Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Begotten and The Betrayed by Lisa T. Bergren

Today we welcome Lisa T. Bergren, talking about her new series, The Gifted. Join us as Lisa shares about her writing, and specifically how faith and family are an integral part of her work.

Lisa: I came up with the series concept after reading The Da Vinci Code, and thinking long and hard about the things I both loved (pacing, mystery, suspense) and hated (heresy that made me want to throw it against a wall). I also was heavily influenced by the Lord of the Rings trilogy on film—the grandeur of an epic story, with a cast of characters, deeper symbolism, adventure. So I started talking to my friends who know Scripture, and I asked them about a good biblical mystery…two mentioned the “previous letters” mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians and I was off and running. Considering that Paul talks a lot about spiritual gifts in his letters to the Corinthians, I gave my characters all the unique and powerful spiritual gifts he mentioned in the Scriptures—healing, prophecy, wisdom, faith, miraculous powers—and placed them in perilous times, the 14th century, pre-Reformation, pre-Renaissance. My Gifted are hunted both by the Church, who seeks to control them, and forces of evil, who wish to kill them. All in all, I think it makes for a classic Good vs. Evil read—with inspiration and application for us in the 21st century.

Margie: How did you get started writing, and where has that journey taken you that you may not have expected starting out?

Lisa: When I was in 3rd grade, I won a poetry contest, and thought my future was certain. And while I always enjoyed writing and thought having to read a book for school was the best kind of homework, I never really thought I'd do it for a profession. In fact, it took me three or four published books before I could bring myself to call myself "an author" or "a writer." I felt like I was a fraud and someone would surely find out sooner than later.

Margie: How do you balance family life with writing?

Lisa: Family and faith comes first, so writing has to slip in the cracks. When I'm on deadline, I make sure the family is on board and I schedule some intense weekends or days when I plow through my rough draft. Once I get my rough draft done, then I can be more sane...a few hours a day, and soon it's done and ready for the publisher!

Margie: How does your walk with the Lord affect your writing? And how do you balance time with the Lord with your writing schedule?

Lisa: I find that Bible study constantly impacts what I'm writing. God is so sweet about revealing things I need to learn through Scripture, and invariably, my characters end up learning some of the same things. Again, since faith and family come first, writing has to fit around worship and Bible study. I used to skip church when I was on deadline...but God showed me that it's was just a teeny bit HYPOCRITICAL to be a "Christian writer" who "can't possibly make it to worship today because I have to get my Christian novel done." Priorities, priorities. It's a relief to me to have that in order in my head and heart.

Margie: Since my blog is geared to writers who want to improve their self-editing, could you briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision?

Lisa: I always begin with a locale and an era I want to explore. With this Gifted series, I actually began with the biblical mystery--the lost letter of Saint Paul--and thought, "If a letter was to appear from Paul, what would be the content?" Since he mentions other letters in Corinthians, I took the spiritual gifts passage, and then asked, "When would be the most evocative time period to set this?" Pre-Reformation was an obvious answer, since the Church had a tight hold on her flock, and really didn't care to let "spiritual gifts loose." You want to have as much potential conflict--and therefore potential for great pacing--in your concept as possible. From there I began researching, going deep and wide for about a year to get some semblance of a handle of life in Italy, c.1340. I purchased about $1000 of research materials, but a lot is available online (and I felt I could justify the expense because it was supporting three books). Research always gives me great plot fodder. Nothing like bizarre historical facts to get you thinking of twists and turns a story could take! Then I outlined my characters, each of their "backstories," and outlined book 1, chapter by chapter. A couple of sentences on each chapter always helps me get right back into my story, even if it's been a couple weeks since I've had the chance to write. I usually go back, edit what I last wrote, take a peek at what I planned next, and roll right along. I need 3-5 hours of writing to get anything done and move the mss. forward. I plug "BLANK" whenever I don't know a name or word I'm looking for into my rough--this keeps me going on the story. I also will plug "RESEARCH THIS" or "CHECK THIS" when I'm making stuff up and I want to make sure I go back and verify it's correct. I know writers who have to stop and get those details down, right then, but if I did that, I'd never publish again.

