“I felt a calling to start writing…” – An Interview with Catholic Novelist Tim Speer
Most Recent Book: Return to Paradise
Education: BS Geological Engineering, Missouri S&T
Current Employment: Reservoir Engineer, Nearburg Producing Company
Profile: I am a Christian on a continuing journey to grow in Christ, a husband of a beautiful loving wife, and a father of two loving children. My hobbies include camping and hiking, photography, astronomy and mineral collecting.
Author Website: timspeer.net
Author Facebook: www.facebook.com/timspeerauthor
Author Twitter Account: twitter.com/tspeer16
Favorite Quote: "I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me." – Philippians 4:13.
Favorite Novel: Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
Favorite Movie: Apollo 13 (1995).
Favorite Piece of Music: “Hallelujah Chorus” in Messiah by George Frederic Handel.
Favorite Song: “Lord I Need You” by Matt Maher.
Favorite Place: Big Bend National Park, Texas.
Favorite Meal: Fajitas at Rosa's Cafe.
Favorite Cocktail: Mojito.
Last Book Read: Be a Man by Father Larry Richards.
Last Movie Seen: Little Boy (2015).
Last Trip Taken: Kansas City to see my mother.
Last Non-literary Feat: Living my Cursillo.
CatholicFiction.net: Why do you write?
Tim Speer: I never really set out intending to write a book. Nor did I ever think about becoming an author. Over time though, I began developing this story idea in my head. Often, when I would have idle time, such as going on long drives, or waiting somewhere, I would think about it some more. As time went by I gradually developed more and more details, including a lot of the dialogue. Eventually I got to the point where I had developed the entire story line. However, I still did not really think about writing a book. At some point in time, probably a year or more ago, the idea or writing a book started to creep into the back of my mind. I still did not give it serious thought. Among other things, I really didn't think I had the ability to put all of the elements together necessary to write a novel. Ultimately, I believe it was the Holy Spirit that called me to write this book. I also believe it was only through the power of the Holy Spirit that I was able to successfully complete the book.
CF: What first inspired you to become a writer?
TS: Last November we went to a dinner supporting the Life Center of Midland. The speaker at the dinner was David Cook, author of Seven Days in Utopia. His primary talk was about how he came to be inspired to write his book. He also talked about how he did not have any previous writing experience. So that went a long way in inspiring me to start writing my book. Even more though, when I left that night, I felt a calling to start writing.
CF: If you were a critic writing about your own books, how would you describe the defining characteristic of your writing style?
TS: I would describe my writing style as being casual and contemporary. It mixes elements of a romance novel with some suspense elements, although I really would not classify Return to Paradise as a suspense novel. More than anything it uses the story line to advance Christian and Catholic themes.
CF: Is there a favorite place you have to write?
TS: Most of my writing was done in my office at the computer. However, when I traveled, I used my tablet and even my phone. Basically, anywhere I was when I had some free time to write.
CF: What is your cure for writer's block?
TS: As I mentioned, I had developed the entire story line before I ever started writing. When I did start the book, the first thing I did was to create a detailed outline. As a result I never experienced writer's block.
CF: What is your cure for procrastination?
TS: I am one who can sometimes procrastinate about things. However, when it came to writing this book, I never really had a problem. If anything, I felt driven to write it and get it done.
CF: Describe in your own words what the “Catholic imagination” is – or alternatively, what it means to be a “Catholic writer.”
TS: Technically a "Catholic writer" could be any Catholic who writes. Although I would think it would entail writing in a manner that did not conflict with the faith, or promote sin. Taking it a step further, someone who writes Catholic literature would be someone who writes specifically to promote the Catholic faith. This would be the case whether the book was fiction or non-fiction.
CF: What three writers – alive or dead – would you like to invite to dinner?
TS: The Apostle John. First because he knew Jesus Christ personally, and because I would want to hear his firsthand perspective on the book of Revelations.
St. Paul. To hear more of his amazing perspective on Christianity as expressed through his letters in the New Testament.
Thomas Aquinas. He's probably one of the most interesting and influential early Christian writers.
CF: What would you serve them – appetizer, main course, dessert and drink?
