1. What led or inspired you to write Every Bush is Burning? and what was your goal in writing the book?
For many years I felt a burden for people who seemed to turn away from Jesus due to the sins of the church. That passion birthed the idea for this book, and my goal was to start meaningful conversations with people who were disillusioned by the church.
2. How long did it take you to produce this work and were there any challenges along the way? and why did you choose to write it in first person.
It took me close to 5 years to write it. It actually started as non-fiction, and an editor I spoke with gave me the idea to do it in fiction. I chose to write in first person because I typically resonate most with character-driven fiction, and I like being inside of a character’s head.
3. How did you wind up with the title?
It came from a quote I stumbled across from Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God”
4. Did you work from a detailed outline for the book, or did you figure it out as you went along?
I outlined a decent amount in the beginning but did a lot of restructuring as I progressed. So I’d say a little of both.
5. The book has a nice edge and speaks in realistic terms – a little grit but nothing offensive. Have you received criticism that it is too edgy for a Christian book? and how do you feel about the growing popularity of edgy Christian fiction books.
Yes, I actually had a friend who was reading an early draft and one of his comments was “I don’t know if I really believe Jack’s character. This sounds silly, but I feel like Jack would cuss.” I have received criticism for the edginess, but I knew that would come with the territory. I think it’s funny now that some Christians expect made-up non-Christian characters to conform to their morals, and yes I believe there should be room for Christian art that is more edgy and reflective of reality.
Most people seem to get this and appreciate the rawness, so I don’t worry about the ones who choose not to finish and leave a one-star review due to the PG-13 language. They are not the intended audience for the book anyway.
I wrote more extensively on why I decided to put cursing in a “Christian book” here.
6. As pastor at Midtown Fellowship, how has the congregation reacted to the book?
Very well. We have an amazing church that served as the inspiration for a lot of the story. I went through a period of disenchantment with the church, and God has used our fellowship to restore so much hope for the American church.
7. Was any of it autobiographical? If so tell us about it?
Not really, other than some of Jack’s rants or interests. He tends to like the same music that I do:)
8. Did you self-publish and why?
I did self-publish. I was working with an editor that had just finished his role as a fiction acquisition editor for a major Christian publishing house, and he was very honest with me about my prospects and what would have to change about the book to make it acceptable to any Christian publisher at the time. I wasn’t comfortable with that at the time, and I also knew it was too Christian for secular publishers. He thought my best option was to self-publish if I could find the resources to do it well, so I did. It was a lot of work, but I think it was worth it for the creative freedom.
9. When did you realize that you were called to be a pastor ? – was writing part of your life before, or did it come after you became a pastor?
I knew since late high school/early college that I was called to be in ministry. I dabbled with writing in college a little, but didn’t get serious about it until I started in ministry. It became a healthy outlet for me in the midst of the stresses of ministry.
10. Music played a key role in some of the scenes in the book. Are you a musician – tell us about that?
I am not a musician, but I love music.
11. Do you have other projects in the works? If so, please tell us about it.
I am working on a traditionally published non-fiction book about Christian hospitality right now (due out in February 2017). I have an idea for a new novel, but I’m still figuring out what I want to do with it. I plan to continue to write both fiction and non-fiction as the years progress and God allows.
12. Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself or the book?
I’m very thankful for how God continues to use the story. Thanks to you Diogenes for reading and spreading the word!
I also have been blogging a bit recently at a new site called DearBibleBelt.com for anyone interested in that. Some themes from Every Bush Is Burning certainly show up there.