Interview with Jim Rubart

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In the first of what’s likely to be many of his author interviews to come, I recently asked Jim Rubart of Woodinville, WA what he thought of the apparent caution evidenced on the back shelves at Barnes and Noble on any given Sunday. Jim, thanks for being here in the computer with me.

Jim: Peer pressure is supposed to go away after high school, right? Not a chance. We still conform so we’ll be accepted because deep down most of us are terrified. Terrified we won’t be loved, won’t be recognized and will be rejected for our way-out, ludicrous ideas. So we compromise. We make our stories and novels “fit”, thinking we’ll be liked by those around us if we do. We make it read like everyone else’s manuscript with maybe, maybe, a few minor changes. And we don’t limit it to our writing. We do it in our speech, our relationships, our jobs, every moment of our lives.

Make no waves! our mind screams, while our heart longs for something so much greater.

Look at ground shattering artists, actors, musicians, painters. ALL of them disintegrated the mold and many were savaged by the critics. “Horrible, atrocious. Nothing redeeming.” Early assessment of the Beatles. Stephen King, Dr. Seuss, Van Gogh, etc., etc, etc; all of them were ripped in the beginning.

When I hear people say “Life isn’t a dress rehearsal” I cringe. That’s exactly what life is. It’s just practice for the real life that comes when we leap to the other side. So since it’s just practice, why not lay it all out? Crash and burn! At least that way you’ll leave none of your music (or words) still inside when you die.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. So tell me. Do you think Christian publishing is selling out?

What? Because there are Christian novels out there that barely mention God or the Bible or Jesus?

Think about the greatest storyteller of all time. Go back and read His parables. It might shock you to see how many never mention God. Really. Go look. The stories Jesus told stirred people to think, stirred them to dig. Set them on a journey, but often didn’t spell it out in black and white. Many that wouldn’t touch the majority of books in CBA might start that journey with a “questionable Christian novel.”

Don’t misunderstand. I think there is a deep need for the overt Christian novel as well. But it’s interesting that we’re still trying to make every writer be a certain shape so they’ll fit in the nice little box we’ve created for ourselves and our expectations. This body is not all hands, knees, or elbows.

Is it possible to let the writing body be the writing body? Toni Morrison says “If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Can we trust that our sisters and brothers—with the Lord’s leading—are doing exactly that?

Speaking of crossing over: When Dylan’s album Saved came out many Christians set the guy a little lower than Jesus. But when Amy Grant tried to cross over into the larger market in the mid 80’s she was hammered.

Now the moment I become perfect I’m going to start judging everyone. Till then I’m going to trust that God is doing what he wants with others around me and that they’re listening to His voice.

Okay. Here’s my gamely lob right over the net: you’ve written an interesting novel that’s likely to sell soon. What’s the genre and tell us a little about it and how you decided to write it.

Genre? Contemporary fantasy. Magical realism. Speculative. I wish I could land on a definition. A man inherits a home in Cannon Beach, Oregon that turns out to be a physical manifestation of his own heart.

Your definitions welcome.

Um, New Wave Fabulists? Or how about just cool lit?

If we’re honest, each of our lives are wrapped in chains. We long to break out. We long to step into that destiny pounding away on our insides. But the pounding of the doubts and fears is louder, and we listen. Jesus says He came to heal the brokenhearted—c’mon, let’s see those hands—and set the captives free. Anyone need a bit more freedom?

I wanted to write a story where a young man is forced to face the fear, the wounds and the voices that hold him back from stepping into the freedom and destiny that had been planned for him for all eternity.

The most gratifying thing so far is having friends that have read ROOMS using the language in the book to work through the chains in their own lives.

Also, three non-believers have read the book and all raved about it. It surprised me, but is a rush to think ROOMS is a book that could have a wider audience than just CBA.

What advice would you give aspiring writers who want to take the risk of putting their writing out there but are terrified of rejection? i.e. Can I still be nice and incorporate my signature phrase, “unconscionable suckage”?

