How a Theologian Became a Fantasy Author With a Five Book Deal
November 5, 2019 — It didn’t occur to Gordon Saunders that his five-volume fantasy series would see the light of day after sitting on the shelf for more than thirty years.
“I had this great correspondence with Madeleine L’Engle in the early eighties about a fantasy I was writing for my college students,” he said. “She was very encouraging, but fierce in her denunciation of such non-words as ‘alright’ and ‘Yeah’. However, soon after our correspondence, I was invited to help begin a seminary in Amsterdam and our family’s twenty-five year odyssey in Europe began.”
“By then I had written the second and third novels of the series and had begun to look for an agent. I found an agent, but he wanted something else – not fantasy. In any case, the publishing orthodoxy of the day for Young Adult Fantasy (they actually called it Children’s Fantasy at the time) said that you had to have one major character and just follow him around. None of this Tolkien-esque multiple characters following multiple activity tracks business. Well, that didn’t fill the bill for my Verdura series, so I set it aside. Besides, my boss said that if I published it in America, I’d have to do the rounds of bookstores and speaking functions and so on, and he didn’t want me gone that long.”
Saunders returned to the states in 2010, though continuing to work in Europe from Colorado. But while in Europe, he had conceived the idea of a series of novels for children that would showcase the special character of the people from some of the nations in which he had worked. After attending several writing workshops, he found an editor who would help him get the first of these novels in order.
It was not to be. Sort of. What happened was that the first of these novels morphed into a novel for grown-ups about children, yes, but more about grown-ups. Then came novel two and novel three in this series and it was time to look for an agent again.
“Which proved to be a time-consuming, gut-wrenching occupation for about a year,” said Saunders. “So, with all the hype about self-publishing, I decided to put my nose into that tent. I took courses, decided how I wanted to proceed and set up a launch date for my first book. Then I thought, ‘Why not? If I’m going to launch one book, why not two?’ So I decided to launch the first Verdura book, A Light through the Cave, at the same time.”
However, as they say, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. INtense Publications found A Light through the Cave on its way to be self-published and offered Saunders a publishing contract for the complete Verdura Pentalogy.
“My wife and I did a little research and talked with the publisher, Jana Grissom, and decided we’d like to do it. Given INtense Publication’s purpose statement, it almost seems as if it was written expressly for them.”
The series differs from most other fantasy series in a variety of ways, but two, in particular, stand out. First, it’s distinctly American. The ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ have what’s called a ‘frame’ of England during WWII. That’s the place from which the children begin their adventures in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In Saunders’ book, the frame is 19th century America, starting at Mammouth Cave, Kentucky, in 1836.
Second, as part of its distinct American flavor, it includes characters from almost every ethnic group that was either resident in America before colonial times or came to America during the years in which the novels take place (ending in 1849). As an illustration, all of the characters in the fantasy world, Verdura, in the first novel, are black. This makes for a series of shocks and lessons the American characters can learn from, grow from, and take back with them to their lives in America.
A Light through the Cave was released on September 22, 2019. Order your copy at INtensePublications.com. Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-947796-12-6 Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-947796-13-3 Ebook ISBN: 978-1-947796-14-0
Author Bio: Dr. Gordon W. Saunders is a teacher, educational administrator, seminar director, and writer, with a breadth of teaching and writing experience for over forty years in dozens of countries. In addition to writing fantasy with a historical bent, he writes Young Adult history. His first YA historical novel, A Drummer in Red, is due to be published by INtense Publications in January 2020. Gordon wants young people to see the beauty of the diversity in the world around them, as well as to be able to distinguish good from evil and to recognize that on every side of any issue, though there may be bad characters here and there, there are also people of goodwill.
About INtense Publications LLC
The core of INtense Publications’ mission is to engage young readers, with a variety of diverse books that tackle difficult themes such as bullying, disability, discrimination, and family issues.
Founded in the summer of 2018 to meet the literacy needs of students and educators, INtense Publications is the passion project of author and educator Jana Grissom. Jana has spent her life trying to improve the lives of kids; as a teacher, foster parent, and the author of a YA fantasy series. As a middle school teacher, Jana realized her teen boys and minority populations needed books written for just them. She was inspired to reach out to a team of educators and pursue titles that push readers to think outside of the box. INtense Publications was formed, and they began searching for authors who were not afraid to speak using a unique voice to spread diversity and inclusion into the literary world for teens. INtense Publications believes literacy will change the world one word at a time.
INtense Publications is accepting submissions for fantasy, science fiction, self-help, plus anything and everything YA and MG, especially titles that address social issues from the perspective of characters with challenges such as disabilities, stereotypes, or bullying. Send your query to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information, please contact us at www.INtensePublications.com.
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