We got the opportunity to chat with Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project, blogger for the Gospel Coalition, and book author. Trevin has a brand new book “Clear Winter Nights” coming out September 17th. Trevin discusses his inspiration in writing this “Theology in Story” fiction novel, the excitement of writing fiction and, who can benefit from reading Clear Winter Nights.
Trevin, you’ve got a new book coming out, Clear Winter Nights. Tell us a little background on the book and explain what your inspiration was in writing it…
There are different kinds of people when it comes to reading. You have the type that loves fiction – they can read novels all day long, action stories, fantasy, mysteries, sci-fi, and literary fiction. Then you have the readers who are into non-fiction books – business books or theology. These groups don’t often overlap. I think we underestimate the power of good story, of memorable characters with crisp clear dialog to help teach and present truth. For some time now, I’ve been talking about the need for pastors and church leaders to think about the way we teach and present truth. Not just to think about the content that we’re proclaiming, but also the entire package of the way we present. How do we present truth, in all of its glory and all of its beauty and get it to connect with the listeners or readers? So for me as an author, that was my emphasis and inspiration in starting Clear Winter Nights. How can we communicate truth in an ever-changing world in a way that really communicates with people? Fiction is one of the ways to do that.
Looking at the other books you’ve written, this looks to be your first fiction novel is that correct?
Talk about that new experience, was it harder? More fun?
I started writing stories as teenager and would often enter writing competitions, so it’s kind of like I’m going back to my roots. But as far as publishing, I’ve only published non-fiction books, so this was new for me to branch out and try something different. It was much harder than I anticipated, but also, even though it was exhausting in the editorial process, it was exhilarating to be able to create and watch characters come alive on the page. Overall it’s been a fun journey so far. Because this is a hybrid book of both theology and fiction (it says it right there on the cover “Theology in Story”), we’re very up front about the fact that we’re using the story to be a source of entertainment, but also to teach. So we’re up front about that. But it is a very different editorial process, because in a non-fiction book you start with an argument and you basically refine and tweak that in the editorial stage to make a stronger case. With fiction, it’s totally different. If you make a change in the characters history, or something in the dialogue, it will have repercussions throughout the book that you have to check and maintain.
Talk about your characters Chris Walker and the grandfather, are they completely fictional? Or based on real people you’ve known? Or experiences you’ve had yourself?
I wouldn’t say that they are based on any specific person to the point that readers should be looking for parallels. You have Chris Walker as the main character, who’s just finishing up college. Chris has just recently broken off his long-term engagement to his fiancé and he’s really struggling with the fundamentals of his faith. He’s asking himself if he is going to walk away from his faith that’s he has grown up with or if he is going to own it. There’s also been a recent revelation in his family that exposes some major hypocrisy, so there’s this whole swirling mix of things that cause Chris to question what has been the core of his identity his entire life. I actually created Chris when I was discipling some college students in my home. We’d have a meeting at my house every Tuesday night, and we’d discuss and bounce around ideas that are present in the book. And in creating the character, I also went back on my own journey and thought through areas that I struggled with in that period of my life, so there is some of me, but also many experiences that I got from college students that I was discipling.
Gil, who is the grandfather in the story, is a retired pastor in a rural town in Tennessee. With Gil, I took some different grandfather figures that I’ve experienced in my own life. Then, I used some of the wit and wisdom of G. K. Chesterton and his ability to turn a phrase, because I wanted that gift to be present in Gil’s character when he spoke. So I used real people as inspiration when I started the book, but they turned into characters of their own as the book progressed.
Who can identify with this book? Is it mainly targeted towards the Christian that is going through struggles in their life? Would non-Christians benefit from this book? What about the Christian who isn’t struggling at all?
Because of the story itself, it can definitely be geared towards the Christian who has some struggles going on in their life, or Christians who are questioning their faith and wondering why they believe what they believe. But it also can interest the non-Christian who’s wondering about Christianity. The book presents some of the basic fundamentals of Christianity within a narrative story. I actually know people who have reviewed the book say that they’re going to be handing it to people they know who are not believers. But there are two types of Christians who I think are going to benefit from this mainly: The young Christian, (this could be a graduation gift, college, I’m thinking that age group of 20 to early 30s), the person who’s deciding – is this something I just grew up with or am I going to really own my faith? That target will really resonate.
But I’ll tell you who else might enjoy this book, the Christian who is confident in their faith, but might not know how to have these conversations with other Christians who are struggling. I think sometimes we as Christians think that we have a very open environment where doubts can be brought up and discussed. But I think those who are doubting, would say that we don’t have that, in the home or in the church. It’s not always a safe place to raise issues and spar with other believers and try to get to the truth about something. So I’m hoping that the Christian who’s confident will look at this book and increase their compassion for the skeptic, but also have a model that shows how to discuss these issues without being defensive or aggressive. It’s not only the truth in the dialogue, but it’s how the conversations happen.
The book comes out September 17, where can readers pick up a copy?
Yes, September 17th! The book will be available on Amazon (Pre-order now), Lifeway Christian Resources, and other book stores across the nation. I’m very excited about it and hope you will be too!