Absolutely! About thirty years ago—maybe forty—I wrote a little play called “B.L.Z.” When I say “little,” I mean little. Just a few pages. In this play, the Devil is disgusted with the fact that his son, Junior, always messes up his evil assignments by doing good instead and sends him to earth on one final assignment. If Junior succeeds in winning Pastor Gus Gospello’s soul, he’ll get to take his father’s place as chief of devils.
I won’t tell you the rest of the story, but about five years ago I realized I had a novel-sized idea if I just changed and enlarged the story some. Junior has been relegated to a reference and B.L.ZeBubb himself is the one after Pastor Gus’s soul.
I had a lot of fun making the transition, especially since I was using the story to make fun of the Devil’s pride, but also to poke fun at the way churches sometimes treat their pastors.
It’s not all fun, though. The Devil and Pastor Gus has some serious moments. Readers can definitely expect to cry as well as laugh.
What started you on your writing journey?
I wrote my first poem in elementary school, but I never thought about doing more writing until I wrote my first song while in high school. I was in a folk trio, and we used it as our theme song. After college I wrote more songs, but also started writing short plays and monologs.
I always wanted to write a novel, but—like most people—it took many years to get around to doing it. After being downsized from my third career, I was too young to retire but too old to find a really suitable job. So, with Christmas coming, I got a part-time job at Target and stayed there three years.
That’s when I first had time to write a novel. Once I got the story idea, I hopped right to it. As an English major, I thought I was good enough to take a chance self-publishing (they didn’t call it “indie publishing” then).
But when I started reading writing books and attending Christian writers’ conferences, I realized how bad that first novel was. But that got me started on the journey I’m on today.
What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
Even though I can’t imagine I’d ever write a suspense novel—too complicated!—that’s what I enjoy reading the most. I hesitate to give recommendations because I’m sure to leave out a couple of dozen of my favorite authors. But they include Al Gansky, Brandilyn Collins, and DiAnn Mills. I occasionally will read a women’s book by Deb Raney. And romantic suspense by Christy Barritt is always good. I don’t normally read speculative fiction, even though The Devil and Pastor Gus falls into that category, but I’ll automatically buy and read anything by Jim Rubart. And I’d do that even if he hadn’t written a wonderful endorsement for Pastor Gus. Oh, and I can’t leave out Donn Taylor, either, who’s written in several genres.
Pastor Gus himself. I’m not and never have been a minister, but I’m a PK—a preacher’s kid—and that gave me some real insights I could apply to Pastor Gus as a character and to the book as a whole. I was closer to middle aged when I wrote the first draft of this novel, so I could also relate to Gus’s mid-life crisis and his obsession with leaving a novel as his legacy. In many ways, I see this novel as my own legacy, no matter how many more novels I write.
What is your strangest habit?
I absolutely HAVE to have a flashlight on me at all times—other than in the shower. That includes wearing one to bed. With a dog and a cat, there’s no telling what I might trip over getting up in the middle of the night. I have no idea when my flashlight obsession started—or why—but many is the time I’ve been thankful for it.
What makes you smile and/or laugh out loud?
Uh, I had to laugh out loud at this question. I’m one of those people who smiles a lot and laughs internally, but seldom laughs out loud. Yet I have a crazy sense of humor. I like to make other people laugh—preferably with me and not at me.
What do you like most about the area where you live and/or grew up?
Can’t do “grew up in” because that implies I’ve ever finished growing up. I’m only sixty-eight, you know. But I love the area we live in in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia, because practically everything we need is within a five-mile radius. Restaurants, shopping center, and grocery store are just a mile away. Our church is closer to five.
Where is your favorite place to travel/vacation in?
I have to say Australia, which is one reason I typically have a reference to Oz in every book. In Pastor Gus, it plays out further because Gus came home from a mission trip to Australia frustrated that he can’t pronounce words with an Australian accent. Gus’s wife can. The Devil can. But not Gus.
I’ve been to Australia on a number of volunteer mission trips, once to teach at a computer users symposium, and several times on family trips. It’s my second home.
Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you. (and why it's special)
Definitely Isaiah 40:31: but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (NIV). My first wife and I had a baby in 1976 who died three days after a normal birth. Turns out her heart was not properly formed, but they couldn’t tell that at birth.
In a Wednesday night prayer meeting and Bible study soon after that, our pastor referred to this Scripture and explained what it had meant to a well-known minister who’d lost a daughter to leukemia. That verse became our support from that point on.
So much so that I ended up rewording it slightly and putting it to music. It’s still one of my favorite original songs.
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