FANtastic Interview with Kristen Stieffel

Many of you reading this, may have heard me mention a writers conference called Realm Makers. At this conference I have met many author and have had the opportunity to learn from them. One of these authors is Kristen Stieffel and she is getting ready to release her first novel, Alara’s Call:

Alaras-Call-Kindle

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Tales are often told of heroes who fulfill ancient prophecies. Alara’s Call is the tale of a woman who gives new ones.

Alara sees visions of other’s futures, but never her own.

A young clergywoman with a fiery passion for her Telshan faith, she has been assigned to a mission abroad but longs to lead a congregation in her homeland. Her father, the prime minister, jeopardizes her dream and her safety when he coerces her into what he calls a diplomatic mission.

But it’s a ruse.

The trip is meant to end with her marriage to the crown prince of a foreign nation, where members of Alara’s faith are persecuted and women oppressed. All for a trade agreement her father is desperate to enact.

But her mentor intervenes and takes Alara to Dorrel, the suitor she left behind. They believe they are safe, but foreign soldiers are under orders to bring Alara to the king’s palace…by any means necessary.

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To help Kristen celebrate I am participating in a blog tour for Alara’s Call. And to help you understand why you need to read this book, I have invited Kristen over for one of my FANtastic interviews:

C: Naturally, Alara’s Call takes place in a fictional world, but the fictional religion, Telshanism, is very similar to Christianity. They have many theological elements in common and the dramatized worship services are familiar. So my question is, What was the story benefit of creating Telshanism rather than just using Christianity? Was it to avoid Historical comparisons?

 K: Actually, I’m all for historical comparisons!

I definitely modeled Telshanism closely on Christianity, quite deliberately. At one point I even considered writing the story as an alternate history rather than as a secondary world fantasy, but too many things had to change in order to set up all the culture clashes I wanted, to it was easier to just go the fantasy route. Since my story isn’t set in the real world, I thought it would be inappropriate to use a real religion.

C: It is easy to see the similarities between Telshan and Christianity, but with one big exception. What prompted you to make the Trinity female? Was it to help highlight the misogyny of the Makutian culture?

 K: It’s more like the misogyny of the Makutian culture was put there to contrast the equality of the Glynrellan culture.

One of my main goals was to explore what a truly equal society would look like. But here’s the problem: In our own actual Christianity we have a verse that says “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NRSV). Yet we don’t actually behave as if that were true.

From the second century onward, women were marginalized and excluded from church leadership. One of the main arguments used against female church leadership has been that Jesus and all his disciples were men. Never mind that the first person to share the good news “He is risen” was a woman.

What would need to be in place for women to not be marginalized? Well, what if the deity were female? But an all-female trinity could possibly lead to the marginalization of men, which isn’t what I wanted.

Many people even now like to refer to the Holy Spirit as “she,” because doing so helps us to acknowledge the feminine nature of God — who must have a feminine nature because both male and female are created in God’s image.

So I took that interpretation of the Trinity and flipped it, so that instead of Father, Son, and a Spirit some people address as feminine, I have a feminine creator, a feminine Redeemer, and a masculine Counselor. This allows me to explore ideas in the fantasy realm that I couldn’t do if I had exported literal Christianity to the fantasy storyworld.

C: Alara is a Curate in her religion, basically a priest or a pastor, but she is also a prophet. Do you believe that God still uses Prophets today? Do we just not notice them?

 K: I don’t see anything in Scripture that says any of the spiritual gifts have stopped operating in the church, so yes, I believe there are still those who have the gift of prophecy. In many mainline traditions, we tend to look the other way or write people with this gift off as cranks. I think we do so at our own peril. Scripture says we will know a prophet by whether what they say comes to pass. So we need to pay attention, if only to determine whether the speaker is speaking for the Lord or is being presumptuous.

 You may say to yourself, “How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken?” If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it. (Deuteronomy 18:21-22 NRSV)

 Frederick Buechner, in his book Wishful Thinking, says, “Prophet means spokesman, not fortune-teller.” I think this is important to remember, because even in Scripture we often see that the prophets are not only predicting the future, they are also teaching the people of God what they need to hear. Whether they want to hear it or not.

At a meeting of the Central Florida Presbytery, we once had a guest speaker who gave a stirring talk on the church’s role in combating violence in our culture. I was only mildly surprised afterward to hear my pastor refer to the talk as “prophetic.” The speaker hadn’t made any predictions, but he had called the church to action. That’s the kind of thing I think of in our current day when I think of prophets.

C: I love this definition of Prophet, and after reading Alara’s Call I can see how you used it to shape her character.

Speaking of characters, the character descriptions are so clear I can easily picture them in my mind. Did you compile a dream cast for Alara’s Call to base the descriptions on? If yes can you share pictures?

 K: Oh, my. I have such vivid pictures in my head, I could never entirely choose actors to play the roles. No one ever had precisely the right look. Except for General Rariden. He has always been Harrison Ford

.Harrison Ford

I’ve lately decided that Jenna Coleman could probably pull off the role of Alara,

Jenna Coleman

and Diego Luna would pass for Dorrel.

Diego Lune

But — and I realize I show my age — my favorite actor to play Dorrel would have been the late, great Roger Rees.

roger-rees-nypl-promo

I have a Pinterest board for Alara’s Call if you want to see more.

https://www.pinterest.com/kristenstieffel/alaras-call/

C: Yes, I love these choices. When you get that big movie deal, push really hard for this casting.

In Alara’s world, they use medieval technology. But I also got a Renaissance almost Regency feel, no doubt inspired by the beautiful cover art. Was there any one historical period that inspired the world of Alara’s Call?

 K: The main inspiration is nineteenth-century Europe, with all the small countries close together and interrelated royal families and court intrigues. The main departure from nineteenth-century technology is that my storyworld doesn’t have black powder, so there are no firearms or explosives. So the armaments are at more of a medieval level. But in all other ways, the world is meant to have more of a Regency/early Victorian feel.

C: If you could take one element from your world building to bring into the real world what would it be?

K: That’s an interesting question, because everything in the storyworld—other than the Telshan trinity—does exist in the real world, or (in the case of some of the manifestations of characters’ specific gifts) is described in Scripture. I guess if I were going to pick one thing from the storyworld that I wish we did as well in the real world, it would be the Glynrellan culture of equality. America has a fairly egalitarian culture, but we still have lots of room for improvement.

 Thank you for coming Kristen and sharing about your novel.

 Kristen-Stieffel-Headshot Kristen Stieffel is a freelance editor and writer who specializes in speculative fiction. Although she edits projects in varied genres for both the general market and the Christian submarket, she is a novelist at heart. Member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Christian Editor Connection, mentor with Word Weavers International, and on the planning committee for Realm Makers, Kristen stays busy doing what she loves most. She is also the associate editor of Havok, a flash-fiction magazine focused on science fiction and fantasy. Visit http://www.kristenstieffel.com to learn more about this many-faceted author.

Follow Kristen on Social media:

Kristen’s WebsiteHer BlogAmazon Author pageFacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Don’t forget to add Alara’s call to your to read list:

Alara’s Call releases September 19th. Pre-order it here.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour:

M, 11th: Review, Gretchen Engel,  www.scriblerians.com/www.newauthors.wordpress.com

            Interview, Catherine Bonham, You are Here

T, 12th: Visual Post, Jebraun Clifford, www.jebraunclifford.com

W, 13th: Review, Kate Jameson, www.kategjameson.wordpress.com

            Review, Anna Tan, www.blog.annatsp.com

R, 14th: Guest Post, Laura A. Grace, www.unicornquester.com

            Interview, J.M. Hackman, www.jmhackman.com

F, 15th: Story World Feature, Travis Perry, www.travisbigidea.blogspot.com

            Visual Post, Liv Fisher, www.livkfisher.blogspot.com

Sa, 16th: Top 3 Post, Laurie Lucking, www.landsuncharted.com

Su, 17th: Behind the Scenes, Steve Rzasa, www.steverzasa.com

M, 18th: Review, Laurin Boyle, www.laurinboyle.wordpress.com

T, 19th: Behind the Scenes, Kristen Stieffel, www.newauthors.wordpress.com

W, 20th: Guest Post, Gillian Bronte Adams, www.gillianbronteadams.com

R, 21st: Review, Michele Israel Harper, www.micheleisraelharper.com

F, 22nd: Guest Post, Rebecca LuElla Miller, www.rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com

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