Author of The Deliverance Trilogy
When I got the chance to interview a writer in the Christian fiction genre, I jumped at the opportunity! For one thing, I can imagine that choosing to write in this genre is not the most popular—or easy—choice. It opens you up to criticism, ridicule, and, I’d think (though I could be wrong) a tougher time selling books since it’s a niche beyond a niche. For example, if a writer falls into the genre of Christian fantasy, then he is working in a “fantasy” fiction niche, as well as a “Christian” niche.
I spoke with H.L. Walsh to learn what types of things he’s experienced as a Christian author, how he handles criticism and negative reviews, and what he’s working on now. However, I also learned a lot of helpful information about writing tools and resources, a YouTube channel he has for writing/studying ambiance, and the dyslexia he overcame to become a novelist.
I hope you’ll enjoy this interview as much as I have, and that you’ll take some time to check out H.L. Walsh at the links below.
L.A. Can you introduce yourself to my subscribers, tell them a little about yourself, where you’re from, how long you’ve been writing?
H.L. Sure, My Name is H. L. Walsh and I’m originally from Vilonia, AR, A small town in Arkansas in the US. My wife and I got married in 2019 and went on the road shortly after that. My wife was a travel nurse, so we lived out of an RV and moved every 3-6 months. We got to see many states including Washington State, Florida, and a lot in-between. In 2020 we decided to stay put in Kansas City because of the pandemic. And only one year later we had our daughter which solidified our decision to put down roots. When I’m not writing I enjoy a myriad of different hobbies including hobby carpentry, hiking with my family, and playing video games with my wife (and my daughter, although she hasn’t fully gotten the concept yet). I’ve been writing for almost 15 years now, starting when I was in high school with a terribly written Red Dawn type plot that won’t see the light of day without a full overhaul.
I stopped writing when I entered college mostly because I didn’t have time between a full-time job and being a full-time student. If I’m honest with myself I believed I wouldn’t ever be a good writer at that point because of my Dyslexia, however, I still enjoyed the act of writing and coming up with plots for stories. My first college English professor worked with me on several of my papers and the time he spent with me really encouraged me to try again. In 2015 shortly after I graduated, From Men and Angels was born in my head and I never looked back.
L.A. Can you talk about why you chose to write in the Christian fiction genre, knowing that doing so would limit your income, as well as possibly open you up to criticism for discussing God, the church, and spirituality?
H.L. Hmm, it’s a little hard to say why I chose Christian fiction first. I guess it was mostly because it was the story that wouldn’t stop bugging me and writing itself in my head. It practically begged me to get it down on (digital) paper. I knew it was a popular genre but growing up I had read many Christian authors and wanted to be counted among them. I have received and continue to receive strongly worded messages on several of my social media platforms. At first, I was afraid I had inadvertently done something to offend these people and took their messages seriously. After the third person who I replied to admitted they hadn’t even read my book I stopped paying any attention to these, and kept moving. This only got worse when my first book hit the best sellers list on Amazon for Christian Fantasy. In my opinion, it seems like people just hate to see someone (not necessarily Christian) succeeding in their dreams and goals. On the other side I’ve had many people encouraging me to keep going. People who I don’t even know wanting the next book and the next. So, I focus on those people and write for them.
L.A. When did you first realize you might be a writer?
H.L. Being an author has been my dream from a very young age but, as I said previously, I didn’t think I would ever achieve that goal because of my disability. Even when I started writing From Men and Angels, I was mostly writing it for me. It wasn’t until I completed my first draft, I really thought I would achieve my dream. My advice here is even if you are just writing to get the story out of your head keep going, and who knows maybe God will carry it farther than you could ever imagine.
L.A. Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
H.L. There are several different places where I get ideas, but for my first trilogy (which was originally only supposed to be one book when I started writing it) the idea came from a sermon I was listening to in my home church. My pastor said “If the spiritual battle that rages around us every day were a physical battle, you wouldn’t hesitate to put on your armor before leaving your house every morning. And that got me thinking. What would our world be like if it really was a physical battle? If angels and demons were physical titans fighting in our world. I thought of how that would change our history and culture. I imagined a world set back in an older time where men chose a side and fought for good or evil. From there I filled in everything else about the world.
Another consistent source of ideas are my dreams. I have quite vivid dreams, although they don’t always make complete sense, and I’m able to take pieces of them and incorporate them into my current books or into ideas for new stories. In book one there are two scenes pulled directly from dreams I’ve had. The opening scene, and a scene where Malach, one of my main characters, has a dream of his own.
L.A. Can you talk a little about your writing process?
H.L. Hmmm, my writing process is a little chaotic. I don’t really have a set time or place to write although I do try to write every day. I generally try to find a place with less distractions and try to get my mind in the right place to write. Much of book 2 was written on a dock in Gig Harbor, Washington, or on one beach or another in Florida. Book 3 has mostly been written in my little home office. But there have been many other places I’ve been struck by inspiration. A lot of the time since my daughter was born, I take audio recordings while I’m driving and write them down once I get time again.
As far as how long it takes me to write a book, it depends. My first book took me four years from the idea to publishing. My second took me about a year and a half and my third is looking like it will be at least two years, but we will find out. I imagine the first books of each new world will take me longer since I will have to build the whole world from scratch.
L.A. Do you write with music, or do you need it quiet while you work?
H.L. Most of the time I have music going. I tend to match the music I’m listening to, to the scene I’m writing. I’ve listened to a lot of medieval or fantasy music. However, for the first three months after my daughter was born the only thing that would put her to sleep were the sea shanties I was listening to for some of the scene’s in Book 3. I’m sure our neighbors judged me hardcore on the type of music I was playing for my daughter at one in the morning but, hey, whatever works right?
