Hello, voyagers. I’m so excited because today I have the honor of introducing one of the sweetest indie authors, A.L. Buehrer! She messaged me about a month ago on Goodreads, asking if I’d be interested in being part of the halftime tour for her book series, Dronefall. Obviously, I said yes, because let’s be honest: Christian dystopia is my niche. Like seriously, I could scream about this underrated genre for HOUUUURS.
But anyway, enough about me and my bookish obsessions. A.L. Buehrer is literally the best human ever. She was so kind and patient with me, even when I flooded her inbox with questions. She took the time to explain everything and even offered me a free copy of Dronefall in exchange for an honest review (which you can read right here).
About the Book
DON’T LOOK UP. THEY KNOW YOUR FACE.
Halcyon Slavic is a Christian and a drone-tracker, relying on her independence and society’s apathy to live life her own way. As long as she keeps her faith private, she’s free to believe what she wants. But her second life monitoring Budapest’s massive system of surveillance drones is a short fuse.
When a drone appears at her window one night, she knows the fuse is lit, and abandons mainstream society to fight back against the eyes in the sky. But her new life hits her with more than she bargained for. She finds herself hiding in a semi-secret community of Christians who simply want to live upright lives away from the world’s lies and suspicion. These saints of the slums want nothing to do with reckless anti-government fanatics who spend the nights sniping the city’s drones out of the sky.
Halcyon hides a double-edged secret. And her hunter has followed her. Can Halycon manage balancing her new life in a strange community while keeping one eye on the sky? Or will she be caught unawares by this elusive and secret threat from the airspace over her only place of refuge?
ARE YOU HOOKED YET??? Cause by that point I was already devouring the first chapter. 😉
Interview with the Author
Me: What inspired you to write Dronefall?
Buehrer: I’ve always been aware of a gap in Christian fiction. I’ve always struggled to find Christion fiction in the genres I enjoy, since more Christian fiction falls somewhere under the women’s fiction category and that’s never been my thing. I wished there were more truly Christian authors out there exploring the more imaginative genres in the speculative fiction realm. So, I guess I became an author to do just that.
Me: That’s so cool. I completely agree about the lack of Christian authors who are dabbling in speculative fiction. But what exactly inspired the concept behind Dronefall?
Buehrer: Dronefall itself was inspired by a combination of my own life experiences and my interest in futuristic technology, particularly drones and mass surveillance and how they could change society. I wanted to write a big action-packed story in an exotic yet familiar sci-fi setting and communicate a message of hope and inspiration to modern Christians.
Me: Well, I think you totally nailed it. 😉 Okay, can we please talk about these character names for a minute? Halycon Slavic is a pretty unique name, as are many of the other names in this book. How did you come up with it?
Buehrer: I actually don’t remember how I came up with “Halcyon” for my main character’s name. I had recently stumbled upon the mythology of the halcyon bird, which allegedly calms the sea in early winter in order to nest on the water, and was writing the libretto for an operetta called “The Halycon’s Cradle.” Totally unrelated to Dronefall. But I think that’s why the name came to mind.
Me: I’m such a sucker for random mythology, so I think this is pretty epic. Also, for those of us who struggle in this area, how do you pronounce Halycon?
Buehrer: It’s Greek, so it’s said something like Hal’ see uhn. Halcyon’s best friend is named Reveille. For those who aren’t familiar with that name, it’s actually the word for the trumpeted wake-up call of the army. It’s French, like a lot of military terms, and it’s pronounced Rev’ ǝ lee. Zoltan, with an American accent is Zoll’ tan. And, probably the toughest name yet in the series, for Americans, is Reverand St. Cloud’s first name, Anaszáz, an example of a male name derived from a female name, Anastasia. It’s pronounced like Anna (as in Elsa’s sister) -staz, with a short a.
