Both Mindfire and Jordan’s World have females in their early twenties as the main protagonists. Prior to this, several of my webcomics had similar leads. Some may wonder, how can a male effectively write the perspective of a female character? Personally, I think anyone can write any perspective, if they can both imagine it and have some point of reference and experience regarding that perspective.
In my case, I spent most of my childhood around my mother and older sister. My father was the traditional “breadwinner” and was away a lot due to his profession. We spent time together whenever possible but didn’t develop a truly close bond until I was in my early twenties. Even outside the home, some of my closest friends were females and I learned from their experiences. In many ways, I related to them better than males.
Males had been my childhood bullies, particularly those involved in sports. That’s why I chose creative pursuits such as making my own comics, which doubled as my therapy. Later, I would use music in a similar fashion, to vent my deepest feelings and express my hopes and wishes. I didn't have to be involved in sports or join a team, I could use what talent I possessed all by myself.
Writing allowed me the opportunity to take ideas and experiences and make them relatable to a wider audience, to share my characters’ triumphs and failures, loves and losses. For a large part of my life, I understood the female perspective better than the male one, so that's what I wrote in my comics. Sometimes, that's what I represented in my songs as well.
That said, I never thought of myself as female; I never wanted to be anything or anyone other than who I am. Interestingly enough, it was my mother who instilled a strong sense of self-worth and confidence in me. She wanted me to be emotionally strong enough to face whatever challenges life had to offer. And she succeeded. I have accomplished many of the goals that I set for myself.
But I could not have gotten to where I am now, either creatively (art/music/writing), professionally (in the I.T. field) and personally (as a husband and father) without the Lord’s intervention. He is the one who made me see my need for a Savior. Before then, I could do many things on my own -- except be truly content. Before giving my life to Him, I may have always pursued dreams but just as often, I would get in my own way. It was frustrating, even maddening, to be so close to what should have been "True Happiness," only to have it snatched away by a mistake or mishandling of a situation. And it would be my fault, whether I accepted that or not.
After the Lord saved me, I was able to relate better to my brothers in Christ and then men in general. Having the Holy Spirit to soothe and heal past hurts allowed me to see the world differently. And that made me a better writer, as I could impart more realistic male characters and provide a balance to my storytelling.
I do admit that I enjoy writing female protagonists and strong female characters. In recent years, there has been a lot of progress towards providing rewarding portrayals of female characters, ones who defy stereotypes or define their standout roles well, whether in print, on a screen or a stage.
It’s not necessary to overcompensate and under-portray the male characters. All you need is a balance. If the lead is female, then that’s fine. And vice-versa for males. What matters is good storytelling.
Will I end up writing male lead protagonists in the future? I’m sure I will, I just don’t know when. I’d like to think I’m up for the challenge!
Every writer has a unique style that reflects their personality and experiences. I have a fairly laid back personality, generally-speaking, but I am very passionate with my creativity. That’s true for every aspect of it, including writing, art and music. Focusing on writing only, I asked myself what has my style been? I looked to past examples to gauge my answer.
I began writing with comic books as a child and continued that into adulthood. Even though I improvised the writing at first (which occasionally forced me to "retcon" or use "retroactive continuity" to write myself out of a dead-end plot), I began to plan out my comic stories in advance. By the time my wife and I started the “Due East” webcomic, we were scripting each page. That worked much better, letting us map the direction of the story.
One of the advantages of creating comics is that the art does the describing for you. If you can draw the scenery the way you see it in your head, at least well enough for the average reader to recognize each element, then all you have to focus on is dialogue and how you want your characters and story to develop. It’s still writing but it’s not novelization. I had to learn that skill when I made the jump from comics to writing books.
Still, there are commonalities in the writing style between my comics and my novelizations. I generally like a fairly brisk pace when possible, though I do recognize that all characters need a chance to slow down, relax and breathe a little. I like action and adventure but that’s meaningless without well-developed characters. I’m a hopeless romantic, so there will always be elements of that within my stories. And I do have a sense of humor, ranging from dry to silly. I love parody but it’s rare to find opportunities to work that into your average story. And lastly, I can be very intense at times. This is definitely reflected in almost all of my stories. At some point, maybe more than once over the course of a tale, things will get intense. It may not last for long but it will occur and it will serve a distinct purpose.
