An In-Depth Q&A with James L. Rubart (Spirit Bridge)
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR THE WELL SPRING (THOMAS NELSON) SERIES?
At the real life Well Spring Ranch which is hidden in the mountains west of Colorado Springs. Both my publisher and I wanted to develop an epic story and we went there to brainstorm ideas. My first three novels were focused on one protagonist and their story, which worked well, but I was ready for a bigger adventure with multiple main characters and higher stakes.
We started praying, and within half an hour came up with what we thought was a compelling premise: What if a 30-year-old prophecy called four ordinary people from different walks of life to fight for healing and freedom by sending their spirits into other people’s souls?
That does indeed sound like an exciting premise. Tell us about these four main
characters that send their spirits into other people’s souls.
Reece Roth walked powerfully in the things of the Spirit years ago, but was taken out when his wife and daughter were killed. Now he’s stepped back in the arena to guide and train the other three of the prophecy, but it’s forced him to face his greatest failure in the process.
Dana Raine is the general manager of a Seattle radio station and is a born leader, but her fear of abandonment, as well as being thrust back into relationship with the man who broke her heart threatens to cripple her God-given destiny.
Marcus Amber is a brilliant physics professor at the University of Washington who has had to face his deepest regret and overcome it, because if he doesn’t, he and the other warriors will be destroyed.
Brandon Scott is multi-million selling singer and song writer but still struggles with his worth. And when his career starts to slip away he has to make the choice to save himself, or allow his dream to die, bringing astounding freedom to the other warriors.
IN THREE SENTENCES (OR LESS) WHAT ARE THE THREE BOOKS IN THE SERIES ABOUT?
Soul’s Gate: Destiny and freedom
Memory’s Door: Throwing off the chains of regret
Spirit Bridge: Stepping into our true identity
I CAN SEE HOW YOUR STATEMENT ABOUT A PATH TO FINDING FREEDOM CAN BE TRULY LAID OUT IN YOUR BOOKS AND THIS SERIES. WHAT IS THE BIBLICAL BACKGROUND OR BASIS FOR THE SERIES?
I’ve always been fascinated by scriptures in the Bible that many Christians have missed or ignored: Hearing God’s voice, teleportation, turning invisible (yes, it’s in there) traveling into spiritual realms, etc. Miraculous events that happen repeatedly in the Word, but we don’t talk much about. Was it real back then? If yes, is it possible for those things to happen today?
I wanted to tear open my own small box of beliefs and my reader’s boxes as well. And the response has been wild. People have e-mailed me telling of incredible things that have happened to them. But more than that, the heart of the series is my characters finding healing for their deepest wounds, and then taking that message of freedom to others. I want my readers to be wildly entertained by my novels, but I also want them to come away with more freedom and healing than they’ve ever experienced.
AND IT SOUNDS LIKE ON THAT YOU ARE DELIVERING. HOW MANY BOOKS ARE PLANNED FOR THIS SERIES?
Spirit Bridge is the last one, so just three. We wanted to go till the story ended and we felt like Spirit Bridge ties up the story arc in the most powerful way possible. To write another book would be pushing the series beyond where it should go. (But for those who have enjoyed the series, they needn’t worry, I think one or two of the characters from the Well Spring series might pop up again in another story down the road.)
Did you outline the entire series, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Outline? Wait a second. Are you saying you can outline these things?
I definitely let the characters take control. For me, writing is sitting down at my laptop and waiting till the movie starts playing in my head. Then I transcribe the movie. It’s a mess, but after it’s all down, I go back and do my best to clean it all up.
YOU’RE MY KIND OF WRITER. ANY CERTAIN RESEARCH REQUIRED FOR THE BOOK, OR IS IT ALL STRAIGHT FROM YOUR IMAGINATION?
All straight from my imagination. But I think most novelists are doing research all the time—even if they don’t realize it. We collect information in every moment, often subconsciously. An interesting conversation here, an intriguing fact there … then when we’re writing, the collection rises to the surface and we skim off the interesting bits and put them in our stories. At least that’s the way it works for me.
YES, ALWAYS ANOTHER STORY WAITING TO BE EXPLORED. ARE YOU WORKING ON YOUR NEXT BOOK? AND IF SO CAN YOU GIVE US A HINT AT YOUR NEXT BOOK?
Yes, just turned in the first draft of my next novel. It’s a standalone and I’m pretty excited about it. Don’t want to give away too much, but here’s the premise: What if the Great Cloud of Witnesses did more than just watch? What if God used them to turn our life upside down in order to bring us into more freedom than we’ve ever known?
ARE YOU A FULL TIME WRITER?
