I definitely enjoyed my interview with Christian Piatt. I’ll be joining him and some of his friends in Portland for the Homebrewed CultureCast next week, and if you’re in the area, you should definitely consider joining us. You can get tickets right here. In the interview, we talked a little about The Shack (and the upcoming Shack movie) but I was also able to answer some questions about Eve.
Christian Piatt: You’ve said that your new book, EVE, has been decades in the making, and also is your best written work so far. Why was this such a challenging story to tell?
Wm Paul Young: I have often talked about writing The Shack and Cross Roads as ‘jumping into an empty river and being swept downstream’ but when I plunged into the work of EVE, I found the river already full of people and boats and this required unusual care and respectful navigation. The most arduous challenge was how to keep a deeply researched work, which is a true attempt at respecting a vast existing scholarship, inside ‘story?’ I want a teenager to read EVE and not get lost but I want an academic to read it and recognize how carefully I have chosen my words. EVE is not an agenda-driven work of non-fiction, thinly veiled as fiction. It is first a story, but one grounded in the text and traditions.
CP: Why do you think it’s worth so much time and effort to reframe the Genesis story of creation from the feminine perspective?
WPY: In my opinion, it is an error to think that this is a re-framing of the Genesis story from a feminine perspective as if we were engaged in either/or explorations. Instead, I think EVE is written from a human perspective; the spectrum of God’s expression in humanity that includes the full circle of the maternal and paternal nature of God. Having said that, most of the existing assumptions we have of the Genesis story have been told from an either/or, and dominantly male, viewpoint rather than holistic and human, and I believe that has had a devastating impact on our view of God and our relationships, one with the other. This novel is not intended to add to the existing adversarial divisions but look for something deeper and truer about us as human beings that will bring freedom to us all.
CP: One of the central themes in the Garden of Eden story is sin and temptation. How do you handle these ideas in your new book?
WPY: Carefully. I think it is telling that I probably won’t get asked, “One of the central themes in the Garden of Eden story is the Goodness of God…how do you handle that?” But you are right; it is also story of sin and temptation. Even so, I think the story is much more profound than our Sunday school story version allows, including the nature of evil and the blinding power of temptation to independence and isolated individualism. My background is Evangelical Protestant and I will understand it when folks from ‘my family’ read EVE and raise their eyebrows in question or concern. A different narrative changes everything and the implications will be far-reaching. It’s one of those, ‘read it, then we will talk’ situations.
CP: This spring, a movie version of your bestseller, THE SHACK, will hit theaters everywhere. What is it like to watch other people reinterpret such a deeply personal story to you?
WPY: It is SO cool and extremely surreal. I was honored to visit the set a couple times and watch a huge crew and cast bring their individual skills to flesh out something that emerged from my own heart and imagination. There are no adequate words for such an unexpected grace. Movie making is a collaboration of many creative people, each arriving inside their own journeys of faith and struggle, of loss and wonder, and all of it matters. I am comfortable with the understanding that no one will interpret life and experience the same as I do. That is not the point. To present something visually is quite different than to paint words on a canvas, and I like both the coherence between the two and the differences. Everyone I met on set was personally engaged, and all of it will go into creating a piece of art that we all hope will bring some healing to the world.
CP: You’ve said before that, given the chance, you’d change some things in THE SHACK’s storyline. What would you change, and is that getting addressed in the film?
WPY: There are always some things that could have been better or more accurate in retrospect, mostly nuances in word choice. One of the bigger story elements, and it may not even show up in the movie (I truly don’t know but I have talked about this to the movie professionals involved), is the scene in the book when Mack enters the ‘transformed’ shack and looks to the place where Missy’s bloodstain should be on the floor. In the book it is gone, and I think that was a mistake. Just because one has worked through the damages and losses in one’s life does not mean that the evidence of that process somehow magically disappears. There are still nail scars on Jesus’ wrists.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. Sometimes it takes quite a while but I do read them and others do as well. If you haven’t already, and would like to, please give us your email at the bottom of this page so we can keep you up to date on our unfolding conversation.