I met Joshua and his mom at the Modesto Home schooling Convention a few years ago. He came by my booth and just could not seem to take his eyes off my book, The Victor (which his mom eventually bought for him). At the time he was still writing this book and now it is here!
Tells us first how you came to faith in Jesus.
I grew up in a Christian home but didn’t understand what it meant to follow Christ until I was 12 years old. It was then that I understood that I had rebelled against God (Romans 3:23), and that because of this, I deserved death (Romans 6:23). There was no question in my heart that Jesus was the answer to my dilemma. He had died for my sins so that I could be saved from the eternal punishment that I deserved. As soon as I realized that, I asked Him to become my Lord and Savior, knowing there was nothing I had to nor could do to earn salvation. All I needed to do was believe that He had died and had conquered death with His resurrection. Romans 10:9-10 puts it so plainly, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” And so I did!
How old were you when you wrote your first real story and what was it about?
When I was in the 2nd grade, I entered the Reading Rainbow Young Writers and Illustrators Contest in the San Francisco Bay Area with a short story titled “My Brother the Peanut-Butter Ball.” I won 2nd place.
The following year I entered the contest again, and I won 1st place for another work titled “The Adriatic Adventure.” I almost got disqualified because the judges couldn't believe a 3rd grader could write that well. They inteviewed me on the radio later, and the reporter found out for himself I had the imagination and vocabulary of a good story teller.
Where did you get the idea for your latest book?
My, my…where to begin? Well, I'd have to say that I spent my childhood dreaming up stories, a small percentage of which I actually wrote – and that was just for writing class. The Eighth Dimension as a collaboration of various story ideas that I patched together. Interestingly enough, it had started out as a sci-fi series – in my mind anyway – much like Star Wars … only with a Christian message instead of Eastern Mysticism. I had eight books all planned out, but I didn't know how to write them, so they gathered dust on my mental shelf.
A little while later, I reconfigured the story to take place in a sort of steam-punk setting – sort of like Treasure Planet. I actually got bits and pieces of it written down, including maps, and even a prologue. But again, I didn't have the know-how to create even one novel from it.
Then my mom found a curriculum for homeschoolers that taught how to actually plan out and write a novel. Feeling that I wasn't ready to take on sci-fi or even steam-punk, I chose a medieval setting – although the concepts within the story is kind of a Narnia-meets-The-Matrix. The Eighth-Dimension, which used to be a parallel universe, became something entirely different and came to refer to the Spiritual Realm.
While my first book – The Eighth Dimension: A Symurell Rises – is set against a medieval backdrop, I plan to expand the story into a series that spans different genres. The first three books are medieval, but in the third book, gunpowder will be introduced, heralding a progression in civilization. Each of the books that follow will be set in another period in a history of this fictitious world similar to our own history.
What do you want readers to take away from your writing and this book in particular?
It's hard to say. I strive to make my characters as real as possible. I want my readers to want to come back to this world again and again. Also, when they come to the end, I want them to feel a sense of euphoric completion, as if they themselves have taken a long, dangerous journey and are finally coming home.
While my future books will contain teasers meant to stir within the reader the desire to know what happens next, I do intend for each work to stand alone so that each ending will maintain the sense of completion. In short, it is my goal to create a gentle tug-of-war between closing one book with satisfaction and opening the next with anticipation.
Most importantly, I want the gospel message communicated in my books to be clear and understandable, but as a backdrop or frame of reference, which is true of a Christian’s life. The action and adventure is a vehicle for the message. I hope that the quality of the story will draw in even people who do not yet know for themselves about God’s saving grace.
What part of this book did you enjoy writing the most and why?
I don't really have one favorite part. There are parts of my book that seem to have written themselves and I'm discovering it. Any part that seems to flow naturally is basically my favorite, but I especially enjoy writing action scenes and other scenes where my characters are interacting with dialogue.
As much as I enjoy writing, I view it as a means to an end, which is telling a story people can appreciate. I especially love it when a scene no longer becomes a series of words, but a picture in your mind … where you can actually see the characters interacting as if they're actually standing right in front of you!
What is your favorite Bible verse?
If I had to pick one, it would be Joshua 24:15 because it reflects the main theme of my book.
What is your favorite comfort food?
Food? I write the same whether I'm hungry of full. I prefer to write when full, but if I'm working on an especially important scene, I don't have to eat. When you read my book, you'll discover what kinds of food I really like.
What are your hobbies other than writing?
Composing music is another outlet for my creativity, so I find myself playing freestyle on the piano quite a bit. I also enjoy hanging out with my friends and my college groups activities.
How does your faith play into your writing?
It's the best story I could tell. The Bible is filled with tales of heroes of great renown, all of whom served their Creator, of good triumphing over evil, and of God’s direct power over the laws of nature to accomplish His will. What is more, while this novel is a mere work of fiction, I believe with all my heart that the stories in Scripture are true ... no mistranslations and no metaphors. The Red Sea’s waters were held back by seemingly nothing at all. The walls of Jericho did fall to seemingly nothing more than a band of soldiers and priests shouting at the top of their lungs and blasting away on their ram’s horns. Jesus did die, stayed dead for three days, and then was raised to life. Whatever portrayal of God I have painted in my novel, it will always be but a fragment of the real Creator of the universe.
What is your favorite book by another author and why?
I'm stuck between Frank E. Peretti's This Present Darkness and Ted Dekker's The Circle. Both are a genre similar to mine and have been a strong inspiration for my endeavors.
Favorite childhood book?
C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia were the most influential. When I first heard about them I was apprehensive because of the White Witch, but I grew to love the series and understand their deeper meanings.
Which movie has inspired you the most and why?
Like I said before, The Eighth-Dimension is sort of a Narnia-meets-The-Matrix, but the movie that gave me the most inspiration was Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson turned Tolkein’s loquacious books into an epic adventure. The trilogy has everything I would want for my book: a nostalgic beginning, edge-of-the-seat action, relatable characters you want to care about, breathtaking scenery, and a euphoric ending.
Where do you get most of your ideas for your books?
I write my book like a movie. I find books to be the easiest medium for my creativity – easy being, of course, a relative term. But my ultimate goal is to make movies, because they are the most effective story-telling device in today's culture. A picture is worth a thousand words, and movies are a series of billions of pictures and sounds.
Out of everything you have written, do you have a favorite and why?
My favorite work is whatever I am working on at the time. It is important to devote your affections to one work at a time. If you don't, some works will be great successes while others will be complete flops because you didn't enjoy writing them as much. One needs to enjoy writing each work equally for all of them to be successful.
Have you ever had a mentor when you were first starting out? Who was it and how did they encourage you?
I credit my mom for imparting to me her sage knowledge about the English language and sparking in me a love for words. My dad encouraged me to step beyond my comfort zone. He told me, when I first started thinking up worlds, “You should get this down on paper.” Both my mom and my dad have been inspirational and deeply involved in my endeavors in fiction.