by C.J. Darlington
Bill Myers Interview
"After a hundred or so books I still feel like I'm an imposter." -- Bill Myers
Bill Myers is a bestselling author and award-winning writer/director whose work has won forty national and international awards. His books and videos have sold over eight million copies and include such titles as The Seeing, Eli, The Voice, My Life as...series, and McGee and Me.
Be sure to visit Bill's website www.billmyers.com to read an excerpt of his latest novel, The Voice.
C.J.: I hear you once told God you could do anything but write. In fact, you wanted to be a dentist. Share with us a little bit about how God called you first into filmmaking and then writing.
Bill: I’d grown up in the mountains of Washington State and had seen like three movies in my entire life – Polyanna, The Parent Trap, and Pinocchio. I’d just made a promise always to say yes to God no matter what He asked and then saw my fourth movie…The Godfather. I was so appalled at the way my friends were cheering at the violence that I walked out of that theater absolutely numb. I told God He should pay attention to the power of the media to influence people and that He should get Christians involved to use that power for good instead of evil. Well, every time I told Him, it came back that I should be one of those guys -- which was nuts. I didn’t even know how to watch a movie, let alone make one. But the impression just got stronger and stronger until I finally said, “Ok! I’ll be a movie-whatever-they’re called!”
What was the clincher that proved to you it was truly God speaking?
I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just like you know that you know. And then when some producer called me out of the blue to ask me to write for his TV show I started to see a pattern.
So in your experience, how important is it for people to say “yes” to God when he prompts them to do something?
He’ll still love us even if we say no. But it’s the difference between being all He created us to be, or settling for a sixth rate life. Between playing it safe and eating the Kibbles ‘n Bits or going all the way and eating the banquet of life He created for us. It’s like so many Christians are just content to get into the stadium and sit in the stands when the real purpose of having that ticket is to get down on the field and play the game. It’s the difference between boring Christianity and the abundance of life He promised us in John 10:10.
I’m really interested to hear more about your novel The Voice. Tell us where the idea for this novel came from and what readers can expect during the reading of this story.
I wanted to accomplish three things with this novel. First, I wanted to write something with so much adventure that even a non-reader would pick it up. I’ve done this with some of my kid’s books like the My Life As series and knew it was possible for adults. Second, I wanted to create interesting characters that were funny and charming and that you wanted to hang out with. Putting together a 13 year old girl who’s all emotion and little wisdom with a cranky 50 year old burnt-out ex-special forces soldier was a hoot. Sort of the ultimate cat/dog as they have to work side by side. Finally, I wanted to write something that really put the awe back in our understanding of God. To have a story where they capture the Voice of God and expose it to the elements that the very Voice created, gave me some real chilling and inspiring opportunities.
I know one of your favorite aspects of the writing process is the research. What sort of research did you have to conduct for The Voice?
A ton. But of course the trick is to never get caught boring folks with it. It’s just a good tent peg to give the story credence and the “Man, this really could happen,” element.
What surprised you most in the fact digging process for this story?
The fact that over 85% of the universe around us is invisible. Not invisible as in clear but invisible as we know something’s there, we just can’t measure it. The Bible would call that the spirit world.
Ever had any unusual or embarrassing moments while performing research? We’d love to hear one or two …
Um, one time when I was in a major psychic research institute (and scared so spitless that I spent the entire time praying) the researchers commented that when I entered the room the experiments seemed to shut down. At one point my guide accused me of having negative psychic energy. Of course it had nothing to do with me . . . just with the Company I was keeping.
What would you say was the hardest part about writing The Voice?
Ending and leaving the characters behind. Actually, I didn’t. I the publisher into letting me do a sequel out next April called Angel of Wrath.
The conflict and agreement between science and religion seems to be a theme you touch on frequently in your writings. Why does this subject interest you?
I love the fact that science is simply catching up to what we already know by faith. The days of science vs. Christianity are long gone. Now it’s just a matter of science racing to catch up.
You’ve said before that in the wrong hands supernatural fiction can be twisted to glorify darkness. How do you prevent that from happening in your own work?
It has to do with what you set out to glorify. The Bible deals with many dark things but never glorifies them. Instead the darkness is only used to prove how beautiful and powerful the Light is. Now if you just want to sell books or entertain folks, that’s one thing. But if your agenda is something higher, it surfaces in the work.
In a similar vein … how do you keep the “edge” in your stories as far as violence/adult situations without going too far?
Again, I try to use Scripture as a gage. Plenty of violence and adult situations there! To roll around and revel in it is wrong. To use it to glorify God is its rightful purpose.
Of all your characters (including those in your youth fiction), who’s your favorite, and why?
Wow, that’s like asking me who my favorite kid is. Right now I have to tell you this 13 year old girl in The Voice (and next year in Angel of Wrath) is. The crazy emotions and logic were such a joy to explore . . . and provided a little payback time for me regarding my own daughters!
What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?
Something that sells 60 million copies!
Do you ever find it challenging to head to your keyboard every day? What do you do when the words don’t seem to come?
I’m a big fan of prayer and spend quite a bit of time doing it per day. I have a place in my back yard where the Lord and I have our wrestling matches. Of course He always wins but the “body contact” keeps things flowing.
I know it’s really important for you to spend time in the Word and prayer before you start your writing. Is that something you would recommend for all Christian novelists? Why?
For me it’s vital. I write to glorify God. It would be foolish to try and do that on my own. If I wrote to try and sell books or become famous or rich I might try some other approach. But for what I do, that’s what I need to do.
Any news on turning Blood of Heaven into a movie? I hear you were recently working hard on the screenplay.
Hollyweird is crazy. We actually have 17 projects optioned (including Blood which has turned out as a pretty good script). But the deal making and politics in this town is mind numbing. So we just chip away at it one deal point at a time.
Speaking of movies, your novel The Wager was made into a feature film starring Randy Travis. I’d love to hear about how involved you were in the process and what it was like playing a homeless man in the film.
The guys at Pureflix were great. They ran each draft past me and took about 80% of my notes. Playing the homeless guy was a hoot . . . and I’ve got some funny and sad stories of how I was treated by folks on the street who didn’t know I was acting.
Of filmmaking and novel writing … which do you prefer? Why is that?
Writing a novel involves writing. So much of filmmaking has nothing to do with telling the story and everything to do with making deals. If I could reach as many people with books as films I’d stay with books in a heartbeat. But, as we know, that just ain’t the case.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?
I wish I’d have known how to write.
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
After a hundred or so books I still feel like I’m an imposter.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I love teaching and working with the college kids at my church. A couple dozen come to my back yard each Sunday and we have some great discussions.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Milk, bread, and leftovers from my daughters’ dates (which I consume when not eating Minwheats) – the leftovers, not their dates.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
Something cheap. I can’t imagine spending all that money on that stuff.
What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?
Bearing more fruit for Christ. Sorry, I know that sounds all religiousy, but that’s just about all I live for.
When was the last time you cried?
Hanging out with the Lord this morning.
Three words that best describe you:
Got me. (Sorry, that’s only two).
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
Neon Bible by Arcade Fire. Wow, talk about lyrics that make you think!
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.