Glowing Author #14
Okay, you’ve heard me go on and on about the importance of good writers’ conferences. Well, here I go again. I want you to meet a most interesting and talented Canadian author whom I met at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ conference this past year. (He’s also the most patient of folks, by the way. We had an appointment that slipped my cluttered mind, and instead of embarrassing me, he quietly blended into my website lesson. When we finally broke up in the wee hours, he said, “So, I assume we aren’t meeting tonight?” What a guy!)
You’re an interesting guy, Ian. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I live in Northern Canada with my amazingly gracious wife of 34 years. Because our four children and six grandchildren all live in the same city, our home is like the tent of a biblical patriarch. With all the kids, spouses, friends, musicians, toddlers, babies, artists, pets, it’s a veritable ground-zero of activity. I have been and still am a writer, artist, pastor, mountain climber, church planter, cross-cultural worker, and whatever else God sees fit to toss me into.
So much for the esoteric picture of the solitary writer. Of course, few actually fit that schleps-around-all-day-waiting-for-the-muse-to-strike picture. Tell us about your “day job” and how it influences your writing.
I’m a full-time Correctional Center Chaplain. The equivalent facility in the US would be a maximum security state prison. Talking to a hardened biker who can’t get through a single sentence without dropping a half-dozen F-bombs is a bit of a strain, but I get to see life from the trenches. I know the gang members by name. I know how they think and what motivates them.
I’m a Christian writer. When I write about the disenfranchised who flocked to David at the cave of Adullam, there are layers to the story that open up to me. When I write about David strapping on his sword and marching out to take vengeance on Nabal for insulting him, I understand what’s driving his heart.
Wow! One of the things that impresses me about you is the range of your writing. Tell us a bit about that.
I’ve done journalism, trade pieces, advertising copy, poetry, children’s stories, stage scripts, comedy, college curriculum . . . you name it. My passion right now is book writing. The working title of my current project is Unpacking Your Destiny. I’ve never written a book before, but up until this year, I’d never eaten a live bee, either. I got to do that this summer on my motorcycle. Life is filled with new experiences.
Do you put something of yourself in all of this?
I can’t really imagine any writer not putting something of themselves in their work. Take my current project for example. I’m a writer who works in the often violent environment of a prison. David was a writer who lived in the often violent times of ancient Israel. I feel a connection to David, better than with any other character in the Bible. Who I am is always going to come out in my writing. The day that no longer happens is the day I stop writing.
Where one has lived and what he/she has experienced can influence one’s writing in many ways. Are there any specific locations or experiences that have popped up in your books?
I want to see and do everything that life has to offer. Everything I experience somehow leaks into my writing. My parents were from Celtic stock. The Celts play Hurling, the oldest game in the world. I’ve played it myself. It’s a wonderful sport. Combine those experiences with my faith in God and the spiritual warfare I’ve experienced in ministry, and the result was a piece I wrote for a story-tellers festival. It’s about a group of monks in Donegal, Ireland, who meet the Devil and his hordes on the hurling pitch. The souls of all Ireland go to the winner. How much fun is that?
Great fun! I know because I read that piece. Only “read,” unfortunately. I didn’t get to hear you perform it in brogue. So tell us, Ian, how do you balance your writer’s life with the rest of life?
I don’t really give much credence to the idea of balance. King Solomon said, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal…” That’s not balance. We tend to think of life more like a juggling act. We put a ball in the air, and then we add another, and another, and another. No wonder we feel like we’re losing our minds. Solomon spoke of doing the right thing at the right time. I write when it’s time to write. At the moment, I’m recovering from ankle surgery, and so it’s a good time to write. At times I do stone sculpting. At times I play the guitar. Sometimes I just sit and enjoy my family. I don’t balance my writer’s life with the rest of my life at all. What I try to do is harmonize it.
Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your own writing? Do you have a writing mentor?
I’m an insatiable reader. I emulate hundreds of writers. When I read a book, I’m always looking for the techniques and devices employed by the author. R.A. Salvatore, the fantasy writer, is a seamless story-teller. W.P. Kinsella is a brilliant humorist. Leonard Sweet paints amazing word pictures. The world is a candy store of talented writers.
The closest thing I have to a writing mentor is a wonderful lady I met at Mt. Hermon in California. She’s written almost 40 books and has an awesome blog. She lives in the Northwest, and she’s promised to take a look at my manuscript when it’s finished. Can you guess her name?
(Blush. Grin.) Anything else you would like to add, Ian?
I just bought a T-shirt on the internet. Intended to be read from the wearer’s perspective, it has the words, “You’re an awesome writer. Now get back to work.” printed backwards across the front. I love it. In my experience, writing is a lot like climbing mountains. The view from the top is great, but getting there is what mountain climbing is all about. I’ve learned in writing that completing whatever project I’m working on is not a very good goal for me. The road I travel in getting to that place is a far better experience.
In writing, the journey is the goal.