My wife, kids and I watch “American Idol” (sue me). Simon Cowell might be the epitome of acerbic comments, but behind the scenes he tells wannabes the truth. “Go play the clubs for three years, work hard, listen to critiques from people who know the industry and come back. You’ve got talent but it isn’t enough. Yet.” But as he says, less than 1% do it. During the Seattle try outs this year a singer got his golden ticket after trying three times before. He was told the truth, he listened and now he’s on his way to Hollywood.

Writing books for the publishing industry is American Idol on paper. Lots of hopefuls but out of 100,000 only 120 or so make it to the “pub board” each year. But next year can be reality if you’re willing to listen and work at it.

And I probably wouldn’t promote “unconscionable suckage” publicly too much. Simon might steal the line.

Thanks for the advice. I’m grateful for your time and ideas.

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7 thoughts on “Interview with Jim Rubart”

  1. (Just a side note on Amy Grant. When she was interviewed on GMA or the Today show [it was a long time ago] prior to her crossover, she objected to being referred to as a “Christian” singer even though that’s how she collected all her money and her fame. When Sandy Patty went through her divorce, she was completely ostracized and radio stations refused to play her music. When Amy Grant got divorced, not a word, and her music was promoted the same as before her divorce. Hypocrisy? Make your own “judgment”.)
    I’m not convinced the 120 are representative to the total audience available. No matter how hard someone works to improve their craft, the process is still subjective. Whatever the Lord has for an individual will always be the best outcome, and accepting that can involve an element of fear to be overcome and re-engineered into trust.

  2. Where’d you find this one, Mick? I kinda like his style.
    “If we’re honest, each of our lives are wrapped in chains. We long to break out.”
    My chains are at Miller Beach. 500 points if y’know where that is. And really, don’t you dare try to put them back on me. Trust me on that one. ;)

  3. I need to balance Nicole’s comment. Amy WAS ostracized by some stations. Some stopped playing her for years. She got a lot of flack on the net, and I know, cause I was on the side of the wounded (very hurt by the whole Gill/divorce thing), and I saw some of the very harsh posts. Amy had to go to a registered forum kind of set-up to stop getting flamed.
    It took a few years for me not to hear snide remarks about her at the local Family store, and it took a few years for me to hear her played again in rotation on the local station.
    I am not saying this to say that a station choosing not to play an artist they feel may have done something unbiblical, btw. I feel they should do whatever they want–it’s a business catering to clients who may have sensitivities.
    I am saying that Amy got flack, too. If it didn’t seem as overt to you, well…perspective? Or the nastier little details of the Patti situation?
    And I was one of those sticking up for Amy in Christian bookstores when they said she was a sell-out. I’ve never been of the opinion that a Christian has to focus on God, whether songs or poetry or stories or novels or operas or painting or sculpture–in order for the art to be good and true and honorable.(Okay, Enough of this.)
    I’d also like to say that I love speculative fiction and will likely check out ROOMS. :) If it’s got a strong fantasy component (since the classification seems wiggly), Jim, maybe you should give the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour a “hi, can you feature me in the future” sort of contact. http://www.csffblogtour.com
    Later,
    Mir
    Mir

  4. Thanks, Mir. That’s how it was in my little neck of the woods. The thing I didn’t like was Amy’s witness (and I personally viewed this program). It was like being associated with “Christian” anything was a bad thing. This was a long time ago before divorce, on the verge of crossover. We’ve both grown in our faith, I hope. (And I apologize for spelling Patti Patty. That hit me after I’d posted it.)

  5. Your book ROOMS sounds intriguing. I love to read novels that are unique in concept and presentation. When does it come out?
    Freedom is road paved with martyrs who are willing to lay the groundwork for others to follow. Breaking out of the box is scary for most Christians. I have a pretty big box, but I am always amazed when the Lord breaks my big box to expand it even BIGGGER.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Taking the leap may be scary, but it’s worth it if we reach the destiny God has for us.

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