And now, I think it’s time for some examples from my comics:
From 2007 to 2008, my wife and I co-wrote a Christian slice-of-life webcomic called "Due East." It was about a multiracial family (Caucasian and Asian husband/father, African-American wife/mother with two daughters together) who experience divorce and the splitting up of the family. But the parents stay in touch because of their children and eventually fall back in love. The story is about their attempts to heal their family. Their youngest daughter's best friend happens to be Christian.
A pivotal plot twist occurs during a strong thunderstorm. The younger, 16-year old daughter, Brielle, is at home when the storm hits and she is faced with a life-or-death situation.
You can see the page at this link.
Now to show a little of my romantic side, here's a very different page from Due East at this link.
And here's some humor in Due East, just for fun, at this link.
Sometimes I'll mix the elements for dramatic effect or it's just what the story calls for. The following Due East page glides from humor to tragedy in the same page. Friends Brielle and Carolyn are joking around as they enter Carolyn's home but are blindsided to discover Carolyn's mom dead from a drug overdose.
I'm not afraid to take chances on what I believe will be a good story. Things may get intense, bordering on controversial. But I also balance every idea or line of dialogue against my faith and values. Does the idea make sense? Is the character a Christian? And even if they're not, will what I'm trying to convey be edifying to the reader? Will it magnify the Lord? I have to consider all of that.
Fortunately my wife, Angel, gives me incredibly valuable feedback and insight. She will tell me when she thinks something I wrote does not work, but she does it with love. She is a huge support and I deeply value her input.
Summing everything up, I try to write stories that reflect who I am and what I hold dear. I weave the type of tales that I would like to read. They need a good pace, proper character development and a story that makes sense and leads somewhere. I hope that comes across.
So maybe you're wondering who is this "Allen Steadham" guy? Where'd he come from? Why did he start writing? Or perhaps why does he write Christian speculative fiction (i.e. science-fantasy, science fiction, fantasy, etc.)? I'd be happy to tell you.
It seems like I've always been writing. By the age of nine (in 1979), this Texas boy had become a big fan of comic books, mainly Marvel and DC superhero stuff. And I decided to make my own, hand-drawn comics, original superhero stories. As an ambitious ten-year-old, I even mailed a comic page submission to Marvel Comics. In return, I received the sweetest rejection letter possible, as I'm sure they could tell my age by the quality of the art.
That experience didn't discourage me, it actually inspired me to try and get better! I continued making those comics for years, even after I became involved with the woman I would marry. This crazy guy asked her to edit his comics (and she did)!
But in January 1996, I reached a crossroads in my life. One Saturday, I became extremely ill as a result of dehydration stemming from the flu. My wife, Angel, took me to a minor emergency clinic and they determined that I had lost half the (non-blood) fluids in my body. Every time the medical staff tried to give me fluids intravenously, my veins would collapse. This happened four times within a fairly short time. It forced me to contemplate the possibility of dying that day, which was terrifying!
Even though I had become disillusioned about attending church and "organized religion" in general when I turned 18, I had not stopped believing in God or Jesus Christ. In fact, I thought I was a Christian. But my life did not reflect that. I did not have a good understanding of the Bible nor of who Jesus really is, what He could do in my life.
I was a very different person then, a living contradiction: I was sensitive and cared deeply about my friends and family but I was vengeful, holding long grudges and a vicious rage in my heart. I was more scared of myself than anyone in the world. I aspired to be a journalist and wrote imaginative comics and had started teaching myself to play the electric bass guitar and keyboards but I had a wicked imagination. I cursed, smoked marijuana and when I did drink alcohol, it was Irish whiskey. I took tremendous risks to marry the woman I love, who is African-American, but we were too emotionally volatile for our marriage to succeed. Everything was heading for a disaster, even before I got sick.
However, Angel met a witness for Jesus at her workplace. They spoke with my wife (and later with me) about "living free from sin," salvation through God and His Son, Jesus Christ. She also told my wife about the church she attended and its pastor. Angel went to that church a few times and decided to give her life to Christ, shortly before our oldest son was born.
Over the next few months, I saw a real (and positive) change in the way Angel behaved towards me and the way she took care of our son. She would periodically ask if I wanted to visit a church service or Bible study. And I would always politely decline. I wanted her to be happy but I didn't want to change.
