Mick: I was born in 1974, so I missed the famous ’60s peace and love revolution. But it’s always fascinated me. What made you choose this time for your story?
David: The 60s really were a ‘happening’. Even as a kid I sensed a transformative disruption around me. Kind of like Father Knows Best meets the Age of Aquarius stuff. Lots of tension between action and reaction, and in daily life lots of changing colors. A key to the decade, however, is how it clearly illustrated the way transformation works in all of us.
M: Is this why this story is so important to you? The “transformational” experience you had?
D: I was too young to recognize the momentous change in the moment. Maybe nobody knew in real time. But now we can see the 60s as a window into the dynamic of transformation in which disruption opens doors to change.
M: Love this point. Has there been positive change in some specific ways?
D: The challenge to authority asserted the dignity of every person as a sacred soul, releasing fresh cultural energy. The tension through the decade caused a reconsideration of everything. In my view, holding a mirror to public or private space is always a good thing.
M: You told me that this one is the most personal of your ten novels. I’m a fan of thinly veiled auto-biography. How much of this is autobiographical?
D: I’m laughing and have to be very careful here! As far as the scenes, I’d guess more than half are based on real-life experiences. However, you’re not going to get me to identify them! On the other hand, 100% of the book’s heart flows from my own.
But–and this is important–it’s not just my story. This is a universal ‘my’ story. If only we’d all open our hearts we’d discover each other within one another. We enjoy a beautiful diversity, and yet we are united by a common Soul. I’m offering my experiences so that others might spot the amazing story that is their own.
M: So, what convinced you to write such a personal story?
D: A big, angry horse. A few years ago I got bucked off a 17-hand (tall) horse in Europe. The crunching of lots of bones broke through my facade of confidence, already beginning to crack from other trauma. Languishing in a foreign hospital eventually released a deep well of repressed anxiety.
The emotional disruption that followed led me into a very difficult wilderness…a sort of ‘dark night of the soul.’ A series of mystical events, wise friends, and insightful therapy led me to an antidote and it begged to be shared.
M: I imagine it was hard to write so close to the heart. Is that true?
D: My head has always been my control center. I’ve tended to hide within my thoughts as if they were me. So, yes.
But Ollie’s journey (and mine) is out of a perceived safe ‘false self’ and into a greater truth about where he belongs. We have to awaken our heart-sense at some point and when you’re me and my age, the process is exhausting and even terrifying. So, I hope this story can save folks some trouble.
M: Is there a deeper organizational intent to the story’s three parts?
D: Yes, very good. Christian mystics identified a three-stage journey of transformation. Each of the story’s three parts correlate, but I’ve added what I think is a critical fourth stage, the one Alexander John Shaia revealed as used in the early Church’s application of the four Gospels.
M: Your other historical adventure novels all have this intriguing spiritual dimension to them. But this one seems to almost get allegorical, more like The Shack. Was that sort of your goal here?
D: Hearts do better with symbols. Metaphor and allegory make room for the heart to discover meaning, so to answer your question, yes. What my own story–and this one–have shown me is that transformation is often ongoing. It can be an expansive encounter that doesn’t work well when shrunk down into flat text.
For me, a believable, entertaining story is primary, but there also has to be a psychological layer for empathy and intrigue, and then a subtle spiritual element for those with eyes to see. Like I’ve done in my other books, this one points readers just beyond the pain of familiar authoritarian/fear-dependent religion.
Names have meanings, and the themes here are emotional and spiritual, things like atonement, damnation, and reconciliation.
M: You reference ‘toxic’ religion on the back cover and your promotional material. Is that something you’ve experienced?
Yes. Like many, trauma from fear-driven religion has kept the eyes of my heart from sacred peace and divine love. Toxic beliefs and systems imposed a false starting point many of us don’t challenge, and for far too long. Is God first and foremost an estranged cosmic Judge or the loving Father of humankind? Flawed assumptions infect us, and even believers need their spiritual operating systems upgraded. We’ve got to unlearn, replace, and keep questioning and improving. It’s work and it’s not easy. This is some of what Ollie’s story helped me realize.
M: I’ve heard you say you’re writing about “the antidote to fear.” Can you explain that in more detail?
D: Humans are born anxious. We have a primal fear of separation beginning in pre-memory. In my case, I finally came to realize that my anxiety was rooted in separation from a variety of things. My church growing up only reinforced this sense. There’s an antidote to anxiety but the journey is through fear and then we’ll have the essence of a story.
M: Do we need to deconstruct from a traditional Christian framework?
D: That depends. But relief can be found in the belonging that comes from love. And in ways we never expected. I do hope courageous, healthy transformation is coming for the Church. To that end, Jesus’ body of followers should always be in a state of positive disruption. Asking questions. And reconstructing through good trouble-making. How else can we relate or have anything to give a changing world? The unchanging love of Christ is our anchor and shield. I see deconstruction, reconstruction, and transformation as part of a larger refining process for the Church, but also what he’s got my own head and heart going through.
Awesome. Thank you for your heart and for putting so much of it into this work. I know people will be changed by it. Grateful to you!