Clint Hall is an author, speaker and podcaster who has been writing stories since middle school, where he spent most of his time in English class creating comic books. (Fortunately, his teacher not only allowed it; she bought every issue.) Known for stories of hope, wonder, and adventure, Clint has been published across multiple anthologies and magazines. As a tech writer, he has also authored numerous pieces for several Fortune 500 companies.
In this interview, Clint talks about his latest book, Steal Fire from the Gods.
FF: What inspired the story in your book?
Steal Fire From The Gods came from a weird idea I had driving home from lunch one day. I have another (unpublished) book in which several planets are at war. The most powerful planet is filled with androids, though some of the other worlds have various types of magic they use to fight back. While driving that day, I wondered what would happen if the war machines could also harness magic. The answer was that the war would become totally one-sided; the other worlds would be doomed. Immediately, two lines came to me.
These are now the opening lines of my book: “The Human Alliance knew it was over when the androids started using magic to cast fire, shake the ground, conjure storms, and part the seas. We fought back anyway.”
The story itself, though, isn’t really about magic robots. It’s about someone undergoing a crisis of faith. Gunnar’s family did everything the right way—they prayed, they studied God’s word, and they were good to other people. Then, they were decimated by an army of AI-driven war machines that discovered how to harness elemental magic. Now, Gunnar is trying to reconcile the lingering shreds of his faith with all the terrible things that have happened to him.
I believe this is something to which all believers can relate—the difficult question of how a good, loving God can let bad things happen.
FF: What can you tell us about the main characters in your book?
At the beginning of the book, Gunnar is isolated and broken. Not only has he lost everyone he ever cared about, but he’s also got a secret that would cause other people to shun him if they found out about it.
Despite that brokenness, he’s driven. In secret, Gunnar is desperately trying to learn how to harness fire magic so he can take his revenge against the machines.
He also cares about people, even if he doesn’t trust anyone enough to let them know who he really is inside. He has a desire to connect and people are drawn to him for reasons he doesn’t understand. But he won’t let himself open up. He won’t let anybody in.
FF: Which character surprised you the most?
Catriona, but I can’t say why for fear of spoiling the book.
FF: Why do you think storytelling is such a powerful way to share truth?
Humans are designed to be in connection with each other. Stories form connections by inviting the reader or listener into someone else’s experience, whether they’re a real or fictional person. Instead of telling someone what they should think or how they should behave, stories demonstrate truth by allowing the person to have an experience outside their own life. They get to live the lesson of the story rather than having it told to them.
On my podcast, my friend Katherine Briggs (author of The Eternity Gate) likened writing stories to telepathy, which is a wonderful way to think about it. Stories shared between people build connections that I believe reflect God’s design for us—that we are all meant to be woven together with threads we can’t see but feel nonetheless.
FF: What can you tell us about your next book?
Unfortunately, nothing! I’ve written several books and am having some conversations. But at the moment of this writing, I’m not certain which book will be published next.
FF: What kind of research did you do for this book?
I write a lot about AI as part of my day job. A few years ago, I was writing about technology that helps farmers improve crop yields by analyzing the interactions between different factors such as rainfall, soil quality, and topography to create smarter irrigation strategies.
The thought occurred to me that—if magic was actually possible to perform—AI would probably discover how to do it through extensive data analysis. I started thinking about all the classic magic tropes and how they might be broken down into scientific variables. Magic words became sound vibrations. Throwing herbs into a cauldron became the application of heat energy to specific elements. I built a magic system based off those concepts and ideas.
FF: What do you want readers to take away after reading your book?
Everything I create is with the goal of instilling a sense of hope, wonder, and adventure. For this specific book, I want people see that our darkest secrets or most painful sources of personal shame can often become our greatest strengths, especially when we use them to help others.
FF: What are the biggest challenges for you as an author writing in your specific genre?
I spend a lot of time thinking about the promises I make to the reader. Sci-fi fans are often far more educated in science and technology than I will ever be. I want the reader to understand that while I go to great lengths to ensure my technology and magic systems are consistent and make sense within the world of the story, I’m not going to extensively explain the math and science behind how they work. There are many sci-fi authors who do that far better than me and while I love reading those types of books, what I write is far simpler and more fast-paced. The great news is that even the most highly educated sci-fi readers are happy with that approach as long as I don’t mislead them about what they’ll get from my stories.
FF: What authors or books have inspired you as an author?
C.S. Lewis, of course, though while I love The Chronicles of Narnia, I tend to draw more from his other works, especially The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, and The Screwtape Letters.
I’m an enormous fan of Max Brooks and his way of using sci-fi as a vehicle for social commentary. I also love Pierce Brown for his writing voice, world-building, and phenomenal storytelling skill.
FF: How has your faith or world view impacted the way you tell stories?
My stories will always be about hope, even in the darkest of times when it seems impossible that anything good could come. As a follow of Jesus, I understand that not only can God bring goodness out of evil, but that He often does so in miraculous ways to remind us of His presence, power, and love. Those reminders can be even greater blessings than the good itself.
That type of hope is a direct result of my faith.
Steal Fire from the Gods
Genres: Sci-Fi, Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi
Release Date: November 7, 2023
The Human Alliance knew the war was over when the machines started using magic to cast fire, shake the ground, conjure storms, and part the seas.
We fought back anyway.
22-year-old soldier Gunnar Graves lost his faith and his family when a platoon of AI-driven war machines—led by an android fire mage—destroyed his unit. Forced to live in a machine-controlled village and hiding a dark secret, he spends his days trying to learn elemental power so he can take his revenge. After years of failure, his ability ignites when he least expects it.
On the run and hunted by the war machines, Gunnar discovers that an ancient, life-based strength has awakened to help humanity fight back. Joined by the other life mages, Gunnar is thrust into a mad world of android overlords, cyborg clans, and evil forces bent on his destruction.
To protect his newfound family, Gunnar must discover the truth behind a power he doesn’t understand and wage a war he doesn’t believe they can win.
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