Q&A: Paul Wagner
Reporter Rebekah Berman is following a seemingly unconnected string of ecological disasters that she suspects are not as isolated as they seem. John Hawke is an Appalachian preacher who's words seem to spread like wildfire around the world. Millions of people are dying in the middle east and a nuclear attack is imminent. Can a reporter and a reverend really change everything and save the world?
WHAT LED YOU TO WRITE RIVER OF EDEN?
About ten years ago, I became very interested in eschatology, a big word that simply means the study of end time beliefs. As you might imagine, this interest raised a bunch of fundamental questions in my own mind. For example, does the Bible really classify seemingly tragic or heinous crimes against humanity as necessary and natural occurrences within a much grander, divine plan that operates on a scale that is unfathomable to us mere mortals? Or is Paul telling us something entirely different in Romans 8:28 (“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”)? Although I admittedly don’t have pat answers to those weighty issues, the novel afforded me a canvas to explore and expand upon those themes. I’d like to think that what I’ve learned along the way has contributed to a compelling, fast-paced and believable narrative.
STARTING OUT, WHO WERE THE AUTHORS WHO INSPIRED YOU? WHO INSPIRES YOU NOW?
Some Christian fiction authors in my genre that I greatly admire today include Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, Robin Parrish, Jerry B. Jenkins and Joel Rosenberg; I’ve been consistently thrilled and inspired by the quality and depth of their writing and imagination. Some sci-fi and fantasy mainstream favorites are Frank Herbert, Terry Brooks, J. R. R. Tolkein and Stephen King (although my very first fantasy favorite was Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Doolittle series!).
HOW DOES YOUR FAITH INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?
As I touched on in the first question, creative writing provides me with an unbiased outlet to explore and work out some fundamental faith questions that have always perplexed me, such as why do bad things happen to so many seemingly good and innocent people, or why is it so difficult for people to recognize Jesus as the obvious creator and finisher of our faith? But my search for straightforward answers inevitably created even deeper, more complex questions… especially when you think about the many conflicting theological, political and cultural ideas that bombard us every day. But I also view my writing as a ministry, and try to convey ideas that are not only topical and thought provoking, but also spiritually true and life changing.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR?
I’ve probably entertained notions of becoming a published author since I was a teenager…thinking how cool it would be to walk into a bookstore and run across my titles. I’ve also been a voracious reader of sci-fi and fantasy—both Christian and secular titles—all of my life. But after studying journalism and becoming a professional advertising copywriter, I didn’t seriously pursue fiction writing until I was in my early forties (considering that a typical promotional writing project might represent 1000 words—or far less—I initially found it a bit intimidating to produce a manuscript with well over 100,000 words.) But I’m currently working on a new fiction project, so I must have gotten over it!
WHAT DO YOU MOST HOPE THAT READERS GET FROM READING YOUR WORK?
Apart from the sheer fun and entertainment value offered by River of Eden, I hope that readers will also stop and think about how even the small choices they make in their daily lives have a measurable impact on the lives of those around them and may well determine their final, eternal destination. The inescapable truth is that we are all part of a larger family, one church, with Jesus Christ at the helm.