Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I write no more of myself into my characters than is absolutely necessary to propel the story. Only three personal traits define all characters 1) humans are fundamentally flawed (from Original Sin) 2) God has a plan for every single life but still allows free will and 3) everyone can receive and needs forgiveness. A story should advance itself through the characters’ actions and decisions with as minimal affect from my own predispositions.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Typical original material writing bursts occur in one to three thousand word spans of epiphany. Whether it is the quirkiest thing I’ve ever done or continue doing is up to your definition of quirky. I can’t write without fruit. Yes, I am serious – one banana, one orange, and one apple followed by a cup of the strongest Earl Gray I can brew. My wife, Donna, can recognize that look in my eye without even asking, knowing a trip through the Produce Department is as important as the electricity running through my laptop. It started in my college days when I lived on no more than $30.00 for the entire week and a sort of subconscious connection formed. It becomes a particular challenge when traveling abroad or at the oddest imaginable hours.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I’ve written stories almost as early as I began reading them. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write. Moving around the country so frequently and sharing the back seat of our Ford LTD station wagon with my brother, I was forced to keep myself occupied without the assistance of today’s electronic amusements. So, I did what I thought everyone else did – read.
The earliest days were filled with small newsprint paperback cartoon collections of Peanuts comic strips. I read and reread for hours straight, learning a vocabulary including such words as “opthamologist,” “agoraphobia,” and “wishy-washy” by the time I was seven years old. I made friends with ease wherever we traveled but the one constant companion I always knew would be there regardless of geography was a good book. Then, I graduated from comic strips to science fiction sometime around the sixth grade – Verne, Asimov, Bradbury, and my favorite Robert Heinlein. The constant changing environments and new people entering and leaving my adolescence brought subconscious writing contributions. Like most others who find a need to express themselves through the written word, I finally reached the perspective where I believed that I could tell stories better or at least as well as what I read at the time.
That’s why I wrote my first book, too. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I enjoy the gamut of fiction genres from Classical to Contemporary including domestic and international authors. Any book offering illumination or a unique uplifting perspective – something that teaches as well as entertains. Unfortunately, the world teems with mediocre secular fiction where dysfunctionalism and social immaturity appear as sole driving motivations. My reader is trusting his or her time in my novel and, if successful, the story should provide some degree of previous unrecognized insight. If I am going to invest those countless hours of keyboard isolation, then the reader should gain even more than my own investment.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Never get frustrated by attempting to change events beyond my control. God has a plan and purpose for every one of our lives. We all need to make conscious decisions to stop both physically and mentally, for at least five minutes a day to breathe, pray, and offer undistracted quiet contemplation. My children offer moments of clarity at the most unexpected moments. My family and I were leaving church service one evening. My youngest son Paul, who is four going on fourteen, adores his older sister. Possessing an entire additional year of living –
Elizabeth is his world. We negotiated our way
through the crowd of post service congregation after picking them up from
children’s church and waited at the parking lot crosswalk. My wife commented on
a group of approaching fire trucks and Elizabeth
stared with wide-eyed focused fascination. Paul strained and jumped to see
without success. Elizabeth
informed him that he was just too little and needed to wait until he was older.
Paul looked up at me and I saw tears begin welling in his eyes while he
hesitated, uncertain to ask a question. Finally, he blurted out, “Daddy, I
wanna on your arm tops to see.” Of course I lifted him up over my head to perch
where he grinned from ear to ear at the passing siren roar. When the world
doesn’t seem to offer any answers you want to hear, never be afraid to ask up
on your Father’s shoulders.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Many believe character naming should be some clever allusion to specific character traits or overall storyline role. My selection remains much more basic and relative to individuals I’ve known or how my own past experiences with certain figures best fitting the story.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
My family. No matter how this world does or will define achievement, my own father instilled in me a fundamental perspective I pray I can pass to my own children. Prioritize God first, family second (if you are doing the first, the second is a natural by-product), and work third. If I can always strive to be the best father and husband I know how, I will have accomplished all that I will ever need.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I attempt envisioning myself as a state of every animal at any given time. It is not necessarily the type of animal rather than the animal stage. A young bear cub, a fledgling duck, or a new born wolf pup – I am them all. I am in a constant state of awe and wonder. I want to learn and absorb every gift of experience that God presents in this life. The newness of youth retains the characteristics of humility, concern, trust, and has not been tainted with the natural cynicism of advanced experience. If I should ever reach a point in this world’s life when I have forgotten this fundamental concept, then I would cease living as a human and exist as nothing more than an animal.
What is your favorite food?
I have two equal favorite categories – TexMex and Chinese. TexMex offers bold, intense flavors with a full range of textures while Chinese offers an extensive variety. However, my most specific favorite food is bread. I learned how to make bread from my grandmother when I could barely see over the countertop. There is a humbling therapy in activating the yeast, hand kneading the dough, and baking at just the right temperature while the aroma penetrates throughout the house.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Every author can identify with sitting down behind the keyboard or staring at a blank sheet of paper waiting for ideas to catch up with willpower. There will always be laundry, the sink will always have a dirty dish or two (and many more if you are blessed to have two toddlers and a teenager in the house), and errands to run. Quite often, the one to three thousand or so words I write at a setting rarely fulfill the initial inspirational flash. The most efficient method to eliminate a roadblock is to allow the words themselves to become the bulldozer. If you have strong, bold characters (or at least traits suitable to their characterization), their interactions between one another and their environment can take you in directions not originally foreseen. Do not raise your expectations so high that the only result will be disillusionment – take it easy on yourself. The Gilded Prospect was rewritten thirty-two times but through perseverance and the belief in the ministry of the novel, a conclusion was attained.
