did you become a writer?
have always loved words. They are the most powerful
things on earth. Whether fiction or non-fiction, words
are the means by which God called something out of
nothing! Jesus was the Word of God in flesh and spoke
to wind and waves and conveyed the truth through parables.
Words can cause great pain and bring great joy; they
can inspire and encourage and create meaning out of
nonsense (and vice versa). I always loved booksnot
just reading them, but the way they felt in my hand
and smelled in my nose, but I owe my early love of
writing to my sister Bennie, who had me writing essays
at the ripe old age of six years old. I wrote on prejudice,
war and peace, and other social issues especially
relevant to 1971. I was no prodigy, for sure, and
the collected essays are about what you would expect
of a six-year-old essayist. But I learned the power
of language beginning just then.
my chosen career (psychologist), and the torturous
training required to practice entailed that I do a
lot of technical, academic writing and master the
art of jargonese. I found those words weakest, though,
and returned to a better way of expressing myself,
a way that was kinder if not always gentler. I found
myself saying, "Can I ever have a thought of
my own that doesn't have to backed up with ten references
cited in Chicago style?" It was then, in 1991,
that I began writing fiction in earnest. I had written
stories and poems over the years as an avocation and
nothing compared to the thrill of putting words together
and getting it...I'm a perfectionist...almost right.
So I began writing, and rewriting, and trashing most
of it. The Healing of Ryne O'Casey went through
a great many revisions. I finished it in 1992. Then
I finished it again in 1995. Then I finished it again
in 1998. Will this ending do? What's this word doing
here? Why did I ever think this was any good? That
phrase doesn't work; this one does...and so on. I
would finish it and put it away and write something
else: a short story, a suspense novel for a change
of pace, some poetry. Then I would pull it out of
the drawer and have at it again. Finally, in Fall
2003, I had what I can only describe as an epiphany...
What do you mean "epiphany"?
Well, my wife Lena and I dropped the boys
off at the grandfolks and headed south for a long
weekend getaway on Jekyll Island, Georgia. While we
were on the way to dinner on nearby St. Simon's Island,
we spotted a hitchhiker clad in faded jeans and with
a guitar slung over his back. We don't usually pick
up hitchhikers, but it was an unseasonably hot afternoon
on the Golden Isles of Georgia, and we said, "Why
not?" It just so happened that we had picked
up a southern writer and gentleman of some renown...
That experience motivated me to pull the The Healing
of Ryne O'Casey out of the drawer and submit it
for publication. The gracious writer was generous
enough to read and comment on the novel. I made a
change that really made a difference and went through
the final prep and I sent it out.
is "Christian fiction"?
I've pondered that quite a bit. It's a little
like using the adjective "Christian" to
modify a word like house. What is a Christian house?
A house that Christians live in, or is there something
about the house itself that is Christian? Semantics,
I know. But I hope by the term Christian fiction we
mean writing that is not meticulously sanitized and
mannered because that strikes me aswhat?counter-Christian.
By sanitized, I'm not talking about gratuitous violence,
foul language, graphic sex scenes, and the like. I'm
talking mainly about character and circumstance, or
plot. Personally, I grimace at gingerbread characters
warm from the oven. Without the evil backdrop, which
is life in the fallen world, there is no contrast
for good, and Christian fiction should be as real
as can be in portraying the Christian worldview in
stark contrast to that other worldview. Maybe if there's
not something disturbing, edgy and challenging, about
a piece of work, it's not really deserving of the
adjective Christian because Jesus was always edgy
and always a disturbing presence, and He always challenged
and challenges those He encountered and encounters.
I prefer CBA & non-CBA books that challenge me:
Anything by Flannery O'Connor or Lisa Samson or Frederick
Buechner; James Calvin Schaap's Romey's Place;
Linda Dorrell's True Believers. I realize that
readers read for different reasons at different times.
Sometimes, it's for pure entertainment. A book offers
a respite from the madding crowd. Nothing heavy; nothing
sad; a happy ending is nice. Other times, it's for
enlightenment or inspiration. That's what I usually
look for in a book. Something that will inspire me
to see things in a different light. A strong voice,
realistic characters confronting real challenges,
and a plot that shows the grace, mercy, hope, and
love in the midst of their opposites is what keeps
me riffling through those bookstore shelves...
you weren't writing what would you be?
I've tried it and can tell you from experience: