Monday 9 February 2015

Interview with Alessandra Dagostino, author of Murray Pura's Preacher Man Series II, Wicked Christmas Complete Series

Preacher Man Series I, was a great reading experience for me. Written by Murray Pura, well constructed, 4 short episodes involving spiritual warfare, satanism, devil worship and standing firm in Christ, using the power of Christ's victory over sin and death. Some great lessons for every believer in spiritual warfare. Very edgy Christian speculative fiction at its best!

At the end of this Series, there was a general feeling amoungst readers of this series that there needed to be a second series. All of us fans were excited and heaved a sigh of relief when, so soon after the finish of Series I, it was discovered Series II had been released and surprised that there was another author in the helm instead of Murray Pura! And what a wonderful surprise and authorship Alessandra Dagostino has turned out to be! This second series has been well received and I know from myself and another fan that Dagostino has taken this to the next level, more anticlimaxes, more spiritual warfare, more victories in Jesus name and by His Spirit, and more edgy, speculative plot lines. 

Now that Series II is complete and having enjoyed this immensely, I am impressed with the talent and creativity that Dagostino has shown in creating this series, so I really felt it would be great to discuss this with her. 

So sit back, kick your feet up, grab your favourite drink and let yourself enter Alessandra's world. Be prepared, she is very passionate about her spiritual warfare and this lends itself very well to Preacher Man Series II!

But before we begin, here is what all the excitement has been about: 

Murray Pura's Preacher Man Series II, Wicked Christmas Complete Series 

Volume One - Sweet Evil 

A castle in Germany. Christmas is on the way. Snow is on the mountain peaks and carols are in the air. But the castle holds a dark secret. So dark that Preacher Man has to be reactivated and sent into the thousand year old citadel to put things right. But this time the evil is above and beyond anything he has experienced before. It is so powerful and so invasive it is enough to bring a strong man to his knees. Even a saint. Even Preacher Man.

Volume 2 - Bad Angels 

The atheists want to take the Christ out of Christmas. So does the secular crowd. So does all the Wicca and pagan organizations. Now the satanists do as well. They want Christ out and the devil in. And they have sent some very fallen and very lethal angels to make their dream of a Christless Christmas come true, a Christmas where Satan and overindulgence rule and love and goodness cease to exist.

Volume 3 - Carpe Noctem 

Angelika was a devil worshiper and raised to hate him and trained to kill him. But now, to her shock and surprise - and anger - she has fallen in love with him, Preacher Man, the great enemy of hell and the devil and all the children of darkness. Now she is a cauldron of confused loyalties and mixed emotions. Now she has to choose between destroying the man she loves and staying faithful to Satan or turning to God and fighting by her lover's side. As the supernatural battle within the Castle boils out onto the mountain slopes of the Brocken, Angelika has only Christmas Eve to decide where she will place her heart. 

Volume 4 - Christwalkers 

The battle to prevent Satan's incarnation moves quickly from Germany and then to Rome. Soon even Angelika is taken from Preacher Man's side and he is all alone. Exhausted, weakened, having spent hours and hours without food or drink in the midst of vicious spiritual warfare, he must face a devil at the peak of his powers, a devil strengthened by the spells of his followers and the blood flow of their human sacrifices. Preacher Man is a christwalker and will make his final stand in the power of the Christ. But will his faith, tied as it is into his very human soul, be enough in his fight against the Prince of the Power of the Air?

Alessandra, thanks for allowing me to interview you! After reading Preacher Man Series II and being totally entertained, I wanted to find out more about you as a new author and discuss Series II. So let's start. Tell me about yourself! 

I am a very private person so my bio will reflect that but you’ll still learn some things about me.

I became a Christian at nine. I may have been young but I knew what I was doing and it was a significant experience for me. My commitment has been life-long and I attend a vibrant church in Florida that has real depth.

I began modelling as a child in Italy. I was ten and my father had a two year sabbatical. Mostly we hung around Roma, Caserta, Napoli, Firenze, and Perugia. I now have my own small modeling 
agency in the US.

Martial arts began when I was 12. First I learned judo, then Shotokan Karate, and then Tae Kwon Do. To that I added BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), kick boxing, and Krav Maga. My nickname is “Letale” in Italian and מֵמִית in Israeli, both of which mean lethal or deadly. I move quickly, I win 99% of my fights, and that includes against men. A man usually does not take a woman martial artist seriously until she has him in a hold where he must tap out or pass out. I find flying kicks, arm bars, leg scissors, and rear naked chokes most effective in bringing my (generally) bigger and heavier opponents to submission.

I am also trained in the use of various 9mm and 45 handguns, the M16/AR15, the AK-74, HK MP5, and various shotguns. I also know how to use and defend myself against a knife.

I use my martial arts skills and weapons skills in my part-time work with a private security firm.

