Cathy McCrumb graduated from Biola University with a degree in English Literature and a love for stories. She and her husband, whom she met while writing letters to soldiers, have five children and currently live within the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. While writing is one of her favorite things to do, she also enjoys reading, long hikes and long naps, gluten-free brownies and raspberries, and crocheting while watching science fiction movies with friends and family.
In this interview, Cathy shares some of her thoughts on her latest book, Recorder.
FF: What inspired the story in your book?
After years of setting my dreams aside, I started writing again, and when I told a friend about a dream I had jotted down, she urged me to turn it into a story. We had been talking about all kinds of things—from the value of a human life to the perpetual quest to be useful—and those things crept into that dream, which was basically the beginning of chapter two. And so, I set out to write a story with the end goal of fifteen thousand words, but that story merged with another dream about tunnels and my characters started coming to life as I wrote. By chapter nine, the story fell into place, and it was much longer than fifteen thousand, after all.
So—random sentences, dreams, discussions with friends, and the conviction that God works all things for good and uses broken people to save others.
FF: What can you tell us about the main characters in your book?
My main character is a Recorder. Recorders are raised by the Consortium to document and verify transactions and facts. They aren’t given names and aren’t allowed property or even true friendship.
When an accident changes everything, she has to find her way in a society that feels very alien to her. Experiencing human interactions and friendship for the first time upends everything she has been taught, but while she isn’t familiar with freedom, she feels very deeply. For a long time, very few people see that.
Most of the other characters are citizens, not Recorders, and come from a variety of backgrounds with vastly different experiences with the Consortium. I enjoyed watching them confront their beliefs.
FF: Which character surprised you the most?
Charity. She plays a subtly important role, and I didn’t expect her to keep showing up. Her story and themes are scattered throughout the book.
FF: Why do you think storytelling is such a powerful way to share truth?
I believe that story is how we as humans interpret the world around us, how we learn. Stories are fundamentally about possibilities and transformation, for good or ill. When failure, grief, and evil are contrasted with faith, hope, and love, narratives inspire deeper connections with our own emotions, others, and God.
While the risks inherent in change open the possibilities of growth, I see story as a safe exploration of success and failure. Stories can open a divide through which we can glimpse something greater or worse than our own lives, to experience a world through someone else’s eyes. Fiction allows us a place where we can practice and triumph.
FF: What can readers expect from the rest of this series?
Recorder is the first book in the Children of the Consortium Trilogy, with the second one coming out next year! (I’m so excited!) It is science fiction with heart, so while there is tech and the world is extrapolated from what we know now, the story is focused on the people and their relationships. There is an ongoing mystery, including the slow discovery of a terrible weapon, and a few explosions, but to me, the next books are about discovering personal value, forgiveness, and hope. There are creepy abandoned hallways, suspense, mysteries, friendships, insects, and cats, all pointing to the value of human life and what it means to truly love.
FF: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Funny story: I didn’t set out to write anything like hard sci-fi, since I associate that with technical stories about the science itself. I was writing about people, not tech. However, I love world building, and I found myself delving into articles about nanotechnology, virology, entomology, human anatomy, and astronomy. I literally spent hours on plankton, algae, gravity, temperatures, insectile physiology, and mining. I researched social structures and traditions, foreign idioms, origami (for a chapter I cut), braiding, and jewelry. Those were also fun.
FF: What do you want readers to take away after reading your book?
It’s my hope that readers come away with a sense of their own individual value and the intrinsic value of others. I hope they catch a glimpse of how God can work all things for a good we cannot see or anticipate and that cracks and imperfections in our lives are the places His light shines through.
FF: What are the biggest challenges for you as an author writing in your specific genre?
One of my challenges truly is staying on topic and not falling down rabbit holes of research! I can get sidetracked and spend hours on articles and abstracts, and then, the Recorder’s point of view can be challenging to write in and of itself.
While I believe a lot of people want clean, character-driven science fiction, one big challenge has been that so many books in the science fiction genre aren’t informed by faith at all.
FF: What authors or books have inspired you as an author?
This would be a very long list if I went all out on it! Don’t laugh too hard, but to prep for this, I reread Jane Austen! I wanted to capture some of the cadence of that diction in my Recorder. Some of my other favorite authors include Lloyd Alexander, Dorothy L. Sayers, Georgette Heyer, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Terry Brooks, and Agatha Christie.
I want to wield words like these wordsmiths!
FF: How has your faith or world view impacted the way you tell stories?
In The Return of the King, Tolkien writes that “in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
I want my words to show a glimmer of that light. I believe God can use even the most difficult situation for good, and that where we are weakest, His strength abounds. I want readers to begin to see beauty in the small everyday things, and to see, beyond that beauty, to the beauty of the One who shaped it all.
Children of the Consortium Series #1
Release Date: November 9, 2021
The Consortium is All. But Recorder Can No Longer Obey.
Recorder has no family, no friends, and no name. Donated to the Consortium before birth, her sole purpose is to maintain and verify the records. A neural implant and drone ensure compliance, punishing for displays of bias.
Suddenly cut off from controlling technology, Recorder tastes what it means to be human. But if the Consortium discovers her feelings, everyone she knows will be in danger.
With no name, no resources, and only an infinitesimal possibility of escape, Recorder’s time is running out.
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