Me: …I read the entire book pronouncing almost every name incorrect in my head. BUT I got Zoltan’s right, so I’m content. *laughs* Okay, next question: Just based on the blurb, Dronefall seems to tackle some pretty intense themes of faith, religion, and governmental power. What was the biggest challenge in writing these elements?
Buehrer: When I write about the big issues that Dronefall faces, I think my greatest challenge is not allowing my own world-weariness and discouragement to seep into the writing. For me, writing is a balance between fight and flight in response to the world. I use it to face reality and call out its nonsense while at the same time escaping to a world where I can control the lighting and the soundtrack and who says what. That’s a really interesting balance to maintain. You have to keep an even keel in order to not manipulate things too much, but still keep it from dissolving into a lot of hopeless chaos.
Me: I really like that. On a similar note, there’s something really refreshing about reading a YA dystopian novel where Christianity is touched upon in a way that’s both accurate and not overbearing to the entire plot. How did you go about writing this, and what tips do you have for other authors who want to do something similar?
Buehrer: I think the thing to remember—and the thing that Christian novelists sometimes forget—is that, as a novelist, you are first and foremost an entertainer. Your job is to create a high-quality, engaging, enjoyable story that both honors God and stimulates the reader’s imagination. You’re not just trying to get an amen. You can write true good thoughts all day and try to find ways to wedge them into a fairly cohesive story, but that isn’t the same thing as writing a novel.
Me: *nods and listens intently*
Buehrer: It’s okay to hold your theme and message with an open hand as you write. God may want to speak through me in ways I didn’t plan, so I try to avoid putting all my energy into trying to make a certain point. And don’t take anything too seriously. Writing is art, and art is supposed to be fun. I love reading stories that I can tell the author enjoyed writing.
Me: *scribbling notes because this is absolute G.O.L.D.*
Buehrer: Reading fiction is supposed to be relaxing. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include deep themes, but you can’t novelize a book of doctrine and expect readers to enjoy it. Get lost in the story and chances are the reader will too. That lets you (and God) speak to people’s souls in ways preaching can’t.
Me: Can I just print this on flyers and post them EVERYWHERE??? This is literally the best thing I’ve ever heard. So, obviously you’re amazing at writing, but I’m curious: Do you have any other hobbies?
Buehrer: I have a lot of hobbies, actually. My family is musical, and we travel around to local churches as a band. I play the tin whistle and sing mostly. I guess that’s kind of a ministry rather than a hobby. Art is pretty big for me, particularly drawing and sketching, but I also oil-paint and I’m always trying to expand my palate of media. My other love is science, particularly astronomy, but I also like bird-watching and rock-picking and collecting insects.
Me: Uh, yes, a fellow astronomy nerd. *high fives you before looking at list of questions* What’s one book you think everyone should read?
Buehrer: Outside the Bible, I actually have trouble universally recommending anything. Everyone is so different, and they find different things interesting or inspiring or helpful. I have some books I’ve really enjoyed that I couldn’t really recommend to any of my friends because I doubt they would get the same thing out of it I did. An example would be The Great Gatsby. For some reason I loved The Great Gatsby, but I think a lot of people would find it pretty depressing. I think reading is a really personal thing. You never know who’s going to like what.
Me: Amen to that, girly. But speaking of books, are you writing any other books? If so, can you tell us anything about them?
Buehrer: There are three more Dronefall books on the way. I’ve almost finished the first draft of book four, already. But outside the Dronefall series I’ve got plans for a standalone novel that I should release in the fall. I have no idea what genre that book is. It’s almost fantasy, but just barely. I also write a lot of poetry and short stories. I might release some more of that this year as well.
Me: You should totally release some poetry. I’m all in for that. *shoves my money at your face* And sticking with the book theme, is there a specific genre you’d like to dabble in more? Is there a genre you wouldn’t ever attempt? If so, why?
Buehrer: I’d like to go back to some space-based sci-fi like I started out writing someday. I also want to try fantasy—see if I can do it without turning into science-fiction. Then I also have a quiet urge to write mystery and suspense…I wouldn’t mind spinning off Sherlock Holmes sometime.