TS: I'm not a big appetizer person, so probably just chips and dip. For the main course, it seems like fish would be appropriate. I love salmon so I would probably go with king salmon. Wine for the drink and if dessert, chocolate cake. Treat them to something they probably didn't have (besides chips and dip). Plus it's my favorite dessert.
CF: What is the "best thing" about being a writer?
TS: The best thing about being a writer is being able to share the Catholic faith. The thing I enjoy the most, is all of the people and contacts I have made through writing and marketing the book.
CF: What is your latest book about?
TS: Prayer and learning to follow God's will are important.
CF: What inspired you to write this story in the first place?
TS: Since this is my first, and currently only book, it's one and the same with what inspired me to become a writer.
CF: All fiction comes from a mix of past influences and impressions—things we’ve lived, seen, imagined, or read. Can you talk about some of the elements that came together to shape this particular fiction?
TS: I grew up in Kansas City and went to college in central Missouri. That is the prime reason I chose Missouri as the setting. It is one I'm pretty familiar with. Certain parts of the plot were inspired by things in my past, or people who have been a part of my life, although the details are substantially different. Some of the characteristics of Sarah, the main female character, and the reasons David, the main male character is attracted to her, are based on the things that attracted me to my wife when I first met her. There is a point in the story where David recalls a trip he took in his youth. This loosely parallels an experience I had when I was growing up.
CF: What did you learn about yourself in writing this book?
TS: First of all, I learned I could actually write a book. I also learned that there were many ways in which one could evangelize.
CF: What did you have to do to prepare for this book in terms of research, etc.?
TS: There wasn't a lot, as most of it involved things I was pretty familiar with. However, when writing about specific Catholic beliefs, I did rely heavily on the Catechism, and also consulted a number of the Catholic apologetic books I have read. I also researched some of the other specifics, such as picking the type of car the main character drives, looking at farm values since that came into play, and looking up some of the specific laws related to foreclosures.
CF: How does this book differ from either a) previous books you’ve written or b) other writing work you’ve accomplished?
TS: The only writing I had done prior to writing this novel consisted of writing professional and technical papers. So obviously it is a completely different type of writing.
CF: What was the most challenging aspect – a character, a plot point, etc. – of writing this book?
There wasn't anything I felt I had very much trouble with. Probably, if anything, it was developing some of the specific dialogue. There were times I had to work out exactly how I wanted to word things. Wording and phraseology were probably my biggest challenges.
CF: Which characters in this book did you find most challenging to work with, and what was it like to write with them? Conversely, do you have any characters that came particularly easily to you?
TS: The minor characters were the ones I had to work on the most. Many didn't develop until I was actually writing the part they were involved in, so I hadn't really given them any prior thought. As I mentioned, I had developed the story over a long period of time, so I had both of the main characters pretty well developed before I ever started writing. They were the easiest.
CF: Creating a work of fiction is a spiritual journey in itself. Can you talk about your own spiritual life – realizations, doubts, crises, etc. – that came during the writing of this work?
TS: A lot of this book deals with prayer, faith and following God's will. These are things I am continuing to work on and develop in my own life. So it did make me think about how these things applied to my life and where I am at with them. I recently read Father Larry Richard's book Surrender. He's definitely an "all in" type. So it really challenges me when it comes to completely surrendering to God's will as opposed to doing what I want to do. That is something I tried to deal with in Return to Paradise.
CF: Name one good habit you do have as a writer and would like to continue to cultivate.
TS: Being able to totally commit to writing the book.
CF: Name one bad habit you have as a writer that you would like to break.
TS: Possibly not paying enough attention to other things in my life.
CF: Name one good habit you would like to have as a writer and do not have at the moment.
TS: Better spelling and grammar. These are things I constantly have to try to watch for.
CF: What is the most discouraging aspect of being a writer?
TS: As a new author, it's trying to gain acceptance for my book when I'm such a complete unknown.
CF: What one project do you daydream about accomplishing as a writer – your magnum opus?
TS: More than anything I would say it would be an accomplishment and not a project. That would be to change someone's life in a positive way. As a magnum opus - bringing a non-believer to Christ.
CF: If you could no longer work with words, what medium would you work in to create art?
TS: Photography. That's one I already work with, although strictly as an amateur.
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