First of all, I assure you I have good reason for being so silent lately: The Savvy Demon’s Guide to Godly Living is nearing release! More details to come, but we’re focused elsewhere today.
The book is called Redeeming Reputation but I am absolutely horrible because I almost always misread that as Redeeming Redemption. I know, I know. I’m horrible and now you’re going to do it too and I owe author Pastor George McVey a huge apology and he’s going to boycott my blog and the world is going to end and—big sigh—I should have just kept that to myself. But I didn’t and now it’s too late. And Pastor McVey—let’s call him PG—is our special guest today! Boy, is my face red.
Redeeming Reputation is the story of Nathaniel Ryder, a preacher who follows the Lord’s calling to head out to the town of Redemption in the Wild West as an itinerant pastor. I’m trying to think whether I’ve actually read another western before and I don’t know that I have. This book has certainly struck a chord with fans of the genre, however, and there are currently 26 four- or five-star reviews on Amazon. That’s not too shabby. Reviewers are praising the action, the romance, the characters and even the preachin’. Praise God!
Of course, one of the reasons I love conducting interviews here is that it’s difficult to tell whether you’re going to like a book or not from a handful of reviews. I have a hard time, anyway, although there may be buzzwords that I pick up on that lets me know the reviewer’s speaking my language. I figure, however, that sitting down and chatting with the author for several minutes lets us get inside their head and really get comfortable with them, and hopefully that interaction gives us a good idea whether we’re going to care for their work or not. I certainly get to know authors a lot more through these interviews!
I had some problems with Redeeming Reputation that kept me from enjoying it as much as the reviewers on Amazon. I didn’t care for the protagonist and felt the plot was predictable. The love story is the type in
|"It's nice to meet you! Will you marry me?"|
One element the book definitely has in its favor—and you’ll see this in the interview—is that there are enough meaty issues explored that we can have a bit of a dialogue about them. I don’t agree with how these are all handled in the story (and PG says he didn’t intend to handle them at all!), but I feel that a book that has some talking points that you can debate about a bit probably has more depth than a book without. PG and I both enjoyed talking about some of this stuff in the interview. And now I should stop talking about the interview...and just get right to it!
Brad: Thanks for stopping by, PG, and for giving me the chance to read and chat about your Christian western. Before we jump into questions about the book, however, let’s start with you. Tell us about yourself and the church where you serve.
|What we imagine PG's house looks like.|
PG: There really isn't a whole lot to tell about me. What you see is what you get: an overweight, middle-aged bald man. I've been married to my high school sweetheart for 26 years and we have three grown children, a girl and two boys. Our daughter has given us one rambunctious grandson and another grandchild is due Christmas Day. We live and minister in West Virginia's Capitol City of Charleston at an inner-city church called West Charleston Baptist Church. Besides my two legged family we have several furry members to our family, one Beagle dog and 6 cats. The dog is mine, the cats belong to everyone else. Our church is small; we have around thirty members and we are outreach focused. I am the Worship and Teaching Pastor.
Brad: Look at that. We feel like we know you already, PG, even more than what your book may or may not reveal about you. I’m not going to ask you if there’s any wish fulfillment at play in your book. After all, you could always tell me no and I would be forced to refuse to believe you. You’re a pastor and you write about a pastor who goes around dispensing his own brand of Wild West justice! So talk to us about the similarities and differences between yourself and Nathaniel Ryder, the Preacher. Any parishioners you’d like to threaten to spank from time to time, as Nathan does in the book?
PG: I honestly don't think I'm anything like Nathan at all. I'm more like his grandfather, Nugget Nate. Nathan is handsome and quick with his hands I'm the exact opposite I'm slow and a bit more ragged around the edges. Where Nathan grew up around sophistication, I grew up Mountain. I guess we are alike in that we
|Sometimes there's talk about whether spanking should be|
permitted in schools, but is everyone going to ignore the
question of whether it should be allowed in churches?
Brad: That’s practically confirmation! If any of PG’s parishioners are reading this, be honest: you know you need to be spanked from time to time. What inspired or influenced Redeeming
Redemption Reputation (I wish I could say that I
typed that first one as a joke, but I actually sent it to PG like that!)? Any
movies, TV shows, books or music that helped spark the ideas?
PG: I had lots of influences for the character of David Nathaniel Ryder the Third and a western tale as well. As the dedication of my book says, my own father was a big western fan and I spent my child hood watching and listening to old westerns. All the old westerns. Nathan himself was sparked by a tale my granny used to tell us about her great-grandfather who was both a circuit riding preacher and a town sheriff. Never at the same time but always one or the other. I remember thinking one day while remembering her stories and thinking what if someone was asked to do both jobs at the same time. The idea developed from there. The more I thought about it the more I wondered what would happen if not only was someone pastor and lawman at the same time but what if he was really good with his guns as well. The rest as they say is history.
Musically, I do have a western play list that I listen to when I'm writing a Redemption Tale. It is mostly Ranger Doug and the Riders in The Sky. Also an influence of my dad’s. Most people know them today as the guys who sang the Woody's Round Up song from Toy Story 2.
Brad: That is a reference I get! Thank you! I’d like to talk about some of the messages that I felt came across in the novel. First, let’s talk about the fact that Nathan is more than willing to kill when he feels the situation warrants it. Although the book addresses that this might be questionable briefly through some fleeting moments of doubt for both Nathan and love interest Grace, it certainly sides with Nathan that he is justified in killing anyone who draws on him or threatens him, as well as beating up anyone who annoys him. Nathan is a man who never turns the other cheek as a matter of principle. Won’t he, to paraphrase the words of Jesus, die by the gun, since he’s so determined in the book to live by it?
PG: Wow, that wasn't the message I was trying to get across at all. In actuality, Nathan tries very hard to talk everyone out of drawing on him with two exceptions. The message I was trying to get across is that redemption is available to everyone equally and that some people will reject it and choose evil no matter what. As this series continues you will see that Nathan really does struggle with using his guns and if he is causing more harm than good.
|Of course, the Wild West used to be even worse,|
but then tickle fights were outlawed.
Truth be told how would we answer that question to the young Christian men who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan today? Some of them have had no other choice than to kill their fellow man. Does that make them destined to die by the sword as Jesus said? Honestly, I don't have answers to all those questions. I struggle with them just like anyone else would. The books are true westerns and honestly no true western fan would read them without gunfights and fist fights and conflict. Some of it is internal, some of it is physical. Do I feel the actions my hero takes are justified? I do. Sometimes people choose to enact violence on others no matter what. If one can protect themselves and the ones they love then I believe they should. As Sheriff Jake says in Redeeming Reputation, by sending some unrepentant men to hell he is making it possible for several others to have a chance at redemption. I wouldn't advocate taking the law into your own hands in our society today but the West was different, as Nathan points out time and again. The law and a lawman were few and far between at that time and sometimes the only law was the gun on your hip.
Brad: Without a draft, all military duty in our nation is voluntary. I suppose I would assume that a believer would be okay with killing in the line of duty before they would join, but that may be an oversimplification, and it’s surely too complex an issue to get into here. Back to the book, a similar theme is that the characters are justified in doing whatever it takes to survive. It’s possible that all that is intended is a statement on the power of God’s forgiveness, but some statements make it seem as if there is no expectation of godliness in difficult circumstances: again, you need to do whatever it takes to survive, no matter the cost. This was a big question during the times of persecution for the Early Church, when the church leaders tried to decide whether those who had abandoned their faith in the face of persecution could be permitted to return, and what that might entail. Talk to me about your intentions here.
PG: Again, I would say that while I can see how that may have come across that way, it was never the intent of this book to touch on such a deep topic. However, I am a deep thinker and have struggled with that question in my own life and faith walk. What about the woman who feels like there is no choice but to sell her body to feed her starving kids? What about the man who takes food from the grocery store shelves
|Judge her all you want, but does she really have a choice?|
It's not like heroin's cheap or anything.
Brad: My point here, I should mention, is not to solve these weighty issues. Rather, I love it when fiction presents us with real, meaty themes to discuss, and I’m glad we have a chance to talk about them and hold them up to the standard of Scripture. Let’s talk about cash for a moment. Early on in the book, Nathan throws money around in a manner that suggests he has plenty to spare. He’s always willing to be noble and godly, and this often involves throwing some green at the problem—especially when it comes to Grace. Later on, Nathan receives some good financial news and it’s explicitly stated that now he can follow God wherever He leads—because he’ll be well-off. It got to the point where I felt there was a message that the wealthy can better follow God than the poor. It certainly is easier for Nathan to do the right thing when he’s well off enough that it doesn’t require any sacrifice. Jesus paints a picture where the wealthy almost seem disadvantaged to the poor in several passages, when it comes to the Kingdom of God. What message are you sending in your book?
|The godliest duck you're ever likely to meet.|
PG: Jesus does make that statement, I agree, that it is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than the rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Yet, he didn't say it was an impossibility. I in my personal life know of both rich and poor people who use the funds that God gives them to further God's kingdom. Is it easier to follow God with money than without? NO, it isn't easier but truth be told it isn't harder either. Both groups have temptations that are uniquely their own. The way Nathan treats money in this book and others to come is the way his grandfather treated money. It's not his but a tool that God is providing him with to be used where needed. Let's be real and honest for a minute: we all have those times when we ponder what it would be like to be wealthy. What I have done here is give Nathan the ability I wish I had, one of not having to pray about where the next house payment is coming from. Can I pay this bill or that bill this month? Can I fund this mission trip or that persons dream? I personally believe that there are those that God gives an abundance of funds too because he knows they will use it to do Kingdom work with. I also know I'm not one of them because in my personal life the temptation of making my own life easier would distract me from being that kind of a steward of God's resources. God gives to each what they can handle. Those that use what he gives them to further the kingdom? The love of that money has no hold on them. Those that don't, His word is plain he will remove even what they have and give to those who will. So can a rich man serve God better than a poor man? NO, only differently. In a future Redemption Tale we will see how David,
|"All right. Now that I have the absolute necessities, it's|
time to use my wealth for others. Oh, Jeeves!"
Brad: I disagree with you on only one point: that Jesus did indeed say that it was impossible for a rich man to be saved—without God (Matt. 19:26). Of course, given that salvation is impossible for all of us without God, it doesn’t really make that big of a difference. Boy, I’d like to believe that I’d be completely selfless with wealth. I believe fully that I would do better today than a year ago, but the truth is that I would still see to my comfort much more than I ought. Also, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the questions. I hope my dear blog readers enjoy this sort of interchange as well!
Moving on to more interviewish questions, what do you perceive to be your greatest strength as an author? Your greatest weakness?
PG: My greatest strength in my mind is my ability to tell a story. My weakness without a doubt is the mechanics of writing. As you know from firsthand experience, my spelling and grammar leave much to be desired.
Brad: I might point out here that I first started reading Redeeming Reputation via a Smashwords download and the editing was, indeed, very lacking. I won’t link to that here because I just checked and that is still the version available for sale. However, when I notified PG of the issue, he gave me the copy currently available for Kindle and that is much improved. (Blogmaster’s Note: PG says that he is currently working on revising the Smashwords version of the book and hopes to update the title in August.)
|By the same token, we can ascertain that, if PG were a|
werewolf, he would write about other werewolves.
It’s pretty clear that this is not just a western but a Christian western. Do you feel a responsibility, PG, to incorporate your faith into your work as a follower of Christ? Should we ever expect to see a secular novel from you?
PG: Again a great question. Honestly, my faith is such a part of who I am that I'm not sure I could ever separate it from what I write. I don't write "Christian fiction," per se. I just write about people of faith because I am a person of faith. Will I ever write a book that doesn't have faith in it ? Well as my own grand pappy used to say, anything’s possible. But it isn't very likely.