I began writing stories in high school but am only now beginning to write for publication.

I became involved in Christian deliverance ministries on a visit to Italy and Europe when I was 18. I stay connected with reputable people who undertake this ministry in the USA and frequently assist.

For various reasons I have to use different names and different portraits. Catch me if you can. The real Aless is out there and writes the stories you read and many of the pictures are her. 

And I really am 24! Just like the TV show with Jack Bauer!

You have one very interesting background! What was the motivation to be trained in martial arts, and the use of guns and defence in being attacked with a knife? These disciplines are not common for women to embrace, but I feel both genders need to be able to defend themselves.

Bullying from girls in school made me want to get fit and defend myself. And I had a couple of boyfriends in my teens who were into martial arts so I started learning about it with them. I continued long after they had left. Being fit and strong made boys challenge me in the schoolyard so I had to keep pushing myself to be faster and stronger than them. I learned the knife skills in a special self-defense component at a Shotokan Karate dojo. Learning about that and how to us swords (katanas) naturally led to wanting to learn the necessary skills for other weapons like firearms. 

In your bio, you state that you started writing stories in high school. What was your motivation or inspiration for this?

It was the bullying and survival experiences that got me journalling. Then I started writing stories where the chick was strong enough to defeat all bullies, physical and supernatural. It was my way of coping.

What has surprised you the most about becoming an author?

I have been surprised that people can relate to my stories, stories that originate from my heart and imagination. Wow, that is very encouraging to me!

How has writing and being an author impacted further on your relationship with Jesus Christ?

Remember that cool line from Chariots of Fire? “When I run I feel His pleasure” – yeah? That’s what I feel from God when I write with all the power and passion I have welling up inside of me.

Can you divulge to your fans something that you like to do when you're not writing?

Well, when I work out, I train very intensely and it’s 7 days a week. When I do heavy bag punching and kicking, the sessions are 2 hours long. But I also like long worship evenings where there’s lots of sincere and genuine spontaneous prayer and music that is inspired, I believe, by the Spirit of God. When I am out with friends or on a date, a good time is drinking coffee at a nice café & talking the night away.

How did you come to write the Preacher Man Series II?

I got to know some authors who wrote for the publisher and they asked me to submit some material. Murray Pura did not have the time to devote to writing Preacher Man 2, and because he liked my writing style, he asked me to consider writing the series. Believe me, I was anxious going in!

This series has been long awaited from what Murray Pura started in Series I, how did you feel about continuing this from the standard Pura set and him being such a successful and prominent author in Christian fiction?

Yes I was spooked but he was encouraging; so was the publisher. It became easier as I continued. I know I imitated his style a lot at first, so I worked hard to break free and develop my own style, one that is uniquely mine.

Was there any challenges you faced writing Series II?

I wanted to up the ante and make it more intense than Series 1 on as many levels as possible. That’s just me. I have the same attitude when I fight in martial arts and when it comes to my other disciplines. My friends call me Octane and Maxxed Out or Maxx for short. Wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Looking at the reviews, it appears I may have! 

All reviews have been 5 stars, indicating that Series II has been very well received. Were you expecting this and how does this make you feel as a new author?

Oh I am surprised, and it’s so encouraging! I thank God I can be myself in my writing, expressing the extreme and “maxxed out” attitudes I have from my fighting experience, and show my crazy Italian-American personality, and yeah, have my readers accept me like this. 

I presume that Murray Pura would have handed over plot developments from Series I for you to further, did you have any say in these before you wrote them?

He asked me to work from the castle in the Germany setting and with the Incarnation of Satan at Christmas storyline. There were supposed to be pretty sinister femme fatales and Preacher Man was supposed to get into some real hot water from the powers of darkness. I took it from there.

What kind of reaction were you hoping to receive from readers of Series II?

Well, I was hoping that my reader could handle the intense portrayal of evil that accelerates from each Volume. I did have my doubts. I actually thought a lot of readers would dislike that intensity even though, IMO and in my experience, it’s accurate. We do not advertise the series on traditional Christian book sites for this reason. So I guess the positive response did rock me a bit - but in a good way.  

Preacher Man Series I and II are classified in the edgy, Christian speculative  fiction genre. You have started your writing career in this relatively new and evolving, but not currently, well accepted or understood, genre of Christian fiction. Had you considered writing in a safer, better accepted and recognized mainstream genre of Christian fiction first?

No, I personally don’t like the cookie cutter or formula writing that I see in some other Christian fiction genres, so I have no desire to go there. I find that in some of these genres, it isn’t anything like the real world and sometimes that includes the equally real paranormal world of angels and demons. 

Your bio states that you have been involved in deliverance ministry since you were 18 yrs of age. That would imply that you know about demon possession/oppression, devil worship and satanism, I guess collectively the occult. Can I presume that what you have described in the volumes for Series II relating to the occult is based on what you have experienced and know? Any part of your description of the occultic practices are poetic licence?

Yes I draw on my personal experiences when I write about spiritual warfare but it’s still fiction and although fiction is based on real experience, it is still about what might happen, not always what did happen. For instance, I have never seen a clash of celestial beings on the level of what I describe in the bowels of the castle on Christmas Eve, but who knows? It might look like that.

One of the expectations I have of Christian fiction, all genres, is to not only entertain but to educate. I feel that Series II (and Series I) does this very well. However, there are, sadly, some Christians that would steer away from a series like this due to its occult themes, being ignorant and/or fearful of the occult, and therefore miss out on the spiritual insights into biblical spiritual warfare and the reality of the occult. What are your thoughts on this?

My thoughts? If someone does not want to read about spiritual warfare, that is their decision. If they don’t read about it because they're afraid, then they are putting their head in the sand and missing a golden opportunity to learn about this. It’s like a Navy Seal being afraid to tangle with ISIS or the Australian SAS being intimidated by local terrorists. Christians are the first responders when it comes to spiritual warfare. If they are afraid to fight the powers of hell then no one will be available to stand and defend the human race. Through Christ's death on the Cross and His victory over sin and death, He has given us the power of His Name and His Spirit alone to defeat the power, rule and dominion of Satan and whoever stands with him. Why should any Christian be afraid of the enemy when God is on our side and has equipped us? 

What message do you want readers to obtain from reading Preacher Man Series II?

I want the reader to realize that the danger is there, it’s real, and can be defeated, but not without faith and courage. “The whole world is hostage to the devil,” Paul tells us. It’s our job as Christians to rescue the hostages. Our job. No one else’s. So let’s put our boots on the ground and boldly go in Christ’s name and in His Spirit where angels fear to tread. 

Your readers want to know if will be a Preacher Man Series III. Any comments? If there is not to be a PM III, what is your next writing challenge? Would you mind giving an exclusive glimpse of what is to come?

I had no idea I’d write PM2, so I haven’t thought much about PM3. However as Murray Pura may be moving on to other projects, the opportunity for me to do PM3 has been hinted at. I would do it if I were permitted to hijack the series a bit and make the ex-devil worshipper, Angelika, a principal character, as strong as Preacher Man (or stronger). In many ways, because of her background, she is far more lethal than he is against the powers of darkness. I’d like to see him, as her man, get taken hostage by the Evil One and she becomes his only hope of being rescued from hell alive. So she literally tears up the Kingdom of Darkness to save her lover and fellow spiritual warrior. And I mean tear up. It would be the ultimate KA Chick story but way more than SALT (2010 movie with Angelina Jolie) or Agent Carter (Captain America) because she is fighting on both physical and paranormal levels, no holds barred. If they would let me run with that plot for PM3 I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers?

If you want edgy, if you want real Christian and real christwalker (see Volume 4), if you detest formula fluff fiction, if you want high octane and super maxxed out thrillers that are deep and that stimulate, encourage and edify your spirit and imagination, and if you’re not afraid of some great romance along the way, then consider giving this young Italian-American author chick a try! Grazi mille! (Thanks a million).

Any final words?

If I don’t do PM3 (or even if I do) I’d like to write a series about a female bounty hunter who deals with fugitives who exist on both the physical and supernatural planes. The justice she brings them to is sometimes earthly but more often than not, it is justice that is executed from the throne of God. She has extraordinary powers and astonishing martial arts skills but frequently has to battle evil in environments where only her human skills and abilities serve her well. The fugitives she hunts are the most ruthless mix of both the demonic and corrupted humanity. These are hardcore paranormal killers who spawn wars and murderous epidemics and global terrorism and who feast on human suffering and bloodshed. Yet she tracks them without hesitation. Even angels fear to tread where this BA Christian chick goes. But if you think the black hats are scary wait till you see her take them on in the full power of the fire of God. Beautiful, strong, fearless, no wonder hell has two words for her and only two words – Sudden Death.

Anyone interested?

Where can readers find you? 

Sorry I don’t have all the stuff below set up yet but I am on Facebook, please friend me there. I am looking for all sorts of new friends and readers, and I don’t care about your background or where you’re coming from, just be real and we’ll have a great Facebook friendship.  

Well, Alessandra, thanks for showing us a glimpse of your life and discussing how you came to write Preacher Man Series II. You have had a successful debut as a writer and you have taken Preacher Man Series II to the next level. We look forward to the prospect that Preacher Man III may become a reality and your future writing endeavours, especially about the female bounty hunter will continue to be edgy, Christian speculative in nature and very exciting! Keep up this great standard! I pray that your description of spiritual warfare has encouraged the Body of Christ to embrace this in their relationship with God and to be used by Him to rescue and free those bound in captivity to satan and his schemes. 

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