In this episode, Belinda Pollard and Alison Young interview Donita Bundy, author of the Armour of Light Christian urban fantasy series, former Somerset Writer in Residence, high school creative writing teacher, blogger and preacher, on writing multiple first-person POV and the challenges of faith-driven creativity.
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In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, writing coach, accredited editor with qualifications in theology, and Gracewriters founder
- Alison Joy, romance author, former early childhood teacher and mother of 4 adult children
- Donita Bundy, writing teacher, preacher and author of the Armour of Light urban fantasy series
Topics covered in this episode:
- Challenges of the journey of writing and life.
- Using “God dreams” in fiction writing, and surrendering to God during the process.
- Writing a novel instead of a Masters thesis on spiritual warfare.
- Techniques for writing effective multiple first-person point-of-view.
- How Donita got into book cover design.
More about Donita at https://www.donitabundy.com/
Click the book cover to view on Amazon.
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Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters Podcast – Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. Hit subscribe on your favourite podcast player so you never miss an episode and find show notes, useful links and a full transcript at gracewriters.com.
Today on the podcast we interview our co-host, urban fantasy author, Donita Bundy, on writing multiple points of view and the challenges of faith-driven creativity.
I’m Belinda Pollard. I’m an author, editor and publishing consultant with a theology degree and 20 years in the publishing industry. Find links to my books, blogs and online courses at belindapollard.com.
Alison Joy: Hi, I’m Alison Young. I’m a former early childhood teacher living in south-east Queensland. I have four adult children and write romance under the pen name, Alison Joy. You can find all my information on alisonjoywriter.com.
Belinda Pollard: We realised you might like to find out a bit more about the co-hosts of the Gracewriters podcast and for this episode we’ve put Donita in the hot seat to celebrate her new book launch.
Former Somerset Writer in Residence, Donita Bundy teaches high school writing classes, facilitates the Somerset Writer’s Group, blogs and preaches at her local church. Married to Simon, they have two teenage boys and she joins us today from her rural property in Somerset, Queensland.
Donita Bundy: Thank you! It’s interesting to be sitting on this side of the camera!
Alison Joy: Yes. And it’s going to be also interesting to be on the other side of the rapid-fire five! Are you ready?
Donita Bundy: Absolutely!
Alison Joy: Right. Who is your target audience?
Donita Bundy: Anyone who will read my book! No! Plural – books!
Alison Joy: Pardon?
Donita Bundy: Books – plural. Plural – books!
Alison Joy: Books – plural.
Donita Bundy: Yes.
Alison Joy: What is your main genre?
Donita Bundy: Fantasy.
Alison Joy: What’s your optimum time for writing?
Donita Bundy: When there’s space. We’ve talked about this before. I’m a hunter/gatherer so, if I can find a space or a window in the day, I will gather that. If it looks like there’s not going to be spaces, I will start hunting them down, literally!
Alison Joy: Okay. Do you have a favourite place to do your writing?
Donita Bundy: Yes. At my desk in the centre of our house. Not here in this room. It’s too hot and too cold but there (pointing left). It’s very nice. I like to write there.
Alison Joy: Okay. Donita, how did you get into writing?
Donita Bundy: I think I fell into it. I was a later bloomer. I had always enjoyed writing poetry as a young person – rhyming poetry. I just fell into that kind of thing. And then I was a typical teenager full of angst so, I needed to get that down.
Alison Joy: Yes! (Hand up) Yes, me too!
Donita Bundy: So, I needed to record all of that angst! And then I was going through one of my multiple tumultuous times of life and I started journaling and I found that really rewarding and so, I started doing that.
And then, actually, another parallel journey to that was from about the age of nine I had interesting, what I call “God dreams” and that’s another big topic. But anyway, I would start to write those down because I found them very interesting. So, I had always a record or a folder full of those.
More recently, when I had to retire from work because of an illness – actually, no – the year before I retired, I decided I’m going to write a book, as one does. And I started writing and then when I had to retire from work and I was in a lot of pain and I couldn’t do a lot, I felt that that was a really good thing that could occupy my time in my mind, so I finished writing the book. And then I discovered that it’s really tricky when you finish writing and you want to do the next step.
Alison Joy: You’ve got this Armour of Light series.
Donita Bundy: Yes.
Alison Joy: Where did that idea come from?
Donita Bundy: The dreams that I’ve previously mentioned were so vivid and real. It’s the kind of dreams that when you wake up, they were full sensory dreams. They were technic-coloured and you could smell and feel and all sorts of things and for my whole life I’ve thought, “What am I going to do with these? What are they for?” And I would take them to people who claimed to know about these things and they just handed the folder back saying, “I’ve got no idea.”
I was working as a primary school chaplain at the time and I’d been praying about it and what do I do with these dreams? What do I do with them? What are they for? And then I really felt the urge to use them for a story.
So, one of my dreams is the background of the first book and 95% of my characters I have met through my dreams. And so, I thought, “Right. Well, I know them and I know the stories because I’ve been living with them for so many years.” So, I just combined my life experience and my dreams and I just thought, “Right. I’ll just write it all down.” And so, that’s where the first one came from.
But I think possibly prior to that the impetus to actually start writing it was that I have my studies in theology and I was at the stage where I really wanted to go further. I wanted to do my Masters but there wasn’t time or money and the courses I studied you would have to do a thesis. It was a possibility to do your Masters through a thesis and I thought, “If I was going to do my thesis, it would be on spiritual warfare.”
So, what I did is instead of pursuing formal study I then had all the skills and the books and everything, I decided to study Scripture verse by verse to discern what spiritual warfare was and that tied in with the idea of writing this book. My book is kind of my thesis. An analogy of what spiritual warfare is for the Christian.
Belinda Pollard: What’s the context that you’ve placed the story in?
Donita Bundy: Well, when I first started, I had no idea but as I was writing it came to me that the first book was set in Sodom. And then as I was writing it, in the early days I had no idea what I was doing but it turns out I’m one of those people that the characters tell the story and reveal it to me as I go. And then shortly after I had begun, I realised that this crew of people that were gathering together were going to travel throughout their region and they’re actually travelling through the cities that were addressed in the letters of Revelation. So, the seven cities. Each city has a story based in there and the context of the story, the background and the culture, is based on the city and the letter that was written in Revelation.
Belinda Pollard: But set in modern times.
Donita Bundy: Modern times, yes.
Alison Joy: Well, modern or slightly into the future?
Donita Bundy: What a good question. Let’s say slightly in the future.
Belinda Pollard: A little bit dystopian, I would think. Dystopian urban fantasy.
Donita Bundy: With a historical twist.
Alison Joy: Is there something that you saw, a book series that you read that you go, “Yes. I wouldn’t mind doing something like that.” Is there something that your book aligns to? Something that another author has written.
Belinda Pollard: If you like this, you will like Donita Bundy!
Donita Bundy: When I was trying to find an agent who might support my work, that’s a question they all asked. What is your book like? And I honestly don’t know. And I think I felt, for quite a while – I didn’t think, I know – I felt really odd and I can’t be a writer because I can’t align my work with someone else.
I think, possibly at times, we might feel like that but I remember years ago I read Game of Thrones and I wasn’t really a big fan of multiple points of view. I thought, oof, but George R.R. Martin did such a good job I thought, “Wow! When I grow up, I’m going to write like that.”
Prior to that, leading up, I was working in a boarding school as a supervisor for the girls in high school and a lot of them were reading these like Cassandra Clare and things like that where you have demons and angels and they’re fighting. And I was reading these books so I could sit and talk to the girls about what they were reading and connect and I just thought, I enjoy this style of book about the others, the unseen, but I thought, how cool would it be if we had a book, I should rephrase that – if I had a book that I could say to some young Christians that I knew, “This is in that kind of genre but it’s got biblical theology. It puts demons and angels in the right perspective.”
So, hopefully it’s a good read and it’s engaging but it enters into that realm that was very popular but you could also read it and think, “Yes, no, this actually aligns with what I believe. This is my faith. This is real for me.”
Belinda Pollard: It’s interesting the issue of spiritual warfare and how you’ve made that a goal and I would have to say as someone who’s read both your books, very effective. I come away from reading your books thinking about what I’m doing that is weakening my armour – referring to Ephesians 6, the armour of God.
I think it’s like you’ve had the best sermon but nobody preached.
Yes. So, I think that’s fantastic. And it’s interesting, too, that you’ve got so many point of view characters which people say, “Don’t do that.” And particularly they say, in your early books, don’t have too many points of view and yet you’ve gone wild with them and I think you’ve made it work. So, how did you make it work because they’re all first-person points of view and how do you make them different?
Donita Bundy: What I had done throughout my whole life is if I need to be someone in a certain way, I would identify and role play and I would think who is really good at doing this? What would be the characteristics of someone who needed to be this person? What would they look like? What would they sound like? How would they move? What would they say? And I would just step into that role.
And I realised that I’ve done it my whole life as a coping strategy. As you know, sometimes in life you just have to do jobs because you need work and you need some money and so I’ve done a ridiculous amounts of jobs. People call me unstable. I’m just interesting, I think! I think I like to call myself interesting!
Belinda Pollard: You’re versatile.
Donita Bundy: Thank you. That’s the word! And so, I’ve worked in many, many different roles and of course then I’d have to step into the many different personas that would do the job and get me through and help me deal with who I needed to be and so, right or wrong, that kind of equipped me with the ability to step into another person’s head.
So, what I do now is, as I’ve said, a lot of these characters I’ve met through my dreams but what I do is, now when I create a character, I think of all the people that I’ve met and all the different personalities and histories and their stories and their backgrounds and their strengths and their weakness and I pull together a character and then I just step into their head and I just think, “Wow! What would that be like? Who are you?”
And I get to know them and I have conversations in my head with them and then I settle. And then when I write first person, I’m in that person’s head and it all comes out really naturally. As you all know, that when you try to communicate with me via any way and I’ve just been writing in that role, you will get – ahh, that could make me sound more crazy – but that’s how I do it. So, I step into that person’s reality. I create their reality; I step into it and then I perform it. I read it all aloud a number of times.
Each of my people have a definite way of moving, of speaking so I will read their chapter in their voice in their head.
Alison Joy: You’ve got all these multiple characters, is there one in particular that resonated with you more than the others?
Donita Bundy: I think, one of my characters, Val, is who I want to be when I grow up.
Alison Joy: Yes, yes, definitely!
Donita Bundy: All the dreams that Dan has in book 1 are my dreams. So, I have experienced those and his sharing of them and his experience of them is my experience of that. So, I relate to Dan and Val most.
Tessa, she’s from another planet! I don’t get her at all except when I’m in her head but the funny thing is I did a Myers-Briggs test on all of them to find out who they were and what personality they had. Tessa and I are the same personality character and I thought that was freaky!
Yes. I guess the two that I relate to most are Dan and Val. Maybe Val is who I’m growing into and Dan is who I currently am.
Alison Joy: What’s been the most challenging part of the writing journey so far and what motivates you to keep at it?
Donita Bundy: One of the trickiest things was I came to this writing when I had to finish work and there was no income and there was no skill. I’m not a writer. I’d like to think I’m a storyteller but I had no idea about writing.
I suffer very mild dyslexia so spelling and sometimes reading is a bit tricky. I had no concept of what was involved when you finish a book. What needs to happen. And then I finished the manuscript and I found an editor. I thought that maybe I’d be publishing in America so I went with an American editor and paid an awful lot of money. He did a wonderful job but I didn’t really agree with a lot of his comments. It was a big manuscript and I just thought, “Hmm,” but he knew what he was doing and I didn’t.
And then I went looking for agents and I found someone who was really encouraging and said they loved my manuscript and they wanted to work with me. And then gave me a list of things I need to do and tasks I need to achieve within six months.
So, I had to learn how to do the website myself. I had to do public speaking. I was not on social media at all. My default position is no social media. I’m just not comfortable on social media. It’s probably the introvert in me. So, I had to get a social media presence. I had to learn how to get on to Facebook and Instagram and yada yada yada. Pursuing all the things I had to do to be a writer took me away from writing and it pushed me into a world I was so uncomfortable in and absolutely everything I did was a really severe learning curve. I had to do it myself because there was no money and it was just constantly on unsure ground.
Belinda Pollard: This is marketing tasks you’re talking about here. This isn’t manuscript tasks that the agent asked you to do.
Donita Bundy: Yes. Yes. And so, I just found all of that creating my author platform, all of that stuff, it was just constantly unknown, constantly learning, constantly failing, never being in a place where I was sure of what I was doing.
Blogging. Learning how to blog. Learning how to use SEO. All of this stuff. I just thought, I don’t know if I have it in me, but then I had just such a heart for writing and telling the stories and I thought, I have to do this because I want to produce these stories. They were just burning and I needed to get them out so, I just had to learn how to just keep learning and getting all those things under my belt and then becoming proficient enough to say, “Well, yes, here’s the finished product. As much as I can I’ve done it myself.”
Editing. I would never publish a book without editing it so, I needed help. I would never edit my own books because I can’t spell, I don’t know punctuation really well. And proofreading. They were two things I had to spend money on but everything else I have tried to learn to do myself.
I still find the marketing really hard but alternatively you can’t be a self-published writer if you don’t.
Alison Joy: As part of that, you’ve decided to do your own covers. How’s that worked for you? I mean, they look great, by the way. I love them!
Donita Bundy: Thank you! I’ve always liked to think of myself as having an artistic bent and I do actually love doing the designs for the covers. That was another skill I had to learn. How to use all those programs but seeing it come together and learning how to do that has been another highlight, another discovered gem in the writing world, creating my own book covers.
And also having the extreme pleasure of working with another writer and helping them achieve their vision for their books, as well. So, not just my own books but having the blessing and privilege of working with other writers, as well.
Belinda Pollard: So, you’ve expanded into doing covers for other people as well?
Donita Bundy: Yes, who’d have thunk! Not me!
Belinda Pollard: The Gracewriters slogan is Christian writers changing popular culture. How does this challenge you?
Donita Bundy: We’ve had this discussion before about a calling or a purpose in writing and I am fully drawn into this world of writing and storytelling whether anyone was reading or not, whether it was possible to publish or not, I would still be doing it. And I’m doing it because I feel like there are stories that God has laid on my heart and He’s just saying, “Tell the stories.” So, I do that.
The outcome of that is in one sense irrelevant but in the other sense my goal in not just my writing but as a child of God and as a follower of Christ, my goal is to take that influence of the light in us and share it and have a positive impact and have a positive change in the world around us through connections. Whether that’s face to face or whether that’s through writing, storytelling, whatever. So, the goal is to glorify God.
In one sense, you do it from obedience because that’s what you’re called to do regardless of the outcome but secondly, the joy that comes from sharing and making an impact and showing that there is hope, there is light in the darkness. The world, we seem to be swimming in darkness and to be reminded that the light and even the smallest pinprick of light is stronger than the darkness. Whatever your circumstance, whatever your culture, whatever time you’re living in, whatever the circumstances you’re struggling through, the pinprick of light is stronger than the darkness that we’re swimming through. And that light will never go out so, to take it to hopefully encourage and turn and change somebody’s life. Jesus said, “My bread is to do the work of the Lord.” And that’s amazing.
Belinda Pollard: I love that image of the little spot of light being stronger than darkness. It’s actually true scientifically.
Donita Bundy: I’m married to a physicist. I checked all these things out!
Belinda Pollard: And it’s also true theologically.
Donita Bundy: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: And emotionally.
Does the act of writing or the process of writing, do you think it’s had an influence on your own personal faith?
Donita Bundy: Yes, because I have no idea what I’m doing and I have no idea how to do it so, constantly throwing myself at the mercy of the Lord saying, “Please, give me something,” and then Him always coming through. It’s that constantly reinforcing, “I have this and it is not you that is doing this. It’s Me. I am using your life experiences. I’m using your context. I’m using your environment that you’re living in and I’m using your voice but it’s My message. It’s My story.”
Constantly stepping into that unknown facing the blank page and then having something come forth and then going back and reading it after you’ve written something and you let it rest and cure and then you come back to it and you think, “Wow! Did I write that? No!”
So, it’s just that constant, “I’ve got your back.” And then also there’s that – forgive me, I can’t remember the exact chapter and verse – but it’s that you’ve suffered. “You’ve been through some tough times and I have comforted you in that. I have led you through that and we have walked together through that darkness and you’ve come out the other side. Now, take that experience and allow it to give you compassion and comfort to others.”
As I’ve said, most of the experiences that my characters have been through are my personal experiences and as I write I have to relive them. I want it to be fiction and I want it to be a story and I want it to be relatable, as well. So, I have to keep on reliving those experiences and be reminded of God’s continual comfort and support and companionship, salvation, grace, mercy and love.
So, it’s a constant reminder of that and it’s reinforcing and taking you deeper and saying, “Okay. Well, that’s great but now I want you to go further.” So, that’s like having the confidence and the faith to just keep stepping into that unknown.
Belinda Pollard: Some great food for thought there, Donita. Thank you so much.
How can people find you online?
Donita Bundy: I have a website, donitabundy.com. I try to get onto Instagram and Facebook and so, you can find me there just Donita Bundy. I’m blessed with an interesting name! So, just search in all those places. You may find me.
Belinda Pollard: And we will supply the links, as well, in the show notes. How about I pray for you.
Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for Donita. We thank you for the inspiration you’ve given her. For the ways that you’ve helped her through tough times. For the important message that you’ve given her for the body of Christ.
Thank you for the changes that it has made, that you have used it to make in those of us who have read these things. And we pray that you will bless and strengthen her as she continues through this path that is often difficult and often a bit hard to know where to go next. We pray that you will continue to guide and lead.
And we pray for all the other Gracewriters out there, too, who are doing similar difficult tasks. Please lift them and carry them and nourish them and lead them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Donita Bundy, thank you for joining us on the podcast today. Thank you, Alison Joy. I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time on the Gracewriters podcast.
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