Though after I while, I thought to myself "What's the harm in going to a Bible study? She's been really good to me and I love her. This is a way I can show her that." So, I agreed to attend one. On the day of the Bible study, I started feeling very sick. Angel asked what I wanted to do. I asked her to take my temperature. I told her if I had no fever, I would still go...but if I had a fever, I'd have to stay home. She took my temperature and, even though I know I had a fever, the thermometer indicated the opposite.
I went to the Bible study. But once I got there, I felt so unwell that I couldn't eat any of the delicious food they served us beforehand. And once the pastor started the study, my back began to hurt...a lot. I pressed on, telling myself I was doing this for Angel, but it intensified throughout the night.
Something extraordinary happened in the midst of my growing pain: it forced me to concentrate on every word the pastor said. I had to look past any preconceived ideas and past doctrine. Doing so, I truly heard the gospel of Jesus Christ that night. The pastor spoke about how God and the devil war over people's souls. It was fascinating, illuminating and backed up by scripture.
By the end of the evening, I asked the pastor if I could come to his church that Sunday and give my life to Christ. He welcomed me to do so, but things would take a detour before then.
That evening, I had a terrible coughing fit which woke me in the middle of the night. I hacked and wheezed so hard that it threw something out in my back. Somehow, I managed to get some sleep.
I was still hurting the next morning and I asked Angel to take me to the emergency room. She agreed and then called the pastor to tell him what was going on and ask for his prayers. He asked us to stop by his house on the way to the hospital, so we did. He gave us $40.00 out of his own pocket and said he would be praying for us. We were very poor at that time and were grateful for his generosity. When we finished at the hospital, the insurance co-pay was $25.00 and the prescription for pain medication had a co-pay of $15.00 -- a total of exactly $40.00! We were amazed.
Unfortunately, the flu kept me at home that weekend but by Monday, I had recovered enough to return to work. Or so I thought. That Friday night, I was delirious and felt horrible again. Angel called the pastor and I believe that the combination of his and her prayers are what stabilized me enough to make it through that evening.
The next afternoon, I was at the minor emergency clinic, laying on a table and not knowing whether I was going to survive the day. I took a hard, honest look at my life and I didn't like what I saw. I knew that if I died right then, I would not go to Heaven. The Bible study lesson about God and the devil warring over souls returned to my mind. I contemplated Hell for the first time. I seriously considered how frightening it would be to spend eternity there. Desperate, I reached out with my thoughts and begged "God, if You save my life today, I'll go to church tomorrow and give my life to You!"
Just then, my fifth vein collapsed but the nurse told me that the IV had infused one liter of fluid into me beforehand (I needed two). She told me that I could either drink one liter of orange juice and see if I could keep it down. Or they could go for a vein in my ankle next. I said "give me the orange juice." I drank it and I kept it down. So, after a little while, they let me leave.
The next day, I kept my promise to God and gave my life to His Son, Jesus Christ. And He changed me. The old me died and I was spiritually born again. That was January 14, 1996.
Since then, I have not cursed, smoke or drank alcohol. The Lord took that vengeful spirit out of me and I can forgive. I am still growing as a Christian but the Lord helped me become a better husband and father. And I decided that I want to use my creativity for the Lord. Within months, my wife and I were both participating in music with the church. And within a year, we were asked to join a band, First Light, which we are still members of to this day.
I continued making comics but they were no longer superhero comics. I wanted to make a Christian comic with my wife as the co-writer and editor. We eventually made Due East and it became an award-winning (Best Spiritual Comic 2008, Most Profound Comic 2008) slice-of-life webcomic.
In 2013, I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). I took many of the characters and a few story elements from my very first comic, updated them and gave it a Christian theme. Over the next three weeks, the first draft of Mindfire came together. It would take another two years to edit it but I self-published it on Amazon in 2016.
In 2018, I participated in a Twitter event called #FaithPitch, where Christian authors sum up their book for publishing agents and editors in 280 characters. With a great deal of prayer, I pitched my second book, Jordan's World. Within an hour, it interested an editor from Ambassador International. I submitted the manuscript and was offered a contract within two days. Following more prayer, verifying the validity of the contract and a conversation with my pastor, I completed and returned the contract.
A week later, I emailed the publisher and asked if they would be interested in reading the manuscript for Mindfire and they agreed. I was offered a contract on that book within one day.
I feel that the Lord has set me on a course to write Christian fiction novels and to share my testimony with others. All of it is for Him. He is the One who changed my life. I owe Him all the honor and glory.
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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