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Author Interview img

The Author Interview

with
Dr. Charles J. Williams, Jr.
Latest Book Title
In His Very Steps:
What Does the Bible Say?
Available at

Amazon.com, www.ihvsbooks.com, Barnes and Noble bookstores, Books-a-Million bookstores Family Christian book stores, Burry Bookstore (Hartsville, SC)
ISBN: 978-1463786892

Blog/website

www.ihvsbooks.com

 
Tell us about your latest effort

Ten years in the making and reflective of much of my 17 years as a Pastor, In His Very Steps is the first in a six-part series on Christian disciplines centered around the Disciples Cross. The first book, "What Does the Bible Say?" emphasizes obedience with the story of a prominent pastor and a congregation who totally blow it! While everyone thinks someone is doing what needs to be done, nothing gets done to help a family in need – and a mother and her children pay the price. Humbled and repentant, the Reverend Jim Harter leads a handful of faithful believers of First Church Kingston to return to the Bible for forgiveness and guidance. Their promise, to take no action or make any decision without first answering the question “What does the Bible say?” will teach readers how to trust in God's Word in all matters of faith, life, romance, and business.

Although fiction, the book addresses non-fiction issues including evolution, professional ethics, pre-marital sex, contemporary theology, Christian division, and more, from a conservative evangelical position. And the stunning ending of the book will leave readers considering how the world could actually change for the better if people lived by Christian faith and obedience. Living in the very steps of Jesus is not only possible but it is a promised future reality (Rev 21).
What draws you to your genre(s)? Why is this type of story compelling to you?

As a Christian and a former Southern Baptist Pastor, a Christian novel is a natural extension of who I am as a person. Moreover, as a young minister studying Theology in the early 1990s, I was greatly inspired by a classic book by Charles M. Sheldon, "In His Steps." Like my book, it was a work of fiction, but it inspired me to try to live my life as Jesus Christ lived. Over the next 17 years I experienced the joys and the heartache of full-time Christian service. Periodically, I would realize how much my real life paralleled Sheldon's fictional story. Thus, I found myself journaling my feelings, reflecting upon my actions, recording prayers, and claiming scripture for strength and guidance. Periodically, I used those journal entries to encourage others, and to help lay members and ministers alike live a fuller, richer life in Christ. This is the essence of my first novel and this future literary series.

By the way, I am already working on book two in the In His Very Steps series. Entitled "Fishers of Men," it will be a 15 chapter work about witnessing that picks up on the story of Reverend Harter and the members of First Church Kingston five years after book one.

What is your writing process like? Do you map the whole thing out, or do you just let it unfold?

I tend to use a pre-writing process that starts with a very general idea followed by an extremely concise summary of major themes, characters, and plotlines. I normally begin filling in details after that process, but I find myself frequently returning to the summaries to expand on ideas and fill-in gaps. I also tend to write in short stories that resemble scenes of a play or movie. These "shorts" are expanded over time and later divided into segments which are grouped with other shorts to form full chapters. My goal is that each chapter consists of approximately 3,000 words. It's not a magic formula, but I found that was about as much of a book that I enjoyed reading before taking some kind of break – for a snack or a drink of water or whatever. I then get back to the book or put it aside for another time. So when I say that book two is a 15 chapter project I mean that it will be around 45,000 words in length. As the series' foundational novel, book one is just over 100,000 words long.

How much of YOU makes it into your characters?

Oh my goodness, there is a lot of me in Reverend Harter as well as a number of ministers who appear in Part III of the book: Reverend K. Ron French, Brother Thom, Dr. Adam Meredith, and Reverend Frankie Tanner. Psychology teaches us that there are three personalities comprising us: the person we see our self to be, the person others see us to be, and the person we actually are. I think the ministers in my book comprise the real me.

Reverend Harter is the man I want to be – a refined, well educated pastor of a successful, medium-sized church; humble yet attractive. Reverend French is the overzealous pastor who is prone to mistakes and slow to see his own faults. Dr. Meredith reflects the kind of man and minister I emulated in Dr. James Meredith, Former President of the Southern Baptist Convention; famous, charismatic, and wealthy. And the beloved Brother Thom and Rev. Tanner are reflective of ministers who risked everything to serve God and were blessed as a result. In fact, Brother Thom never wavered even when he lay on the brink of death.
What breaks you out of a creative slump?
That's simple. The encouragement of friends and family breaks me out of my slumps. All I have to do is strike up a conversation about things that have happened to me in ministry – "war stories" we in the military and ministry call them, and I find myself inspired all over again. The story behind the book is based on my experiences in the ministry so it's easy to understand that talking about those experiences helps me to revive my creative juices.
Do you ever censor your writing to avoid offending or displeasing people?

Oh yes! My heartfelt desire is to encourage people and draw them into a closer relationship with Christ, not discourage or offend them. Allow me to give you an example. Book one includes the story of a woman who was repeatedly raped and beaten. I saw no need whatsoever to describe the gory details of her attack to the point of offending sensitive readers, or worse, sexually exciting weak-willed readers. People have a vivid imagination and all I need do is point them in the right direction to paint a more complex picture that meets their specific satisfaction.

Is there a story you want to tell but avoid because it would be too controversial?
No, I feel I can write about anything as long as I did so in a tasteful manner.
How can you write an honest autobiography without offending people who recognize themselves?
This is exactly what I have done with In His Very Steps: What Does the Bible Say? I draped the stories in fiction and "changed the names to protect the innocent" – and protect the guilty too. As an added bonus, I found that a fictional genre enabled me to improve on some stories. For example, there is a romantic scene where Ashley Nichols and Trevor Campbell are walking along the Kingston Battery, around the market, through an arboretum, and into a park. It should come as no surprise that "Kingston" is actually Charleston, SC, with its beautiful Battery, famous market, and several historic parks – but we don't have an arboretum. Moreover, the park described in that short is Hampton Park, located on the West side of the Peninsula – it is actually nowhere near the Battery or Market.
What would be the top five, (or 3 or 1 or however many) things you would tell aspiring authors?

I've learned a great deal writing this book so I am thankful for the opportunity to answer this question. First of all, become a student of the English language (or whatever language you write) so you can fashion a work that is grammatically correct and literarily excellent. Remember, whether you are writing a magazine article or a full-length novel, your published work may be around for a VERY long time; it will reflect upon you every time it is read.

Second, read to learn. As an aspiring Pastor I would often watch the evening news with the television on mute. Instead of hearing the anchor speak his message I watched the facial expressions and body language to learn as much as I could about non-verbal communication. Afterwards, I turned the volume on and closed my eyes to improve my verbal skills. With this in mind, read related articles and books to discover the successful patterns and styles of successful authors. It helps.

Third, edit, edit, and edit. I was rejected by so many publishers that I almost gave up ever being published. In my arrogance, I felt I was being overlooked and discounted. In retrospect, my early manuscripts were froth with grammatical errors, poorly constructed sentences, and incomplete thoughts. So put your feelings aside and ask others to use a red pen to mark up your manuscript. When they are finished, ask someone else to do the same – or pay a professional editor to make it the best possible. It's that important.

Finally, become a master of marketing. This is especially true of "indie authors" (i.e., independent or self-published authors). Writing a book is only one part in the process. You invest a great deal of time into your manuscript and it deserves to be read – but it's not easy. This is a work-in-progress for me so take it for what it's worth… but my advice is to start local, expand to regional, and continue expanding.

 

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Interview with Jessica Dall

Interview with Dr. Charles J. Williams

 
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