: What kinds of things do you have to revise once the editor at a publishing house gets done with your manuscript?

Lisa: Depends on her edit! I've cut out entire subplots, added others, and made significant character development changes. Usually my plot is fairly on track and just needs a little tweaking. But I'm always glad for a good edit--if your editor won't tell you what's wrong with your book, then you're at the mercy of the public! I'd much rather go thru the redline process first; it makes me feel much more confident. With multiple characters as in The Gifted Series, I have to go back and read the preceding book(s) to make sure I'm remembering everything right!

Margie: Would you tell us a little about your future projects?

Lisa: I think I'll do a Colorado 1880s series next. Then on to something bigger, more on the scale of The Gifted. But my backyard is calling! (I live in Colorado.)

Margie: Finally, would you discuss The Gifted novels? The research, the idea, and the scope of the project?

Lisa: See above...In addition, I got to go to Italy three times! It was dreamy, and helped so much on the research and getting things right. You can talk about a piazza in a town, based on travel book description, but to be there, to feel it, experience it, helps you see how your action is taking place--and what just wouldn't work. I went with my husband to Rome-Tuscany-Venice a couple of years ago, back to Venice with my eldest daughter for 10 days 6 months after that--which was MARVELOUS mother/daughter time as well as writing time--and then back to Rome-Tuscany-Venice-Provence, France last spring. I'll never write another book without going there. But I know when you're first starting out, the budget is hard to swing. I wrote about Norway and the Caribbean without having gone! It IS possible.

Margie: Thank you so much, Lisa! We appreciate your time and the opportunity to spotlight your work.

Margie’s comments on this series:

I love historical novels with a touch of mystery and intrigue. And Lisa Bergren’s latest series delivered a very satisfying read. The Begotten is set in Italy, 1339. Besides giving a great view of the Middle Ages, I was pulled into the story of the rich descriptions of everyday life, the Church, and the Italian countryside. The characters are real and I identified with those of The Gifted who wanted above all to serve the Lord, even at a high cost. In the first book of the series, The Gifted are drawn to one another because of their special giftings, fulfilling an ancient prophecy. The opposition is strong and very real. The Betrayed carries the story further as The Gifted are forced into hiding by those who oppose them. Yet the group continues committed to serving God with their gifts, and much good is done as they discover more of the prophecy and their future. I highly recommend these books. The Begotten was a Christy Award finalist this year in the suspense category—an honor that is well deserved.

A reader’s guide is included in the back of each book, making these great choices for reading groups, if you are a part of one.

To learn more about this series and Lisa, visit www.LisaTawnBergren.com

Also, as president of the ACFW Denver chapter, HIS Writers, I’m pleased to announce that we’ll be hosting Lisa at our January 12 meeting at Borders in the shopping center on the northwest corner of I-25 and 104th Ave. Borders and Lisa’s publisher, Penguin, are joining forces to promote the booksigning. After the booksigning, Lisa will be speaking. If you’re in the Denver area, please plan to join us. I’ll post more specific details later.


Jan Parrish said...

I've been reading about this book lately. Sounds wonderful.

Enjoyed chatting with you last Tuesday. :)

Stop by my blog. We are celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month with prayer requests, praise reports and memorials for those who have or have had breast cancer.

Lisa Tawn Bergren said...

Thanks for posting our interview, Marjorie! What a pretty picture at the top of your blog!
Lisa T. Bergren

Margie Vawter said...

It was my privilege to promote your books, Lisa! As for the picture, my husband took it a couple of years ago. It's of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area (west of Boulder). It's a great hike!

Jan, I think you'd really like these books, now that I know a little more what you like to read :). I certainly have enjoyed learning more about the time it portrays.