Interview with Robert Roush
When I came across In The Image of Man (Unseen Dominion Book 1), I had a feeling that this would be a very different angel versus demon, spiritual warfare novel and I decided that if this was so, it would be worth interviewing the author, Robert Roush. I am glad I did, as my feeling was correct. Roush has taken this genre to the next level in plot, characterisation, spiritual warfare, and the supernatural. However, what also struck me running through all this, was the depth of his relationship with God and his love for discipleship and Christian living.
I believe that every novel you read, you are seeing part of the author’s heart, mind and personality. I definitely saw this from Robert as I read this novel.
So sit back, and let Robert Roush reveal to you his desire to write this novel, his journey to published author and how he wanted to reflect as much as possible what he knows about God and his relationship with Him and explore the themes of spiritual warfare and other aspects of In The Image of Man
Thanks for stopping by, Robert, now let’s start with you telling us a little about Robert Roush, the person.
I grew up in a Christian home, which you might say was born out of tragedy. My birth mother passed away the day after I was born, due to complications. God used this tragedy to get my dad’s attention. As a result, he took a deep look at the lifestyle he wanted to model for his newborn son. The following year, my dad remarried and I grew up with a strong Bible-based family.
Fast forward to when I was 19, I married my now wife of twenty-six years. Yes, we married young. It was the best decision I’ve ever made, with the exception of following Jesus Christ. We have five children, ages 11 to 22, three sons, and two daughters. At one point, we had four teenagers in the house at the same time. Now, that’s excitement.
I’ve worked in the fields of engineering and software development for my entire professional career. Though for five years, I was the Pastor of Worship and Adult Discipleship at a small church. As a pastor and student of theology, I spent considerable time writing Bible studies, dramas, video scripts, and theology papers. After returning to full-time work as a manager of engineers and software developers, I decided to try my hand at the more creative endeavor of writing fiction.
This is a good start, Robert! Now some questions about your writing:
What inspired you to become an author?
I’ve always enjoyed reading. I believe that while non-fiction study can bring transformation to a person’s thinking, nothing speaks directly to the heart like story. Jesus modeled this when he devoted so much of his ministry to teaching with parables.
I’ve been blessed with a creative personality type, the spiritual gift of teaching, and a talent for writing. I’ve taught through formal teaching and preaching, demonstrated creativity in my engineering and software development, and I’ve written all forms of material. Yet, I see being an author as the unique blend of all that God has created me to be.
You are a new author. How did you come to construct your novel? Authors tend to use one of the following methods:
-by extensively plotting it out (plotter),
-or as it came to you (pantser, that you write by the seat of your pants) or was it a bit of both?
I’m definitely more of a pantser. I tend to start with a concept, usually a question. (For example: If mankind succeeded in cloning a humans, would God give them souls?) From the concept, I just pick a character and follow them through the intriguing world created by the premise. As ideas occur to me, I jot them down and keep going. By the time I’m about half way through, I have a pretty solid mental outline of where the story is going, though, at times, the characters decide to take a different route than I plan. Through notes and multiple editing rounds, I try to tie everything together from start to finish.
How has writing and being an author impacted your relationship with Jesus Christ and vice versa?
As with any ministry endeavor, you quickly discover that you can’t do it in your own strength. Whether it’s carefully weaving the principles of God’s sovereignty and forgiveness into a complex storyline, creating characters that have real-world problems and flaws, or attempting to reach the readers who might benefit from reading it, a prayerful dependence on God is a must. As a result, both the author and his creation are shaped by the Creator through the process.
Do you have a favorite genre that you read?
Mystery, suspense/thriller, sci-fi, speculative, fantasy, I enjoy most anything with a solid storyline and an intriguing premise. While I certainly prefer novels with a Christian worldview, I feel there is much to learn about people, and the world we live in, from secular writing as well. I try to read a variety of authors, well-known and unknown. As long as the writing is clean and appropriate, there is always something to be learned that can sharpen my own writing.
What have you learned about becoming an author?
Being an author is hard work. I remember the days when writing a 500 word paper for school seemed daunting. Writing a novel is like writing 200 of those papers, tearing up 50 of them, and rewriting 40 of the 50.
And writing the story is the easy part. As an indie author, you need to be adept at writing, editing, proofreading, graphic arts, promotion and marketing, and business. Choosing the indie route isn’t the easy way out. You need to be highly motivated, and it can’t be by money, success, or fame. There has to be a bigger reason to stay with it.
