The Next Fithian: Author Interview

The Next Fithian: Author Interview with Rick Berry! A YA Christian Science Fiction Book on Tour with Celebrate Lit + Giveaway!


Book: The Next Fithian

Author: Rick Barry

Genre: YA Christian Science Fiction

Release date: September 14, 2021

Was this a new life — or a death sentence?

When Rankin Johnson boards a flight to Israel, he expects an adventure in archeology. But the airplane comes under attack and explodes in midair. Rankin shouts, “God, I’m yours!” Instantly, he’s in some other place. An angel informs Rankin the Lord is pleased to accept his offer. He dubs Rankin “the next Fithian” — a messenger from God, not to Earth, but to planet Zemna in the alternate dimension. What happened to the previous Fithian? “He was killed,” the angel says before vanishing.

On Zemna, Rankin finds a perplexing, violent world. Futuristic technology mingles with primitive ways. Also, a bizarre symbol—the Intersection of All Things—has appeared on his left palm. It’s a tool to aid his mission, but how? Rankin is supposed to share God’s message with this planet. Instead, he becomes a slave. What he really wants is a trip back to Earth.

With the aid of Prahv and Theena, a brother and sister who become his best friends, Rankin escapes. He hopes to fulfill his mission and return home as fast as possible. But now there’s a price on Rankin’s head. More than one Zemnan would rather kill him for the reward than hear what he has to say.

Click here to get your copy!


Rick Barry has climbed mountains, jumped from perfectly good airplanes, toured World War 2 battlefields, and visited Eastern Europe over 50 times in Christian ministry. He has a degree in teaching foreign languages and speaks Russian. His fiction and non-fiction have been published by Kregel Books, Focus on the Family, JourneyForth Books, Answers in Genesis, and others. His previous novels are Kiriath’s Quest, Gunner’s Run, The Methuselah Project, and Methuselah Project S.O.S.


More from Rick

Years ago, I received an unexpected phone call. Michael Ross, then-editor of Focus on the Family’s Breakaway magazine, asked me to brainstorm a big, bold adventure for teens: “Maybe fantasy. Maybe science fiction. Maybe both mixed together. I don’t know. Just make it big!”

Such an intriguing challenge! I accepted the assignment and developed a 3-part Christian sci-fi story, The Next Fithian. Those three installments reaped enthusiastic reactions from readers. However, after Part 3, that assignment was done. I moved on.

As years passed, my Fithian characters refused to let me forget them. They kept coming to mind, urging me to create an exhilarating, novel-length adventure for them. At first, I refused. I was giving priority to my novels about World War II airmen.

However, whenever I attended homeschool conferences to sign books for shoppers, teens visited my table to talk. What were those teen guys and girls wearing? T-shirts portraying the Avengers, Spider-Man, Captain America, the Hulk … It was obvious what kinds of adventures captivated these young adults. I wondered—what kind of uplifting novel could I pen for Christian fans of the Marvel universe?

In reply, my thoughts jumped back to The Next Fithian, a story brimming with action, adventure, danger, faith—plus a positive role model. This time, I yielded and began brainstorming ways to extend the original 5,400 words into an 80,000-word sci-fi novel with a Christian worldview. I didn’t want simply to create a gripping adventure. I wanted to give readers something unique. I wanted to touch their emotions, to make them laugh, to make them cry, to inspire them, and make them ponder things they had never considered before. I also wanted to transport them to another world where they might see better how to live in our own real world.

Responses from volunteer readers give me hope that The Next Fithian: An Ordinary Teen on a Strange, New World will appeal to diverse readers, both teens and adults. One teen, Kaden E. wrote, “WOW! I just finished the book, and boy was it fantastic!” Another teen, Victoria S. declared, “Rankin is exactly the kind of protagonist we need—he’s mentally, emotionally, and spiritually mature; intelligent; and compassionate.” Adult test reader Marali S. emailed, “I enjoyed this! You must write more!” Another, Jude U., wrote, “I pronounce excellence! The ‘romance’ was sweet and just enough.”

A mix of other test readers gave similar encouragement. So, even though my target audience is young adults, I hope adults will also enjoy it, just as adults enjoyed 17-year-old Katniss Everdeen of Hunger Games fame.

Christian sci-fi might not be your style, but pause and think—maybe you know a young adult who might benefit from such a story?


What is your favorite book that you have written (Published or Unpublished), and why?

My personal favorite is The Methuselah Project, an inspirational suspense story (Kregel Books) with a sprinkling of speculative elements. When American fighter pilot Roger Greene gets shot down in World War 2, the Germans use him as an unwilling guinea pig in a bizarre experiment that secretly continues even after the war. The book focuses less on the war than it does on my patriotic hero as he copes with the challenges of captivity, escape, evasion of pursuers, and eventually convincing the woman who helps him that his crazy story is true. It also includes a satisfying touch of romance. I say that’s my favorite, but in the sequel, Methuselah Project S.O.S., I raise the stakes and ramp up both the action and the tension. Amazon reviewers are rating the sequel even higher than the first book!