Brad: A very good answer, PG, and one that reflects my own thoughts pretty closely. Would you like to talk about what you’re working on now? Do you have an idea how many books featuring the Preacher we should we expect?
|"Did someone say avenger? Well, shucks, that reminds|
me of the time when Iron Man, Thor and I teamed up
to stop Loki from..."
PG: Currently, I am working on the third and fourth books in the saga of Nathan and Grace. The third one focusing on Grace’s past and what happens when a group of people refuse to extend the grace God has given them to the shepherd's family, which is a common problem in our own world and one I personally experienced. The forth book is actually a crossover book I am writing with Sophie Dawson in which Nathan and Grace visit Nathan's great Aunt Aggie in Cottonwood, which is Sophie’s series of books. All told as it sits right now, I see six books in the Redemption Tales and a series of smaller tales about Nathan as a US Marshall. I also have outlined two books on Nugget Nate and a short story that has Nathan telling his offspring some family tales about Nate, Aggie, David and even himself around campfires on a cattle drive. Also this year, I have two teaching books that I am working on in my spiritual warfare booklets and a few other ideas in other genres in various stages of planning.
Brad: Pretty busy little bee, aren’t you, PG? And that’s a real neat idea, co-writing a crossover book with another independent author. If you get the chance to complete it. See, I notice you didn’t come packing your six shooters today, Pastor. That’s unfortunate, because I have some of the fastest hands in the West here and you’re in their sights. As my regular readers will know, there comes a time when I need to ask some tough questions, questions that authors aren’t always willing to talk about. It becomes necessary to apply some pressure. Just answer the questions, padre, and the gunslingers will stand down. Discounting the Holy Scriptures, tell me about your favorite book.
|And PG regrets his claim that he likes to read anything.|
PG: Well, I don't need six guns to deal with the likes of these owl hoots you've found, Brad. I do happen to have the very hatchet that Nugget Nate used to save Davey's life, as well as the knife he won off Jim Bowie when they met. It is just like them there yeller bellied galoots to bring a gun to a knife fight but the rightness of my cause will help me to prevail. I really don't have a favorite book or author to speak of. I am such an avid reader that I'll read almost anything. Lately I have been sticking to mostly indie authors because I find that I enjoy reading little-known authors with big ideas. Lately, I've read and really enjoyed books by Sophie Dawson, Melissa Turner Lee, Lynn Donovan, Pauline Creeden, Dana Pratola and Sophronia Belle Lyon, to name a few. Each made me think about life and faith in ways that stretch me, which is what I want in my fiction.
Brad: Hey! We know Sophronia, don’t we, gang? Ah geez. A bullet just went whizzing by PG’s ear. Someone’s got an itchy trigger finger. We’d better wrap this up so the boys (and one girl by the name of Carlita) can head over to the saloon and cheat at poker. If you had to name one favorite author, PG, who would it be?
PG: Again it's hard to name a favorite, but my absolute favorite is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I have always been a big Sherlock Holmes fan. If not Doyle, then Burroughs or Kipling.
Brad: Thank you for your candor. I’m a big Holmes fan myself. Carlita and the boys are standing down, although Stinky Joe is none too happy about it. You might watch your back on the way home. As with many of the authors I get to spotlight here, you’re independently published. Other than buying your books, of course, how can readers who enjoy your work best support you as an author?
PG: Go to Amazon and leave a review, tell others about my work or, hey, buy everyone a copy for
|You can tell he's a preacher because he'd rather go off |
and play poker with Stinky Joe than hang out with Carlita.
All right. It’s me again. I was going to thank PG for stopping by but he’s already off bluffing like only a preacher man can do. For more of PG, you can check out his blog at http://www.georgesshorts.wordpress.com/ In addition to Redeeming Reputation, the second book in the series, Redeeming Trail, is also currently available. PG is also the author of the nonfiction titles Prayer Walking for Spiritual Breakthrough and The Complete Armor of God, as well as the episodic Champion of the Lightgiver series. Of course, you can thank him for visiting us by checking out anything that interests you. As a pastor’s kid, I can assure you he’d appreciate the income!