Me: Yes, give me allll the Sherlock things.
Buehrer: I highly doubt I’ll ever attempt romance or any of its subgenres. I just don’t lean that way at all. I also wouldn’t ever write horror. The thing is, I think I would be good at horror—I always feel like I totally nailed the creepy scenes in my books—but I have moral scruples with it. I just don’t feel right about traumatizing readers, even if they insist they enjoy it.
Me: Yeah, romance definitely isn’t for everyone, and I think that’s really admirable because our culture is so saturated with it. *pretends like I’m not trash for romance* But on a deeper topic, what advice do you have for young, aspiring authors?
Buehrer: Keep writing! Don’t worry so much about what other people are going to think, especially at first. You need to write what you enjoy, and don’t stop until you’re finished. Once you’re got your first book done, write another. Get the mileage in and have as much fun as you can while doing it. You’ll learn a lot that way. (I still have to tell myself this.)
Me: This is some truly epic advice, so all of you *looks pointedly at the camera that’s not there* better follow it, ya hear me? *nods, satisfied* What authors are your greatest inspiration?
Buehrer: This question tends to be tough for me, because I’m more inspired by what people haven’t done than what they have done. I have favorite authors—I love JRR Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. I also really like some of Ray Bradberry’s stuff. There’s a little Fahrenheit 451 in Dronefall. But actually, the author that I link most closely to the inspiration for Dronefall is Leah E. Good, who wrote the first Christian dystopia I ever encountered, Counted Worthy.
Me: Ooh, I bought a copy of Fahrenheit 451 last year and I still haven’t read it. But now I just might have to because it inspired the beauty that is Dronefall. *finger guns* Aw, I only have one question left. *pouts* But it’s a good one! How do you want readers to feel when they finish Dronefall? And do you think you’ve accomplished this?
Buehrer: I’ve got to admit Dronefall One may not be the most feelsy intro you’ll ever get to a series. I tend to be really slow-burn with the emotions when I write, but I do believe it will start to pay off as you read on. At the end of Dronefall One, I really just want you to feel intrigued enough to let your curiosity move you into Lightwaste. Even people who weren’t head-over heels with Dronefall seem to confirm it definitely makes you crave the next book. After Lightwaste, I think you’re going to love the characters more than you thought you could, and that will bring you to Rainchill. If Rainchill doesn’t get you excited about the rest of the series, I don’t know what will. I really like Rainchill.
Me: Agh, I really need to read Lightwaste. *cries*
Buehrer: The Dronefall series, in the end, is meant to light your eyes, not so you ignore the state of the world around you, but so that you recognize the deeper meaning to current events, even when they look ugly or disturbing. Ultimately, I want Dronefall readers to come away actually kind of excited about the future, and what God is doing in the world and through us and our day to day decisions to fight for what’s right.
Me: That’s beautiful. I felt that in book one, even though it’s just barely scratching the surface. I honestly can’t wait to delve deeper into the world of Halcyon and the gang I’ve come to love. ❤ Thank you so much for letting me interview you. It’s truly been an honor.
About the Author
A.L. Buehrer is a speculative fiction author on a mission to bring courage, wonder and hope to the Christian audience. She revels in creating twisty plots, set in atmospheric worlds, populated by vivid characters, and pointing readers to the eternal beauty of Jesus Christ. Other interests include nerdy stuff, Earl Gray tea, and giving weird nicknames to cats.
She blogs at: https://stardriftnights.blogspot.com
Ready to Buy???
If Dronefall sounds like something you’d enjoy, you can go buy all three books right now on Amazon OR on Kindle for 99c. I gave the first book 3.5/5 stars and I can’t wait to read Lightwaste in the (hopefully) near future.
Have you read Dronefall? What are your thoughts on speculative fiction and Christian dystopias? Do you want to read Dronefall? Spoiler alert, you totally should!