How do you pick your characters’ personalities or looks?

I can’t stand it when an author creates two or more characters with similar names and personalities. Remembering who’s who becomes a struggle. So, from the outset I consciously decide on different personalities and appearances. Sometimes I’ve even copied photos of actors or models to serve as a personal reference guide while writing. In my new sci-fi novel, The Next Fithian, the hero is a 17-year-old high schooler who is captain of the cross-country team. To create him, I had to think back to my high school years. I made him likeable, but with his own set of doubts, fears, and insecurities to overcome.

What is your favorite genre to read? What is your favorite genre to write? And why are they your favorites?

I like variety, so I read (or listen to) an array of genres. One book was a non-fiction biography of the Wright Brothers. Another was Lori Wick’s classic Sophie’s Heart. But most often I gravitate toward suspenseful books where the protagonist is in actual danger. The literary motif you’ll spot repeatedly in my own novels is “Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.” I believe this approach makes it easier for readers to imagine themselves in the role of the protagonist as they must sink or swim in a totally unexpected turn of events. Since I appreciate this type of fiction, I enjoy the challenge of crafting it for others, too.

What inspires you the most?

Any author who can grab my imagination and keep me turning pages is an inspiration. For instance, ask me if I like Westerns, and I’ll say, “No.” However, if you pop a Louis L’Amour story into the car’s CD player, that guy knew how pique your curiosity right from the paragraph one. Effortlessly, he plops you into a western world of cowhands, rustlers, rattlesnakes, horses, and all the sweat, smells, and grit that make it come alive as you hope the hero comes out alive. To me, genre is secondary to the question, “Does the story grip my attention and keep me turning pages?” Experiencing such a story makes me eager to write the same.

Once an idea takes root, how long does it take you to write it down?

That’s an interesting question. Once while listening to news on my car radio, I heard that China wanted to build a moon base. I immediately pictured an American moon base and a Chinese moon base and imagined someone getting stranded while traveling alone from one to the other. Within a short time, I wrote it up as “Stranded” and sold that to Focus on the Family for teen readers. With novels, the process is slower. Normally an idea for a plot comes to me first—something cool will happen. From there, I begin a file where I collect ideas to flesh out that plot, including more events, character ideas, settings, and bits and pieces of research that might be helpful. I often continue researching as I write the story, because I’ll reach a juncture where I need realistic details to bring the story alive.

Do you have a favorite author? Or someone whom you would say has influenced your writing style?

I can’t say I have one very favorite author. Again, I like variety. But in the Christian realm, several whom I especially appreciate for story-weaving skills are Angela Hunt, Alton Gansky, and Joel Rosenberg. There are others, of course.

What are your hobbies other than writing?

I’m a fitness buff. I enjoy working out and running. In fact, after sitting at a computer for hours each day, my body craves a chance to do something physical. Some days, that translates to mowing the lawn. Other days, I’ll run a few miles. Not long ago, I did the “100 Push-up Challenge” of doing 100 pushups every day for a solid month. Because exercise can get stale, I try to mix it up!

Do you have a genre that you would never write? (In the Christian genre sphere i.e. speculative, historical, contemporary, etc.)

I have zero interest in writing horror stories, Christian or otherwise. Horror holds absolutely no appeal for me.

What is one thing you would say has had the greatest impact on your writing? Or life in general?

The one event that has most impacted both my life and my writing would be placing my faith in Jesus Christ. I was fifteen at the time. Back then, I had no thoughts of writing. When you grow in a close relationship with the Lord and read His Word, you naturally develop a God-centered worldview that molds how you think and how you live. As I delved into writing during my university years, my Christian faith naturally flavored my articles, short stories, and now my novels.

Lastly, what was your favorite book growing up?

In fifth grade, I discovered an old, battered book with a pale-green hardback cover in the school library. The title was two words: The Hobbit. That meant nothing to me. Curious, I took it home. Soon, Tolkien’s story-telling skills and word pictures had me immersed in a strange world the likes of which I’d never imagined before. I read that book six or seven times before moving on to middle school. 


To celebrate his tour, Rick is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and signed copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

Check out other stops on the TOUR!

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 13

Texas Book-aholic, December 14

Inklings and notions, December 15

For Him and My Family, December 16

deb’s Book Review, December 17

Locks, Hooks and Books, December 18

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, December 19

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, December 20

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, December 21

Adventures of a Travelers Wife, December 21 (Author Interview)

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, December 22

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, December 23

Simple Harvest Reads, December 24 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 25

Beauty in the Binding, December 26 (Author Interview)

Blogging With Carol, December 26

OR Check out other Author Interviews HERE

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Travelers Wife 4 Life

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