Athol Dickson's university-level training in painting, sculpture, and architecture was followed by a long career as an architect then his decision several years ago to devote full time to writing.
Athol Dickson’s writing has been favorably compared to the work of Octavia Butler
(Publisher’s Weekly), Daphne du Maurier (Cindy Crosby, FaithfulReader.com) and FlanneryO’Connor (The New York Times).
His They Shall See God was a Christy Award finalist and his River Rising was a Christy Award winner, selected as one of the Booklist Top Ten Christian Novels of 2006 and a finalist for Christianity Today's Best Novel of 2006.
He and his wife, Sue, live in Southern California. Visit AtholDickson.com for more information.
WELCOME, ATHOL DICKSON!!
1. Is the Viking myth in your story based on legend that actually exists, or did you create it from your own imagination? Was it Viking legend that gave birth to the idea for this story?
No, I started thinking about the theme for WINTER HAVEN first, the idea that God can be frightening, but He loves it when we seek Him. With that idea in mind I went looking for something to symbolize the theme. What us it like for a person of faith, who fears God, or fears doubts and questions about God? I came up with fog. Then I started thinking about fog: what causes it, what might make it interesting, and so forth. I went on like this, going from one concept to another and at some point in the process Vikings popped up. Better stop there. If I answer your question any further it might give away too much of the plot.
2. You reference several types of neurological disorders within the story - how did you come to use them so effectively? What drew you to this type of persona?
I was once severely depressed, and it was a struggle to return to normal thinking, so I have a pretty good idea of what it's like for one's mind to be out of control. What mentally healthy people don't understand about mental illness is the terror of it. In the final analysis, what you think is tantamount to what and who you are, so if your thinking isn't right, nothing in your entire world is right.
It was the worst experience of my life, but I survived, praise God, and now I am intrigued by a very simple idea. Basically, God designed us to behave a certain way. His intended design for our behavior is normal. To the extent that design, we are abnormal. "All have sinned and fallen
short" means everyone strays from God's design for our behavior, everyone exhibits abnormal behavior to some extent, and another term for abnormal behavior is insanity. In other words, everyone on earth is crazy to some extent. We are all sinners, and sin is nothing short of crazy. It's crazy to behave in ways the Lord did not intend and does not desire. With this simple idea in mind, it made sense to play around with mental illness in WINTER HAVEN. I'll probably explore the idea further in another novel one of these days.
3. Truth and doubt often become antagonistic in the heart and life of the believer. Has there been a particular event in your life in which you had to wrestle through the "why's" to find God's truth? Do you think God uses our doubts to help us grow?
Absolutely, God uses doubts! God loves it when we question Him, so long as we do it honestly. I've lived through this in several different ways. My depression came after a long string of very difficult events--deaths, betrayals and losses--which led me to a time of deep doubt, but at the end of it I learned things about God's infinite faithfulness and patience that will remain a comfort to me throughout the rest of my life. Also, I spent five years studying the Torah among a group of wonderful people, Reform Jews, who at one point had me questioning the basic tenets of my faith. I wrote about that, and what I ended up learning about Christianity and about the Lord from those Jews, in a memoir called THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MOSES. Here's a description from the book of an important revelation I had about God and doubts. It's from a chapter called "God on the Spot: Dealing with Doubts":
How is it possible that a man could question the motives of God Almighty, yet be drawn closer as a result? Surely no one could get away with asking, "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
And yet . . . and yet. . . .
God actually bargained with Abraham, from fifty righteous people, down to forty-five, to thirty, to only ten, giving him the answer he wanted each time he asked. Somehow, Abraham's impudent questions seemed to deepen his relationship with God. Alone beneath the pecans and oaks, I feel as if the Lord has driven me like Abraham to a high place and left me standing there, aching to ask a question of my own. It goes against everything I have ever believed about approaching God. "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right. . . ." Such a question!
How dare he doubt the Lord that way?
The story is there in the Bible. It must be true. And if it worked forAbraham at the oaks of Mamre, maybe it could work for me at the oaks of the arboretum. So, in a moment of utter recklessness, I accept the challenge. I ask God my own first truly honest question in many years.
I ask if I may ask.
The answer comes instantaneously, as if God has been waiting on the edge of his throne. It is simple, profound, and so undeniably clear it might have been spoken aloud:
"Asking is not doubting. It is trusting."
In that instant, I understand that it takes more faith to ask than it takes to fear the asking. It takes faith to be ready for whatever answer comes, and faith to persevere with more questions if the answer is not understood. Asking an honest question means being ready to change in response to the answer, and short of martyrdom, change may be the ultimate act of faith. How wonderful now to know I can question the Lord without fear of faithlessness! How wonderful to be unafraid to ask God, knowing he will answer. Every time that happens, my faith in him grows stronger.
I hope anyone who's interested in this subject will pick up a copy of THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MOSES. There's a page full of reviews and endorsements of the book on my website: http://www.atholdickson.com/TGAM_reviews.html God's willingness to accept our doubts is such an important thing to understand. It can radically open up your relationship with God.
This is a mystery to me. I have loved boats and being out on the water ever since I was a little boy. My wife and I once sold our house and cars and moved aboard a 50' power boat to cruise full time along Gulf of Mexico and the
5.Can you share a peek into your next project?
I'm calling it LOST MISSION, although the publisher might change that. It's set in
6. What new and exciting things is God doing in your life now? Any words of encouragement you want to share with your readers?
Well, since you asked, I did discover something absolutely fascinating about God's name the other day. Anyone who wants to read about it can visit this page at my blog:
http://whatatholwrote.blogspot.com/2008/03/secret-name-of-god.html. It should be especially interesting to Jews and Messianic Jews, but Christians of all kinds will find it offers us yet one more little reason to believe.