I also host a YouTube Channel with ambiance sounds for studying, writing, and sleeping. Ambiance6734 if you want to look it up.
L.A. Do you outline your stories before you begin writing them?
H.L. I do. I don’t do a detailed outline however just a very high level one. I generally give myself bullet points of the major event in the story but leave everything in-between them open to allow the story to lead me where it wants to go. Most of the time my initial outline looks nothing like the end product. Even between the first and second draft sooooo many things change. So, I don’t set almost anything in stone but give myself a vague road map to keep my on the correct path.
L.A. What writing books have you found to be helpful when it comes to story development, characters, dialogue, syntax, and even how to get published?
H.L. Wow there have been so many along the way. One I wish I knew about when I was first starting was ProWritingAid. They put on so many free conferences for different genres and I found then just last year for their Fantasy Writers week. There was a lot of information in there for new writers and experienced writers alike. They also have a program to help teach you how to spot problems in your writing, although you do have to pay for that.
A YouTube channel called Hello Future Me has a lot of good information on world building, magic systems, how to create believable heroes and believable enemies.
L.A. Do you have any creative control over your book titles and cover? Can you talk about the design stage of publication?
H.L. As a self-published author, I have all my creative control. I bounce my idea and cover design decisions off my wife and a couple of trusted friends, but I do have the final say. The design stage of the publication is something I don’t have a lot of skill to do on my own. I’m not a good artist at all. I very much hire that out to someone. My first book, I bought a pre-made cover that matched one of my scenes to a “T” but for my second cover I hired an artist to create it. For my maps however (because every good fantasy read needs a map) I hired out the main world map but since then have learned to create my own in a program called Wonderdraft. It has a good base of symbols and plenty of expansion packs for anything else you need.
L.A. What is the one thing that surprised you in the publishing process?
H.L. How expensive it was. I had no idea going into it how much money you could sink into this process. That being said there are definitely ways to do it on a budget, but you have to do a lot of shopping around and research to find the best prices.
L.A. What is the biggest challenge when it comes to being a Christian author? Also, do you think you would ever write a secular novel?
H.L. Hmmm I think the biggest challenge for any author is marketing and getting consistent readers but for Christian authors specifically, I found I’ve had quite a bit of backlash from different groups (or at least people who say they are of those groups) I was really worried at first that I had unwittingly said something racist, sexist, etc. but as I corresponded with some of these people, most finally admitted they hadn’t even picked up my book, much less knew anything about it or me. They only saw my picture and that I was a Christian author and projected onto me. I still get messages sometimes from people who perceive me as something and just lash out, but I do my best to ignore them. It seems to happen the most right after a success of mine; a new book release, hitting the best seller list on amazon for Christian fiction, or an award win. I don’t expect it to slow down but I don’t let it get to me anymore. I’m very surprised none of them have left a review on my book so far. Only personal messages through social media.
As far as a secular novel, I have many ideas for novels that have nothing to do with any religion. I do plan to write some of those in the future. I like how Tim Hawkins (a well-known comedian) put it. He stated that he was a comedian who was a Christian, but he wasn’t necessarily a Christian Comedian. Meaning he held Christian values but didn’t always tell jokes that were Christian. So, I like to say that I’m an author who is a Christian, not necessarily a Christian author. Even in my first few books that are based in religion I tried to walk to the line of not being preachy.
L.A. Who are your favorite authors? (This can include who inspired you in the early days, all the way up to what you’re currently reading).
H.L. Wow, that’s a hard one. Growing up I read Christopher Paolini, C. S Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien, and obviously, enjoyed them. Recently I’ve been enjoying R. A. Salvator, and Brandon Sanderson for the big names. Also, I have enjoyed many books written by my friends and fellow authors. “The Weeks Saga” by Jasyn Turley, the Ronald Novak Series by Cole Fox, and The Shotgun House by Michael Gajeski. I would recommend any of these authors and have enjoyed them all.
L.A. What are you currently working on? (Anything you want to promote from upcoming talks to a book you want to get more eyes on).
H.L. What am I not working on? Lol. First, I’m working on my final book in the Deliverance Trilogy. Second, we are working on the audio version of From Men and Angels. I’m also working (mostly mentally) on the next book which will be an urban fantasy with alternate dimensions. Then I am working on a Sci-Fi novel with an author who for this, will be her debut novel. Oh, and I just launched my merch store so you can go to me website (hlwalshbook.com) and check that out!
L.A. Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your work?
H.L. If you guys enjoy my books you should check out my website. You will find maps of a few of the cities in the Deliverance Trilogy so you will better be able to see what I see in my mind’s eye when I’m writing. Many times, I create the map before writing the scenes so that I have a better picture of where the characters are and where they are going.
For anyone interested in how to get on the Amazon best sellers list H.L. explains it here…
What gets you on the amazon bestseller list is making enough sales within a certain time period to bring up your ranking to #100 or better for a certain category. (I believe that time period is 12 hours but I’m not sure about that.) On Feb 17th-19th I was up to #89 in Christian Fantasy during that time and then #74 on Christian fantasy on Feb 25th. A lot of authors tend to set their digital books to free for a week to hit the bestselling list, but for me a sale worked just fine.
Thank you to H.L. Walsh for opening my eyes to a whole new genre of fiction! I was able to learn a lot about writing tools he recommends, as well as find inspiration from the physical odds he’s overcome.