There were 2 images that really got me pursuing the story: I heard Lucifer say, “Then the Father is wrong!” That’s pretty profound for an angel to say in Heaven, right? It made me wonder, what would it take for him to get to that point? What would it mean for an angel to lose faith? The other image is Michael and his sword. I don’t want to ruin the story but I saw Michael in air, wings wide, sword high, delivering justice. I knew who he was instantly.
–We all know and love or hate these characters. Did you have to do any research?
Absolutely! But some of it was by accident. There isn’t much to the story in the Bible. There are a couple of scriptures that are commonly considered to “refer” to the Lucifer story—mainly Ezekiel 28:13-19 and Isaiah 14:12-17 and of course what exists in Revelations. But I didn’t want to stick strictly with the Christian view so I looked at the same legend in Judaism and Islam as well as Eastern religions. Regardless of the origin, this story is the same everywhere and tells a very basic human story: someone beloved and trusted in the group betrays the others and must be exiled by an elder “brother”—it’s always an origin of good and evil.
— How do you get into the mind of God and know what he’s feeling?
I don’t presume to know what God is thinking. What I tried to do was give him an arc as well. When you read the Old Testament, you see a God that was very rule-bound, very punitive, and working through others to show what he wants from us. In the New Testament, we see a God that has come to earth as an example. To me, this is growth and a change in his approach to us. I wanted to show a similar sort of arc with God in dealing with the angels. I figured the same God that made a covenant with Noah after destroying the Earth through a flood would exhibit similar destructive tendencies and cycles of regret.
I tried to think about my relationship with my kids as a way of beginning to understand what God must have gone through. You know your kids—you know what you hope they would do and you know what they’re actually going to do. Sometimes they surprise you, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you end up proud of them, sometimes it’s disappointment. But you know them and you love them anyway. From the moment Lucifer became unhappy and jealous of God’s abilities of creation, there wasn’t a question about what sort of decisions he would make. I tried to create God as a character that had to know what Lucifer was going to do, give him opportunities to turn away, and still advance the overall plan.
— Since the Christian community is quite large did you worry that having a point of view from Lucifer would go against you?
This was and remains a huge concern for me. The Christian community is one that seems to want things in a peaceful, Hallmark Channel sort of way and that’s not what I write. That’s not what this story is. I’m not the first author to try to tackle this subject: Wendy Alec did in The Fall of Lucifer, D. Brian Schafer did in The Exile of Lucifer, Stephen Brust did in To Reign in Hell. While they’re all good storytellers in their own respect, I think we always saw clichéd versions of Lucifer. Not ones that delved into the emotion behind his fall. I think they were writing for that Touched By An Angel audience. One reviewer was upset that there were 11 curse words in the book because it wasn’t what they expected from religious fiction. But it’s the story of Satan! You expect Satan to talk nicely to you?
So I really didn’t write it for Christian audience as much as I wrote the story in a way that made sense to me. I figured some Christians would appreciate my take on it, but I wasn’t really counting on it. I was hoping I could arouse curiosity from other readers that might make them join me on this journey, maybe even reconsider their understanding of God.
— Did you have any growing pains with The Road to Hell?
Yeah, yeah I did. I’ve been working on this story for a long time. When I wrote the first draft, my first marriage was breaking down and that draft definitely reflected it. It was told from Michael’s perspective and was a loss of faith story. I got remarried and rewrote the book into the story you’ve read—made it grittier, more emotional, made the characters much more flawed. I wanted it to reflect what I’d learned about me, that I could still be what God wanted me to be and not be perfect. Hopefully you get that from both Michael and Lucifer.
— I’m noticing the scenery is quite literally out of this world! While I’m writing I find this part to be the most difficult. Setting the stage. Did this test your imagination?
This one was easier for me: I was starting from nothing. That was the beauty of writing this story. I could go from nothing to whatever I wanted it to be. More than anything, setting the rules about how the angels could interact with their scenery is what was tough. Ensuring those rules were consistent from scene to scene without taking away from the awe of what they could do was the challenge.
— How would you most like readers to respond to The Road to Hell?
I want them to swoon! Seriously, of course I’d love for them to love it but I’d settle for discussion. Debate it. Challenge it. Tell me where you thought I was spot on and where you felt I should have my head examined. More than anything, I’d love readers to join the conversation. I’m setting up a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/HeavenFalls) for that purpose.
— Did you wind up having a favorite or least favorite character? I’m only half way through and I already LOVE and love to hate some of them!
Lucifer is my absolute favorite—he has such a tremendous emotional arc and a pretty wicked sense of humor. I don’t know what that says about me, that Lucifer is my favorite character. I also really love Michael’s fury—he’s mad that he exists, that he has to exist, and that he has to be one to do the dirty stuff. I’m not a fan of Azazel. I think he was a necessary evil (but I’m not a fan) and his “dispensation” is the best thing I could do for him.
— What are you reading right now? Are there any authors (living or dead) that you would name as influences?
Right now I’m reading Water by Terra Harmony (I owe her a review). Toni Morrison is hands down my favorite author. She has such a lyrical way with words, such depth in what she writes. I also love Michael Crichton, James Baldwin, Stephen King, and Octavia Butler.
— What do you do when you’re not writing?
I LOVE MOVIES! This has been a good summer with the Avengers, Spiderman (though I had second thoughts with the Lizard—the movie is AMAZING!), Batman…But if I’m not writing or in the movie theatre, I’m playing some ridiculous game with my kids, walking my dog or poorly participating in P90X. I injured my ankle last year (me + mole hole = torn ligaments)—I’ve been trying to rehab it so I can get back into kickboxing.
— What is your favorite word, do you try to insert it into all of your stories?
I like the word “cacophony”—it’s not common and impacts multiple senses at the same time. I also like how it looks.
— What is your next project?
I’m currently working on the sequel to The Road to Hell, Come Hell or Highwater. It looks at the time from Adam and Eve to the Great Flood. It’s a story about love and regret. And angels. Nobody’s happy.
— What have you been working on recently?
Beyond Come Hell or Highwater, I’m playing with a werewolf story idea, and I work with a couple of younger authors getting their works published.
— Bio in 6 words?
I’m not done yet. Just wait.
— What is your favorite part about writing? The least favorite?
The best part about writing is when I get surprised. When I look down at the page and know I didn’t “write” it, that I was just a vessel for something else moving through me. I love when my characters make their wants and needs known and refuse to cooperate with whatever my plan was. That’s when it’s out of my hands and the story writes itself.
My least favorite part is rewriting. Never knowing when it’s done. Being analytical and realizing I have all these plot holes or character flaws or inconsistencies to fix. It’s left brain work and I’m a right brain guy. And my left brain is never satisfied.
— Do you listen to music while you write? And if so! What’s the latest top two or three songs/artists?
I can’t listen to music with words when I write (or when I try to sleep for that matter)—I end up singing it. I listen to jazz, maybe classical if it catches the right mood for me. However, for fight scenes or when I feel those twinges of doubt, I turn on Eminem. Lose Yourself works wonders for dispelling doubt.
If I’m listening to jazz, I’ll check out Jonathan Butler, Fourplay, Norman Brown or Dave Koz.
— Anything else you would like to tell your fans, or even those people that haven’t picked up your book before?
For my fans, hang out with me, the sequel is coming. Promise. And if you want to know where we’re going, just ask. Let’s talk about it. For those who haven’t read my book, check it out. It’s unlike anything you’ve read before—like Lucifer says, “You’ve never heard this story before—not from me. Others have tried. None of them got it right.” Check it out, join the conversation.
Check it out, join the conversation.
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