by C.J. Darlington
Ted Dekker Interview
"I see God everywhere. We’re created in His image. When I see a really cool concert, I see that person on stage, and I don’t care who they are—I’m seeing God. Why am I so attracted to that music? I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause that is the fingerprint of God, regardless of whether they recognize it, I’m watching one of His finest toys." -- Ted Dekker
Ted Dekker is the son of missionaries John and Helen Dekker, whose incredible story of life among headhunters in Indonesia has been told in several books. After graduating from a multi-cultural high school, he took up permanent residence in the United States to study Religion and Philosophy. After earning his Bachelor's Degree, Dekker entered the corporate world in management for a large healthcare company in California.
Dekker was quickly recognized as a talent in the field of marketing and was soon promoted to Director of Marketing. This experience gave him a background which enabled him to eventually form his own company and steadily climb the corporate ladder. Since 1997, Dekker has written full-time. He lives in Texas with his wife and family.
C.J.: How much input did you actually have in the screenplay and other aspects of the film Thr3e?
Ted: I had a lot of input in the screenplay. Screenplays change quite a bit once they are in production. On the ground things change and are modified. But overall, the movie is a much simpler version of the book. Movies are always simpler because you only have so much time. You have so many more opportunities in a book to take the reader on a ride down various rabbit trails. You can have all kinds of red herrings and bring a lot more complexity to the story. But this is quite a faithful adaptation of the core of the novel. Everybody who’s seen it and read the book thinks so.
How do you feel about the few changes in the story that were made during its transition from book to movie?
I think the changes came off pretty well. This movie was made with 2.4 million in Poland, which is an extremely low budget for a movie. It was done with a big city feel---you feel like you’re in Chicago. Because we filmed in Poland, we had to change all the signs in the street. It was a very, very good crew. We were really able to pull off a lot of stuff that we never would have been able to do in the states on that budget. Like the bus explosion, which was done with a totally different bus swapped out with an American bus. All the explosions were totally real. None of them were doctored with CGI. The bus chase, where we had this huge street . . . there was no way we could have done that in the States. They had to shut that whole street down for a full day, a Saturday. There was front page coverage in the newspaper. The Pope came to town a month before we were there, and they refused to shut it down for him, yet they shut it down for this American film. They gave us the run of the city really, and Lodz is a big city of several million people. It’s a town with a very rich film tradition.
What was it like actually watching your characters come to life?
That was weird! The first day of filming I remember sitting on a balcony looking down on a scene, and it was just very, very strange. It was a scene with Jennifer or Samantha, I forget the actual scene, but I was like, “Wow! This is happening because I wrote it. I imagined it. Made it up. Fantasized it. And now it’s happening.” It hit me. I got quite emotional for a few minutes, and for a moment I almost believed that this was Samantha. It was so weird.
Marc Blucas (who plays Kevin) really threw himself into the role and did a fantastic job. His character is a kind of tortured person, so when he starts off in the film you’re not quite sure who he is. He’s kind of dazed. And when you get towards the end, it all comes together in the basement scene. The whole movie exists for the basement scene. It’s what delivers the goods. We always knew it was absolutely the most important scene. It took three days to shoot, which is very quick, but they’re 16 hour days. Normally you’d spend a couple weeks on that. The whole shoot was five weeks. We’re all crowded into the basement of this abandoned industrial building. It was just very, very cool. It’s so cool to watch a movie being made.
So you were there for all the shooting?
I was there as an observer and as a consultant. Now the next one, House, I actually co-produced. We get the director’s cut for that next week. House makes Thr3e look like a bedtime story. The movie’s better than the book by a long shot. It really is intense, and it’s going to be very difficult to get a PG-13 rating on it. There are some significant changes in the movie that aren’t in the book. And unlike Thr3e which contained scored music, we’ll be getting quite a bit of original music for House. We’re in negotiations with Tooth and Nail.
What is the number one thing you want people to come away with when they either read the book or watch the movie Thr3e?
I don’t really think in those terms when I write. I don’t want people to come away with anything; I want them to be confronted with questions. And the question for Thr3e is, “How much am I like Kevin?” The very first line of the movie is, “Evil is beyond the reach of no man”. That’s the movie in one line. Of course, in the book I go into a lot more depth, but the point is today in our culture there is a defection. People en mass are abandoning the core truth that we are born into—that there is true evil within man. Did you know that in the last three years twenty million Americans have lost faith in God? That’s three years. People are leaving the church in droves. It’s a huge movement, but it’s a very silent movement. I think it’s happening because the church has become irrelevant to the emerging generation. I write to that emerging generation. I’ve gained a ton of new readers, and most of them are under the age of 40. I’ve lost a ton of older readers in the last few books because they’re either too dark or too violent, etc. Not offensive; they don’t have sex or language. Take the Thr3e movie, and the House movie. People will be like “Oh, let’s go see a Christian movie”, and they might not expect what they see.
