Eric Wiggin has been a pastor, teacher, and journalist. He has written for magazines and newspapers as well as written novels for youngsters. His newest novel, Blood Moon Rising, is an espionage thriller for adults. Christianbook.com spoke with Mr. Wiggin recently about his writing.

You've had quite a few professions over the years.  How did you go from being a pastor and teacher to writing fiction?
I've always loved to write.  I believe the Lord called me and gifted me uniquely to teach--a Biblical gift.  Pastoring and teaching, as I read Ephesians 4:11 are a single spiritual gift.  I began as a pastor, 1965-1968.  Needing extra income, I worked for a while as a part-time Fuller Brush salesman, then found a job teaching English, which overlapped my last year as a pastor.  From there I taught in public schools, 1967-1973; in a Christian school, 1973-74; and in two Christian colleges, 1974-1979.  Since 1984 I have also worked part-time as a substitute teacher here in Michigan.

One day about 25 years ago it occurred to me that I was teaching college students to write (some of them could write rather well), but I had never been published, except in in-house organs.  I began writing for 4, 5, and 6th grade children--Sunday school take-home papers, and sold right away.

From there I went to writing for magazines like Moody, Christianity Today, Christian Herald, as well as daily and weekly newspapers.
We were living in Maine in 1979 when Glen Cove Bible College, where I taught, folded.  I hit every daily newspaper in the state, and many weeklies, with job interviews and writing samples.  I soon found myself a stringer for several papers, as well as a regular writer for The Maine Paper .  This led to editing The Christian Civic League Record, a tabloid published in Waterville, Maine. Meanwhile, I began work on several book projects.  None of them sold. An editor at Zondervan told me that a romance I submitted to her was "Better than anything we've published so far, but not good enough for the future."  I was mad and encouraged at the same time.

We returned to Michigan in 1984 to move closer to the Midwestern Christian publishing houses, and to be near Dot's elderly mother. 

I rewrote Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and New Chronicles of Rebeccaboth in the public domain--and added a sequel.  I got offers at once. Wolgemuth & Hyatt published them.  Evangel has these titles now, and CBD still sells them.

From there, I went to Harvest House with three juvenile titles, and an adult title.  Harvest killed all their juvenile writers in one swoop, saying they didn't know how to market it.

You've written both children's and adult fiction.  Which do you prefer writing?
Both are hard work.  I enjoy whichever I'm working on at the moment.  I'd really like to write books like C.S. Lewis, with an appeal from ages 8 to 88.  This can be done, and I believe I can do it.  Trouble is, finding an editor who doesn't try to fit fiction, which happens to have children as characters, into a "juvenile" slot.  I've started a book titled The Last Teenager.  It's adult fiction in the same sense that Stephen King's recent book, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is adult--with a young protagonist.   It comes back rejected, sometimes with notes saying it's not suitable for teens.  Don't editors ever read cover letters?  More to the point, don't they ever read manuscripts?

Do you have any plans for other adult novels?
I'm currently working on a sequel to Blood Moon Rising. I'd also like to finish The Last Teenager, as well as a sequel series to The Hills of God (Harvest/Thorndike).

Now, addressing Blood Moon Rising in particular, tell me about the inspiration for this story.  I read that your children encouraged you to write something for the guys.  Was this the real prompting of an espionage thriller?
The espionage part came about as a real incident in a military hardware plant in Texas where my brother once worked as a CIA agent in charge of security. Both the government and the plant managed to keep this episode from the press.

My three sons, ages 23, 30, and 32 are voracious readers--Tom Clancy, Stephen King, John Grisham, as well as Jerry Jenkins and Frank Peretti. They have told me repeatedly that they can find little in Christian bookstores with appeal for young men.  I've had a number of bookstore managers tell me the same thing.  Does this mean that men don't read?  Nonsense!  Suppose the fact that most bread is sold to women is taken to mean that men don't eat?  So I tackled the job, and Blood Moon Rising is the result.

What are the challenges of writing for guys?
Actually, I'm a guy.  It was rather like having spent several years trying to think like a girl (not all bad!) then suddenly finding yourself on your own territory again.  I did make Nicki, the lead female protagonist, more or less a Spider woman, trying to appeal to girls and women who might want a character who was not a femme fatale.  In writing for guys, I had to manipulate things and events; with women it's more relationships and people.

I am interested in the way you develop characters as evangelicals in a world of murder and deception.  Could you say more about what it means to be a Christian in this kind of situation?
First, there are no alabaster saints in the Bible.  God saw to it that we would read about real sinners--David, Moses--as we read the Bible.  Besides Jesus, the only major person in the Bible with no recorded sin is Joseph, and I strongly suspect that he was a spoiled brat.  So I let my characters sin, but nowhere does Blood Moon Rising glorify sin.  The Bible must always be our moral and spiritual standard for Christian literature.

Nicki proved a problem for a couple of editors who read and rejected the manuscript.  She committed murder (so did David and Moses); and she compromised her standards, though she kept her virginity intact.  I also implied that Chuck struggled with lustful thoughts about Nicki in the hotel room in Agua Preita, Mexico.  But nowhere is my writing lurid or lusty.  I feel that sin should shock, or at least cause one to ponder right and wrong.  Further, most of the "bad" things that Nicki does, happen before she becomes a Christian.

Tell me about the two years Chuck and Nicki spent in Vietnam.  Why did you write extensively about this experience?
I wanted my readers to see Chuck and Nicki functioning as a family, primarily.  Too much fiction (Christian and secular) romanticizes the single life.  Incidentally, missionary Larry Golin is a real person.  I used his name with his permission, and he read and approved the copy before I submitted it to the publisher.

What kind of travel and experience went into writing this book?  What type of license did you take?
I drew on travel experiences over the past 15 years, largely in Christian ministries.  For instance, I went to Africa with a relief agency as a writer (articles about my experience appeared in several Christian magazines as well as secular newspapers).  Nairobi in Blood Moon Rising is the Nairobi that I remember.  Ditto for Agua Prieta, Mexico and Arizona.  Never having visited New Mexico, I simply relied on maps, National Geographic, and my knowledge of (old) Mexico and Arizona. In places like Israel and Iraq, where I've not been privileged to visit, I focused largely on events and situations, rather than local scenery. Several of the American and Canadian places I do know very well, having lived in North Carolina, Maine, Indiana, etc.

I was fortunate to have my friend Jim Franks as a resource for Vietnam. Jim worked with Dr. Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision.  He was in Saigon during the evacuation.  A recent travelogue brought me up to date.

"License" is a dangerous concept when using real places; a writer who does this will get shot down every time.  One critic said that I had the US Armed Forces testing atomic weapons near a public highway in New Mexico.  I don't; and perusal of a good road map will prove that!  So, if you must write about places where you've never been, let someone who's been there read the manuscript.

Why do you think Christian fiction is an important category of literature?
This is the 21st Century.  Many people read little but fiction.  So my job is to tell the Good News in fictional form--and make it entertaining, as well.  Jesus did this with His parables.

Tell me about the grandparenting book that you've written. It's due out soon isn't it?
The Heart of a Grandparent was first published by Harold Shaw in 1993--and distributed by Christian Book Distributors.  Focus on the Family assigned me to rewrite it for their constituency.  I now have 10 grandchildren, so I can write with experience.  I have updated it with statistics that fit the past decade.  It is written largely from an anecdotal point of view, to make it palatable to readers.  Not a "How to do it" book, in the usual sense.  Dr. Gary Chapman is writing a foreword.

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