I had the great privilege of reading an early draft edition of Blackwell: the Encounter Begins, by Michael E. Gunter. The end product is absolutely AWESOME! Michael’s book actually inspired me to write my novel. So, for those of you still in the dark about this book, here’s my official review with an interview from the author:
Blackwell: the Encounter Begins is a compelling read from start to finish! Wyoming transplants Rick and Jane find their lives turned upside down by the arrival of two special visitors to planet Earth. Humor, suspense, friendship, and the “human” experience flourish inside of Blackwell. The characters spring to life, from down-to-earth Rick to other-worldly Aldi; the well-constructed plot propels the story forward, page after page. The depth of thought packed into this novel is worth every bit of the journey. For example, Rick is forced to explore deep questions we all face in life, such as, how does one respond to a new truth that seems to contradict everything? When another, more menacing visitor threatens everyone at the Ranch, Rick is forced to decide exactly what he believes.
Whether you’re a die-hard Sci-Fi fan, or you’re new to the genre, “Blackwell” will entertain, and perhaps leave you with a new truth of your own.
Q: Where—or when—did you get the idea for Blackwell?
BLACKWELL is based on a short story I wrote in 2001 called, “They Came, They Saw, They Stayed for Dinner.” I have always been fascinated by the idea of life beyond our own planet, so when I started writing it just seemed natural for me to write about an alien encounter the way I imagine it would really happen. I had also read an essay by C. S. Lewis entitled, “Religion and Rocketry” in which Lewis speculated about how humans might react to just such an encounter. In his essay, he also speculated that there might be intelligent civilizations in the universe that are as yet untouched by sin. That idea really impressed me, so you get a hint of that in the Klyvians of BLACKWELL.
Q: There are some great characters in this book. Which one is your favorite?
My favorite character is Aldi. He was part of the original short story and actually showed up as a minor character in a few other projects. So Aldi has been with me for over ten years now. I know him pretty well. Some authors write characters who are a lot like themselves. Aldi is the character I aspire to be. His commitment to the mission, his love for his wife, and his friendship with Rick are all beyond question. When I started writing my alien characters into existence, I thought they should each have a physical characteristic that sort of became their identity; something that would give the reader a peek into their nature. With Elsa-Eska, it is her eyes. With Aldi, it’s his smile. At first, his grin seems a bit goofy only because it is so rare to see someone who is sincerely happy. But as Rick gets to know Aldi, he realizes that the smile is genuine and simply a natural part of who Aldi is. I have known a few humans with smiles like that, but not many. I should also say that I have an odd affection for Ed Tyler. He is a lot of fun to write, but more than that, he represents those quirky people we all know who seem to exist on the fringe of normal society, but every once in awhile they do something truly important that makes all the difference. Ed is that sort of guy.
Q: Is there a moment in your life, such as Rick meeting the aliens, when your own truth has been challenged?
Yes, a few. The biggest moment, I suppose, was when I realized I was becoming a Christian. I had been wrestling with the claims of Jesus and the implications of Him being Lord for about a year. One Saturday morning, I was laying in bed thinking about it when I envisioned a bridge, kind of like the one in Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom. I was on one side and Jesus was on the other. I knew that the only way I could truly know Jesus as Savior was to also follow Him as Lord; and following meant I had to cross that bridge which symbolized the abandonment of my old life and the acceptance of another – my truth for His Truth, if you will. I knew that I could not stay where I was, but I also knew that if I crossed that bridge, there would be no turning back. I think I stood there a long time weighing my choice. Then I held my breath and took the first step, and then another until I crossed. That was the day I learned that I didn’t have all the answers. For a nineteen year old, that’s a big lesson. I’m still learning that lesson, by the way, but these days the bridges are easier to cross.
Q: Is there a sequel in the works? Can you give us a hint?
Yes. I am about one third of the way through the sequel. It is set in the year 2016, and centers upon the daughter of Aldi and Elsa-Eska, now age fifteen. Remember, Sara is Klyvian by nature, but she has lived her entire life among humans; her father being the only exception. In BLACKWELL, the overarching theme is belief. In the sequel, identity is the theme. Will Sara embrace her Klyvian nature or decide to live as a human? I don’t want to give too much away, but you will also get to learn more about the mission of Ka-Rel and where Elsa-Eska has been all these years. And there will be a lot more humorous and intriguing situations as other humans encounter Aldi and Sara.
Special thanks to the author, Michael Gunter, for his interview! Here’s some helpful links for Michael’s book: