- Tell us about yourself:
- Where do you live? – Ridgway, Pennsylvania. It’s on the edge of Allegheny National Forest, in the middle of nowhere, about halfway between Pittsburgh and Buffalo.
- How long have you lived there? – We’ve lived in Ridgway for 17 years.
- Are you married? Yes! Jewel and I celebrated our 30th anniversary this past July.
- Kids? – One daughter, Bethany, who is 24.
- Full time job? I’m the Senior Pastor of Awakening Alliance Church in Ridgway. As part of my responsibilities, I also serve as a chaplain with the Pennsylvania State Police, and a chaplain for about a dozen other pastors in my denomination.
- Education? Graduated from Berry College (Rome, GA) with a degree in Religion in June 1988. Completed ordination studies with the C&MA in 1991.
- Who is your favorite author and book? – Well, I suppose I better say The Bible! But as far as fiction, probably Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. That one had the most impact on me as far drawing me to fantasy and even horror. A close second would many of Stephen King’s works – ‘Salem’s Lot, The Stand, and It in particular.
- What is your preferred genre? – Horror and Dark Fantasy or Supernatural.
- How did you start this journey to become a writer? I’ve always loved reading. Writing has been a natural outflow of that, but it has come in bits and pieces. I enjoyed writing a few short stories in high school, then got busy with college and life. I kept thinking about writing but let excuses keep me from doing it. In 2000, I started to work seriously on a horror novel, and then decided a pastor shouldn’t write horror. I couldn’t do light, fluffy stuff, so I set it aside, and focused on writing devotional blogs. A few years ago, I put some of those devotionals into a book and self-published it. That stirred my desire to write again. With my wife’s encouragement and support, I invested in Ted Dekker’s Creative Way Course, and wrote my first novel. I’m currently in the process of pitching it,and beginning a new novel.
- What have you written so far? – I’ve written 40 Days of Walking With Jesus, which is the devotional I referenced in the last question. I also self-published a novelette called Shadows Falling, which is a re-telling of the Creation account from Genesis. I am working on a second book in that series, Journey Through the Shadowlands, which will be a Dark Fantasy re-telling of Pilgrim’s Progress.
- Tell us about your current book. – I am currently editing Resurrecting Judas. It’s a supernatural alternative history with some horror elements. The basic storyline is that while a suicidal Judas Iscariot dangles from a rope, despondent over his betrayal of Jesus, a serpent offers him the opportunity to deliver his people – as a vampire! But when Jerusalem falls, the Temple is destroyed, his people are scattered and persecuted across the centuries, Judas is forced to confront his own failures and flaws – and his one-time friend, Jesus of Nazareth.
- What is the inspiration for your current book? – I’ve always enjoyed vampire stories. Dracula and Salem’s Lot were two novels that had a huge impact on me as far as being stories that drew me, and drew me back, to re-read several times. In my personal life, restoration is a huge theme. I found myself thinking about the possibility of a vampire who might want to find redemption from his curse. What would that look like? I started a story about a vampire who killed only serial killers, but as I began to work on the backstory, I realized that Judas would be a great vampire. And then that change to Judas led me to start to think, “what did Judas really want? If he were a vampire, how would he act? What might he have done to try to save his people, since he thought Jesus should have done that?” And the story just came from there.
- Who was your favorite character to write and why? – I really enjoyed writing Judas. I think he stirs a lot of anger and hatred in people, but I’ve often thought that if he hadn’t committed suicide, if he had seen the resurrected Jesus and repented, Jesus would have forgiven him. After all, how big is God’s grace, really? Would Jesus tell us to love and pray for and forgive our enemies without doing the same? And as I thought through all of that, I began to think about what motivations Judas may have had, why he made the disastrous choices that he made, and whether he would change given centuries of time and opportunities. I felt there were a lot of layers to explore with Judas’ backstory and a lot of potential for him as a very conflicted character – someone who loved God and loved his fellow Jews, who wanted the Romans overthrown, and yet who ultimately betrayed the son of God. And once that was done, he felt such anguish that he saw no other option but suicide. Writing about Judas forced me to think through things like revenge, disappointment with God, control issues, and the lengths to which God will go to pursue us.
- Is there anything of you in that character? – Absolutely. I wish I could turn into a bat and fly! But also, I realized as I was writing that I’ve been Judas in some ways. I’ve dealt with disappointment with God at times by trying to manipulate him. I’ve tried to control people and situations because I felt threatened or unsatisfied with the status quo. At Realm Maker’s this year, I heard Tosca Lee say that when she wrote her book “Iscariot” it became a very personal experience for her because she realized that she tried to control God just as Judas had done. And when I heard her say that, it hit me that I had experienced something similar with writing about Judas, even though our stories are quite different.
- What sets your book apart? – A vampire set against the backdrop of the New Testament as his starting place!
- What’s your favorite part in the book? To set it up, Judas is about to terrorize Annas, one of the priests who was instrumental in Jesus’ crucifixion. Judas is determined to avenge himself on Annas for how Annas treated him.
Some time later, I returned to check on Annas. He had awoken and consumed the bread and water. I am sure he was famished. Now he was alert, angry and confused. I stood in the shadows where he could see my form, but not my face.
“Who are you? Where have you brought me?” Annas demanded.
I didn’t respond.
“I demand that you answer me! I am Annas Bar Seth, former High Priest of Israel, father-in-law of Caiaphas! I will see you crucified for this! When the other Pharisees and the governor hear of this, they will not stand for it!”
“It will be too late for you when they hear of this,” I told him.
So he changed tactics. “Please…I have a family. Surely you do? I am an old man. I just want to be home with my wife, see my granchildren…see the sun rise over the Temple each morning. Mercy, I beg you! I won’t make trouble. Please, just return me.”
“It’s too late for mercy, Annas,” I finally responded.
“Why? Who are you? What is this all about?”
I stepped into the light. “Do you recognize me?”
He peered at me. “You look familiar. Like someone I once knew. But you cannot be him. He is dead.”
“My name is Judas of Kerioth, and I am not dead.”
“That is impossible,” he said. “No one rises from the grave. Not until the last day.”
“And yet here I am, Annas. The one who told you that your guards could find Yeshua of Nazareth in Gethsemane. The one you paid thirty pieces of silver for that information. The one who came back, despondent over how that betrayal ended. And the one you laughed at and mocked.” I spat the words at him.
“Judas? He shrank back from me. “That is impossible! You hanged yourself and were buried in Akeldama!”
“I was buried but that didn’t last long,” I said. “Neither of your victims stayed buried that Passover. I have waited a long time to avenge myself for your actions. The time has come.”
I grabbed his shoulder and dragged him out of his cell, into a tunnel that led into the maze I had prepared for him. I had blocked one side of the narrow passage with a large stone – there was only one direction in which he could go.
I pulled a torch from the wall and handed it to him. Pointing into the darkness, I told him, “You will find two more torches a little further on. Use them wisely and you should have about three hours worth of light. You don’t want to be wandering blindly down here. I’ll give you head start – but I will be coming for you. If you can find your way out of this warren of tunnels before I find you, you will escape with your life.”
12. What was the most difficult part to write? – The ending. Trying to handle the resolution in a way that was honoring to Jesus, true to the character of Judas, and realistic in the light of Judas’ personality, his real-life story, and his journey in the novel was a lot to juggle.
13. What was your favorite book to write? – Definitely this one. Because vampires!
14. How do you write? Do you have a set time or place? How many hours a day? – When the weather’s nice, I like to write on my back deck for an hour or two at the end of the afternoon. In the winter, I hole up in the attic and try to do the same. If I can write for an hour or two per day, that’s a good day with my other responsibilities.
15. Why did you want to be a writer? – A major part of my job is communicating and building bridges. Writing is an enjoyable way for me to do that. Writing is relaxing for me, even though it’s hard work. I enjoy the process, and enjoy coming up with something that I hope readers will find entertaining. If I can provide an escape and maybe make people think a little in the process, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.
16. How do you get your ideas? – Well…I have a pretty twisted mind lol! I do a lot of thinking, “what if…” as I’m sure a lot of other writers do. I’m always watching for ideas and I do a lot of daydreaming when I’m traveling. Whenever I see something intriguing, I write it down and roll it around in my head. Sometimes I get a great idea that way, and sometimes, it’s not worth pursuing.
17. What do you have planned next? – I’m working on a portal/supernatural fantasy story that is a retelling of King Arthur. I also have a werewolf story that I’m playing with that involves a vet with PTSD.
18. What advice would you give new writers? – Well, I’m still pretty new at this myself. What I’ve learned in the past few years is write every day – discipline is huge. The other thing is that I’ve invested in a few courses and in some personal coaching. Learning from people who are in the industry and have been successful has been invaluable.