Have you always found writing to be an easy or difficult feat? What have you done to improve your writing? Writing course, NaNoWriMo?
Writing has always come relatively easy for me. On the other hand, when I first started writing fiction, I had no idea what I didn’t know. Even after I learned the basics like POV (point of view) and “show don’t tell,” there was still so much more to learn. One example would be going deep into the POV character for each scene to ensure that everything that is said, thought, and narrated comes from that POV character.
Much of what I’ve learned has come from attending multiple ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conferences. Being exposed to the wisdom of so many experienced authors, agents, and editors proved invaluable to me. In addition, I try to read regularly, both other novels and books about writing novels.
I have also found myself reading heavily about people. Understanding psychology, personality, and expressions of emotion all serve to create real characters and reactions to the world you immerse your characters in.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Aside from my “day job” and writing, I serve at church—coaching other leaders, and mentoring soon-to-be-married couples. Currently, I also serve on our Elder board. I love to travel with my wife, and having five children keeps us just a bit busy. Oh, and in all my spare time, I love to read.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
This may seem a bit odd, as the best piece of advice is something I’ve not yet proven to be true. But, one of my highly-accomplished author friends told me that the best promotion tool for selling my book was the next book. This advice helped me move on with writing the sequel to In The Image of Man, despite feeling there is still so much more potential for the first book. I guess only time will tell whether the advice proves out.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
As I eluded to earlier, I would say it is really important to examine your motives for writing. There needs to be a sustaining purpose bigger than success, money, or fame. It won’t always be easy and you need a motivation to keep you pressing onward through the difficult times.
Did any specific author(s) motivate you to begin writing?
Based on your review of In The Image of Man, I’m guessing this won’t be a surprise. Frank Peretti’s writing is without a doubt one of the major influences in my writing. His powerful Darkness series had a profound impact in my life, revitalizing my prayer life and drawing me deeper in my relationship with Christ. It is truly my desire that others may one day say that about my own writing.
What tools have you found most successful in advertising or marketing yourself and your novel?
This is definitely an area I’m still working on. With a limited budget and no big-name authors or publishers promoting my work, I have found social media connections to be my strongest marketing tool. You never know when you might connect with a blogger, who will write a compelling review or interview you for their blog.
I have also found that free book giveaways are very effective in getting the word out about my book. It is still hard to tell how much this equates with improved sales. But, in keeping with my “best advice” from earlier, I do believe that building a readership will help with sales once there are multiple books available to readers.
You are the founder of Hearts of Compassion Publishing. Tell us about this Publishing company, why you founded it and the connection to your writing.
When I talk about having a bigger purpose for writing, this is mine. Hearts of Compassion is a small independent publishing company that I started with the purpose of directing the proceeds from my writing, and potentially other authors, to meet compassion needs around the world. This is motivated by Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’” – “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
My desire is that readers would see HoCP as a source for inspirational, high-quality stories, and take comfort in knowing that their purchase also makes a tangible difference in someone’s life. Currently, all proceeds from In The Image of Man, and soon book two, Restoration’s Journey, go to provide clean drinking water to places around the world where this is a desperate need. Every hardcopy sold provides clean water for someone for a full year, and an ebook provides about six months. To date, we have been able to provide clean water for about 135 families for a year.
Now let’s discuss your novel, In The Image of Man.
Not having any previous experience as an author, did you have any help/mentoring in the development of the plot, characters, flow, depiction of angel/demons, spiritual warfare, or the development of the supernatural?
From the perspective of plot and flow, I wouldn’t say I had much guidance beyond being an avid reader and knowing what I enjoy seeing in the stories I read. Character development, along with deep character POV, is probably where I received the most instruction. This occurred through reading what other writers, agents, and publishers had to say on what works for them. I had some critical feedback from critique partners. And, the ACFW conferences were the most instrumental in shaping my writing.
As far as depicting the angels, demons, and spiritual warfare, I primarily relied on what we are told in Scripture. Obviously, Scripture gives more detail as to their motivation and purpose, than appearance. I did my best to be consistent with what is said, and then to extrapolate a believable portrait of the rest. The other factor that played into my development of this aspect of the story is the historical treatment of the supernatural. This included Peretti’s portrayal in his writing, myriads of historical paintings and statues, and even some more modern portrayals such as movies and television.
You went on a cruise to The British Isles for your 25th Wedding Anniversary last year and you saw a huge number of statues of Angelic and Demonic creatures. You state on your blog,
This got me thinking about how much our “modern” society has moved away from an awareness of the spiritual realm at best, or even a belief that such a realm exists at worst. First, this belief requires a significant ignorance or at least reinterpretation of the Bible. We are witnessing in our culture what C.S. Lewis called the “Materialist Magician” in his work, The Screwtape Letters. People are willing to accept psychic abilities, the untapped power of the mind, the paranormal, but not the angels, demons, and spiritual realm of the Bible. The enemy rejoices at such an illogical worldview.
I agree wholeheartedly with this statement and it supports the view that satan’s biggest deception is that he does not exist. You certainly show that the opposite is true in this novel, that satan does exist, as does the spiritual realm of the Bible. Yet, the true spiritual realm is what the Bible says about it, not what you have listed above or what is portrayed on TV, and in other forms of the media, such as by paranormal, non-Christian authors or those who dabble in the occult. Any further thoughts on this?
Only that my concern isn’t as much with what the world at large believes about the existence of the spiritual realm, but rather what we as followers of Christ believe, or maybe more accurately, what our lives say about what we believe. Do we live as if we are in a spiritual battle with the enemy, where God’s Word and prayer are the primary weapons? Or do we live as if other people are the enemy, where debate and isolation are our weapons? Jesus called us to love God and love others. Our battle is NOT with flesh and blood.
In that same blog post, you also say,
I will be the first to admit that In The Image of Man is a novel. It is a work of fiction and at times I take liberties that divert slightly with how I would likely interpret certain aspects of theology with regards to angels and demons. However, I cringe anytime the book is thought of in the category of fantasy. To me, fantasy implies a made up world that doesn’t really exist. I prefer the category speculative fiction. I believe the realm exists, but my interpretation and portrayal is certainly speculative.
I would say that your novel is not just speculative fiction, but edgy, as well, and therefore, classed in an emerging and evolving genre called edgy Christian speculative fiction. I understand your concern of the fantasy classification and I agree with you. Classifying it fantasy, takes away from the truth and reality of biblical, spiritual warfare and in one sense undermines what it is and taints the whole truth and reality of the Bible as well. However, on the surface, I can see why this fantasy classification is applied, when a subject matter such as this, does not obviously fit in other genres, the fantasy classification is applied. Any further thoughts or comments?
I think you’ve pretty well summed it up. I would only reflect back on my previous comment about Jesus using parables to instruct. It would seem that these parables were not actual occurrences but rather situations created to challenge the listener to consider the implications. Regardless of the genre classification, my only desire is that the reader does not read my writing and think, “well, that was cool,” and then toss it into the same mental bin as all the other fairy tales they’ve heard over the years. But, ultimately the impact of any story on a person’s heart is the work of the Spirit, not mine.
One aspect of your novel that really impressed me was the inclusion of other topics such as romance, infidelity, forgiveness, trusting God, why does God allow bad things to happen, reconciliation, brokenness, sexual temptation, obedience and submission to God. All these in various sub-plots but with a strong connection to spiritual warfare principles (prayer, bible reading, spiritual discernment etc), and the main plot of the novel. In my review, I stated,
Through all these characterisation and situations, they are all connected to the spiritual warfare elements and provide for one very cohesive, smooth flowing plot. Sometimes these subplots can derail the main plot and make it very disjointed by not in this novel. Roush is one very good plotter here and this novel reads like it would as if the reader was observing all these events in real life.
Did you find it hard to connect all these subplots together? What was your purpose in including these subplots when their very inclusion could have derailed the main plot and made it disjointed as I stated? I am not complaining, mind you, as the inclusion of these topics as sub-plots added some great layers of suspense, action, and realism to the novel and in depicting a realistic Christian’s life. Looking back on ITIoM, I cannot imagine this without them.
First of all, thank you for your kind words about the novel. I wouldn’t say that I included these subplots for the sake of having subplots. Rather, it is these aspects of the characters’ lives that make them real. Each of us has a complex matrix of strengths and weaknesses, positive achievements, and failures we want left in the closet. These are what make us unique. So, giving the reader a glimpse into these aspects of the characters’ lives helps make them unique and relatable.
That being said, I probably could have woven a few less subplots. In fact, Restoration’s Journey, the sequel to In The Image of Man, has a more personal, less epic feel to it. And as such, I’ve woven less subplots into the story. Though there are several. But, the presence of these perceived subplots in Image is primarily a result of what I view as the prevailing theme of the story. Even bigger than the topic of spiritual warfare, my primary purpose for this story is to communicate God’s sovereignty and forgiveness.
If humanity clones people, would they have souls? That is up to God, the true Creator. It’s His choice. Do we who cheat and lie, envy and steal, hate and kill, ignore injustice and look the other way, deserve God’s forgiveness? No. But, in Jesus, He offered it anyway. God has every right to act as He chooses. Yet, He loves us enough to want what is best for us. That is the true theme of this story.
I found the romance element between Chris and Sarah one very refreshing plot line. I like romance in a novel when it is a subplot and not the main, dominant theme. You have done well in this novel to have this as well as the other sub-plot lines mentioned in previous question balanced against the main theme of spiritual warfare. What was your purpose for including romance in this novel? It was something I was not expecting! And by the way, you develop romance very well. Men can be and are just as proficient at writing romance as female authors!
Romance is a great way to demonstrate God’s love for us. We are created with a longing to be loved and cared for. This is why most enduring stories have a strong plot or sub-plot of love. This could be a romantic, brotherly, or parental love. Without some aspect of this, I believe a story would be missing a vital dimension of humanity. As with so many other aspects of writing, the key is to have this aspect be real and believable, not sensationalized and over-done.
In other spiritual warfare novels and those based on the Peretti format, the demons want to rule over mankind as part of their rebellion against God and their hatred of man. However, you have introduced a very interesting twist on this in the form or cloning of humans as a way to further mock God, imitate His creation and control the human race. Where did this idea come from?
That’s a good question. God has given me a unique mind. I love to ponder the mysteries of God and His creation. Much of my life has been a mix of seemingly conflicting contrasts. Science and theology, logic and art, sci-fi and romance, you name it. So, as I wandered down the mental trail of cloning, the existence of the soul, demonic activity, and the human will, I found this unique storyline developing.
As for the distaste that demons must have for the grace and forgiveness that God has offered humanity, this concept was expertly addressed in the novel Demon, by Tosca Lee. I believe her book had a significant impact as I considered the motivations of the demons and their work in my story.
I was really intrigued about this cloning issue as I recently read a novella called Parmenter’s Wager by Terri Main. In this novella, a human clone grew up with Christian (foster) parents and she admits to her Pastor that she is a clone and asks him the question, Does she have a soul? The Pastor does not know the answer as this is uncharted territory, (even in today’s timeline), so he uses the theory of Pascal’s Wager to address this issue.
Pascal’s Wager (or Pascal’s Gambit) is the name for an idea that Blaise Pascal had. He said that it is not possible to prove or disprove that God exists. Therefore, it is better to bet that God exists. If God existed, and the person believed in God, he would be rewarded (with happiness forever); if the person did not believe, he would be punished (with what is called eternal damnation). If God did not exist it would make no difference. For this reason, it would be better to believe in God, Pascal said. Indeed, Pascal strongly believed in this ideal.
You have taken a very specific tact in that you have God denying these clones a soul as they are not created by Him and are an abomination of satan. This is one very controversial issue. Your tact is similar to what some theological and Bible students believe about demons, that they are the spirits of the deceased Nephilim (Genesis 6:4) and are earth- bound and are denied salvation or a soul as they are not directly created by God. Have you had any negative feedback/criticism about this?
As mentioned previously, my desire was to emphasize God’s sovereignty. It is He who breathed life into Adam. It is this breath of God that makes us unique from the animals. So, can mankind create life, apart from God? I don’t believe so. It is His choice.
And, the story isn’t over, either. This issue continues to be examined throughout the twists and turns of the sequel.
As for the Nephilim, as I’m sure you know, there is much debate regarding the meaning of Genesis 6:4. I would probably be more conservative in my interpretation of that passage than many. Though 2 Peter 2:4 certainly provides grounds to infer some level of demonic involvement in the events of Genesis 6. It is this involvement that I lean on in my novel.
I haven’t had any real criticism about my interpretation of the supernatural realm. However, I suspect this is more due to a somewhat limited readership to this point. I would not be surprised to receive critique on some of the presented, or even perceived, positions from a theological perspective. God is a God of mystery, thus none of us should ever presume to understand the things of God without any room for error.
Why did you have God intervene personally during the final confrontation between the demonic, angelic and Christian forces at the end of the novel? Again, I found this a very refreshing element as this does not happen very often in other Christian novels of spiritual warfare that I have read.
