Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I was moved by fiction, changed by fiction, and I want to pass that on to others if I can. Changed lives is what it’s about, I think, and stories have power.
That is so true. Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
The birth of our children. I have 9 happiest days of my life. Everything else pretty much pales in comparison.
How has being published changed your life?
I’m not really any different than I was when I was writing until I fell asleep at night, trying to “become” a writer. But getting over the publishing hurdle was huge. Now it’s figuring out how to be the best writer I can be with what I’ve been given.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom at the DMV today. I’ll start a Michael Connelly novel tonight and continue in Philippians tomorrow. As you can see, I read widely.
What is your current work in progress?
I’m working on a story called Not In The Heart. It’s about a man whose son needs a heart transplant who is asked to write the story of a convicted murderer who is willing to donate his heart to the man’s son. If he discovers the man is innocent, his son might die. If he spikes the information, an innocent man may die.
A real moral dilemma. What would be your dream vacation?
A beach, a book, my wife and kids.
How do you choose your settings for each book?
The settings choose themselves because of the characters. In Dogwood, June Bug, and Almost Heaven, it’s all in West Virginia, where I grew up. Setting is very important to me—almost another character in the novel if it’s to be believed.
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
Pat Conroy. I have a bunch of questions and he’s a great storyteller. Plus, he would order some kind of fish and maybe even cook it. That would be perfect. Then we could play basketball.
What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
I play basketball/football with the kids. We walk, too.
Getting started is hard. Not looking at e-mail. I overcome it by putting on the headphones and starting the music track to whatever I’m working on.
What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Write and read. Not necessarily in that order. Study other writers. Buy writing books and read them. Write journals. Write stories. Write whatever comes to you and find a mentor who is farther/further down the road. (I can never remember which one to use.) …find a mentor who has been published. There. That fixed it.
Tell us about the featured book.
Almost Heaven is a story close to my heart. Billy Allman is an odd guy. He’s a hillbilly genius who has a heart for people but not many people skills. He loves God but doesn’t know how to show it. He’s like a lot of us. He has a small dream and works at realizing it, but keeps getting slapped around by life. The story is told from Billy’s perspective as well as an angel’s viewpoint who is sent to the holler to watch him. The angel has no idea why. Why would God waste his time on this person whose life is…really nothing at all? I’m hoping readers will be encouraged that no matter how small you feel in the world, God can use you and wants to change the world through you.
Sounds intriguing. Please give us the first page of the book.
I suppose you can sum up a man’s life with a few words. That’s what the newspaper tries to do with an obituary. And it’s what the reporter who was here today will try to do in her article. “Billy Allman . . . resident of Dogwood . . . lifelong dream to build a radio station . . .” She’ll do a fine job, I’m sure. She seemed kind-hearted and the type that will get her facts straight, but I know there will be a lot of my life that will fall through the cracks.
I believe every life has hidden songs that hang by twin threads of music and memory. I believe in the songs that have never been played for another soul. I believe they run between the rocks and underneath the creekbeds of our lives. These are songs that cannot be heard by anything but the soul. They sometimes run dry or spill over the banks until we find ourselves wading through them.
My life has been filled with my share of dirges and plainsongs. I would sing jaunty melodies of cotton candy and ice cream if I could, a top-40 three minute and twenty second tune, but the songs that have been given to me are played in A minor and are plagued with pauses and riffs that have no clear resolution. I ache for some major chord, a tonal shift that brings musical contentment. I do not know if I will find that.
Throughout my life I have dedicated myself to God. I told him early on that I would go anywhere and do anything he wanted. No holding back. But as time slipped and the conversation has become more one-sided, that plan has appeared haphazard at best. God has seemed massively indifferent to my devotion, if he has even heard my cries.
I suppose I need to put this story down in an ordered fashion to make sense of the silence and to fill in the missing places of my own. Or perhaps I will be able to convince the people who know me as a hermit that there was some reason for the pain. Our lives are judged by a few snapshots taken at vulnerable moments, and I have decided to set my hand to recording the flashes I can recall, the ones revealing my motivations. The look on that reporter’s face as I showed her the disparate parts of my life made me want to put this down in my own words. But this is not really for those outside looking in. This is for me.
One of the neighbors described the morning of February 26, 1972, as a cold stillness. I woke up at the first sign of the overcast light. It was my tenth birthday, and as children will do I did not want sleep to steal any of the good apportioned to me that day. I had invited three boys from my class to the first and last party my parents would ever offer.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
I’m at Chrisfabry.com.
Thank you, Chris, for the time you've spent with us.
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