Thursday, August 16, 2012

A View from Richard Paul Evans' Window - Michael Vey Rise of the Elgen

Richard Paul Evans is a name that evokes response.  His stories have touched countless lives, and his televisions movies star celebrities that everyone recognizes.  Imagine the thrill I had when I was offered the opportunity to interview him!  And imagine my shock  and confusion when I picked up the phone this afternoon and heard the person on the line introduce himself as Richard Paul Evans -  and I wasn't expecting his call for two more days!  Seems we got our times mixed up!  I had just started reading his second installment in the Michael Vey series when the phone rang!

But God has better timing than we could ever dream, and I wound up spending a delightful hour with a gentleman whom God has gifted with story, and a tender heart that is grounded in his faith and by his family.  This firm foundation make his stories powerful and able to touch lives in unexpected ways.  I know I will always remember how he encouraged me!  I hope you will enjoy our conversation as much as I did!

Eighteen novels – all NY Times Bestsellers. Four television movies based on your books – all of them award-winning movies.  Yet there was a time when you were sleeping on floor with your siblings as your parents struggled to survive.  Share with us your heart about what God has called you to do with your writing.  What is at the center of your stories that means the most to you, the author? 

When I wrote the Christmas Box I thought I was going to go into politics.  I was running for state legislature and lost by less than 100 votes.  It was the best failure of my life.  I was writing radio commercials at the time, and had two children.  I had fallen in love with the role of being a parent,  and I was always told if I wrote something to write something I was passionate about. I always wanted to write a novel, so I wrote The Christmas Box - a story about the importance of being a parent. I wrote the story for my family and self-published.  I never dreamed that it would take me on a best-seller journey and open the door to my writing career.

Regardless of any personal success, you continue to be generous by donating to charities. Your Christmas Box House ministry -a ministry dedicated to abused children and the donation of royalties of your “Lessons I learned from a Millionaire” dedicated to charity are just two examples.    Tell your readers what your passion is regarding ministry and giving to others? 

I believe success doesn’t change you but amplifies who you are.  I was raised in a home with a mother who was really devout, and I married a woman who keeps me grounded.  When we first started seeing real money from my writing she asked me, “Can we just give the money back?” That is the most honest way of describing the type of wife I have. She is very grounded.  So the idea for supporting and beginning a charity was born out of those types of conversations. I was able to hire my dad, a former contractor, to head up the Christmas Box Home project, and now we have been able to help over 30,000 children!

I have been blessed to be influenced by very devout parents, and my life bears out the truth of Scripture that tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” My faith grounds me.

Michael Vey was your first young adult novel, and there will be six more in the series.  What impact do you hope to have on young people by providing good stories?  How do you hope to be able to interact with young people around your series? 

Many of today's YA novels are really dark and hopeless.  My novels are largely metaphorical in the aspect of telling kids that they have potential. Who they are, who they can be….I want to encourage them to find their gift and feel empowered.  At one point in the second novel Michael is told, “Your greatest power is not your electricity, it’s your heart.”  I want to offer kids hope.

As a father to five – do you find inspiration for your YA novels in your own home?  Where was the idea of Michael Vey inspired?

The character of Michael Vey was largely based on my youngest son, and the book is dedicated to him.  My son has Tourette’s syndrome, as I do, and I wanted people to be educated about Tourette’s and I wanted to make his life somewhat easier.  He hasn’t read any of the series yet, and some kids tease him when they find out that the character is based on him.  So I’m still waiting to see how this turns out. So far, it’s been different that I thought in the respect that I chose to base the character on my son.

But I've had teachers come to me and tell me that their students are coming to class early to read on their own when they choose the Michael Vey series to use as part of their curriculum.

Have your children read your work? Do they like it?

My role as author is different than my role as dad, so I let my kids discover my books like they would any other author’s work.  So that happens in different ways and different times.  They have all read my work, and after a book, they will come to me and tell me what they thought.  It’s different with every child.  My oldest daughter is now my writing assistant.

The world offers little hope and encouragement to our youth today.  They face a host of dark enemies at every turn, and all the education, money and intelligence in the world won’t stave off those attacks.  What hope do your books offer young adult readers? Why is that different from other YA books they have to choose from?

I’m a bit stunned at the trials kids face today.  It takes a lot of courage to just be a normal kid these days.  I don’t protect my characters from having to make difficult choices.  I don’t protect them from dangerous situations.  If I did that, kids would think I was “preaching” to them and never read my books.  I had a young girl – about 14 I guess – tell me that my book had changed her life and that she learned things reading my book and she didn’t even know she was learning.  She was being influenced in a positive way.  That was a high-five moment for me.  I have moms come up to me all of the time and thank me for writing books that will give their kids a desire to read.  That is very rewarding.

Who is your favorite character in the Michael Vey series? Why?

(well, Michael Vey is based on my son!)   Austin makes me laugh!! And if I could choose one of the character’s powers, I’d choose Taylor.  If someone had the power to reboot someone else’s mind, can you imagine what that would do in a political debate?! She could change history!

How is writing for the YA audience different than writing for an adult audience?  Will you continue to intersperse YA books among your adult stories?

I still write two adult novels a year, and I will now write one YA novel in the Michael Vey  series until it is finished.  Writing young adult novels is fun!  I’m pouring everything I have into this series, so I don’t know if I’ll write more after this.  But I have had a friend to tell me that he thought my young adult novels were more closely related to the “real” me than my adult novels!  It’s just a lot of fun to write these stories!

What is God doing in your life right now?

God just keeps giving me structure over and over again.  I know that my family has been strengthened and encouraged by the many prayers that have been offered up for us.  Life is never easy, and I couldn’t do this without my faith and without God constantly working in my life.

Words of encouragement you’d like to share with your readers? 

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is “Be still and know that I am God.”  It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to pound the walls and be frustrated.  But no matter how scary the world is, and no matter how scary the situations in your life become, trust God and things will sort themselves out eventually. Never give up hope.

1 comment:

William Kerr said...

Awesome interview Kim. Did you record the audio of your conversation?