8/06/2011

INTERVIEW | Greg Mitchell author of The Strange man

CBR:  Welcome to Cindy's Book Reviews, I enjoyed your new book The Strange Man (see my review here)  It was so different than normal Christian fiction I just had to get to know you a bit better, so tell us a bit about Greg Mitchell.

I’m a thirty-two-year-old guy living in Paragould, Arkansas. I’m a husband and the father of two little girls. By day I work at the family business silk screenprinting caps, and by night, once the kids go to bed, I write stories about monsters and the faithful few who combat them.

CBR: While the book is a bit dark, and intensely scary in some places, it is still written from a Christian perspective, what was your purpose in writing the book?

The book—the whole The Coming Evil series, really—is just a culmination of me. Long before I was even allowed to watch scary movies, I remember being in elementary school and gravitating towards the books in the library about “real life” ghost stories and urban legends. I think it stems from the fact that I was a pretty fearful little kid. Reading books about monsters, though sometimes terrifying, gave me a way to face fear in general. I actually think that scary stories are a healthy part of a kid’s development. It helps them to process those emotions and prepares them for real life—which can be very scary at times. To this day, I still love monsters and Halloween and all that garish ridiculous fun. It reminds me of a simpler time in my youth when the worst thing I had to dread was the monster in my closet.

In light of all of that, I think that faith serves the same purpose many times. When we’re afraid, when life is out of our control, when we get that terrible phone call—we can turn to our faith. Monster stories are a way to poke fun or to “shrink” real-life evil or danger into a fun-sized morsel that’s easier to swallow. In the same way, as we draw closer to God in our spiritual walk, in studying our Bible, in prayer, we understand how big—how awesome—God is and, again, our problems seem to shrink. Growing up as a devout Christian and an ardent lover of all-things spooky, it seemed a perfect marriage to me to write a book like The Strange Man. It’s everything I love, wrapped up in these characters and this world. While there’s a gospel message in the book, to me the real message I was trying to convey was one of empowerment. One of standing up to our bogeymen, drawing near to God, and fighting back our fears.

CBR: In the book, there were some things that struck me as totally funny, and I am sure that part of it is due to growing up as a PK myself, but the name of the church makes me smile every time I read it, were you purposely being funny with the name or is there a story behind the name of the church?

Yeah, the Good Church of the Faithful! It came from a very ironic place. I never wanted to nail down what denomination the church is, so I wanted a name that was sort of vague, but unique. The Coming Evil Trilogy actually began life as a screenplay I was trying to get produced and, in the scene headings in the script, you’ve got to put things like “INT. DINER – NIGHT” to establish that you’re inside a diner at night. I started calling the church “The Good Church of the Faithful” in the scene headings—not intending it to be the actual name—but just as a funny aside to myself. Because the people in this church really aren’t that faithful. It was supposed to be really country “good ole boy” sounding as well as ironic in that there’s very little “good” or “faithful” about some of the people in this church—like the gossiping old ladies. When I started turning the screenplay into a novel, I started referring to the church by that name, thinking I’d change it later, but it grew on me.

CBR: The book ended in a cliffhanger so to speak, and while it makes me really look forward to book two, was it hard to leave a book ending like that?  And when is book two due out?

In the original screenplay, there was one more scene after the cliffhanger that sort of wrapped everything up into a tidy bow and explained everything. When I was writing the novel, I had every intention of following through to that scene, but as I was writing the scene that the book ends on now, I just stopped, looked at it, and realized that this was my ending. It seemed better to me to leave things semi-resolved and to build anticipation for Book Two. Some people have not been happy with the cliffhanger, but this has always been billed as a trilogy. To me, it’s really all one big story, sliced into three parts. Read together, I think it’s going to be really neat.

As for Book Two, it is wrapped! All that’s left on that is cover art and typesetting. It’s called Enemies of the Cross and it picks up about fifteen minutes after The Strange Man’s dramatic end. The books run right into each other. It answers a lot of questions and raises even more—which, of course, will be answered in Book Three. Enemies of the Cross will be in stores February 2012.

CBR: Well we all hope that you are working on book two already, but can you share any about what is next for Greg Mitchell fans?

The Coming Evil Trilogy has been a huge, huge part of my life for over ten years now, and it continues to be the heartbeat of me as a writer. Writing these characters is like coming home for me. I’m currently doing rewrites on Book Three, the concluding chapter of the trilogy, and trying very hard to get that right. I’ve got a lot of expectations for that book and want to blow the fans away. When I’m not working on that, I’m also writing two other novels—one an even more intense horror novel, the other a sci-fi action book. I’m trying to get a comic book concept off the ground, I’m writing short stories, and I’m also penning an unofficial reference book to the Back to the Future franchise. It’s a crazy time!

CBR: Do you think living in small town rural Arkansas (I have been to Paragould  LOL) influenced any of the characters in your book?  I could totally see some of the people from my small hometown in your characters. 

Oh, absolutely I was influenced. The Strange Man and its sequels are definitely about small town people with small town lives. I’ve read the backs of Christian Fiction novels and it seems that the heroes are always a “beautiful archeologist” or “hotshot attorney” or “cunning government agent” or whatever. I wanted to see books about the guy that pumps your gas (well, at least, back when people still pumped your gas). I like writing about the Heartland, simple folk, and unassuming heroes. In Paragould, I’m used to seeing diners filled with blue collar workers talking about “ol’ so-and-so up yonder”. I think small towns can feel very safe, very warm, very secluded—which, from a scary story point of view, makes them a perfect target for a monster like the Strange Man. But I also think that a small-town sense of community can be a source of strength in facing tragedy. I’m proud to be a small town guy.

CBR: What has been the reaction of your peers, your church family, and your own family to your book?

Everybody has been really supportive. Anyone who’s known me for very long recognizes that I’m a big kid who still likes to talk about werewolves and vampires and play video games and watch monster movies. I’m still twelve years old. I don’t think anyone believes I’m dabbling in the real-life occult or anything. It’s fantasy. Some readers are having to get used to the nature of The Strange Man. I’m writing a book about Christians and their struggles, so I don’t shy away from talking about God within the context of the story. I’m also writing an unapologetic monster book. I’ve always thought of The Strange Man as a really potent book. It’s very scary and it’s very “Christian”. It doesn’t pull back on either front. But, you know, I first started writing this when I was in my young twenties and had something to say and something to prove. It’s very much a young man’s book. Very “fight the power” and all about self-expression.

CBR:   Any last thoughts you would like to leave with the readers?  Also feel free to share your website address, where your books can be purchased. 

First, I want to say thank you, Cindy, for letting me stop by and talk up the book! And I want to thank everyone who’s been reading. As for availability, The Strange Man is on the shelves in every major bookstore chain across the country. If you can’t find it, there’s always Amazon. For eBook readers, The Strange Man is out for the Nook and the Kindle. I invite everybody over to my blog at
www.thecomingevil.blogspot.com where they can stay updated on the series and my other projects. On that site, I’ve also got a number of short stories that take place before The Strange Man that give you more detail into the lives of the characters. They’re fun, oftentimes scary, and were a real hoot to write. Plus, they’re designed so that you don’t have to have read The Strange Man to understand what’s going on—and they don’t ruin any surprises in the book. They’re just supplemental stories. I’ve had a great time talking, here, and thanks, everybody, for your support.

CBR: Thanks Greg for taking this time to let my readers know more about you and your work!! Readers you will want to read this book!!

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