Get to know us a little better—as authors and as individuals—through this Q & A!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Cassandra: I don’t remember the very first, but I vividly recall a story I wrote one summer during my middle school years. It involved a group of friends and a discovered twin, who was kept as a servant in a sprawling mansion set deep within the woods.
Chris: As early as elementary school (perhaps around second grade), I loved to write stories. The first one I can remember was called Wilbur and the Magic Pen, which featured a very large, anthropomorphic mouse named Wilbur, the hero (Chris), and his magic pen, which enabled him to draw new characters and bring them to life.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Cassandra: It really came down to the fact that we wanted to control and direct each step of the writing, editing, publishing, and marketing process. We desired to make both the creative and practical decisions, from the cover design to the publication date. Our family comes first and we needed to ensure we could pace our writing to prioritize our family’s needs.
Chris: I’ll just add that from what I understand, traditional publishers of fiction typically need the author(s) to do most of the marketing and other activities surrounding the launch and sale of the book, so we didn’t want to forfeit full-control of the process (as Cassandra said) while putting in much of the same effort. That said, we are still open to our books being picked up by a traditional publisher at some point in the future.
What is the story behind your book?
Cassandra: The small seeds of our novel were planted in 2009, a few weeks before Chris and I were married. I was driving alone in my car, a song by U2 playing (“The Saints are Coming”). I had just finished writing my thesis for school, the topic of which was evil. In my mind, I began pondering the question: what would happen if the forces of evil became much more powerful, direct, and offensive in their attack? Would the forces of good correspondingly act in a more noticeable way in our lives? The concept of this warfare between good and evil struck my imagination.
Chris: To Cassandra’s idea I added the outer conflict involving a new political party called the National Citizens Party. Many corrupt and extreme regimes involve too much governmental control, so I wondered: what would it be like to depict a government promoting extreme autonomy and individual freedom? In a word, I added the “dystopia” to the fiction.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Cassandra: I find a two-fold joy in my writing. First, I cherish the ability to enter another world, to walk around in another character’s shoes, and to witness characters act as they do—not necessarily because I write them to do so, but because who they are necessitates those actions. Second, I experience incredible joy whenever someone else reads our novel and experiences pleasure or benefit in doing so. It is a gift to have produced something that brings another person joy.
Chris: I find writing very relaxing and fun. It’s wonderful to create stories that I myself enjoy and I hope others will too. Our novels have a message as well, which I enjoy conveying through the art and medium of fiction.
What do your fans mean to you?
Cassandra: I am humbled whenever someone shares their enthusiasm for our novel. I am profoundly grateful to those who open its cover and take a chance on these debut authors! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!
Chris: I am so grateful to those who enjoy this world we have built, who find meaning and excitement in the stories we are weaving, and who want to find out more as to where it all leads and why. Thank you so much for reading!
What are you working on next?
Cassandra and Chris: Marketing In the Shadows of Freedom has consumed much of our time in the recent weeks, but in the background, we have steadily been working on the next book in the trilogy. We have a full manuscript complete, which has gone through developmental editing. Now we need to do some further editing on that. We also have been outlining the third and final book in the series. We know where the story is heading and we are excited to share it with you!
Who are your top five favorite authors?
Cassandra: Graham Greene, Leo Tolstoy, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, and C.S. Lewis
Chris: J.R.R. Tolkien, William Shakespeare, Plato, Dante, and C.S. Lewis
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Cassandra: Each day is a gift, one to which I am not entitled. Each morning that I open my eyes, my lungs breathing air and my heart beating, I am grateful for a new day: a new beginning to love more sacrificially, to serve more generously, and to find joy no matter how the day unfolds.
Chris: I agree with Cassandra’s sentiment that life is a gift. There are so many experiences to pursue, so much good to do, and so many people to love and serve that time is short for it all. Tempus fugit!
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Cassandra: The vast bulk of my time is dedicated to my vocation as wife and mother. Aside from that, I am a passionate clogger and also enjoy working in my flower garden!
Chris: Like Cassandra, when I’m not working (as a marketer for a cybersecurity training company), I’m spending time with the family and helping at home. I also enjoy playing guitar and recording quick covers of songs I like. With the little time left over, I enjoy reading and baseball.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
- The End of the Affair by Graham Greene: I love the raw veracity and power in his diction. The mixture of base human emotions and actions (hate, jealousy, adultery) and the break-through of grace amidst the muck of sin is riveting.
- The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis: The advice from a senior devil to a novice devil is eerily effective and noticeably present when reflecting back at my life. Though fiction, it’s a powerful look at the enemy’s gameplan.
- The Hobbit by J.RR. Tolkien: I read this with my children and we loved the episodic adventures on the quest to reclaim the dwarves’ treasure from Smaug, the dragon. But who is the real enemy?
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: It is hard for me to pick one Austen novel, but the strength of Elinor’s character (who I would argue is sensibility, governed and guided by sense) is most compelling and admirable to me.
- Ten Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart: This is a book to which I always come back. It’s a mix of Jane Eyre and Cinderella: romance, mystery, and suspense set within a beautiful chateau in France.
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: This is my favorite book (and I say, “book” because Tolkien indeed intended it to be published as one book) because of the sheer, ambitious grandeur of the story, the enduring characters, the languages he created just for the story, and the deep-seated meaning and lessons contained within, without it becoming a mere allegory or didactic piece.
- The Republic by Plato: So much wisdom, as opposed to the dishonest sophistry of his age (and today) is contained in this work. Written as a dialogue with Socrates as the primary interlocutor, so much of Western civilization is contained between the covers of this work.
- The Divine Comedy by Dante: A masterful and classic journey through hell, to purgatory, and arriving in heaven (or paradise), this is a difficult yet fruitful read that I highly recommend!
- Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare: A story with which I’m sure almost everyone is familiar, this play’s enduring quality and meaning never fail to disappoint.
- The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis: The least-known work on this list, this novel is the imaginative and fictionalized depiction of a bus ride from hell to heaven. The title refers to the “great divorce” or divide between heaven and hell. Entertaining and piercing at the same time.
What is your writing process?
Cassandra: I like having a general idea of where I am going with a scene before I begin writing, but I also stay open to inspiration. When I finish a whole chapter, I’ll reread it and edit. Then I share it with Chris for him to review and edit.
Chris: We’ll often talk about the characters, the plot, and where things are headed both in the inner and outer conflicts. From there, when I’m writing a chapter, I work from a general outline, but let the characters and plot take themselves where they lead. As Cassandra mentioned in her last blog post, “How Do You Co-Author a Novel?”, we spend quite a lot of time editing each other’s work and discussing details before the final product is ready.