Following on from part one of our interview, we talk to bestselling author WM Paul Young about new book Cross Roads.
How do you whet the appetite of those who have read The Shack for your new book Cross Roads?
"I tell them that my wife; who loves, loves, loves, The Shack likes Cross Roads better.
It’s a broader story and it’s a more community centered story, which I figure is more accurate to real life.
In The Shack, you’re taking a look at an individual working out the character and nature of God. In Cross Roads, the nexus of transformational intersections happens inside relationships which, I think is more accurate.
In Cross Roads a fundamental question is: ‘How does a despicable human being who has isolated himself from relationship; how does grace and transformation come into that place?’"
Is there a character in Cross Roads that represents you?
"Every character that you write as a writer has your DNA in some respect."
People couldn’t help but make comparisons between you and Mack in The Shack
"That’s rightly so. Mack is way more autobiographical. That’s a very fair thing. A writer from Nashville wrote me and said I don’t know your backstory, but my sense is that Missy represents something murdered in you as a child, and Mackenzie is you as an adult trying to deal with that. That’s exactly right.
In Cross Roads, there’s some of Tony’s character and self-protective isolation that I can readily see in myself looking back."
Does the controversy The Shack brought about regarding the trinity re-emerge in Cross Roads?
Is this deliberate?
You just can’t help write this stuff…?
"At this point. Who knows what that means in terms of other things. It will probably be more subtle in other things I do, but it will always be there because it’s the only thing that makes any coherent sense to me as far as how the world functions and where healing comes from.
"At the centre of everything there’s a relationship within the character and nature of God so it’s going to emerge. By toying with it again here in Cross Roads it’s not going to have the ripples and reactions The Shack did because The Shack already took the heat for a lot of it but it will continue to say: ‘Oh yeah, God is obviously bigger than our ability to put him in the box’."
What effect do you want Cross Roads to have on the reader?
"I don’t have one. I think that writing, fiction-wise, the intended purpose is to create space not shut it down. I’m not going: ‘Ooh. Ok, here’s what I want them to understand; how do I get there?’ When I get to the end of something that I’m writing, I’m usually as surprised as everyone else. I didn’t know we were going there.
"It’s more exploration than it is agenda. It’s hardly agenda at all actually. I know there are certain things I can tell from the responses. I want you to know that God loves you with a relentless affection that you’re not powerful enough to change.
"I know that you - as an individual, with all your uniqueness, actually matters. I know that transformation is a process that happens largely inside relationships. I think these are things the Holy Spirit will open up your eyes to. But I don’t know. I think you have the space to hear for yourself.
Do you read much Christian fiction?
"Oh, I hate it! Err, well… most of it I dislike because it’s agenda driven and it’s attempting to close down space. I read the dead guys: George McDonald, Lewis Charles Williams - people who are exploring ideas. With Christian fiction, usually you want a resolution and a Roman road by the time you’re done.
"It’s the issue of making more space and saying: 'You know what, it’s not my job to convict you of sin righteousness and judgment; that’s The Holy Spirit’s thing. I’m here to play. Look at the sandbox, look at all these toys.'
With Cross Roads, was there a pressure to repeat the success of The Shack?
"Probably. Pressure is something you can either accept or not. Especially if it comes from the outside. From the inside I constantly went back and said: 'I trust creativity is a river and will be there when it’s time. If this means I fall on my face then I fall on my face.' I absolutely trust God.
Behind the fun of the storylines, there’s a deeper meaning. You’ve come close to suicide before haven’t you?
"When you have certain kinds of great sadness, you’re set up to want to escape. It’s a very tender thing. I have a cousin who took her life just 10 days ago. She fought the mental illness of schizophrenia her whole life and finally just gave up.
"I understand that. And being in a place where you don’t want to run away anymore, geographically, and you’re afraid you’re going to hurt people the way you always have, it seems to be the way to get away. I’ve been there.
I hear you’re not attending a church at the moment?
"What does it mean to regularly attend? It’s a very fluid thing, especially if you define Church in terms of people rather than a service.
"I love the Church, as long as we’re understanding it’s the people. The institutionalised organisation that we now call the Church; We should go back to calling it a para-church organisation. If we did that, it would save us a whole lot of grief; now you can change it and tamper with it.
"Grace got you in, now we have a whole list of requirements for you to stay in. Really? An hour on Sunday morning gives you a sense of being OK now? What about the rest of your world and your life? I want everything to be holy, not just this little piece of time.
"We’ve created an institutionalised system that no one in the New Testament would recognise. It’s pastor centric, leader orientated. Separation of the clergy and the laitity; it's demeaning - to women largely. And we’re saying: 'yeah, as long as you put your tithe in there!"
What’s the best Christian book you’ve read?
"The question is tricky because…"
I’ve interviewed a lot of people and none of them have questioned the term Christian book, but I enjoy the way you think about these things!
"It’s a really good question. It depends on the day. Sometimes it could be something like Orsen Scott Card; he’s a Mormon, so that kind of X’s him out. He wrote this trilogy, the second book is called Speaker for the Dead. I learned more about taking care of people in a funeral situation then I did in any other book."
What has God been teaching you recently?
"Just to stay inside the grace of one day; that seems to be theme of the last few years. Don’t spend today’s grace because 'sufficient of the day is the grace thereof'. So don’t spend today’s grace on things that don’t exist. I call it future tripping, there’s all this stuff that doesn’t exist that freaks us out and it’s all imagination. So don’t spend today’s grace on things that don’t exist."
February 1st, 2013 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes