1. Where did the idea for The Letters come from?
That’s not a simple question with a simple answer. The book actually started out without a clear-cut message, theme, or idea. I had the basic stories for a few of the main characters, like Jonah Trotter, John Morgan, and Merle Grogan, and I knew that I wanted their lives to intersect in some way to show how God’s providence is always at play.
But, once those initial stories were written, the ones you find in Book One, I got stuck, and I didn’t write for almost a year. Writer’s block, laziness, or call it what you will, the muse wasn’t there. But, then God started tugging on my heart to tell His story.
So, I took a leap of faith and began writing again. But, I still didn’t really know where I wanted the book to go. I didn’t know how I wanted the lives of all the different characters to intersect; I just knew that they needed to.
Then, one night, at about 3 a.m., I woke up with a perfectly clear picture of the message God wanted me to tell. He didn’t completely reveal the story that night, but when I got up the next morning, I had the basic premise of the book clear in my mind.
From there, it was a matter of trust. Almost every time I sat down to write, I asked God to use me to tell His story. I asked God to just let me type the words He wanted people to read. Basically, I asked for divine guidance, and the finished product is just that, in my opinion.
This is God’s story, not mine. This is God’s message, not mine. Remember that as you read.
2. Do you think people could really get letters from God?
First of all, with God, nothing is impossible. You can’t put limits on what God can or cannot do. An entity powerful enough and merciful enough to sacrifice His only Son to save a sinful world surely could write a letter to a person, if He so chose.
However, I do not believe God really works that way as a general rule. To me, the letters represent those times in our lives when God speaks to us through the awesome power of the Holy Spirit. We often receive messages from God, some we ignore, some we adhere to, and some we don’t even recognize as God’s voice. You see in The Letters all the basic responses normal human beings go through when God speaks to them. Some see God’s calling but choose to ignore it, some reject it outright, some delay following God’s lead, and some listen to it immediately. All of those represent our core human nature.
I guess the real question for you, the reader, is: how do you respond when God speaks to you? And, what would your response be if one day you opened an envelope and inside was a letter from God?
3. Who is your favorite character in The Letters?
I honestly love all the characters. I love the story of Odessa Greene and the troubles she and her family go through while she’s young. I love picturing her singing at Agnes Wilde’s funeral, and I feel true compassion for her when I read about her losing her baby.
I also love Jonah Trotter. The purity and innocence with which he approaches his faith makes me jealous. I wish I could rid myself of pride the way he does, I wish I could experience the physical touching of Jesus. I wish I could see God in my living room.
I love Agnes Wilde. If there is one character I’d like to emulate in my life, it would be her. Her undying selflessness is what all humans, and especially all Christians, should strive for. Seth Greenfield isn’t in the book all that much, but I love his story. The hardships and the struggles he goes through, to me, are so real. You have to read his story and just know that there are kids out there who are going through the stuff he’s experiencing. And, then, for God to work through the lives of those around him to bring him to Christ. . . wow, that’s real, to me. That’s the way it happens. That’s God.
Thomas Fisher is the main character, and in a sense, I have to love him. But, this book is about so much more than these characters. It’s about God, and how He does in fact work for the good of those who love Him.
So, honestly, I’d probably have to say God is my favorite character in this book. We never really see Him, but we see how He affects the lives of every single individual in the book, and we see the unmistakeable power He holds over each of us.
4. Is any part of The Letters autobiographical?
I don’t think you can write a novel and not have at least some of it be autobiographical. It’s just what writers do; they write from their experiences.
I’ve never known anybody close to me who died from cancer, but I wrote the story of Suzie Naehring, so it is possible to not be autobiographical but still tell a good story and capture the emotion that goes along with such an event.
However, you can see things of an autobiographical nature in little things that most people would read and not take much notice of.
For example, there is a very brief scene near the end of the book in which Thomas Fisher is pumping gas. He is standing there marveling at the beauty of the day around him, thinking about the power and beauty of God and relating that to the love he feels for his wife. That is an experience I’ve had before. A very simple, mundane thing like pumping gas can become a moment of worship if you are able to focus your thoughts on God, rather than yourself or the task at hand. So, in a sense, even something small like that can be autobiographical.
I guess it’s just up to you, the reader, to try to figure out what is and what isn’t.
5. Which of the characters is most like you?
As much as we see all the other characters, this story is still Thomas Fisher’s. That’s all I’m going to say.
6. Do you have any ideas for any other books, and do you plan to write them any time soon?
First of all, The Letters is my 2nd novel. The first isn’t my favorite piece of writing anymore, but it’s complete. It’s called The Joker, and I have also already completed the screenplay adaptation of it. In addition, since the completion of The Letters, I have finished the first draft of my 3rd novel, a secular piece entitled Rhapsody in Blue Velour. Due to the time constraints of publishing The Letters, I have yet to really pursue editing, rewriting, and representation for Rhapsody, but I certainly plan to.
Aside from that, The Letters is a proposed seven-book series, of which I am approximately one-third of the way into the 2nd installment, entitled The Eulogy. Also, I have ideas for about three other secular novels, a few other screenplay ideas, and also an adolescent literature series.
New ideas come to me all the time, so that list is ever-changing and ever-expanding. Who knows what God has in store for my writing career? It could be just this one book, or it could be fifty. Who knows?
I guess I just have to trust that God will allow me to put out there what He wants out there. Other than that, it’s just my job to serve Him with the talent He’s given me on a daily basis, so yes, I plan to write.
7. If you could say one thing to your audience before they read the book, what would it be?
Hmmm, that’s an interesting question.
I would tell them to just trust God in their lives. . . with everything. Not just the big stuff, not just the little stuff, but everything. God is at work in ways we can’t possibly imagine during times we think He’s most certainly got to be busy doing other things. But, that’s clearly not true. He is constantly working in our lives and in our hearts. You just have to listen to Him and trust Him.
For example, when you get stuck in a traffic jam, is God at work? I believe He is. I don’t know in what way, but I just have to sit back, possibly even shake my head in disbelief and amazement, and say, “Lord, I trust You.” It’s hard to do sometimes. It’s nearly impossible to do at other times. But, a tremendous peace can be achieved if you can look at life from God’s eyes instead of your own.
Just trust Him. . . with everything.
In the book, Susan Trotter gets stuck in a traffic jam, and her son, Jonah, ends up in a terrible school bus accident. Was that God at work? To us, as human beings, we see that as a terribly tragic event. Children died, and others were injured. But, in the book, what comes of that event?
Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out, I guess.
8. If you could say one thing to your audience after they read the book, what would you say?
That’s easy. Thank you, and God bless.