Almost. About 70% of my time is doing all the things that come with being an author. The rest of the time I run a small marketing firm which I’ve done since ‘94. I work with authors and businesses on their marketing and I love it.
HOW LONG DOES IT USUALLY TAKE YOU TO WRITE A SINGLE BOOK IN THE SERIES?
On average, the initial draft takes around ten weeks. It’s a sprint, I know, and afterwards I need recovery time. But it’s the way that works best for me.
EVERYONE SEEMS TO HAVE A "HOW I GOT PUBLISHED" STORY. WHAT IS YOURS?
Summer of 2002 my wife says God has told her go on a fast. Says she doesn’t know why or how long it’s going to last. After the first day I ask if God has told her anything. “Nope.” At the end of the second day I ask again. “Nothing.” I ask how long she’s going to go on. “Till God speaks.”
Halfway through day three, a light bulb goes off over my head, and I feel like God is saying, “I’ve given you the desire and ability to write, when are you going to step into your destiny?” I turn to Darci and say, “I know why you’re fasting. I’m supposed to be a novelist.” She stares at me and says, “Wait a minute. I’m hungry for three days, and you get the answer?” It was pretty funny.
That was my wakeup call and I finished my first novel three years later. In late 2005 I submitted to four contacts I had, and all rejected it. Then in the spring of ’06 I went to the Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference and it opened up worlds for me.
By that September I signed with an agent and he shopped ROOMS to all the major publishing houses. All said no. They thought my writing was okay, but ROOMS was a little too out there and then didn’t know what to do with it as it didn’t fit into any defined genre. (ROOMS is the story of a young Seattle software tycoon who inherits a home on the Oregon Coast that turns out to be a physical manifestation of his soul.)
But one of the editors who rejected it (David Webb who was the Executive Editor at B&H Fiction at the time) wrote an e-mail to my agent that said, “ … if this doesn’t sell in six months, bring it back to me.” A year later, I sat down with David at a conference and read his own e-mail back to him.
He smiled and said, “I’ve read 200 manuscripts since I read yours, and yours is the one I can’t get out of my mind. Let’s take another run at it.” We did, and David sold his pub board on the novel in June of ’08. Rooms came out in April of 2010, hit the bestseller list, won the RT Book Reviews Inspirational Novel of the Year Reviews Choice Award, and my career had begun. I ended up doing three novels with B&H Fiction. These days I’m writing for Thomas Nelson.
WHAT’S YOUR VIEW ON E-BOOKS AND THE NEW PUBLISHING REVOLUTION? ANY E-BOOK PLANS IN YOUR FUTURE?
I think it’s the Golden Age of Publishing, and the Dark Ages of Publishing, both at the same time. Golden because anyone can publish a book—and the stigma of self-publishing is just about gone. It’s the dark ages because most people who are indie publishing aren’t ready so there’s a glut of books on the market and sometimes it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Yes, I think there are e-books in my future. I of course have e-books for all my traditionally published novels, but I’m excited I have a number of short stories I’ve been working on that I want to publish as e-books.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK AS A TEEN OR CHILD?
When I was a tweener (11 years old) my mom bought The Chronicles of Narnia for my sister and me. They captured my heart and imagination. Those books birthed the desire inside me to write. I wanted to try someday to do for others what Lewis had done for me. As I got older I devoured his books—both fiction and non-fiction—and he’s been my favorite author ever since.
IF YOU COULD HAVE DINNER WITH THREE PEOPLE, LIVING OR DEAD, WHO WOULD THEY BE?
C.S. Lewis (see above), my dad (who passed away in 2010—I miss him tremendously) and my wife. That would be an epic dinner party.
FAVORITE PLACE TO VACATION AND WHY?
The northern section of the Oregon Coast. My wife and sons and I spent many vacations there. Spectacular scenery, miles of ocean, watching the thundering waves, building sandcastles with the boys, long beach walks with my wife … love it there.
DO YOU HAVE A PARTICULAR DRINK OR FOOD YOU CONSUME WHEN YOU WRITE?
Ha! Great question. Sunflower seeds and apple juice. I don’t eat sunflower seeds any other time, but while I’m pumping out that first draft I go through about eight bags of David’s Jumbo sunflower seeds. And lots of apple juice.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE BIBLE VERSE? HAVE YOU INCORPORATED IT INTO ANY OF YOUR BOOKS?
Yes and yes. But what I call my favorite verse depends on the season of my life and what Jesus is doing at the time. An author friend of mine told me a number of years ago that his novels are simply his journals in published form. I really resonated with that, so I get favorite verses for a time and that scripture will invariably show up in my current novel.
For the novel I just turned in, it’s a few verses from Hebrews chapter 12: “ …This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children ... why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? … God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. (The Message)