I hate it when people say, “Not bad, for a Christian movie.” I just hate that! I’d much rather they say, “Not bad,” or “That’s cool.” Just not the “for a Christian movie” part. I don’t want any of my movies to be seen or labeled as Christian. Ever. At all. Because I’m not sure what that means. What does “Christian movie” mean? These labels are very confusing to many people in our culture, even to Christians.
Following that train of thought .... Some authors don’t believe there even should be a division between Christian fiction and fiction in general. Kevin Lucia wants to know your thoughts on this issue.
I think the division of sacred and secular is false. There’s a false dichotomy there. There should be no division between sacred and secular because all truth is God’s truth. Truth is simply truth, regardless of what you call it. If you put a label on it it just causes confusion for people. If you say “This is a Christian movie,” what does that mean to people in Hollywood? It means something very different to people in Hollywood than it does to people in Oklahoma or the people in the Mideast. Labels can sometimes become destructive. You have to be very careful. Paul wrote about this: “to the Greeks I’m a Greek. To the Romans I’m a Roman.” So, I don’t think there should be a division between Christian and non-Christian fiction simply because I’m not sure what that really means to me or the masses of people who walk into a Barnes and Noble and pick up a book.
My next book Skin will be in the general market section. It’s not so different from any of my other books, except that it doesn’t use any of the labels of Christianity. But metaphorically it’s a very strong message. It’s more like the Matrix than it is like Thr3e. The message is all there. Good and evil is there, but it doesn’t have any label on it. It’ll be by far my biggest book. The orders on it are four times larger than any other book I’ve done. That’s because it’s not being labeled a certain thing. That’s not why we’re doing it, but at the same time I recognize that within Christian bookstores---which I’m very very thankful for, don’t get me wrong---I’m seen as an anomaly. I’m really the only writer who gets away with this stuff. My stuff is recommended to a very specific audience. The droves of people who go through those stores are much more interested in a different kind of fiction. They’re more interested in “Christian fiction”. (Laughs)
You know who one of my heroes is? Bono, and the way he wears his Christianity. Clearly, he’s very much a Christian and absolutely believes in the divinity of Christ, the basic core Christian doctrine. But he’s found a way to express his art to a much broader audience without attaching any labels. His first purpose in life is to be an artist. The second is to pursue causes. He’s an artist; he’s being who God called him to be, a musician.
Marshall Hughes asks: Where do you plan to be on the night of January 5th when the movie opens?
I don’t know; it’s not showing in my town! (Laughs) Of course, I’ve seen the movie maybe twenty times, but I’m kind of nervous I’ll walk into the theater and I’ll be the only one!
Who’s your favorite character in Thr3e and why?
My favorite character is Samantha. Why? ‘Cause she’s me. She’s the part of me which has been redeemed. But I continue with my struggle, and that’s what the book is all about. Romans 7. I like the way Laura Jordan played her, too. Different than I’d imagined, but it quickly grew on me. Sam carries a seasoned innocence about herself. She comes across as being quite knowledgeable but still a bit naive, and a little bit innocent like Kevin. It’s kind of cool when you actually know what the deal is to watch the movie and sit there and try to catch any errors. I love it.
Going back to when you first wrote the novel, what was the hardest part about writing the story?
All my novels tend to be quite complex so there is always a lot of tinkering at the end, to go back and make sure everything fits. A LOT. Like Skin, for example, is completely changed from the ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). It has changed a lot. The ending is essentially the same, but the lead up to it has a whole new layer of technology and all kinds of stuff added to it.
Darcie Gudger asks: How do you come up with your twisty plots and keep them all straight?
I don’t keep them straight. It takes a lot of deliberate thought. It is really a discipline. You just have to really, really think, think, think, and just slowly wear out your brain cells. I used to use Dramatica Pro quite a bit. But now I just write. I plot out my entire book on a few pages, and then I write. I trust my instincts more than I used to. I used to go into a tremendous amount of detail, preparing a 40 page document before I even began. That’s the way Frank Peretti writes. When we wrote House together, I wrote the whole first draft completely and he came back and rewrote a big chunk of it. But it took him six weeks to plot it. He had like 50 pages of notes! (Laughs) I wrote the whole rough draft for House in 30 days! It’s just a different way of approaching it.
You know, Blink is coming out as a movie, too, and I’m rewriting the book for the movie. It will be truly different from the original.
Sheryl Root and Michael Ehret ask: Where did you get the idea for the Circle Trilogy/Project Showdown books? Why are you creating the extensive tie-in between them all?
That’s a good question. The idea came into being the way a plot always comes into being---over the course of time. It’s very cool how many threads and hooks I left in previous novels that I’m now able to pull out. I’m slowly but surely fine tuning my skills in writing novels as complete stand-alones, and at the same time tying them into a much larger picture. Kind of like life. You go and play basketball at the gym, and then you go get a facial. (I’m talking about the chicks now. I don’t get facials.) And the two things are totally different, but tied in. That’s the way we live our lives. No one’s really done this before. I’m kind of weaving a new mythology for a new generation.
Skin is a complete stand alone, but I’ve introduced a couple of things that will make readers think, “Oh my goodness.” And actually, there’s one scene in it now that will read one way, a very simple scene. But what you don’t realize is that it is the mirror of another scene in a book that hasn’t yet come out, a book called Chosen coming out January, 2008. So when people read that, they’ll be like, “Oh, my goodness.” They’ll see the connection. I’ve never done a mirror scene before.
It’s all going to tie in and allow me to write all kinds of other stories no one has been able to do. Saint was a very definite tie-in, and it constantly referenced Showdown. I’m not going to be doing that as much anymore. I’m going to be much more inventive in the way I create novels. The tie-ins will be much looser. Over the course of time I’m going to weave this entire massive story, but I write as if they’re stand-alones. It’s all going to tie into this whole thing called “The Showdown” that we all face on a day by day basis. It’s a lot of fun. I have six new books coming out. They’re all going to be shorter, called the Circle Series. And they all occur in the other reality of Black, Red & White. I’m very excited about them. They’ll be coming out in between my other main releases.
April Gardner asks: Besides God, what or who inspires your imagination?
Vickie McDonough wants to know: What specific advice do you have for writers trying to get published?
Finish the novel. Then write another one. And then, write another one. During this time you can look for an agent. You have to have an agent. No publishers will look at you otherwise. If you give up after your first book, you were never meant to be an author. If you give up after the second one, you still were never meant to be an author. Publishing requires writing and writing and writing. When you have three complete novels, you probably will be published. My fourth novel was published. My first few novels were way too aggressive for the Christian market. The publishers were like, “Oh my goodness! This is like Stephen King!” They were taken aback.
Showdown was my very first novel. Now I’ve gone back and revised it. On my fourth novel I decided I was going to write what they wanted me to write, and the result was Heaven’s Wager. It was more of a Christian novel. But it still was quite edgy for that time. I got four offers within one month. I finally wrote what they wanted. I continued to write that way for a number of books, and I still enjoy that process. I love those early books. Then later, after I was established, I was able to write what I really wanted to do, what I was called to do. My first kind of bridge novel was Thr3e.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
A sugar-free, nonfat vanilla Latte. I order what all the girls order! I just turn to the nearest chick and ask, “What are you ordering? Give me one of those.” (Laughs) Drop the cherry, though. I can’t be walking around with a cherry on top of my foam.
I make the same drink at home with my new latte maker. It’s really cool, one of those fully automated things. My wife and I gave it to each other for Christmas. You put the beans in the top, the cup under there, it grinds it, you tell it what drink, and it has a really good pump driven frother. But the one I’m drinking right now isn’t vanilla, it’s white chocolate. Man, we drink a lot of Starbucks.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Olives, 1% milk, and salami. For lunch I go upstairs, roll up some salami and a piece of cheese. It takes me all of ten seconds to grab it. I roll it up, maybe add some turkey or whatever, and that’s it. No carbs at lunch. Just straight meat! I’ve got to keep my metabolism going. Lunch is pretty much a non-event for me, except for when I go out.
What are two things people might be surprised to know about Ted Dekker?
One - I’m pretty dysfunctional and unsurprising. All I can do is write. Two - I love the finer things in life, because they remind me of God. I like everything that’s extravagant, like my latte maker. I like the feel of carpet under my feet. I like fine linens and genuine artifacts from foreign countries, which my office is full of. Things that remind me that man at his best actually does a pretty decent job of being creative. I see God everywhere. We’re created in His image. When I see a really cool concert, I see that person on stage, and I don’t care who they are—I’m seeing God. Why am I so attracted to that music? I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause that is the fingerprint of God, regardless of whether they recognize it, I’m watching one of His finest toys.
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.