WHAT LED YOU TO WRITE THE OPPOSITE OF ART?
My mother was an artist and I was raised to be an artist, attending private art classes and then majoring in fine art in college before I switched my focus to architecture. So I have a background in fine art, and some time ago I became interested in exploring that world in a novel. Then one day the idea came to me—I don’t remember how or why—that a great artist might try to convey God’s physical appearance, and be driven to the edge of madness by his inability to do it.
STARTING OUT, WHO WERE THE AUTHORS WHO INSPIRED YOU? WHO INSPIRES YOU NOW?
Stylistically, way back when I first started writing novels I admired the old-fashioned “hard boiled” detective novelists, like Dashiell Hammett and Ross Macdonald. I still admire that spare and muscular style of writing, but in the years since then I’ve also become very interested in magical realism, and I’m also drawn to an old-fashioned kind of omniscient narration, although it’s out of fashion. Nowadays, writers like Thornton Wilder and Gabriel Garcia Marquez come to mind.
HOW DOES YOUR FAITH INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?
Faith influences almost everything I do. Writing is just one example. In Walking on Water, Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “To try to talk about art and about Christianity is for me one in the same thing.” That’s how I feel about writing. I can’t imagine trying to write about the world while ignoring the One who made the world and who supports every aspect of it every moment. But I don’t write religious books in the sense that they contain salvation scenes or statements about doctrine, and it certainly doesn’t mean I provide easy answers. I mostly just ask questions. The word “Jesus” is only written in The Opposite of Art one time out of about 100,000 words, and that’s in reference to the subject matter of a painting. But the whole story was written with Jesus in mind, much as I try to keep him in mind when I eat dinner or go for a walk. Non-Christians might not get that when they read it, but Christians will.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR?
I’ve always known I wanted to spend my life working in the arts, but I only started writing novels about 18 years ago. Before that I designed buildings, and before that I painted and sculpted.
WHAT DO YOU MOST HOPE THAT READERS GET FROM READING YOUR WORK?
My first goal is to tell a strange and surprising story, one that’s difficult to stop reading once you start. But I see no reason why a page-turner can’t contain language that delights readers in the same way fine art and music does, so I also pay close attention to the aesthetic aspects of the work. And I want to engage the intellect, so I try hard to explore important ideas in every story. You could sum it up with those three things: I hope readers will be entertained, delighted, and inspired to think about their lives.