What does real romance look like? This February Rene Gutteridge and Rik Swartzwelder attempt to answer that question in their
new story, Old Fashioned (Tyndale). Rik wrote the screenplay for the movie, which releases
nationwide on February 13, 2015, and Rene wrote the movie novelization, which is also
available. Many people are pitting this movie up against the secular film 50 Shades of Grey, which has been grabbing headlines for the last year. Rik and Rene believe that this Valentines’ weekend many movie-goers will choose to go “Old Fashioned” with true love and respect instead of what secular culture deems as “romance.” Rik and Rene sat down to answer all of our questions about the film, the book and the cultural importance of the film.
Ashley: Rik in three sentences
what is this book about?
Rik: On the
surface, it’s about the struggle to honor God in our romantic lives in a world
that doesn’t always encourage that effort. But, beneath that, it’s a
story about the need for both grace and law in our lives and the recognition
that the ability to forgive (even ourselves) is one of the truest tests of
spiritual maturity. Perhaps most of all, it’s about acknowledging the
best of our past in regard to the noble ideals of respect, integrity, and
Ashley: This sounds
like the type of story/movie my husband and I would enjoy watching. Rik, what
makes the characters in this story unique?
Rik: Clay is a guy
that’s so good at being righteous, he’s actually drifting away from God.
His inability to deal with guilt from his past and his deep, driving need
to be good is actually isolating him from genuine community and the kind of
life God created him for.
Amber is a girl
that “follows the warm and fuzzies.” She is full of life and spark and
energy, but she refuses to put down roots anywhere because, deep down, she
doesn’t trust in the idea of “home” or that anything ever really lasts.
Ashley: And can you
share a fact about the characters that no one else knows?
Clay … he was actually abused as a child.
Amber … she loves Dr. Seuss and, at one time, owned every available Disney movie
Ashley: Rik what
sort of Biblical background did you weave into the movie?
The principle that marriage is something sacred and that we shouldn’t take
lightly the responsibility to guard our own hearts, and the hearts of others,
before we are ready and prepared to pursue romance with intention and purpose.
Ashley: Rene how is
writing a novelization of a movie script different from writing a story from
Typically when I write a novel, I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer. I
wake up in the morning and see where the characters take me that day. But
in a novelization, I enjoy the benefit of working from what is essentially a
very detailed outline. In this case, Rik’s script served that purpose. He’s developed the characters, the plot, and much of the dialogue. To take it to novel form, I use what he has in place and fill in interior
monologue, extra dialogue and additional scenes. Working on a
novelization is a lot of fun for me because I feel like I get to play more
freely instead of concentrating so hard on getting everybody to the end. I already know the end so now I get to find out who they are to me and what
they want me to know about them.
Ashley: The seat-of-the-pants writing, that’s my husband hands down. How did you capture the essence of Rik’s script
when writing the details of the novelization?
Rene: In this
case, I relied heavily on Rik for location information. In a script, he
INT. BAR –
Because he knew the
locations in Ohio so well, I would ask him detailed questions about what
everything looked like, from the feel of the town, to the exterior of the
apartment the main character lives in. When I saw the stills from the
film, I knew I really wanted to capture that in the book. It was a place
Rik was very familiar with and had a strong affection for, so I was able to tap
him as a resource for those types of things.
Ashley: Let’s talk
a bit about you as authors. What is your favorite genre to write for?
Character-driven, slice of life dramas.
Rene: I’m sort of a
multi-genre writer. I love to follow a good story, whatever genre it may
lead me to.
Ashley: Where do you like
Rik: If I’m on a
deadline, I often like to write in a hotel room in an area where no one knows
me and sort of unplug from my life and dive into the world of the story with as
few distractions as possible.
Rene: I wish I could
do what Rik does. It’s the ideal way to write. Every once in awhile
I’ll drive out to my parents’ house, but my mom wants to constantly feed me so
then I have to exercise. So I mostly write at home, in the corner of my
bedroom where my desk is, as unglamorous as that sounds. Every once in
awhile I’ll venture out to Starbucks and dive into coffee and iced lemon bread
for a few hours. I stay at home a lot because I have an ergo keyboard. The small keyboard on my laptop causes my hands to hurt, so I can’t write
for hours on it.
Ashley: A Cup of
coffee is always handy when writing, and that iced lemon bread is hard to top.
Based on your answers it sounds like you are both full time writers, is that
Combined with directing and producing, yes.
I am, though it’s perilous. There are years when I have too much
work, years when I have too little, and few times when the balance is just
Ashley: How long does it
usually take you to write a single book.
live and die by the deadline, so it really depends on when it is due. My
sweet spot is six to nine months, but I’ve written an entire novel in 10 weeks
before. (Not recommended)
Ashley: I can
understand why you’d not suggest a ten week deadline. Wow, that muts have been
an impressive feat. Do you plot or outline the entire series before you begin
writing, or do your books take on lives of their own? Or is there a
It depends on the story, but generally it is a combination of a loose outline
and letting things evolve as you go. I like to think of it as a road trip
with a specific destination in mind but a willingness to take detours along the
way and embracing the joy of randomness.
I write very much like Rik described. The publisher has to know what I’m
doing and where I am going, but I’m willing to detour and I do it quite
frequently. Sometimes I detour so drastically (for instance, I decide to
kill a main character) that I have to let the publisher know where I’m planning
on taking it, just to make sure it’s okay.
Ashley: Rik, what
was your inspiration for writing this story?
Rik: So many
things… my own life, a story I’d heard years before about a man who made a
promise to never be alone with any woman that wasn’t his wife, the absence of
any movie that reflected the lives of Christian singles I knew …
More than anything,
though … it was a deep desire to try and find a way to make virtue heroic. I have known a lot of broken and damaged hearts who’ve bought into cultural
lies when it came to dating and it left them wanting. The wreckage was
real and lasting. I really wanted to craft a story that, beyond being
entertaining, might offer a little hope and healing to those shackled by regret
or the fear that love (or even God) has passed them by.