Wednesday, 5 May 2010

RBC Book Club Interview with Chris Fabry

My book club was once again spoiled by an author's generosity ~ this time Chris Fabry graciously answered our many and varied questions about his compelling novel, June Bug, as well as those of a more personal nature regarding his family and ongoing battle from their mold exposure heartache.

Chris impressed us greatly with his exceptional writing talent and his pos
itive outlook despite the physical and financial consequences of their mold exposure. For more on the Fabry story, click here.


June Bug is a poignant and thought provoking story about 9 year old June Bug and the fall out from her discovering that the man she calls Dad has been living a lie.

I hope you enjoy our Q&A with Chris :)

**If you haven't read June Bug there are spoilers below**

RBC:~ I must say I am one for happy endings and would have loved having them all settling down together in Dogwood a
s one happy family. Did you ever consider such an ending or was the inference that the sheriff being a nice guy and realizing Johnson had acted with best intentions suggested him leaving town so as he wouldn't have to arrest him for kidnap.

CHRIS:~ This was both a legal decision and a decision of the heart for Johnson. Johnson knew if he stuck around that Natalie wouldn't be able to be Natalie. He had to leave her. It was a gift to leave her, though his heart was breaking. Some don't understand that choice.

I was intrigued by the idea of RV's using Walmart as a caravan park and was wondering if this really happens. I have this vision of a car park full of people making the most of a free site, deck chairs out, sitting around the barbie having dinner. I just can't imagine our major supermarkets allowing people to park their caravans overnight.

I don't think they allow a barbecue, but the overnight parking is a company policy and has been for years.

I enjoyed t
he character of June Bug. A girl matured before her time. What did you draw from most to try and speak through a child's eyes/experience ... your own childhood or that of your children?

Both. I spent a lot of time alone as a child, which prepared me for the life of a novelist. But I saw June Bug as this little social creature, like my own girls, who was starved for that inter
action. That's why she's so loquacious with strangers.

John feels that his life was 'redeemed' somewhat by June Bug. God uses everything to turn things into good. Even tragedy. What in your life has taught you this at any time?

Wow, about a million things. The most recent is the mold situation. We're making tough decisions about our home in Colorado now that sits with all of our worldly possessi
ons. At some point, the things of earth will either hold on to you or you will let go of them. I wouldn't wish this experience on anyone, but I wouldn't trade the lessons either.

In my mind, a child's abduction would be my worst nightmare. Not knowing what harm has been/is being done to them. Did it help you write the story by creating a 'good man' into the character of John? Did you consider an alternative, less well-meaning fellow?

Yes, but I quickly abandoned that idea because I couldn't bear seeing any harm come to June Bug. I did, however, want the reader to ask the question early on, “Who is this guy and what is he doing with this little girl?”

Did you struggle with the end? I felt for June Bug and John's separation. The only father/family she has known. Does anything replace that? In a similar situation, what would you want to see happen?

I didn't str
uggle with the decision he had to make. I struggled writing it well. When we left our home and the toxicologist reviewed the levels, he said, “Treat this like a fire. Don't take anything with you.” We asked about our two dogs and the man groaned. In the end, I had to do the hard thing and have them euthanized. It was something I knew I had to do but I struggled greatly in that process. I think you see John doing the same thing, knowing what he must do and finally walking through it. That's one reason why, subconsciously, John allows Natalie to go home with his dad--at the place where she walks to her grandmother's. He's letting her go, but he's letting it be on her terms.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing June Bug?

Getting it done while we abandoned our home of 8 years. I was writing in a chemical splash suit in an office that was frigid. Then, editing in a little camper outside of our house. There's a lot of hidden pain in that book and irony.

Who is your favourite character in June Bug and why?

Obviously, June Bug and John are close to my heart. I think the Sheriff is special. He shows up
, along with Natalie in my next book, Almost Heaven.

I understa
nd that John needed to let June Bug get to know her grandparents and life in one place with all the trimmings, but may I ask why the story ends with June wondering when she will see her "dad" again? I figured they would always be a part of each others' life.

It's what a girl would ponder, I think. She's lost so much she wonders if this, too, will be taken.

I would
be interested to know how you have gathered the idea for a child kidnapping to be an extension of Romans 8.28. It is a challenging concept yet very believable in this situation and I would appreciate if you can share some of the journey or processes that started this story idea.

