Please Welcome…Ellen Maze
(*Originally posted July 2010)
This month our interview guest is Christian speculative fiction novelist Ellen Maze.
Ellen has been writing since she could form sentences. Her earliest works are tucked away safely in her mother’s files, but now, her current work is published for the world to see.
Her subjects range from vampires to angels to demonic powers in dark places; but her goal is to entertain the reader while sending a message of redemption that is never preachy but is disguised between the lines; like a wonderful mystery to be unfolded by whosoever will. Pitching faith and bloodlust into a battle to the death, or oftentimes, to the life; Ellen tries to balance the two in a fascinating and intriguing way.
A recovering (secular) vampire/horror fanatic, Ellen uses her experience in that subculture to bring the Light into the vampire genre. Addicting and delicious, Ellen’s brand of story-telling is rife with deep character study and honest emotion.
Ellen graduated cum laude from Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. She has been a licensed non-denominational minister and teaches Scripture to teens and adults. She has also been a professional artist, specializing in custom pet portraits and equine art.
A Messianic Jewish Believer, Ellen and her husband developed a curriculum for the youth at her synagogue as well as local adult Bible studies entitled Hebraic Roots of the Christian Faith. Every Monday and every other Friday, they are blessed to teach the words of Messiah for the edification of the Body.
Ellen lives in Historic Montgomery, Alabama with her husband, daughter, four cats and one spoiled dog.
Ellen has no holes in her neck…
WhereTheMapEnds: Catch us up with you. What have you been up to lately?
Ellen Maze: This has been an exciting week in the world of Ellen. My first novel, Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider received its 50th glowing review on Amazon and remained in the top 50 of all books in the horror/occult listing. Isn’t that amazing that a book about redemption can be found in such a category? It blows my mind how long is the arm of the LORD!
Also, I finished Rabbit’s sequel, Rabbit Legacy, this past week after a month of working out the ending. I sent the MS to my pre-readers and waited with bated breath as they began to chime in. I can now officially announce that Rabbit Legacy is blowing them away. Praise the LORD! Now I wait for my editor to return all her corrections and then God willing, it’s off to the publisher to get this thing on the shelves!
WhereTheMapEnds: What is your favorite speculative novel of all time (Christian or secular) and why is that your favorite?
Ellen Maze: Ah—that is an easy one. This Present Darkness, by Frank Peretti. I was a new Christian when I came across the book in my husband’s things. I read it in one day and my entire life was changed. Just like that. Looking back, I can see how God spoke to me through that novel—not only about the spiritual warfare all around me, but about writing fiction for His glory. I had a burning to write speculative fiction and with Peretti’s work blazing a trail, I had the courage to give it a whirl. .
WhereTheMapEnds: That’s wonderful. I remember reading that book for the first time too. Mr. Peretti was generous enough to be our first interview guest here at WhereTheMapEnds. So, Ellen, what made you want to write Christian speculative fiction?
Ellen Maze: I had a calling to write and, as a servant of the Most High, I wanted to write what would bring glory to Him. It was a struggle the first few years when He called me to this line of work. I was a full-time freelance artist and wrote on a novel on the side. That was in 2004, and the novel grew and grew and when it was finished in 2005, I was terrified to pursue publication. I didn’t think the world was ready for a Christian vampire tale. (I was probably right!) But by 2008, I had written all four in this series (The Corescu Chronicles) and I prayerfully proceeded to query agents and editors.
Before I get too longwinded, let me say that the short answer is that I am capable of writing any kind of fiction—even the worst, basest fare. I control the gift God gave me. But I made a conscious decision to write for Him and for Him alone. Every novel I write will in some way draw the reader to the truth, and if at all possible—to our Savior. Thankfully, so far, that is exactly what Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider is doing!
WhereTheMapEnds: How was your first idea for a Christian speculative novel received (by anyone: spouse, friends, parents, agent, publisher, readers, reviewers, etc.)?
Ellen Maze: I have my husband to thank for being my first reader. It’s been some years since he read my first draft of The Judging (Book one of The Corescu Chronicles). As I recall, he was very enthusiastic about it and, as a professional writer himself, gave me tons of advice on how to improve it. My second fan was my mother. She loved it to pieces and encouraged me to do everything I could to get it published. The third person I shared it with was a close Catholic friend, who was intrigued beyond measure at the entire plotline. These early encouragers are the reason I continued. I don’t remember anyone discouraging me and the only person who said, “this can’t be done” in those early years was me!
WhereTheMapEnds: Isn’t that funny how we limit ourselves—and God—sometimes? What is your favorite speculative genre to read? To write? If they’re different, talk about that.
Ellen Maze: Oh, I’m all over the place these days. As a kid, I had one genre—horror. Stephen King, Anne Rice, Robert McCammon… But as an adult, I’ve been reading all over the map. So what are my current favs? I will have to say Christian paranormal and horror. It’s edifying to see some scary creature coming at you and the lead character controls the thing with the power and authority of God. That’s what I’d do in real life!
My favorite to write is vampires and the paranormal (spiritual warfare). I have literally dozens of ideas in my idea book and here are my numbers so far: one novel is published and on the shelf, six novels are finished looking for a publisher, three are half done, and six ideas have been plotted out. All novels, all Christian paranormal or vampire, and all original and fresh approaches. God is on the move with His scribes, baby!
WhereTheMapEnds: How would you characterize the current state of Christian speculative fiction writing and publishing?
Ellen Maze: I’m happy with the books that have come out, for the most part. The publishing houses do an excellent job of culling through the manuscripts they receive and you can trust their marketing foresight. I’m just sorry that the economy as it is doesn’t allow for more gambling on new authors and on more “out there” Christian speculative fiction like mine <wink>.
What’s the solution? I don’t know. Self-publishing will continue to grow because the readers out there are hungry. They are hungrier than the traditional houses can keep up with. My prayer is that all Christian writers will study the craft and seek good editing before they put their books out on the shelf. This is good for the Father and good for the Body!
WhereTheMapEnds: What have you seen that encourages you about Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Ellen Maze: I am encouraged that I’m not alone! When I first conceived The Judging, a vampire-seeking-redemption-tale, I was petrified to share it with any of my Christian friends—they would have laughed me out of church. So I kept it to myself and begged God to give me the courage to go forth. But the past 3 years I have seen more and more Christian spec reach higher heights than ever before. The success of Ted Dekker, Bill Myers and Frank Peretti in the past 5 years have put a serious and competitive face on all Christian spec fic. I predict that the genre will continue to grow, and even if it takes pay-publishers a little while to jump on board, I think they will as the buying market proves itself.
WhereTheMapEnds: I certainly hope you’re right. What have you seen that discourages or frustrates you about Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Ellen Maze: I have not been personally attacked because I write about vampires and God so I can’t speak to that. I guess what frustrates me, since you ask, is how difficult it is to find representation or an editor who will take a chance on you. Answering the call of God, I self-published the Rabbit series, and God blesses it every day. But I still pray for a publisher to pick up my future endeavors because in this line of work it is meaningful to be attached to a publisher. The underlying stigma attached to being self-published doesn’t matter to readers—they couldn’t care less—but it matters to the author. A publisher can open more doors in advertising, exposure, and distribution than one person alone can afford. So my frustration will ease as the market allows more Christian speculative fiction to be traditionally published. Amen!
WhereTheMapEnds: I hope your frustration comes to a swift end. I’m not as optimistic as you are that it will happen through Christian publishing houses, I’m afraid. So, what would you like to see changed regarding Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Ellen Maze: The publishing world is doing all it can to make money, so I don’t blame them for trying to keep their heads above water. But as for the writers? I’d like to see every Christian spec author polish and perfect their craft, and work just as hard as the secular authors who are “out in the world.” Too many times, we rush to the finish line and throw our self-published work onto the shelf half-edited and half-proofed. This does nothing to encourage acceptance of our work. Sure, I know that there will always be a taboo attached to Christian speculative fiction, but we don’t need to make matters worse with bad writing. I’m no saint in this arena, but I do work tirelessly to make sure my finished product is as clean and as professional as it can be. My point is this: if we’re writing for Messiah, why do we do a half-way job? ‘Nuff said.
WhereTheMapEnds: What do you think Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing will look like in three years? Five years? Ten years?
Ellen Maze: I see the trend continuing as it is now. The number of voracious readers is far greater than the number of Christian speculative fiction authors, and they devour everything that comes down the pike. I see small presses becoming more prevalent and successful.
I also see a middle-man trend called independent publishing, getting bigger and bigger. Independent publishing falls between traditional (royalty) houses and the POD self-published route. With these companies, you get all of the aesthetic help the big houses provide and do none of the work the self-publishers do. The author pays for any work the publisher does, usually around $1,500, and after that, the publisher distributes the book exactly like the big houses, sends you royalty checks and, depending on your contract, publicizes it too.
In ten years, if Messiah hasn’t returned (smile), these small presses and independent publishers will be successfully handling the majority of the Christian spec fic that we produce. And the readership will continue to grow exponentially—trust me, they are hungry.
WhereTheMapEnds: I like the picture you paint here. Marcher Lord Press is one of the small presses that is helping fill that niche. I do want to point out that POD (print-on-demand) and self-publishing are not identical, as many people think. POD is just a technology, not a publishing model. Marcher Lord Press uses POD technology but is an advance-paying, royalty-paying house. Back to you, Ellen: what advice would you give to someone who aspires to write and publish Christian speculative fiction?
Ellen Maze: I guess I might have mentioned the main thing: study the craft and don’t release an imperfect product. I also want to encourage those who feel the call to write speculative fiction for God’s purposes. If He called you, He will enable you. Read lots and lots of published works in this genre to get a feel for what’s acceptable and what’s not. My favorites, aforementioned, are Frank Peretti and Bill Myers. In my humble opinion, Ted Dekker has jumped out of the Christian box with his latest books, but his early work, such as When Heaven Weeps and Blink, are as good as it gets in the Christian spec fic department. So to sum up: read, read, read, write, write, write, and pray, pray, pray.
WhereTheMapEnds: What’s the best book or seminar on fiction writing you know?
Ellen Maze: I am getting the most out of the Write Great Fiction series put out by Writer’s Digest Books. They include separate volumes for Revision and Self Editing, Dialogue, Plot and Structure, Description and Setting, and Characters, Emotions and Viewpoint. These volumes cover everything we need to know about crafting a well-constructed and marketable novel, and they’re fun. Filled with exercises and meaningful hints and tips, I have found them to be helpful in every department.
WhereTheMapEnds: Two of those books are written by my friend James Scott Bell. I hope you will add my new craft book, Plot Versus Character, to your list when it releases from Writers Digest Books in October. What’s the best part about writing and publishing Christian speculative fiction?
Ellen Maze: Watching the work of my hands bless the children of God. Since I desire to draw people to Messiah through fiction, it is so edifying when I receive emails and letters from readers whose lives have been changed because of what God enabled me to write! How odd that a vampire story could make someone repent and turn to God! But it’s happening. Don’t ever sell Him short—He can and will speak to people through our writing and we don’t even have to preach at all. When He anoints a scribe, He puts power in the story. I believe this with all my heart because of the fruit we’ve seen so far with my first book.
WhereTheMapEnds: Excellent! And many of the people God is reaching through your novels would never read an Amish novel or anything by Billy Graham. Praise God for the gates your books can get through that other Christian novels can’t. So what writing project(s) are you working on now?
Ellen Maze: I’m going out on a limb with this current work in progress, The Tale of Jane Frost; combining my Jewish heritage with the vampire mythology into a novel that will lead a set of cursed triplets to their Creator. I say out on a limb, because Messianic Jews don’t have their own vampire story yet and I aim to give them one! If my prayers are answered, when this book comes out, not only will Christian readers be encouraged in the Lord, but secular and unsaved Jews will be drawn to Him as well. It’s a win/win!
One interviewer asked me, “Do you think the vampire story is done to death?” The politically correct answer is “yes, ooh I hate it, why don’t they stop.” But that’s not my answer. Readers have already read what we wrote yesterday. They demand something new—and millions of Christian readers identify with the vampire lore, and they are scooping up novels in this genre by the handfuls.
Now as a servant of God I want to use my talent to give these readers something edifying and spiritually beneficial to read—so I write vampires. As long as the Christian writer gets the basics right—God abhors the drinking of blood and vampirism is at the base level a demonic manifestation—we can make entertaining tales that readers will devour over and over. It’s a balance, but it can be done with God’s help!
WhereTheMapEnds: Awesome about the Messianic Jewish vampire story. Maybe you can work in a golem somewhere… And I agree that vampire stories have some distance to go before they’re done as a genre. Our generation is obsessed with spiritual things and good vs. evil. Christians ought to be right in the middle of that conversation. So, Ellen, what’s a cool speculative story idea you’ve had lately?
Ellen Maze: I am working out a new YA novel where a college freshman, who has seen demons his whole life, will meet a girl who sees angels. Running alongside their story will be one demon and one angel who wrestle along the way as the plot unfolds. This will be my homage to my hero Frank Peretti, and I’m excited about how it is coming along already.
WhereTheMapEnds: What’s the best speculative story (Christian or secular, book or otherwise) you’ve encountered lately?
Ellen Maze: Oh, if you could see me jumping in my seat! I just finished A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz and I cannot stop gushing about it. Read my review for this great novel on Amazon and you’ll see what I mean. I have 1,400 contacts on Facebook and hundreds more on Twitter—and every one of them got an announcement about this book. I suggest everyone who enjoys speculative fiction of any kind to read this one. I had never, ever read anything futuristic nor sci-fi before this, and it doesn’t matter. This book transcends genres. Just read it and see what I mean!
WhereTheMapEnds: What else would you like to say to the readers of WhereTheMapEnds.com?
Ellen Maze: Now that you’ve reached the end of the map, your job is twofold. One, buy up books in this genre and help promote them by reviewing them favorably on Amazon and telling all your friends! Two, if you’re called to write—GO AND DO SO for the LORD!
May God bless you and keep you, and may we all fulfill our purposes that He set for us from the beginning of the world. In the words of Jesus Christ, Yeshua Hamoshiach—shalom aleichem, peace be with you!
That’s All for This Time
What a fun interview! Thanks to Ellen for spending some time with us. Be sure to visit her online.