In Paperback Crusader (Sword of the Spirit), a man in his fifties is enjoying a peaceful existence until his peace is interrupted by a call from God. In this Q&A, author and filmmaker Donald James Parker explains how the novel was inspired by an experience from his own life, the pros and cons of telling a story in print versus on screen, and who he writes his books for…
Q: Comparing the plot of “Paperback Crusader” with your biography – is this story inspired by something that happened to you?
Absolutely. I would never have entered the fray of cultural disparity or even the jungle of publishing without an unusual encounter I had with God, which is described precisely as it happened in the events of the fictional protagonist of this book. I adapted this book from a movie script, which has not been filmed at this time, but hopefully someday will come to fruition to inspire others to be crusaders for truth.
Q: How closely does this novel follow your own experiences?
Probably about 30 percent. My own life is far too boring to provide the contents for an entire book. One notable thing is that I’ve encountered way more conflict during the ten years I’ve been writing than the prior forty-six years. Part of that is due to the nature of the warfare I’m involved in and part due to dealing with the frustrations of trying to establish a Christian beachhead in a world where secular humanism controls the media. Conflict ratchets up the interest level, so hopefully I captured some of that conflict in the life of my fictional writer.
Q: What do you hope readers take away after reading Paperback Crusader?
That God has called us to be soldiers in the army of salvation. We employ words to fight for the minds and hearts of a society–especially the younger generations who might not have been exposed to Christian thinking–so I hope that others might take up the crusade and join God’s media army, especially through writing parables known as message fiction.
Another concept I’m trying to convey is the difficulty of reaching the public. With over a million books being published every year, the struggle to reach an audience becomes much more difficult, especially for those who don’t already have a platform. The lesson that writing books or making movies is not the hardest part of the journey is one that is not intuitively obvious. The most shocking lesson I was forced to swallow is that the gatekeepers are not impressed by authors informing them that God commissioned the writing of the project being submitted. I’m hoping to give rookie writers a dose of reality while at the same time providing them a spark of hope.
Q: You are both a novelist and a filmmaker – what are the pros and cons of telling a story in one medium versus the other?
A book contains much more material, so I think a movie script is much easier to write. Through a book, you can explore the thoughts of a character, whereas in a movie that is awkward and basically requires that character to talk to himself. The written medium allows an author to send his characters on thrilling adventures to foreign lands and through extraordinary adventures without spending a cent. Incorporating those same events in a movie require a lot of capital. When a book is whittled down to a two-hour movie, those more expensive whistles and bells will be leading candidates to be left behind, especially in a lower budget project.
The biggest pro for movies is that they provide instant entertainment with a minimum of time and intellectual investment. In addition, films can be easily enjoyed with company. The days of a family sitting down and reading a book aloud together are probably long gone. So movies provide a more digestible form of story, but books provide a richer and more profound experience. I’d encourage people who’ve seen a movie to read the book as well, but with the caveat that they’re probably going to be disappointed that the movie didn’t tell the exact same story. If you want to please the purists, you must write film scripts that use visual elements as much as possible rather than dialogue.
Q: Your books directly confront issues like evolution, occultism, and the sexual revolution. Are your readers a non-Christian audience – which means you are discussing these issues with them directly – or are you writing for Christians to help them better confront these issues to discuss them with their own neighbors?
My modus operandi is to fashion a message that is needed by both those who need discipleship and those who don’t know the Lord, regardless of age, gender, or race. If I write something such as Against the Twilight, which is a message to combat the effect of authors such as Stephanie Meyer, I’m targeting those who are caught up in the world of vampire love, etc. Those people will probably not be lining up to read something that puts their idolatrous fascination in a bad light. Basically, I’m writing not for the marketplace at large, but for individuals who need to hear that message and somehow are led to it by the Holy Spirit. And in addition, I pray that I’m helping Christians to contend for the faith through intelligent discourse, armed with the information I’ve provided them on topics such as evolution.