“Through a Screen Darkly” is One Year Old

It’s been an interesting week.

On Tuesday, I submitted Cyndere’s Midnight, the sequel to Auralia’s Colors, to the editors at WaterBrook Press. There’s still some “trimming” and editing to do, but it’s almost ready to go.

Time flies when you’re working a full-time desk job, writing movie reviews, and then spending six-to-seven hours in the evening (and all weekend) hunched over a hot laptop writing fiction.

The difference between Auralia’s Colors and Cyndere’s Midnight will probably surprise some readers. While the first book was often meditative, very descriptive, and it led them slowly toward a violent finale, the second book is quite different. It has a lot of action all the way through. It’s full of chases, battles, narrow escapes, monsters, miracles, and cliffhangers. (In fact, Cal-raven literally hangs from a cliff during one particularly intense battle scene.)

And instead of focusing on two children caught up in a frightening world of grownup problems, Cyndere’s Midnight (“Cyndere” is pronounced “SIN-der”) focuses on a grieving widow and a murderous monster, and what happens when the two meet in the wilderness.

Anyway, in the excitement of finishing Cyndere’s Midnight, I almost forgot to observe a certain anniversary…

It was during this very week in 2007, one year ago, that Through a Screen Darkly landed on bookstore shelves and arrived in mailboxes all over the place.

And reviews are still popping up online. (Many thanks to Julie Davis, who just posted her thoughts at Catholic Media Review.)

My life changed that week. I’d dreamed about being a published author since I was seven years old. All along the way I doubted if that dream would ever actually be fulfilled. I was so uninterested in learning how to get a book published that I suspected it would never work out. I wanted to write stories and reviews, not book proposals.

But God had other ideas. And the way publication for Auralia’s Colors and Through a Screen Darkly came about is a wilder, crazier story than anything I’ve written.

You’ve probably heard the story. If you haven’t… well… here’s the short version.

I began writing Auralia’s Colors in 1996, but I didn’t do anything to get it published. I was discouraged by what I’d read about the hard work of agent-seeking, proposal writing, and publisher-seeking. The process of pursuing a publisher seemed almost as time-consuming as… well… writing a novel, so I was discouraged. With my busy schedule, I needed to spend my free time doing what I love best: imagining new stories.

Between 1996 and 2003, the novella called Auralia’s Colors grew up into a four-book series. And I wrote several more stories besides. (My favorite characters are still sitting in boxes in my study, waiting for a chance.) But the larger those piles of paper became, the more I began to feel sad that Auralia would probably never find a larger audience.

One day, Anne and I walked around our neighborhood saying quiet prayers about our futures as writers. I wanted God to give me a sign. I wanted to know if I should invest my time and energy in the search for a publisher or not.  I remember saying, “Lord, if you want this story to be published, you may have to drop somebody out of the sky with a golden ticket.

A few days later, I received an email from a flight attendant — yes, a flight attendant — in Atlanta. I thought it was a porn email, because the subject line read, “I WANT TO MEET YOU” and it was from someone named “marsha” at AOL.

I was using AOL at the time. I knew that they blocked SPAM from originating at AOL addresses rather effectively (at the time). So I thought, “Hmmm, maybe this Marsha person is responding to a Looking Closer movie review.” I opened the message.

Sure enough, the writer said that she had enjoyed one of my movie reviews, and she had noticed that my bio mentioned some “novels-in-progress.” Being a flight attendant, she could fly all over the country for free. She was coming to Seattle for, of all things, a dentist’s appointmen. Would I be willing to meet her for lunch? Would I tell her about my novels?

I thought this was highly unusual. But I was curious.

We met for lunch in Edmonds, Washington, near her dentist’s office, at one of my favorite restaurants. Marsha read a few pages of Auralia’s Colors, and a few from another novel, one I’ve written for younger readers.

Then she dialed a few numbers of people she knew in publishing. And then she told me that I would receive an important phone call the next day.

I wasn’t sure what to believe.

And then I found out that one of the reasons she wanted to meet with me was to hear about Robert Duvall. (I had interviewed Duvall for that movie review she liked.) So I told her all about Robert Duvall, and I thanked her for the lovely chat. We went our separate ways, and I had no expectations.

The next morning, I got a phone call from the head of Random House’s WaterBrook Press.

He and I had a great conversation. We talked about Auralia’s Colors. We talked about Through a Screen Darkly. I sent in proposals for both.

One thing led to another. He eventually made a career change, leaving WaterBrook Press to start a new endeavor as an agent. My agent. A couple of weeks later, I was offered a two-book contract by WaterBrook Press… for Auralia’s Colors and Cyndere’s Midnight.

I am still in a state of shock about all of this. I keep waiting for somebody to say “Joke!”

In short: Somebody dropped out of the sky and gave me a golden ticket. And when I tell this story, I feel a trembling sense of gratitude and near-disbelief.

Now, ask me… do I believe in prayer?

But wait. There’s more.

What made things even more exciting was the fact that one week after WaterBrook said “yes” to Auralia’s Colors, Regal Books surprised my agent by mailing him a contract offer for Through a Screen Darkly. And it was published several months before Auralia’s Colors hit the shelves.

Through a Screen Darkly has gone on to become a popular textbook in classes about film interpretation and Christian perspective at several universities and colleges. And I continue to hear from readers every week.

(I’ve been so busy developing The Auralia Thread for WaterBrook that I haven’t had time to write the follow-up to Darkly. But I will. Soon, I hope.)

I am so grateful… to Regal Books (especially Alex Field), and to my first agent Don Pape, both of whom took a gamble with Darkly. And to my second agent, Lee Hough, who has been the project’s guardian angel since Don moved on another opportunity.

And I’m thankful to WaterBrook too, for believing in The Auralia Thread.

What a year it has been. I’m grateful to everyone who endorsed the book, reviewed it, read it, responded to it, and encouraged me along the way. And I’m grateful to Marsha the Magic Flight Attendant.

It’s time to start considering the “sequel.” If you have any ideas about what you’d like to read about in Through a Screen Darkly 2: More Darker (or something like that), hey, I’m open to suggestions. But I’ve got a lot of ideas already. Now, I’ve just got to find the time to write them down…

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • http://brandywinebooks.net Phil W

    I hadn’t seen this post. What a story. May the Lord continue to bless you.

  • http://www.sdsmith.net SD Smith

    I. Love. This. Story.

  • http://www.beerconsumer.net beerconsumer

    Very inspiring…thanks for sharing.

  • riderchuck

    Hi Jeffery: It seems like McCarthy’s possible conclusions are are question marks on several levels of life so you might want to deal with that a little more in the sequel.

    The silence of God may, in fact, have been the mystery foremost on McCarthy’s mind. Following Chigurh on his rampage through the desert, the author offers only a few possible conclusions:

    Then you said “And we’re left facing questions that haunt so many great works of art: Who is the world waiting on? If God exists, why doesn’t he intervene to prevent such apocalyptic violence?
    Whatever the answers might be, No Country for Old Men suggests that truth, justice, and the American way are not enough to save us from the dark and deadly winds of change.”

    “Through a Screen Darkly-The Sequel” and the “dark and deadly winds of change” above, seem to beg the question, we need a saviour, but what’ll we do while we’re waiting for Him to show?

    Charles Chambers

  • phillytle

    Congratulations! I loved both books and am eagerly anticipating the sequels. Keep ‘em coming!


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