Randall Ingermanson is the author
of the Christy award-winning novel Transgression
(Harvest House, 2000) and co-author of the Christy award-winning
(Bethany House, 2001) and sequel The
Fifth Man (Bethany House,
2002). Here he discusses his new novel, Premonition
EBG: In your new book,
Premonition, we return to the story of Rivka and Ari that
began in the novel Transgression. Could you give a quick
recap of how it is that two modern characters happen to
be trapped in first-century Palestine?
RI: Ari was a theoretical
physicist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He cooked
up a clever scheme for creating a "wormhole",
a portal through time. Then he hooked up with an American
experimental physicist, Damien West, who had the skills
to actually build the device. But Ari didn't know that
Damien wanted to travel back in time to kill the apostle
Paul. By bad luck, Rivka got sent back in time along with
Damien, and Ari followed them because he had a crush on
Rivka. There was an accident and the wormhole was destroyed.
At the end of the story, Damien was killed and Ari worked
up his courage to propose to Rivka. But they are now trapped
permanently in first-century Jerusalem.
EBG: What are some
of the central themes and events as the story unfolds
for Rivka and Ari in Premonition?
RI: Their first problem
is that Rivka and Ari have no money, so they're depending
on the charity of friends while Ari looks for work. But
what kind of work can a physicist find in ancient Jerusalem?
Furthermore, Rivka is feeling very much out of place because
of the cultural restrictions on what a Jewish woman can
wear, what she can do, and who she can talk to. As the
story unfolds, Ari finds work doing engineering design
and Rivka works as a midwife and both of them show an
unusual talent for getting into trouble with certain Very
Important People in Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, Rivka is cursed with a photographic memory,
and she knows every bad thing that's going to happen during
this time period. Like anyone would, she wants to prevent
these disasters. But since the past really can't be changed,
she just winds up making a muddle of things. Ari is obsessed
with what he calls the Problem of Evil. It's a real problem.
God allows evil people to do evil things. But worse, God
allows good people to do evil things. And a lot of that
evil is happening to people Ari and Rivka know right now,
in the last few years before the Jewish revolt.
The story culminates with the illegal trial and execution
of James, the brother of Jesus. By coincidence, this is
the same James whose sarcophagus may have turned up in
Jerusalem last year, just after I wrote the book. I've
done my absolute best to show the life of the earliest
church--a Jewish Christian community--in first century
Jerusalem. I read Hebrew and I've been to Jerusalem and
I hang out at a Messianic Jewish synagogue in San Diego,
and I've tried to work all that into the story in a natural
EBG: I understand
that a follow-up to Premonition is planned. What is the
title and when is its expected release date?
RI: The tentative title
is Seer Woman,
and it'll be released in August of 2004. A second sequel,
Three Bullets for
Ari, will come out in August
2005. Also, I should note that Zondervan has bought the
rights to reprint Transgression,
and it will be coming out at a date still to be determined.
EBG: Any other projects
in the works that we should watch for?
RI: I am currently working
on a slightly futuristic novel about quantum computing,
to be published in the fall of 2004 with Bethany House.
EBG: You've written
a diverse range of books from nonfiction to science fiction.
Is there a "typical" Randy Ingermanson book?
RI: I write about "Life
at the intersection of Faith Avenue and Science Boulevard".
As a physicist and a Christian, I have a few things to
say about this particular section of town. There aren't
any traffic lights at the intersection, so we get lots
of accidents. I'm the guy with the flashlight and broom
trying to sweep up the broken glass and get people out
of the burning cars.
EBG: Many people see
science, and science fiction, as incompatible with Christianity.
How would you answer them?
RI: There is a line of argument
that says that modern science only became possible with
the Christian worldview. Why? Because Christians believe
in a rational, orderly God who created a universe that
could be understood. It's true that modern science has
kind of lost sight of that viewpoint, but there are still
many scientists who believe in the God of the Bible. I
don't see any unbridgeable gap between science and Christian
faith. There are some serious unresolved questions, but
I think those questions have answers.
As for science fiction, it's just a reflection of those
who write it. Right now, that means mostly non-Christians.
But there are a number of Christian writers who are doing
their best to stake out a corner of science fiction again.
They are a great group of people, and I'm proud to have
joined their circle.
EBG: You have a full
life as a family man and computational physicist. What
prompted you to begin writing novels?
