Amazon.com: Where are you from? How—if at all—has your sense of place colored your writing?
R.: I was born in Portland, Oregon and raised in Gresham, Oregon, where I live today. I think the rugged beauty of Oregon's coastline (where I've gone often on vacation and to write), and the rural green trees and hillsides that have always surrounded me have made me alert to the beauty of God's creation. The frequently gray skies and rain, especially in the winter, create a mood conducive to reflection and contemplation of life's meaning. I have meditated on Scripture and great books and have soaked them in while hearing the rain fall or the wind or looking out at blue skies or stars. I've gone riding many times on my favorite bike trail, on the Springwater Corridor, and breathed the fresh Oregon air, watching for deer, rabbits and beavers and thoroughly enjoying the Creator's art work. Perhaps this has helped develop a substance in my writing, and affect its texture.
Amazon.com: When and why did you begin writing? When did you first consider yourself a writer?
R.: I really enjoyed writing the term papers lots of people hated, and got encouraging feedback. I wrote my first articles for publication in the late seventies. That's when I started thinking of myself as a writer. Then in 1983 I started work on my first book, a history of the sexual revolution and its effects on the Christian church. I'm currently at work on my thirteenth and fourteenth books, both fiction. When complete they'll bring the count to eight nonfiction and six fiction.* Deadline, written in 1994, was my first novel. (It amazed me to see it pop back onto the bestseller list again last week, for the thirtieth month in its sixty-eight month history.) I think my fiction works will eventually outnumber nonfiction, but we'll see what God has planned.
Amazon.com: Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? What books have most influenced your life?
R.: Besides the Bible, the writings of C. S. Lewis have had the greatest influence on me. His space trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia, 7 Volumes: Full-Color Collector's Edition, and his nonfiction Mere Christianity and many other titles are still a source of great perspective and encouragement to me. Lewis is like an old friend to me—he's even a character in one of my novels. A.W. Tozer's books have also affected me profoundly—my favorite is The Knowledge of the Holy, a small and powerful book on the attributes of God. Tozer has a great spiritual depth and a clean crisp writing style that illuminates the reader. Another favorite is Francis Schaeffer whose philosophical and apologetic writings, among them He Is There & He Is Not Silent, shaped my thinking in the seventies. Ultimately, everything I've ever written has been affected by Lewis, Tozer and Schaeffer. My favorite current author is John Piper.
Amazon.com: What is the most romantic book you've ever read? The scariest? The funniest?
R.: I don't read a lot of romance as a genre, but someone I really enjoy is Francine Rivers, e.g. The Atonement Child. A Grief Observed, the story of C. S. Lewis's profound loss of his wife Joy, touched me deeply. So did A Promise Kept: The Story of Unforgettable Love, by Robertson McQuilkin, telling of his wife Muriel, who contracted Alzheimer's. He retired from being a seminary president to care for her. His affection and dedication, and his delight in his beloved, flow off the pages. Some of the old Poe stories are the scariest, and Dave Barry books (I've read most of them) are the funniest.
Amazon.com: What music, if any, most inspires you to write? What do you like to listen to while writing?
R.: I have a number of classical CDs (especially Beethoven and Bach) that play in the background when I write, helping to drown out this world and move me to another. Adiemus: "Songs of Sanctuary," a unique work with an African feel to it, is another favorite, creating just the right mood.
Amazon.com: What are you reading now? What CD is currently in your stereo?
R.: I'm reading a great book by John Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God's Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin; softcover. It deals with God's work in the lives of Augustine, Luther and Calvin. Adiemus, Bach and Beethoven, as well as Lift a Shout, a CD from PDI Music, my favorite praise musicians on the planet (or elsewhere).
Amazon.com: What are you working on?
R.: Safely Home, a novella for Tyndale House, set in China. It's inspired by a beautiful painting by Ron DiCianni, which hangs on my wall. (Tyndale and Ron asked me to write it.) The scene is the throne room of heaven, with a weary martyr on his knees. He's just arrived, shirt still stained, shackles having fallen to the side. Christ has come down off his throne and is embracing the man, welcoming him. His face radiates empathy and approval. An angel stands to the side, holding out a white robe in his arms, and looking with awe at man and Savior embracing. My job is to tell the story which culminates in this scene. In the fall I traveled to China, Cambodia and Singapore and was able to do helpful background research, along with reading the stories of martyrs across the world.
Also, a really fun project I'm working on is Prince Ishbane's Letters (final title became The Ishbane Conspiracy), a spin-off from my new novel Lord Foulgrin's Letters. The main characters are 18, 19 and 21, and I'm writing it with my daughters Karina (21) and Angela (19). We're reading and discussing together good how-to books on fiction (Stein on Writing, How to Grow a Novel, and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers). Then we're deciding together about characters, setting, plot development, chronology, etc. It's so much fun working with my daughters! (Both of whom are talented writers.)
Amazon.com: What else would you like to say to your readers?
R.: A publisher asked me last week what my distinctive mission as a writer is. I think it's to probe beneath the surface into the deep longings of people, then to open a door into the invisible spiritual realm so people can see ultimate realities (including God, angels, demons, heaven and hell) with the eyes of faith and imagination. Once you catch a glimpse of the other world, the real world, you are weaned from the illusion that reality is limited to our five senses. You can't help but live differently once you learn to see differently. My life verse is "We look not at the things that are seen but the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18). I seek to help readers see the unseen through my writing, both fiction and nonfiction. My prayer is that God would use me as his instrument to represent accurately the truths of His Word and the greatness of his Being, in purity and passion.
*This article was written in 2000, so book information is not up to date.