Introducing my gorgeous fourth special guest, Lauricia Matuska.
By day, Lauricia Matuska is a mild-mannered teacher of high school literature and creative writing. By night she is a clandestine writer, fighting battles against time and responsibility to steal precious moments in which to compose the next pages of her current novel-in-progress. She first discovered the realm of fantasy by traveling with Lucy through the wardrobe to Narnia. Since then, she has established dual-residency between that world and this one, and currently serves as an ambassador to contemporary youth and young adults. The Healer's Rune is the first novel in her Ceryn Roh trilogy.
1. If you write romance into your stories, how much intimacy are you comfortable writing, and why?
Ah, romance. I love to read a good romance thread, but I’m not a devotee of the genre. I am actually in the process of writing a romance thread into my current series, and let me tell you, it is tough! That may be because I’m emotionally withdrawn, but I’m finding it particularly challenging to write anything beyond mutual flirting. Every time I try the gushy stuff, it seems silly or cliché to me.
That said, I believe sex belongs in the bedroom, and only between the married couple. I don’t need to know a play-by-play. It makes me uncomfortable to think about what other people do in their bedrooms. “Intimacy” is called that because it’s meant to be just that… intimate, not a show displayed for all to see. So as of this interview, my stories will never go beyond kissing. No heavy petting for my characters.
This is an especially sensitive topic for me as I write YA and NA, and the starting age for YA is 13. That’s seventh/eighth grade! Children that age are barely learning what it’s like to deal with hormones and raging emotions, they don’t need to be fed adult content to add fuel to the fire. I can’t number the times a mother has told me her child really enjoyed my book, and my breath caught while I mentally catalogued all of my scenes, immensely thankful I hadn’t included anything that said mother might consider inappropriate or might be offended by. I wouldn’t want mature content peddled to my unsuspecting child, so I would never dream of doing such a thing to other people’s children.
2. If you write scenes with violence, what do you rely on as a guide/gauge?Tragically, my imagination. Our culture is remarkably desensitized, and I have a vivid imagination, so the scenes of violence I have seen in movies or read in books (I’ve been a fan of fantasy since fifth grade, which is 1982 for me) provide more than enough fodder for my imagination to concoct a pretty gruesome scene. At least, as gruesome as I am comfortable with. For the actual how-to-fight and other technique minutia, I consult writer’s guides.
3. If you write magic into your work, could you please explain why you choose to do so?I love magic! I enjoy the wonder of it, and the endless possibilities of what it can do. Stories that contain magic have always been my favourite because of the mystery and the beyond-ordinary nature of them.
Because much of the magic I find in stories leads to unexplainable occurrences, I’m convinced that my penchant for fantasy stories has made it easier for me to believe in the supernatural nature of God. I have an easier time accepting the unexplainable aspects of God than many of my more scientifically-inclined, non-fantasy acquaintances do, and I can’t help but believe that my submersion into the fantasy genre is a large reason why.
As our culture continues to become desensitized to violence and content of a disturbingly graphic nature, it would be very easy to get into dark magic and practices in my stories, but I avoid that. For my stories, magic itself is neither good nor evil. It’s just a tool that is used according to the wielder’s purpose, which is where the good and evil originate.
One thing I decided for myself and have taught my children is that story magic and the practices of non-fiction occultist magic are two entirely different things. When we’re talking about real life, “magic” that achieves supernatural results comes from only two sources: God or Satan. I once had a reader tell me the magic in my stories was only miracles cloaked in another name. If you really think about it, she was very right.
In the trilogy I’m currently working on, the magic is what gamers call deity magic, meaning the power comes from whatever deity the wielder worships. Since I’m a Christian, that means anything good comes from the story-equivalent of God, and anything nefarious comes from the story-equivalent of Satan. For me, this is an uncrossable line, and magic will be portrayed as that in some way or another in all of the stories I plan to write.
4. In your opinion is Christian Fantasy becoming too worldly?Okay, don’t hate me, but I avoid reading anything specifically labelled as Christian fantasy. When I was growing up, Christian fantasy was just thinly veiled allegory, and whenever I read something like that, I felt robbed. I wanted to read a story, not to receive a sermon.
As an author, I don’t think of my stories as Christian fantasy. They are fantasy written to the best of my ability in order to create stories that give back to the genre I love. Because I am a Christian, all of the stories will have a Christian worldview, but that’s unavoidable. I teach my students that art is a reflection of the person who produces it, and this is a principle I firmly believe. Whether we intend to or not, as artists, our beliefs are reflected in our works, so my works will contain Christian principles. However, I do not set out to write Christian fantasy, because I’m not intending to moralize or tell a thinly-veiled allegory.
That being said, I belong to an organization called Realm Makers, which is an international group of Christians who write speculative fiction. Many of them write fantasy stories with Christian themes, and they are stinking good! So I’m not bashing Christian fantasy; I’m just relating my experience with it, and answering the question above with a very drawn out and round-about “no”.
5. In your own words how would you define ‘clean’ fiction?
For me, clean fiction is fiction that doesn’t contain sex or foreplay. My characters can fall in love, they can kiss, they can spend quality time cuddling in front of the fireplace, but once erogenous zones become involved, then the story no longer falls into the “clean” category.
6. Do you believe Christian Fantasy should be written to appeal to general or selective readership? Could you explain why?
I believe that depends on the writer. As Christians, we are accountable to God and are called to write the stories he gives us for the audience he places on each of our hearts. Some authors are called to write Christian fantasy to appeal to readers who want to stay specifically within the categories of Christian literature. Some are called to write for the general market. Each should be faithful to God’s call on his or her life.
I, personally, feel called to the general market. I once read an excerpt that quoted Madeline L’Engle (author of A Wrinkle in Time, among others) as having said that she enjoys answering questions about God that she received from readers in her fan mail. That struck a chord with me, especially since I’m drawn to the nerdy misfit kid who, most likely, would never step foot in a church. If my story can reach even one of these, drawing him or her to reach out to me with the questions he/she doesn’t dare ask anywhere else and introducing him or her to the Maker of the Universe, then my calling is fulfilled.
And then, the random questions:
What is always in your refrigerator that never gets eaten?
Lettuce. I have the best intentions of eating salads on a regular basis, but can never be bothered to actually cut and wash the lettuce. I tried the pre-prepared varieties for a while, but there’s always a few soggy, mostly molded leaves that make my stomach turn, so I now avoid anything pre-packaged. This means I’m constantly buying lettuce that just as consistently gets forgotten.
The worst thing someone ever said about your writing?
Um… I’m pretty new to the whole published author part of this gig, so I haven’t really had time to experience any genuine, really scathing comment that is hard to bounce back from. I’m sure I will at some point, but for now, I can’t answer this question.
Worst haircut experience?
*hearty laugh* I have a genetic disorder known as trichorhinophalangeal syndrome type 3. Fortunately, it is very mild (marks God’s provision and protection are all over my life), but I’m very lucky to even have hair, and what I have is very thin and fine. The worst experience in this arena that I can relate to is a hyper-short haircut I received after my first son was born, when a lot of my hair had fallen out and I told the stylist to cut it only short enough to make the length even. Hair that’s only ½ inch long is really not becoming on me.
Favourite sandwich fillings?
Turkey or ham, melty cheese, and a berry chutney. *mmm*
Thank you so much to Lauricia Matuska, I hope you enjoyed hearing her thoughts.
Please join me again tomorrow as Tricia Mingerink answers the same questions.