I was going into a Walmart one night and there was a dilapidated RV parked in the back of the lot and I thought, “I wonder who's in there?” Then I walked past the missing children board and stared at it. When I came out I had the story idea,
but I didn't know where it would go. It's funny, my editor from Chicago was in town for a meeting and she and her husband took us to dinner. I told her I had an idea for the next book. “A little girl lives with her dad in an RV and they park in Walmart parking lots. One day she walks into the store, looks at the missing children poster, and sees herself.” That's all I said. She started smiling and wiping away a tear. She had the story, too, because everyone wants to know what happens to her. Why is she there? Who is she? This is our central question and when we find our rest in Him, we see 8:28 working.

Could you explain a bit about the missing child posters program in the US - and its success rate.

I don't know specifics on that, but one missing child found is success. I'm sure it's much greater than that.

As a guy - how did you manage to so successfully portray the emotions, outlook et
c of a young girl?

I don't get hung up with gender and trying to sound like someone I'm not. I just put myself in her shoes. I'm sure I didn't get everything right, but the fact that she had been travelling with a man for so long, had no friends, not much contact with other kids her age other than observation, helped.

Mae and L
eason have found their granddaughter Natalie… is there any reason you left so many other characters with no particular conclusion?

Yes, that is life. Everything is not tied into a neat bow. This is Romans 8:28. Though Mae and Leason have found her, there is more heartbreak ahead. We never get to the point in life, I don't think, where we can coast. I don't like to tie up every loose end of stories. Is it a satisfying conclusion? Yes, in my mind. Does it answer every question? No. You have to decide. What happened to Scout Finch after the end of To Kill a Mockingbird? Did Jem's arm heal? What happened in town? Were there more reprisals against Atticus? Did he ever remarry? This is where the story ends.

So much of the book is written through the eyes of a nine year old girl… is there someone who has been your inspiration for that character, one of your own children maybe?

Yes, Kaitlyn was 9 or 10 at the time. She's very bright and perceptive, ver
y talkative, boisterous, but she can brood. Plus, she has 4 older sisters I used as fodder as well. :)

There ar
e so many characters and their personal choices and relationships in this story - did you have a primary message you wanted to get across to your readers?

I don't do primary messages. I let the themes come from the story. Having said that, “Who am I?” was one question that had to be asked. I'd rather leave that to you.

How did you decide to base her story and life with John on the principles found in Les Mis?

I just loved that novel and the depth of it. I wanted to take just a slice from it and paint it in a Walmart parking lot. It wasn't retelling as much as it was a nod to Victor Hugo.

I've always been curious as to the reason behind the switch from young adult and kids fiction to adult fiction?

I haven't switched, I still love to write children's fiction, I have always wanted to write a story that I wanted to read and that adults would enjoy. There are subjects and themes here that I can't tackle in a children's book to this depth.

When I read June Bug the first time I was struck at how you got inside the head of a little girl in such a genuine way. How did you bridge the gap from being an adult man to understanding and communicating the psyche of a little girl?

I don't know. If you think I've done it well, I accept that as a compliment. But I don't approach the page thinking, “I have to be 9 now.” The character leads me and music leads me.

How has your understanding of justice, mercy and integrity changed as you wrote 'June Bug'?

It deepened the concept for me and I had to wrestle with it like John did. That's another novel, though, if i were to answer. :)

If June Bug was made into a movie, any thoughts on who you would cast in the pivotal roles?

It's actually being optioned by a producer in Hollywood. I haven't seen the final contract yet. Natalie will probably be someone who isn't even born, know
ing how long it takes to make movies. I don't know about John. I love Tom Hanks, but I think anyone with any acting chops could take that role and make it sing.

Rel: Sorry Chris, the book club declined on Tom and thought Matt Damon would be a better fit for John!! And we would be in the front row for any movie made! And so we are clear...because of the brilliant story, not just Matt ;-)

Can you tell us about 'Almost Heaven'? Maybe I can pester Rel into letting me review th
at one for her too?!?

Billy Allm
an is the main character. He is a loner, a hillbilly genius, in a way, who has been through such heartache and tragedy. He has a dream to build a radio station and present gospel music to the people of Dogwood. He has a love interest. There are roadblocks. But he meets Natalie. It's my most “Christian” novel so far, and probably my most dark novel, though June Bug was pretty dark in places. I think once you read the first chapter and what he lives through, you'll be hooked.

What does a day in the life of Chris Fabry look like, when you're
in the midst of well as having a large family and a regular job?

I get up early. I pray that the kids will sleep. J I read something from scripture and spend some time praying about concerns and praises. Then I jump into whatever is on my plate. Today I have to finish some questions about Almost Heaven and have a meeting about my upcoming novel. I do my radio show in the afternoon and every day at 5 I'm in front of the house as all-time quarterback for Colin and Brandon, 10 and 8.
What is your favourite time of the day to get writing done? Early morning.

