Friday, September 17, 2010

An Interview with Author Rusty Whitener

Award winning screenwriter, novelist, and actor Rusty Whitener recently agreed to answer a few questions for me about his debut novel Season of Miracles. Rusty also wrote the screenplay by the same title which won second place for the 2009 Kairos Prize and is in pre-production with Elevating Entertainment Motion Pictures.

What inspired you to write the story in Season of Miracles?

Rusty: I have always been haunted (in a beautiful, sentimental way) by my childhood and my time playing Little League baseball. I still love baseball and consider it unique among sports, in its rhythms and combination of team concepts and individual contests (batter/pitcher, ball in flight/fielder, etc.). But I guess the real inspiration to write the story was the way I see how people who are “different” (like Rafer and his autism) seem to have particular insights into truth and beauty that some of us “normal, boring” types do not have. I think this is often particularly true of spiritual truth. So, I guess my inspiration was a combination of my passion for baseball, my love of the callow innocence of youth, and the spiritual questions that “different, extraordinary” people answer better than “normal, ordinary” folks.

Who are your writing mentors?

Rusty: I think I am probably a little strange this way. I can’t see myself being comfortable with the normal mentor/apprentice relationship, because I am in some ways a very private person, especially when I am writing. As far as screenwriting, Barbara Nicolosi and Linda Seger have greatly influenced me. But a number of novelists have influenced me as well. I re-read “old standards” like C.S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, and Graham Greene. I don’t read much contemporary stuff at all, not because I don’t appreciate it or have some bias against it, but because I want my head and sensitivities to be swimming mostly in what I know is exquisitely fine writing. Ouch, that sounds so elitist or patrician. But honestly, my writing sensibilities have been protected so long from contemporary influences, and I guess I’d like to see if there’s any merit in this sort of “old school” approach.

I read on your website that you’re now working on a suspense/thriller story. That’s quite a departure from Season of Miracles. Why the genre switch?

Rusty: Several reasons. First, I have this silly habit of seeking out ridiculous challenges. Writing a suspense type story would be another challenge for me. On a deeper level, I feel like our culture at large and the Christian subculture does not have a healthy, informed view of the reality of Evil. I capitalize Evil because I believe a real, personality (the Devil) exists. Of course, I believe the Messiah has crushed the head of the Serpent and won the victory, but we are still making our way through the smoke of those still occurring battles. I am actually trying to write the sequel to A Season of Miracles as a type of suspense story. So, “thriller” may not be the right word, but “suspense” may be about right. It will still be reflective, funny, and maybe even sentimental. Actually, I can’t really think of another type of novel that is in the tone of what I would like to do in this new book, which I’m sure sends up red flags to any publisher. Who’s going to buy this weird novel? It has baseball in it too, so it’s a sort of an odd combination of genres.

What do you hope readers will take away when they read your work?

Rusty: That pain and suffering are real. And that innocence is fragile. But that redemption is possible. I want people to be encouraged and inspired and to believe that change is possible and often immensely beneficial. I would like my readers to have a larger vision of life than the narrow blinders of their obligations, sufferings, and even a larger notion of the import and meaning of their joys and triumphs. These are the things I want myself to recognize in my own life and in my reading. It is a large hope, a daring quest; these consequences of our reading and writing are what make stories so heavy with benevolent power.

Wow, thanks, Rusty for sharing with us. I’m so glad to count you and Rebecca as my dear friends. You both have such amazing ministries. For those of you who don’t know, Rusty’s wife, Rebecca, is a prayer warrior and intercedes especially for those in the arts.

If you haven’t bought Rusty’s book yet, please do. I know you’ll find his poignant writing touches your heart and changes your life as it did mine.

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