exact same age, and believe that I’m competent enough to lead them in Christ.
Humans in general are used to being taught and lead by someone older than them, so I think my youth group sometimes struggles to accept me. I do the best I can and it is challenging at times but I know that God put me here for a reason, so I keep going every day.
What does your family think of your writing career, particularly the genre?
They are very supportive. My mother is my biggest fan, of course. I went to college for Psychology so there were some expectations for grad school but my family has been there for me 100%.
As far as the genre goes, I think they’re very happy with it. Christian and Dark Fantasy don’t sound like they belong in the same sentence but my family welcomes the way I portray my faith.
As an indie author, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing small-press and self-published authors?
I think being taken seriously is one of the biggest things that we face. Many reviewers have told me that I’m good ‘for a self-published author’ and it makes me think, are there two types of authors? Two types of ‘good’? For whatever reason, there is a certain stigma that comes with being self-published, as if it’s a last resort rather than a legitimate choice. I would like to be seen as the same kind of author as anyone else is. Just someone who likes to write and wants to share that writing with others.
Once you’ve finished the Cross Academy series, what other genres do you think you’ll write in?
Well the most recent manuscript I finished is a YA contemporary novel. I originally had an interest in that genre but I was overtaken by Cross Academy. I think contemporary fiction is something I will always write but my ideas with fantasy will take precedence.
You can reach Valicity Garris through her website The Rebel Christian. She’s also on Twitter, and her handle is @ValicityGarris.
For more information about her novel Cross Academy, click here.