Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Jeffrey Overstreet Colorized Part 2

Jeffrey Overstreet visited in September and answered the first eight questions here. (and then scroll down a bit)

My review of Auralia's Colors (and a bonus from Tina F.) are here.

If you haven't looked into Auralia yet, click on the book cover for more info or here for Jeffrey's website.

9. What would you write if there were no rules or barriers?

I’d write a story in which I didn’t have to censor the ugly details about evil, or censor the details about the source of redemption. The Scriptures are full of gory details about sin, and that has something to do with why the glory of redemption shines out so boldly in its pages. But there are quite a few people out there who are so afraid of offending people that they fail to engage with the reality of sin. Thus blunt the power of a redemptive story.

I would also write a story that celebrates the sensual details of creation. God made the world into a sensual, beautiful place, and he made men and women into sensual beautiful creatures. Many artists are too afraid to portray that beauty for fear that it will offend people. That results in “safe,” bland, sanitized art… art that fails to shake us and transform us.

Let me tell you a story: I know a Christian writer who compared his central character, a virtuous young woman, to another famous character — that virtuous youngster in the beloved book called Heidi. In a rather amusing, blunt fashion, he described his character as being “Heidi with breasts.” When he read it to me, we both had a good chuckle. But he was then told by his editor that he had to delete the reference to “breasts” because it might be offensive to the readers. So he ended up with… what? A woman without breasts? How frightened we’ve become — we cannot even mention parts of the human form for fear that somebody somewhere might have an inappropriate thought. What other good and proper things must we pretend are non-existent simply because somebody somewhere might respond badly? Should we outlaw chocolate chip cookies because somebody with an eating disorder might consume too many of them? This is not the way to respect and celebrate the good things God has made.

10. What makes you feel alive?

Suffering and prayer. Suffering, because it confirms for me that the world is broken, and that the world was meant to be better. And prayer, because it is the proper response to suffering — I acknowledge that I am not capable of saving the world, and I open myself to the source of healing and restoration.

11. What books, music, people, and food would you take with you on a very long trip?

Books: The Scriptures and the writings of the saint in the early church, because the scriptures are full of truth, and the writings of the saints help me to avoid misinterpretation and to see that truth more fully. And then, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Richard Adams’ Watership Down. Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale.

Music: Handel’s Messiah. The complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach. The complete catalogue of albums by Over the Rhine, U2, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Sam Phillips, and The Innocence Mission. And the inspiring songs written by a dear, close friend — Nathan Partain.

Person? My wife, Anne. Of course.

Food: Well, if I’m going on a long trip, than I’m going from Seattle to Santa Fe, so I look forward to spicy New Mexican cuisine.

12. What’s your favorite season and why?

Autumn. It’s the most colorful season. And it’s stormy and dramatic, but not too cold. It sends me into the coffee shops to read and write, and into the movie theaters for the pre-Oscar-season rush of wonderful new films.

13. What criticism has cut the deepest and why?

The truth always cuts deepest. Once, someone responded to one of my film reviews and said, “You will be a better writer someday when you get over your sense of outrage.” That hurt. It hurt because it was true. I was responding to things that bothered my by writing with a tone of condemnation. It’s better, and more fruitful, to speak the truth in love… even if you’re criticizing.

I’d rather receive insightful, bold criticism of my work than any kind of praise. I’ve been blessed with teachers and editors who aren’t afraid to tell me when I’ve written something terrible. But they are able to express this to me in a way that conveys respect and love. When someone offers you criticism in love, they’re telling you that they care about you. But they’re also telling you that they value your work enough to look at it closely and respond.

14. Who’s the superhero you most admire and why?

I wrote a whole chapter in my book Through a Screen Darkly in which I celebrate my favorite heroes, and point out how many superheroes are really just self-centered. Check it out, and let’s talk!

15. What’s your grammatical pet peeve?

Here’s one that always bothers me: To reign is to rule. A rein is a tether.

So, you don’t “reign someone in” or “take the reigns.” And there’s no such thing as a “rein of terror.”
Thanks, Jeffrey!

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