For Morgan L. Busse’s latest novel, her first image was simple and suspenseful.
“She’s looking down and has to kill the guy,” Busse said. “And she decides . . .”
But saying more would be a spoiler. “All my books usually start with one scene, that all of a sudden I see it clearly in my head,” Busse said. “I’m asking myself: Who are they? How did they get here? And what’s going to happen at this point?”
The Mark of the Raven answers these questions, starting a fantasy trilogy with political intrigue and big questions about finding one’s calling—plus unique superpowers.
In this world, Busse’s heroine, Lady Selene Ravenwood, is gifted the power to influence a person’s dreams from the inside. That concept provided exactly the twist on the killer-fantasy-assassin trope that Busse knew her world would need.
Busse—follower of the Word, wife of a pastor, mother to four children, and author of six novels so far—said she loves exploring how people choose to use their gifts.
“God has given us many different talents and abilities,” Busse said. “When someone has been given power, what do they do with it? How do they make the choice? . . . What aspect of himself is God showing the world through a person?”
As a child, Busse discovered her gift of fantasy fandom thanks to her father. Her mother, a conservative Christian, was strongly opposed to fantasy at the time. (Busse said her mother now happily embraces the genre.) Her non-Christian dad could not get enough of fantasy, starting with works by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, of course, but also Conan the Barbarian and plenty of fantastical B-movies.
Morgan L. Busse has written six novels, including the Follower of the Word fantasy trilogy and The Soul Chronicles series. She and her husband have four children.
“There was always a part of me who enjoyed having an imagination,” Busse said.
Later, when she married her husband, Dan, they had to find inexpensive recreation options while he was attending seminary. At a public library, they found a shelf of Star Wars novels, which led to books by Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey, and beyond.
Busse wondered: what if fantasy could help her explore deeper, biblical themes?
“I went into a Christian bookstore and asked them where the science fiction and fantasy was,” she said. “They pointed me to the one Frank Peretti book they had.”
Fortunately, small presses and indie creators have made fantasy novels from Christian authors, which often explore clear biblical themes, much more common.
Busse got her own start creating stories with her Follower of the Word fantasy trilogy from Enclave Publishing, which released Daughter of Light, Son of Truth, and Heir of Hope from 2012 to 2015. That same press later published her steampunk duology the Soul Chronicles, Tainted and Awakened (2016–2017). (This time the Ravenwood Saga, releasing in 2018 to 2020, comes from Bethany House.)
“There are scenes that I write where I am literally lifting them up to God in worship,” Busse said. “It’s almost like I got to draw with my Papa. Draw a picture, paint with him. I want to share with other people who God is, in all his facets.
“I want to write fiction where I am asking and wrestling with my characters these really hard questions about God,” Busse continued. “I don’t want to shy away [from challenging material] just because I want to have it be a really clean book.”
“I want to write fiction where I am asking and wrestling with my characters these really hard questions about God . . .”
— Morgan L. Busse
These themes helped one reader, who wrote Busse to say how she empathized with the Soul Chronicles novels’ similarity to her struggle with an abusive father.
Family conflict also plays a big part in House Ravenwood’s story.
“It asks: What do you do when you’re living under a parent who is very strong-willed and has their own idea of what you’re going to grow up to be?” Busse said.
“There are scenes that I write where I am literally lifting them up to God in worship.”
— Morgan L. Busse
Raven’s male hero, Lord Damian, faces similar challenges when he must use his supernatural gift to defend his people, with terrible consequences. Choices in his story, and Selene’s story, won’t come easy in this first installment, she said.
“You have to leave everything in God’s hands,” Busse said. “You can’t save everybody. It fact, it’s kind of hubris to think that you can save everything.”
Busse and Dan can personally relate. She said they have moved a few times between churches and have spent many years in the messy business of helping Jesus’s organized kingdom outposts try to fulfill their gospel mission in the world.
“I know what ministry is like!” Busse said. “But we still keep coming back because we believe in the church. . . . Even then, God is still walking with you.
“I think the whole walk with God is continuing to meet different side roads, where we have to make that choice to keep following the road God has given us,” she said. “It’s not easy. And I think the more we follow God, the harder it becomes.”