Interview with Gina Detwiler

With today’s teens turning to action-packed tomes of fantasy, wizardry and mythical creatures with no mention of God, Gina Detwiler has written Forlorn, Young Adult speculative fiction where teens face angel and demon battles of spiritual warfare.

Gina, which series is Forlorn part of and what number in that series? 
Forlorn is the first in what I believe will be a trilogy. I don’t have an actual name for the series, other than The Forlorn Series, which sounds a little depressing. The second book, Forsaken, will be released in September by Vinspire Publishing. The third, Forgiven, is still in the works, as they say. I think it will end there, but who knows? It might not.

The main characters in Forlorn attend a performing arts school in today’s world of small town America. Why use a school shooting as the catalyst into a speculative world? 
Sandy Hook. That’s the short answer. I had been researching the demonic realm for some time when the Sandy Hook (Newtown) shooting occurred. That horrific event seemed wholly demonic to me. When a school shooting happens, everyone is looking for a cause, either psychological or physiological. But the spiritual aspects are ignored. I believe there is a very strong spiritual component to the evil things that happen in this world, especially when it involves the young.

Based on a blogpost on why you love Norway, can you confirm your speculative world is based on that northern country, and if so, why you chose it? 
Haha—that post was a bit tongue in cheek. I had seen the “Attacking Vikings” on the Olympics and thought that was hilarious. But a lot of Forlorn takes place in Norway, so I did quite a bit of research on the history and the geography. Last fall I was in Iceland, which has a similar landscape—there’s no denying the mystical qualities of the Arctic North, as well as the beauty of the Aurora Borealis. Norway just seems like a very cool place. I put the Abyss there because that’s where my research led me.

Are Vikings part of your heritage? 
Nope! I’m Italian through and through!

Can you put a time period on the setting of your speculative world? 
Forlorn takes place in the real world, present day. I was interested to explore how the “heavenly” realm interacts with our world and in the lives of people. In the book, Jared is a Nephilim, a race of giants that actually lived on earth, according to the Book of Genesis. They survived the flood and their descendants are mentioned as some of the tribes that Joshua had to defeat in order to take over the Promised Land.

There’s a lot of debate about Nephilim—if they really came from angels breeding with humans, for instance. Some scholars disagree, but this is the most common and the most logical explanation, I believe. Much of the information on the Nephilim comes from the Book of Enoch, which is not included in the standard biblical canon, but is referenced by Peter and by Jude (as well as Genesis). Fragments of Enoch were also found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is accepted, for instance, that the Watchers, the fallen angels, are being held captive in a place called the Abyss. Jesus referred to this as the “eternal fire reserved for the devil and his angels.” 2 Peter talks about God not sparing the angels when they sinned, but “cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.”

Which comes easier to you, the writing or the world building? 
I usually start writing and then stop for awhile to research and figure out what the world looks like. So I’d say the writing is easier, but the world building is more fun.

Finding quotable lyrics is always a challenge in writing, but you didn’t have to worry due to using your daughter’s original songs. Great idea! At which stage of the process did you approach her about contributing material to Forlorn
Dominique was a freshman (at the school very similar to the one in the novel) and she loved writing songs, so I asked her if she would be interested in writing a song called “Dragons,” because at the time that’s the only one I knew I needed for the novel. I gave her the title and the basic story and she went with it. Later on I began to think it would be cool if the book had a soundtrack, like a movie. So I asked her for some more songs. We’re hoping to finish the recordings while she is in Nashville and put them on iTunes and Spotify. She’s also working on songs for the next book in the series.

With your first series written for middle grade readers, and the High violence rating on Fiction Finder for this book, how much violence can parents expect their child to absorb while reading Forlorn
It’s actually written for older teen/YA audience, not middle grade. The Prince Warriors series, which I co-wrote with Priscilla Shirer, is middle grade, though it deals with the same subject of spiritual warfare. Forlorn is for older kids. But I’ve read a lot of YA and middle grade fiction in similar genres, and I don’t think the violence in Forlorn is much stronger than that. Yes, there is a school shooting, but as my own daughter told me when she read Forlorn (she was in middle school at the time), “Mom, we know about school shootings. It’s not a new thing to us.”

Considering your target audience, how do you justify the plot of the main character, Grace, deciding to kill her boyfriend’s fallen angel father when one of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt not kill”? 
That is a good question. A more precise translation of the commandment is “Thou shalt not murder.” I hope I have set up the story so the reader understands that the determination to kill Azazel is actually an act of self-defense. Azazel is out to destroy Jared. Also, Azazel is not human. He’s a demon. That being said, I would understand if readers felt Grace and Jared were not completely justified in their plan. From their point of view, however, the act is completely justified. There will be more on that subject in Book 2.

Have you discussed Forlorn with Young Adults in schools, book clubs or youth groups, and if not, are you open to the idea? 
I would like to. I’m starting to reach out to those groups now. Some of the questions you asked are the ones I hope teens would ask and talk about.

Any parting words? 
I want to thank ACFW for the opportunity to talk about Forlorn and its subject matter, spiritual warfare. There is such a battle going on for the hearts and souls of teens, and the media is one of Satan’s most effective tools. Teens are undeniably attracted to the dark side. In order to talk about the issues that teens face, I feel I have to “go there” in my books, which is not a place any of us like to go. Not to glorify the darkness, but to expose it to the light.

Teens today, by and large, believe that God is either malevolent or irrelevant, and that religion is just plain boring. They steer clear of Christian fiction, because it seems sanitized and unrealistic. We live in a dark world. Just as Jesus went to dark places to reach those who needed Him the most, so must we, as writers who are also Christians, approach those taboo subjects head on. There is no victory without a fight.

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Anita Mae Draper’s historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yields fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Anita’s short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild’s 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita’s Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience. Discover more at www.anitamaedraper.com andwww.pinterest.com/anitamaedraper/

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