What inspired you to write the short story that was featured in Birds of Passage?
I wondered what a minister would do if he to heard the voice of God out loud in his back yard when neither he nor his congregation believed such things could happen. The idea popped into my head while I was reading a novel set in Israel.
How long have you been a writer and how did your interest in writing start?
I began when I was in the eighth grade. An English class assignment to write three paragraphs of “description” made me realize I liked writing. I had summer newspaper jobs when I was in school, worked for The Raleigh Times for a couple of years after graduation, then became a full-time freelancer in 1972.
What would you like to accomplish as a writer?
I’d like to use the process to explore mystical experience and to reach lots of readers with my stories about it. I’m also interested in the intersection of sex and spirituality. And, of course, I’d love a National Book Award and a spot on the NY Times Bestseller list.
Who has influenced your writing? How?
John Updike has been a model for me in both religious interest and style. I’ve been in a weekly writing group led by Laurel Goldman for almost 34 years. Their feedback has let me know when a word hits a wrong note and when information is missing, etc.
Do you write on a regular basis or sporadically and when and where is your favorite time and place to write?
I write 5 days a week, unless I’m waiting for readers to give me feedback or taking a break after finishing with a novel. I work in my office at the edge of downtown Raleigh, where I also critique manuscripts by other writers.
What book and/or short stories have you written, besides the short story in Birds of Passage?
My novels are Revelation, Sister India, and Cobalt Blue. (Revelation is the one that’s Christian. The other two are mainly based in Asian traditions.) I’m also co-author of The Healing Power of Doing Good.
Do you read Christian and secular novels of just Christian works? Do you have a favorite author, can be Christian or non-Christian?
I read for literary pleasure, without regard to religion.
As a Christian author, do you plan a faith message before you start writing or does your faith message grow out of writing a particular story? If no faith message in your writing, why not?
I never set out to write about religion. But the same themes show up every time.
Do you outline every chapter of your story, or do you simply let if flow without a preconceived idea as to where you might be headed?
I let it flow.
What is the biggest challenge facing you as an author in general? How about as a Christian author?
The publishing world has become so hit-driven that it’s ever harder to sell books. Also, marketing a book that contains both “adult material” and faith is very hard.
Tell me about your current project. What you are trying to achieve, how far along are you, when it will be ready, any particular challenges with the work, target audience, etc.
My new novel is about a teen-age girl whose parents have broken up over the father’s sudden intense religiosity, his devotion to a saint, while she has developed a relationship with a boy from the astral realm. Again, I’m interested in “things unseen” and I’m mixing religions. I’m close to finishing; now awaiting feedback from five teenage readers. My hope is that both teens and adults will want to read it, all kinds of believers and others who’d view it as entirely fantasy.
Given the choice, would you rather be an independent author or be traditionally published? Why?
I’d rather be traditionally published by a major house. It’s so much easier to get attention to the book, unless it’s a hot nonfiction topic or unless you’re a cyber-genius. I’ve been published by major houses Simon & Schuster, Riverhead (Penguin Putnam), and Fawcett Columbine (Bantam). My most recent book was brought out by a small English press, John Hunt, that specializes in books on religion and metaphysics. They do both traditional publishing and they handle self-publishing projects. My contract was traditional; I didn’t pay. It was still far harder to get reviews and attention to the book than with a major house. But I was happy that they were willing to take on a book that was both religious and a bit “X-rated.” My self-publishing experience has been in re-release of my first novel Revelation for Kindle — I found the promotion difficult. So I left the digital re-release of Sister India to the original publisher.