WHAT LED YOU TO WRITE THE COOL WOMAN?
It wasn’t so much a what … as a Who.
God has never spoken to me audibly, but only I can fully appreciate the impact He has had on my writing. In fact, without Him, there would be no books. That point made …
Scenes and scenarios for The Cool Woman were circulating in my thoughts before I ever wrote the first paragraph of Abiding Darkness, Book One of The Black or White Chronicles.
This is a good place to tell you that my writing method is slightly unorthodox. First, I begin to tell myself a story – like The Cool Woman – much the same as playing a video of it in my mind. When I’m at the point where I like what I see, I start writing. I try to describe what I see on the video, mentally rewinding and replaying it until what I have on paper accurately describes what I see in my mind.
The Cool Woman practically wrote herself. I’ve spent most of my life around the men and situations that I wrote about, including three tours in Southeast Asia and thirty-five years flying airplanes, so I’ve heard all the war stories and I speak the language. Too, I had ready access to a double handful of men who flew the kind of aircraft and combat missions that bring action, adventure, and reality to the book.
STARTING OUT, WHO WERE THE AUTHORS WHO INSPIRED YOU? WHO INSPIRES YOU NOW?
Let me start by saying I “started out” by coming through the back door.
I think it was Crabb and Trent who wrote The Language of Love. Their premise was: if you want someone to remember something, tell them a story. After I read that book, I wrote a short story about choosing well. After giving a copy to our each of our kids, I filed it away.
Years later, it was Michael Crichton’s novel, Jurassic Park, that sparked in me the idea to write Christian fiction. Quick thinker that I am, I was rereading Jurassic Park when I realized it was nothing more than a suspense novel that had been woven into a protracted defense of The Theory of Evolution. By the time Crichton got through defending evolution and ridiculing all who disagree with Darwin, he barely had room for the story. And there I was, a retired airline pilot who was naïve enough to start thinking … “If he can do it, why can’t I?”
Of those who inspire me now … in the fiction realm … C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is probably my favorite. I think John Grisham’s A Time To Kill is a great book, and I’ve read it several times. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is, in my humble opinion, a near perfect book. Watchers, and some other books by Dean Koontz, are also favorites.
In the non-fiction department … I read quite a bit in the realm of Christian apologetics. I started out to say great things about the Bible, but my words will always be inadequate. The Bible is the word of God … that says it all.
HOW DOES YOUR FAITH INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?
I deal with this again in the fifth question, but the short answer here is … without my faith, I have no reason to write. None. I’d have nothing to say … to share. My job is to call people’s attention to God … writing gives me a chance to do that. It’s my ministry.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN THAT YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR?
I can’t remember ever wanting to be an author. Maybe my story would read better if it were filled with words about the personal cost of the process, but the converse is closer to the truth. Compared to what most authors have to go through to get their words in print, what has happened to me is nothing short of a miraculous gift. Some of you will understand the last three words in this sentence, some won’t … God did this.
The journey of my first book, Abiding Darkness, from its inception to its release date, amounts to a twenty-year walk in the park. Initially, it was a two-thousand-word short story I wrote for our children—a thing about the impact of a person’s choices. I filed a copy away, and it lay dormant for ten or twelve years. I pulled it out about the time I retired from flying for a major airline—sometime in the mid-nineties—and “piddled” with it for five or seven years. In the fall of 2002, I found myself surrounded by a few hundred thousand words and felt a need to become more focused. In the spring of ’03, on the advice of a friend, I took three chapters and a synopsis to my first-ever writers’ conference and submitted them to my first-ever editor. As it happens, that editor, Gary Terashita, wasn’t looking for a fiction project, but his critique sheet is framed and hanging in our home … his handwritten note at the bottom says, “We need to talk.”
And talk we did. We arranged to meet for coffee, and I told Gary I was at the conference trying to trim the odds against my getting published—hopefully down to 10,000 to 1. I’ll never forget his response: “Well, right now, you’re sitting on about 50-50.”
The Black or White Chronicles were born in that little coffee shop … and I thank God everyday for Gary, the man who has become my friend and editor.
My appreciation for what God has done for me is too shallow, but I ask Him often to help me more fully understand what He has chosen to give me … the gift of getting published.
WHAT DO YOU MOST HOME THAT READERS GET FROM READING YOUR WORK?
I believe the most important thing in the world is for people to know God and make Him known … and I feel it’s my responsibility to influence my readers in a way that causes them to embrace that belief. The day may come when I’ll write something without delineating the gospel, but, for now, I don’t see that happening. I started writing for three reasons:
One: Well-written suspense fiction is an excellent vehicle for putting the truth in front of people who would normally pass on reading it. My aim is to encapsulate the claims of Christ in action/suspense stories that are so heart-scalding the readers will not risk skipping a single word. If readers don’t skip words, they can’t miss hearing (reading) the gospel.
Two: God says to always be “ready to make a defense.”
For my fiction, my aim is to encapsulate an apologetic point or a tenet of the faith in each novel. I work hard to do it in such a way that allows an unbeliever to hear the truth without ever wanting to leave the story. For instance, in And If I Die, in a scene that was “reasonably” tense, I took one and three-quarter pages to weave in a persuasive defense for the resurrection. The point was made while the story was “running” … one swift thrust of truth that was very much at home in three-hundred-and-thirty-something pages of sleep-stealing suspense.
And three: I think we Christians have a right to read the kind of suspense that steals our sleep without having our minds stained with the gratuitous sex and profanity that pervades today’s fiction.
For the record: my books will always have warmth, truth, and humor in them, but because they’re about an ongoing war, they’re going to have blood on them. The Cool Woman and anything else I turn out will be written to arrest hearts — to attract the reader to a consideration of the deeper things. Why else would I write?