Friday, April 15, 2011
The Damascus Way, by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke
Book 3 in the Acts of Faith series
Young Julia has everything money can buy—except for acceptance by either Gentiles or Judeans in Tiberias. When she discovers the secret her beloved Greek father has kept all these years, she is devastated. Julia and her Hebrew mother are indeed less than second-class citizens. Her future is dark with clouds of uncertainty.
Jacob, Abigail's brother, is now a young man attempting to find his own place among the community of believers. Does it mean trading away the exhilaration and adventure of his current profession as a caravan guard?
Hired by Julia's father to protect a wealthy merchant's caravans on the secretive "Frankincense Trail," Jacob also reluctantly takes on the perilous responsibility of passing letters and messages between communities of believers now dispersed across the land. He is alarmed to discover that Julia, hardly more than a girl, is also a courier. Can their initial mistrust be put aside to accomplish their mission?
The Damascus Way is the finale to the best-selling Acts of Faith trilogy co-authored by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke.
Book 1 is The Centurion's Wife
Book 2 is The Hidden Flame
Reviewers, readers and friends use those phrases to describe Davis Bunn. An internationally-acclaimed author who has sold more than six million books in sixteen languages, Davis is equal parts writer, scholar, teacher, and sportsman.
Born and raised in North Carolina, Davis left for Europe at age twenty. There he first completed graduate studies in economics and finance, then began a business career that took him to over forty countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
Davis came to faith at age 28, while living in Germany and running an international business advisory group. He started writing two weeks later. Since that moment, writing has remained both a passion and a calling.
Davis wrote for nine years and completed seven books before his first was accepted for publication. During that time, he continued to work full-time in his business career, travelling to two and sometimes three countries every week. His first published book, The Presence, was released in 1990 and became a national bestseller.
Honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, his bestsellers include The Great Divide, Winner Take All, The Meeting Place, The Warning, The Book of Hours, and The Quilt.
A sought-after speaker in the art of writing, Davis serves as Writer In Residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University.
• The Meeting Place (co-authored with Janette Oke)
Best North American Historical fiction, 2000
• The Great Divide – Best Suspense Novel, 2001
• Drummer in the Dark – Best Suspense Novel, 2002
Welcome, Davis. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
The emotions are certainly mine. But the characters are themselves. Some of the things they experience, in the sense of growing through something, are very essential to me and my co-author, Janette Oke. But the characters are who they are, and the further along we go in the story, the further and further they grow away from us.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Quirky is a word that I have trouble with. I am just not certain what falls in this category, because my days are just so unusual to begin with. I feel so blessed to be a writer, and I try to live my days with the sense of redefining boundaries, accepting that I have been given an immense opportunity and I must live to return this gift, to deserve this opportunity.
Quirky. Hmmm. I would say it probably has to do with my sports. And with sports like mine, every day has an opportunity for quirkiness.
Today is very cold for Florida, temps in the upper thirties (in mid-March, we will set a new record for this day). But the waves are superb and building. This afternoon the storm that has ravaged the north is expected to throw up ten foot swells. I am finishing work and then going to meet friends, all of whom are strong believers. On a day like this, we will suit up (dress in wetsuits), and then gather in a circle on the beach. The waves howl on such a day, a feral growl that we can feel through the sand and up through our bones. We pray. We thank God for the health and the time and the strength to go out and dance to this, the music of His creation. We are so amped our voices shake when we pray, part fear and part eagerness. It is a sensational moment to pray.
I came to faith at age twenty-eight. At the time, I was living in Germany and working as a consultant. Life for me was good, at least in earthly terms. We often hear stories of adults coming to faith as a result of failure. In my case, the issue was success. I had everything, and I had nothing. Arriving at a point where my earthly dreams were coming true acted like a wrecking ball. I had two choices. I could turn away from this newfound awareness and go through life blind to what I had glimpsed, or I could look for a new direction. I looked. And Jesus found me.
I loved to read, but writing anything longer than a business report had never entered my mind. Two weeks after coming to faith, I started writing. I had never written anything other than a business report before that day. And in this first moment, I knew it came from beyond me. This was my calling. My future.
I can still remember the moment, the place, the setting, even how the room smelled. I remember that feeling of being flooded with something so immense and incredibly powerful I knew that it came from beyond myself. God called. For the second time in my life, I knew that for a fact.
I wrote for nine years and completed seven novels before my first was accepted for publication. Anyone expecting a gift of ease to arrive with a calling needs to remember what a diamond looks like when it emerges from the earth.
Throughout that time, I continued to work as a consultant. It was very hard. I travelled to two and sometimes three countries every week. But this struggle taught me discipline, and something else. Something vital.
I learned what it meant to focus intently upon our Lord and His calling. I came to understand the meaning of sacrifice. And now, when I talk with other new authors and hear their difficulties in finding time and energy and space, I am able to share with them the stress and pain and struggle. And speak to them from this core of experience. Because the truth is, every artist I have ever met goes through this same struggle. The difference is, we have God’s strength and wisdom to help us achieve the goal.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
My passion is for those books which marry quality of writing with a great story. If there is some positive moral, some element of faith, even better. My reading is along these lines. I read all the time. I finish as many as three books a week. Currently I am reading ‘Three Cups Of Tea’, ‘Two Years On The Yang-Tze’, and Mark Mynheir’s latest (Mark is a very gifted Christian author of mysteries).
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Sports. Quiet time with our Lord. My wife. Friends who are believers. My passion for writing. Even now, at the busiest point of my entire life, I must respect the creative demand for isolation.
How did you choose your characters’ names for the Acts of Faith series?
This is a huge question, and one Janette Oke and I go through a lot with. In this series, we started with THREE lists of names – Judean, Roman, and Greek. In The Damascus Way, we added a fourth list, for early Christian names. We go back and forth and back and forth. It is like naming baby. Everybody gets involved. My wife, the editors, sometimes even the marketing people.
I understand that. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
That is redefined by each new project. Truly. Right now, I am living testimony that God is the creator of time. I have just completed a feature-film screenplay in five weeks and three days. No one thought it was possible. What is even more amazing, it was a smooth and joyful process. The only time I felt any pressure at all was in the final week, when I came down with pneumonia. But my writing partner took over what I could not myself complete, and the work was done on time. It is wrong to apply the word, pride, to this, because I genuinely feel that God was the leader, the guide, the Maker of this deed.
What is your favorite food?
My wife would say, dark chocolate. And she may be right. But I just love good food. Love, love, love. I treat a trip to a good restaurant like a visit to an art museum, or a concert. It is a gastronomic performance. Last night we brought home burritos and rice and beans and Mexican slaw from this tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant, the finest I have ever put in my mouth. They make everything from scratch every day, including the sauce they use on the burritos.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
There are a lot of these, but the first one that comes to mind is dialogue. When I submitted my third story, the first one that I showed to the publishing world, the response was pretty vicious. My characters were one-dimensional, and my dialogue was cardboard.
I stopped writing on my fourth novel, because I knew they were right, though it hurt like fire to accept this as true. Why keep going in the same old direction that had already failed?
Instead, I started carrying around a mini-recorder, and taped every conversation I had. Conferences, dates, coffee with friends. All of it. Some I just overheard. And then I went back and wrote it all out. This process defined boring for me. But at the end of that month, I was able to look back and see a multitude of powerful lessons I had learned. I could create structures that revealed the internal states of those who spoke. I saw how good dialogue had to be two-directional, as in, showing the person who spoke as much as what was being said. I saw how dialogue had to be self-centered, and characters needed to have motives different from the story itself.
I then wrote nine short stories. All of them were dialogue driven. The last was only four pages long, and contains some of the finest work I have ever done. It was two people talking, and in four pages I reveal not one, but three different stories. I knew the lesson was learned. I was ready to move on.
When The Great Divide was published, the New York Post said, ‘Bunn’s dialogue is spot on and racehorse fast. He reveals a strong good-versus-evil concept. That’s some feat.’
Tell us about the featured book.
Without question, The Damascus Way – the third and final book in the Acts of Faith series – is my favorite. The Damascus Way centers upon one of the most crucial components of the Book of Acts – the persecution of the early church and the miraculous confrontation between Jesus and Saul of Tarsus.
There is the beginning of signs and wonders within the growing church. The church expands at a rate that is astonishing and miraculous to everyone involved. The Judean Temple hierarchy and the Roman government grow hostile to the church. Stephen has become the first martyr.
It was a true growing experience to spend these days and weeks and months so deeply involved with the Followers of the Way.
For me, The Damascus Way is by far the richest book in the series. Other readers, especially women, have come in strong for book one or two, but Damascus for me holds the most powerful elements. Not just for this series, but for everything Janette and I have done together.
I heard a really nice thing yesterday. I happened to bump into a friend at the supermarket, and he told me how someone had stood up in the middle of the formal church service on Sunday – at a church on the other side of the county – and lifted Damascus over his head and said everyone in the church had to go out and read this book, that it was life-changing. What a huge gift.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My website, blog, and interactive discussion group are at http://www.davisbunn.com/
Twitter: @davisbunn - http://twitter.com/davisbunn
Thank you, Davis, for the very interesting interview.
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