RI: I've always liked reading
novels, mostly thrillers. Back in the 80s, I somehow got
it into my head that I could write as well as some of
the schlocky writers I was reading. So I decided to try
my hand at it. I soon discovered that . . . I was wrong.
Writing a gripping story is hard! Being a stubborn kind
of guy, I just kept working at it and developing my skills.
After about ten years, I finally was writing well enough
to sell that first book. Call me a slow learner if you
want, but a lot of novelists take a long time to learn
the craft. Writing looks easy, but it isn't.
EBG: In Oxygen and
The Fifth Man, you include many details about the daily
lives of astronauts that suggest a lot of research was
involved. How did you go about this research? Did you
RI: It helped that my coauthor,
John Olson, is a biochemist and that I'm a physicist.
We joined the Mars Society and went to a couple of their
annual conferences, where we met some of the leading experts
on Mars. One of my fans lives in Houston and has a degree
in aerospace. Her husband works at NASA and she goes to
church with one of the world's most famous astronauts,
Shannon Lucid. When she found out we were writing Oxygen,
she invited me and John to come visit. She gave us the
grand tour of NASA, wangled us a long Sunday afternoon
discussion with Shannon Lucid, and generally helped us
learn to "think astronaut". It was incredible.
We also got a volunteer reader at NASA, a world-class
planetary scientist, to read an early draft and critique
it for us. At one point, I wrote a computer program to
compute the trajectories of spacecraft on the way to Mars.
We needed it for the storyline to work out, so I took
a few weeks and wrote the software. Our editor told us
we were crazy, but I wanted our facts to be exactly right.
EBG: Co-writing a
book tends to be challenging, but it seems to have worked
well for you and John Olson. How did you manage this task?
RI: John and I were close
friends for several years, and we had come to respect
each other's writing before we ever thought of collaborating.
John came up with the storyline for Oxygen
and suggested we try writing it together. So we did a
virtual handshake on the phone and started research. Some
people would call us crazy for not making up some kind
of contract, but we were happy with just that handshake.
We had many long phone conversations to map out the story.
Then John would write a section and send it to me. I'd
write the next section and send it back. Each of us edited
the other guy's work. It all melded together so smoothly
that our editor never could tell which of us wrote what.
In a few cases, neither could we!
EBG: Your web site
offers helpful advice for aspiring writers. Any special
tips you'd like to mention here for writers of Christian
RI: 1) Learn the craft.
It takes time to learn to write, so give yourself that
2) Let the "spiritual meaning" of the story
rise naturally out of the story. Don't try to cook up
a story to fit some grand lesson, unless you want your
story to look like a thinly disguised sermon. Gack! You
have to trust yourself to let any spiritual insights naturally
spring out of the story. Lewis and Tolkien did that.
3) Get to know other people in the business--editors and
other writers. You do that by going to writers' conferences
and meeting people. It sounds scary, but remember that
editors are normal people and they rarely kill writers.
Fact is, editors need writers as much as writers need
editors. Also, remember that other writers are not your
competition, they are your friends with whom you must
cooperate in order to create a critical mass of Christian
science fiction writers.
EBG: Your first book,
Who Wrote the Bible Code?, clarified and defused a difficult
and controversial subject. Do you anticipate writing any
RI: Possibly, though I don't
have anything definite planned. John Olson and I have
talked about doing a book someday on the creation/evolution
question. Right now, both of us are focusing on fiction,
which is what we love most.
EBG: Anything else
you’d like to add for readers at the Edenstar web
RI: I've been following
Christian fiction for the last fifteen years and have
watched it blossom from a small field with just a few
writers of prairie romances and Biblical novels. We are
going through a Renaissance in Christian fiction right
now. Each year, another twenty new novelists join the
ranks, and some of them are first-rate. And each year,
the existing base of authors gets more skilled. Overall,
we have not quite reached the literary quality of secular
fiction, but we are getting closer every year, and our
books are clean and full of hope, which is more than you
can say for most secular fiction. I'm looking forward
to the day that Christian fiction will have a reputation
for the highest quality. It's a real privilege to write
for the Christian market. My goal is to improve my skills
with every book.
EBG: Thanks, Randy!
Contact info: Learn
more about Randall Ingermanson at his web site, www.rsingermanson.com.
August 13, 2003