God is the Creator who with just a spoken word created everything that exists. Too often, we see the battle between good and evil as some unending war born out of parity, a dualistic striving. Satan desired to rise to equality with God. Yet, even he knows that he is merely a created being. There is no battle for supremacy when the infinite all-powerful God goes up against His finite creation. The enemy’s attempts are more of a misery-loves-company effort. Their only real way to “hurt” God is to break His heart by drawing His beloved creations away from Him.
While this divine intervention approach is risky and required setup to pull off, it seemed most appropriate to present this God-is-in-control solution, when addressing a theme of God’s sovereignty.
Another aspect that impressed me about your novel is how you have depicted the angels. You have them depicted as they are in the Bible, messengers, warriors and guardians. I find it annoying when they are depicted as lustful, self-seeking, autocratic beings who exist on their own, make their own decisions apart from God and who have no problem falling in love with human women! Depicting them as they are biblically adds another layer of realism and biblical truth to your novel. In this way you are honoring God, the Bible, and educating the reader on bible truth and doctrine. Your thoughts on this?
I don’t really have any additional thoughts, but to agree and say thank you. You’ve described my intentions.
Who is your favorite human character? Angelic character? Who was the hardest to develop?
Favorite character? That’s like asking, which of your children is your favorite? No, but really, I would probably say that Sarah is my favorite human character. As a reader, and yes, even the author, you tend to put yourself in the shoes of the protagonist (Chris). This means that I developed a desire to care for and protect Sarah. Though my wife did ask me, “what are you putting that poor girl through now?”
As far as the angels go, I’d probably say that Huw was my favorite to write. I enjoyed his wisdom and the hints of a Welsh accent.
The demons were the hardest to develop, as I needed to make them evil, self-serving, and blasphemous while keeping the book appropriate for a broad Christian audience.
Any of the characters based on yourself?
I always love this question. Absolutely, all of them. Well, at least all the humans. As an author, I think a bit of myself ends up in every character, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Though, in the characters these traits are often more extreme.
I wouldn’t say that any one of the characters in primarily based on me. And, I certainly hope that very little of myself ended up in the portrayal of the demons.
Without giving away any spoilers, what can we expect from the next book in this series?
As I’ve indicated, the second book takes a more intimate perspective on the question of God giving, or not, souls to the mims (acronym for the human clones, Manufactured Image of Man). The story follows twelve-year-old Ima as she flees from CeSiR Tech. What would it mean to be one of these abominate creations of science, in a world that would not possibly understand? How do you run from forces you can’t see?
A majority of this story takes place in parallel to the storyline of In The Image of Man.
Other than the Dominion series, is there a new project in the works?
I have the first book of another series about half written at this point. This book does not contain the direct look into the spiritual realm like the Unseen Dominion books. However, it does center on the premise of a man being able to see the state of a person’s soul. The tentative tagline is, “If you could see into people’s souls, would you dare look in the mirror?”
I am trying to discern whether to publish this new book before working on the third, and probably final, book of the Unseen Dominion series, or not. In fact, I may even weave the two storylines together at some point. I guess, we’ll all have to wait to see what God has in store for us.
What take home message do you want readers of the In The Image of Man to embrace?
We are in a spiritual battle and there are no neutral parties. God has called us to prepare and participate in the battle before us. Ephesians 6 gives us some very specific instructions for how to prepare and participate. But, we do not need to fear. God is in control. The war is already won, in Jesus. Our battle is to tell others about the Good News of His victory.
Where can readers find you?
Website – www.heartspublishing.com
Facebook – Rob. Roush
Twitter – AuthorRob
Goodreads – Robert Roush
Amazon Author page – www.amazon.com/Robert-Roush/e/B00IX52GS8
Any closing comments?
Just to say, “Thank you!” It is such an encouragement to come across readers that both liked the book and are willing to commit some of their time and energy to promoting it.
Robert, it is my pleasure to promote your book as I thoroughly enjoyed it as you not only entertained me but encouraged my faith and reinforced biblical principles of spiritual warfare. That was one very engaging interview and I am sure readers will agree with me that we received more than a glimpse of what makes you tick as an author and your passion for honoring God in your writing and adhering to biblical principles. I look forward to all of your future writing. You are one author I am now following.
Peter Younghusband has been an avid reader from as early as he can remember. Since becoming a Christian in his early 20s, his passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on his blog. He loves reading new author’s novels or authors who have not had many reviews or exposure and giving them much needed encouragement where appropriate.