In Rene Gutteridge's novel Listen, we visit the small, unremarkable town of Marlo. A town where nothing ever happens and everyone gets along splendidly. That is, everyone got along until someone started a website where everyone's private conversations and observations were posted online for the whole world to read. That's when neighborhoods became warzones and friends became enemies...
Q. What led you to write Listen?
I, like everyone else, have been watching the epidemic of bullying plague our kids. But I’m also watching everybody from news commentators to TSA agents to everyday citizens sling words around without regard to their power. I’m amazed at how ignorant we are as a society about how powerful our words are, and how we seem unaffected by the idea that with our technology, whatever we say has the potential to be accessible forever.
So I wrote Listen
with these questions in mind, and then began to wonder, do our words, spoken in private, also have power? And that’s how the whole thing began.Q. Starting out, who were the authors who inspired you? Who inspires you now?
I was pretty much inspired by anybody and anything I read. If they had a book published, I was inspired by it. I read a lot of fiction as a youngster, read mostly classics as a teen, then got into reading theological studies as a young adult. I believe all that contributed to where I am today. There was one book in particular that God really used to start my journey, though. Somehow I came into possession of a book called Deadline
by Randy Alcorn. That was the first time I became aware of Christian fiction and I realized that was where I was supposed to be.
These days I try to read a wide variety of books. I recently finished a book on Queen Elizabeth. Before that I read a book on Area 51. Then I’ll read a novel or two. Then a theology book. I kind of just read whatever interests me. Truthfully, I wish I could speed read.Q. How does your faith influence your writing?
It certainly influences how I see the world. I definitely write from that perspective. It also helps me sort out what I need to be writing about. Oftentimes themes emerge in my book that are very similar to spiritual lessons God is currently teaching me. And I also depend on God for helping me through the challenges of writing, like rejection, deadlines, writers block, frustration. And then of course I always thank God when there’s a victory. I think people who read my books will finish them with a sense of hope in their hearts, because that is what God has planted in my heart. Q. How long have you known you wanted to be an author?
It’s been an interesting journey. As a kid, I wrote just for the fun of it, and kind of because it was a compulsion. I’d get up in the middle of the night, put towels over my computer so my parents wouldn’t hear me turn it on, and write. It was just like breathing to me.
Around my early teens, I discovered screenwriting and began studying how to do it. And I really thought I’d pursue that. I still do!
But I don’t think I ever really considered it as an occupation until college, when I had a professor tell me that he thought I was really good. It wasn’t until then that I thought about trying to make a living at it. But even if I didn’t pursue it as an occupation, I feel pretty sure that I would’ve been writing, at the very least, for myself. It’s just kind of in me.Q. What do you most hope that readers get from reading your work?
There are several things I hope people experience when they read a Rene Gutteridge novel. First, I want them to escape. It’s one of my favorite things to do ... just escape into a good book. I want them to be entertained. And I want them to think deeply about their own lives and how God fits into it. Whether they’re reading one of my comedies, thrillers, or contemporary dramas, my hope is that long after they finish the book, themes and dialogue and characters will continue to resonate inside them.