Tell us about the featured book.
Charlie’s daughter, Charlotte, is terminally ill and even though he and his wife Karen don’t know how much longer she will live, he sacrifices whatever time they may have remaining to pursue the slimmest of chances to save her. Just laid off and already financially exhausted from medical bills, he needs a miracle. Charlie was abandoned by his father at a young age after the cancer death of his mother, instilling an enormous amount of bitterness and anger. Charlie’s father reappears just before his grandfather’s funeral. Charlie’s relationship to his earthly father is much like the relationship many Christians have with our Heavenly Father – strained at times, often forgetful, and filled with lingering questions of understanding why certain events occur. After the death of his grandfather, Karen discovers the Alaskan gold rush journal of his great great grandfather, Absalom, and the enormous fortune he hid. Charlie decides to pursue the gold in an effort for
’s life-saving treatments. Enlisting
the accompaniment of his best friend George, they set out and encounter much
hardship and self-doubt. They meet up with Charlie’s Great Uncle Tyler, still
living s hermit’s life in an old Charlotte Klondike log
cabin, who questions the sanity of their quest. Realizing he is helpless to
disillusion them, Uncle Tyler requests the son of his best friend, a Tlingit
Indian, guide them to the mine containing Absalom’s gold. During the course of
their adventures and challenges, Charlie discovers something even more valuable
The Gilded Prospect is an essential Christian allegory – In order to gain everything, you must first demonstrate enough faith to sacrifice everything. The novel can be summed in a single word – control. We, as human beings, possess a profound conceit that we control our own destinies. Yes, freewill is part of God’s design, however, that freewill does not supersede His master plan for each and every one of us. Sorry to say that even many Christians, although consciously striving towards the One, still become desensitized in day to day secular minutiae. That is Charlie’s ultimate choice, and ours. We must be in a state of constant choice. When the walls are collapsing around us and only seconds remain for our decision, “Who’s rope are we going to pull up?”
Please give us the first page of the book.
Charlie no longer sensed his feet. He passed the same broken fence slats he had been promising Karen he would fix for almost a year. Foofoo’s unchanged, darkened dog house remained slanted in One-Eyed Chamber’s yard across
Milford Street, vacant from the cocker
spaniel’s death last spring after too many tennis ball chases into evening
The constant, almost barren maple still retained its tapered fingers stretching into a late-night sky. His feet shifted toward another route, down to the pavement’s end, and right toward the river. At this late evening’s hour, most porch lights were dark. Only one or two windows glowed with a single lamp's illumination or a television’s blue glow beyond closed-eye snoring. A cat darted from a low-cut hedgerow with a quick-crunch, dry-leaf flash, and Charlie didn’t offer the slightest reaction.
Karen’s distorted expressions of concern, blueprint patterns in his subconscious, churned his concentration. He realized that no phone calls would raise suspicion. There was no word choice or delivery method, just intimate tonal knowledge transmitting the event. Synapses cracked and sizzled with cascading images and how to compact so much into a single word, sentence, or expression.
Autumn air suspended silence without a single fluttering sway past quiet cottages and ancient plots; a star array across the vast night sky spun him in disorientation. In the valley below, a single, blinking neon light flashed with intermittent bursts among fast-food incandescent signs and streetlamps. From his considerable distance, Charlie recognized the pinpoint lights set at regular intervals around the yard's chain-link fence. Fourteen years passed during the half minute he stared down, recognizing the forklifts and stacks still moving around the kilns. Every moment, both inane and what seemed critical in the passage of his years, was clothed in the same blue uniform jumpsuit of Deen and Sons Lumber. Even now, the day’s pine resin still clung to his nasal passages.
A blaring horn shocked Charlie, and he leapt to the roadside ditch, unaware of his drift toward the median. An upward glance contrasted almost naked sycamores against the stars. Their thin black bodies rose with upward-slashing illusion while Charlie waited for a single, thin tendril of shadow to curl down and reach across his throat. Darker leaves scattered across the front lawns were browner, the night sky more vast, and his little angel’s red cheeks that much farther away.
He descended a hill toward the
The ancient iron span was early 1920s construction for Western National Passage
hauling timber into downtown yards. Even after years of abandonment for faster,
sleeker, newer, more efficient modes of transportation, it was the longest
county commission demolition tabling due to insufficient funds. Malcolm
How can readers find you on the Internet.
The best starting point is my website at www.philthurmanfiction.com. The novel is available in soft copy, hardback, and every available e-reader platform. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ChristianBooks.com, and too many more to list carry The Gilded Prospect. It is fascinating to Google search and find availability on German, Japanese, Australian, East Indian, and many more International book retailers.
Thank you, Phil, for the interesting interview.
Readers, here’s a link to the book. By using it when you order, you help support this blog.The Gilded Prospect: A Novel
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