O Me of Little Faith

Yesterday, author/speaker/blogger Matthew Paul Turner stopped by for Part 1 of an interview during his blog tour to promote his new book Hokey Pokey. Here’s Part 2 of the interview. Enjoy…

I know you talked to a lot of other people as you researched Hokey Pokey. What did you learn about other young adults during that process?

As people who profess Christianity—not just young adults—often when we talk about our personal stories, we don’t feel the freedom to tell the truth about our lives. That’s because it’s easier to tell processed versions of our stories, the ones that could be used in sermon examples or written in inspirational books. Most of them have heroes and end with a victory. But that’s not always real life. The details of our stories don’t always add up to “victory in Jesus”—maybe that’s a coming story for all of us—but it’s not the story of the moment.

Consider this: because I am a writer who is published by Christian publishing houses, I can only be so truthful about my life. If I were to write down the whole truth, it would either end up being edited or I wouldn’t get published. I’m not suggesting that what I write is a bunch of lies—it’s not—I’m just saying it’s not my entire story.

What do you see resulting from that lack of freedom?

It’s fear. I think this fear that so many of us feel cripples our ability to figure out our calling. But again, our reasons for fearing are legitimate. We’re afraid what people might think of us. Or we’re afraid we might get disowned by our families. Or we’re afraid of punishment—earthly or eternal.

I met a good number of Christian young people who want to be honest, but aren’t convinced it’s worth the cost. And I believe that’s understandable, considering I know the “costs” involved. But it’s also sad.

This is sort of an awkward transition considering how you ended that last paragraph, but…What tips do you have for beginning writers looking to someday get their own book published?

Here are a few ideas that I think might help a beginning writer. It’s certainly not exhaustive, but I’m refraining from making too much noise, remember?

I would answer that but I live in fear of contributing too much to the noise.

Shut up. Here are my tips.

1) Write. Write every chance you get. On blogs. For local newspapers. Anyplace. Then share your musings with people who will be blatantly honest with you about the writing.

2) Learn how to tell a story. Whether it’s your own story or somebody else’s—that doesn’t matter—just learn how to write it down in the most interesting and truthful way possible. Nobody is an expert, but some writers are much better than others. And all of us can improve.

3) Have a voice. What sets you apart from Donald Miller or Anne Lamott or Elizabeth Gilbert? There’s got to be something that makes you different than other writers. Is it your style or your perspective or your humor or your tone? Or all of the above?

4) Take your idea to the local bookstore. Okay, so once you think you’ve gotten a good idea, go to a bookstore or online at and see who has already come up with that idea. Just because there’s another book already out there doesn’t mean your idea is a cliché necessarily, it just might mean you need to tweak it some or come up with more creative way of presenting it. But if there are ten books on the same topic, then you might have a cliché.

You’ve built a pretty nice blog community at JesusNeedsNewPR. How has it helped you as a writer? What advice do you have for beginning bloggers looking to build an online readership?

I enjoy blogging. It gives all of us a way to share our opinions and stories, no matter how pointless they are or we think they are. I think it helps with marketing books or getting the word out that you have a new one coming out. But for me it’s just a way to stay in touch with readers who want to know what’s going on in my life or blog readers who happen to think I’m sometimes funny.

If you’re going to be serious about blogging, I think it needs to be somewhat informational, opinionated, and entertaining. The most successful blogs usually have those three qualities. My blog isn’t very informational, but I do have opinions and I try to be entertaining.

I guess mine is more informational and maybe entertaining. Between the two of us, we’re an ideal blogger. A couple more questions: What’s one thing that most people don’t know or understand about writing and/or publishing books?

I am not rich. Period. Some writers do become rich. But ninety-nine percent of us are not.

I can confirm this.

Thanks. Number two, sometimes it sucks being at home in front of my computer. My job is not glamorous. And even when you get your first book in stores—you know, the one that feels like its your baby—be prepared for the possibility that your publisher might neglect your child by leaving it all alone in their warehouse or not tell anybody that it’s sitting on bookshelves.

Or your publisher might stop publishing books altogether. I’m speaking in a general sense, of course, and not referring to any specific publisher with whom I may or may not have once had a relationship.

Noted. Anyway, I know that sounds negative. It’s not meant to be. It’s just the truth.

Ouch. Mine was sorta meant to be negative. What’s the most challenging thing for you in the process of writing a book? How did you deal with that challenge while working on Hokey Pokey?

One of the biggest challenges is that I sometimes wake up in the morning and don’t want to write. I usually end up trying to force myself to get something down on paper, or I read a book by one of my favorite authors and pray that it will inspire me to have something to say. Sometimes those ideas don’t work, and so I end up just taking a break or writing crap. Not literally. But it would be sort of cool if I could, huh?

No. That would not be cool at all. In fact, if it ever becomes a reality for you, I don’t want to know about it.

In the middle of writing Hokey Pokey, I became depressed. Not because of the book, but because of some personal stuff happening in my life. It wasn’t clinical depression—I’ve experienced that before—but it was enough to make it very difficult to write a book about “calling.” I’m not sure I really “dealt with it” while writing Hokey. Honestly, my editor and publisher were very patient and graciously gave me time to do a rewrite.

What’s the best advice you can give to someone trying to figure out what to do with their life?

Honestly, if I were to answer this question, I would be going against most of what I talk about in the book. There isn’t one easy answer to figuring out life, and that’s a very good thing.

Sorry, then. I take that question back. One more, then, and you can’t dodge this one by saying “it goes against the theme of my book” or some other nonsense. Do you have a favorite member of the Fat Albert gang? Who and why?

Probably Dumb Donald. As a kid, I would have loved having the courage to cover up my face.

I agree completely. Thanks, Matthew, for including us on the blog tour. Good luck with the book!

Thanks Jason for the interview!

Visit Matthew Paul Turner’s blog, Jesus Needs New PR.

Hokey Pokey.

And the first two people who buy a copy of Pocket Guide to the Bible (see sidebar) and then email me after the transaction with the subject line “Hokey Pokey” will get a free copy of Hokey Pokey in addition to your signed Pocket Guide.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus