Gayle Trotter:This is Gayle Trotter, and today I’m speaking with New York Times best-selling author Frank Peretti. Mr. Peretti has a thrilling novel coming out called Illusion. Thank you for speaking with me today, Mr. Peretti.
Frank Peretti:It is absolutely my pleasure.
Gayle: I understand that you’re a Christian. What made your faith come alive for you?
Frank: Having a personal, loving day-by-day, moment-by-moment relationship with Jesus Christ. And having his presence and his love and his guidance in my life every day. It’s more than religion; it’s just that relationship. Which is kind of interesting because that’s what the book, Illusion, is about in a metaphorical sense.
Gayle: Your books have delved into dark topics like spiritual warfare. Why don’t you avoid dark topics as other Christian novelists do?
Frank: That was just my genre that I chose and it seems to be effective as a storytelling medium. Suspense, danger, darkness, and a very nice fast-paced story with a chase or a battle at the end — these are things that work very well in fiction. I don’t have any particular preference for a dark, edgy story. As a matter of fact, at this point in my life I’m edging away from that. I think I’d like to do stories that are a little more character-driven and delve more deeply into just personal heart-level matters. Illusion is like that — it’s a good story and it moves, but it’s a very character-driven story. It deals with a relationship.
Gayle: And your new novel Illusion describes some gripping circumstances endured by a husband and wife who’ve been married for forty years. I understand you’ve had a long-lasting marriage too. How much of your marriage is in Illusion?
Frank: I draw upon the love and experience from my own marriage and how I marvel each day that my dear sweet wife has remained so loving and committed to me for forty years. There are images in Illusion that Dane has of Mandy that are straight from my own life: How Mandy smiles and how she travels. In the early days she cooked our dinner on a barbecue out in a public park because we couldn’t afford a room anywhere.
Gayle Yes, that was a great part of your book.
Frank: Yes, Barb and I did all that stuff. I was a traveling musician, and she traveled with me. We didn’t have a roof over our heads. She had a little sewing machine she took with her and she made her own clothes. I marvel now. I look back and I say, “What is it about this wonderful woman that she would remain so tenaciously bound to me in love and commitment for all these years?” It’s the same thing Dane is thinking and feeling and yes, you see at that level my own experience and my own love for my wife are woven through this story. So it’s a tribute to love and relationship and commitment. Boy, it was just time to write it, so I did.
Gayle: In the book, Dane and Mandy are magicians. Is there a deeper meaning for Illusion than the magical acts that Dane and Mandy create?
Frank: Yes. When you’re lost and separated from God, there is a sense of illusion. What is life really about? Is this some big trick that’s being played on me? What is true and what isn’t? And a fascinating aspect of this is Mandy’s whole predicament where suddenly she doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know who she is or where she belongs or where she came from. All of life becomes an illusion for her. It’s kind of like that song —Amazing Grace — where once I was blind but now I see. That’s a biblical metaphor where a person is blind for a while and is under an illusion or lost, like the blind leading the blind until they find the Lord and the scales fall from their eyes and they say, “Oh! This is who I am and this is where I belong.” That’s the process that Mandy goes through. So illusion plays through the story on a lot of different levels.
Gayle: How much Christian symbolism do you use in Illusion? I’m thinking of the doves, for example.
Frank: Oh my, yes. You’ve got the doves. You have Mandy’s father who is kind of a Father God figure. You have the ranch in Idaho, which is a symbol of heaven, not that Idaho is heaven, but it looks pretty heavenly today, looking out the window. But it has its bad days too. And, of course, Vegas, that’s easy. You can figure that’s the dark, sinful life. That’s easy to pull Vegas out of the hat. The fiery volcano at the end, of course, that’s obviously hell and judgment. She’s falling headlong toward hell and judgment. A whole flock, a whole legion of doves grabs her, the Holy Spirit bears her along and she finds the way back to heaven again where she’s reconciled back to her bridegroom who is a symbol of Christ. And so all that stuff’s in there. It’s kind of cool. It’s like being C.S. Lewis or something and writing the Narnia books with Aslan and all this other business.