What process and who decides on the names given to your books?

I come up with the initial titles and then the publisher gets involved. All of my adult novels have been titled my original title.

How do you settle on character names?

Names come to me like children. I knew “will” was a word I would use for our main male character in Dogwood because it was his will and love that drew him back to Dogwood. Other names don't have such meaning. Last names are more tricky. Spurlock was my mother's maiden name. I tried to use names that were common to the area. June Bug was a special name that came to me in a writing conference and I realized after
planning the story that it was her name and the title.

What is the most rewarding aspect of writing for you?

Having readers connect with stories and characters, see themselves, and say they grow.

Being a mother of 5, I would love to know your thoughts on having a large family and if you receive any negative comments regarding it (I certainly do)?

The Fabry Family

Yes, I am sin
gle handedly warming the planet. People think we're Catholic or Mormon. I just say we're prolific Protestants. But most people appreciate seeing a large family and know there are sacrifices you make to have such a full quiver. I see children as a gift from God, not a chore or a punishment. My children are my greatest asset and gift. People are not just consumers, they are producers. The world is enhanced by people. Don't get me started.

Does your wife and/or do your children read your books?

We have 9 kids so she doesn't have a lot of time on her hands, but yes, she read June Bug and loved it. I'll ask her about different ideas--Karin is built around my wife and struggles she's had, though very loosely. Her closet was filled with quote books and journals. My kids read more of my novels for youth, though they're looking forward to the book I'm doing with Drew Brees that will be out in July.

On a personal note, I was reading your blog which mentioned 2 of your children being home schooled because of a chemical sensitivity. Is this a result of the mould spores and is it a permanent sensitivity or will it disappear when detox is completed?

Yes, it is from the mold. The immune system can be boosted, but this will likely be something the
y'll deal with the rest of their lives. And none of the children have been able to return to school yet.

I've been catching up on your blog...the 'Cactus Compound' invokes an image that doesn't mesh with 'home'! Could you explain what the 'Cactus Compound' is?

The full title is Cactus Compound and Detox Center. It's just what I came up with to describe our lives. We eat nothing but organic stuff now. No processed food. The kids can't tolerate it. I've lost 60 pounds without even trying.

Being som
eone with some dietary idiosyncrasies to deal with, I'm curious to know how your new diet is helping with the health problems from the mold exposure?

Our diet is now our main medicine. The toxins are still coming out from inside after our October, 2008 abandonment of the house. No gluten. No sugar. Green, green, green. Congee in the morning. Rice, beans, salad. Chicken, but only range fed and hymn sung. Not really about the hymns. No peanuts. No potato chips. No pizza. But oh, the food we do eat tastes so much better after giving all that up. I haven't had soda since Oct. 2008.

In what ways has your 'mold journey' impacted on your writing?

There were times when I had to stop because of the tears. I can't tell you what a deep wound the losses of the home and dogs were, and then to think of the children with lifelong maladies because of a builder's choice to cut corners. I don't know that you can write to any depth without something like that in your life. There were things before that were hurts, but nothing to that level.

Is your journey of the last couple of years every likely to end up as the topic for one of your novels?

We want to write a non-fiction book that will answer questions that we're getting from people around the country. Perhaps a novel would be a better form--or we could do both. My wife, if you've seen her blog, is a wonderful writer, so this is going to happen at some point.

Do you have a dream book you would like to write or have you already done that?

My dream book is always the one I'm working on. There are some things I really want to write but you take them one at a time.

How easy/difficult is it to weave your faith into your fiction?

I think it's the most organic thing I do. It's not difficult at all. What's difficult is getting it true-sounding. Not preachy or stiff or stilted. Christ is real. When he comes into a life, that life changes. But not always the way we think a life should change and certainly not at the speed we think.

Chris ~ on behalf of the RBC Book Club, a heartfelt thank you for
sharing with us and also the readers here at Relz Reviewz.
We wish you and your family God's peace and love :)

Relz Reviewz Extras

Tracy's reviews of June Bug & Dogwood

Visit Chris' blog

Visit Andrea Fabry's blog

Learn about the Fabry's mold story

Buy Chris' books at Amazon or Koorong


Nicole said...

Great book, great writer, great interview. Thanks.

Tracy said...

It was so rewarding to be able to ask Chris all the questions stored up in my brain, since I read June Bug last year! Thanks for once again organising the details to make it happen Rel.

Nora St. Laurent said...

JUNE BUG is a very moving and powerful book. I can't say enough about it.

I'm so glad that you group liked reading it and were about to get to know Chris and his books better.

This book is a gift to all!!


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