The marketing push for my book The Seed: A True Myth is moving into full tilt boogie. (I'm on Key Life with Steve all this week discussing it.) Maybe you've heard me online talking about my mythic spiritual memoir, the shadow, and the Love Fractal, and you're wondering what my blessed buffoonery is all about.
Here's a Q & A session I did on The Seed. Even if you've already read it, I hope you'll find the behind the scenes stuff interesting. And if you haven't picked up a copy, don't miss the great deal at the end of this post ; )
Q: The Seed: A True Myth is your first book. What drew you to the fantasy genre?
I had an uncle who committed suicide when I was young. After his death, some unusual books showed up on our family’s bookshelf. They had maps in them and drawings. There was a dragon. I just knew the books were my Uncle Jimmy’s, and I knew what he did, so I thought they had dangerous ideas in them. The books looked magical. So I only looked at the pictures and didn’t read them until I was older and needed to believe in magic again. When I did, I fell in love with Tolkien. That’s where it started with literature.
Growing up, loving fantasy and science fiction films filled my mind with worlds and creatures and heroes, so when I started writing that’s what came out. But more than that, the story I wanted to tell had to be fantasy. It had to have a mythic quality that felt like it could be rooted in our history. I wanted to tell a story with symbols—labyrinths, a dragon, shadow, light, a hunter, a young couple on the run, talking trees, ravens, etc.—but I wanted it all to feel real, to have the ring of truth. It had to be fantasy.
Q: Just what is a “true myth?”
Well, the word “myth” is derived from the Greek word “mythos,” and that word simply means “story.” So by titling my book The Seed: A True Myth, I’m telling you it’s a true story. But it’s not true in the sense that the characters in my book inhabited the world at some point in history. However, it is true that the characters in my book inhabit me. They represent parts of me, and their experiences are very real. The labyrinth they constructed to protect themselves from the shadow and kill it is built around my heart. There really is a shadow that haunts me... and everyone who reads my book.
Also, Tolkien famously used the idea of a “true myth” to lead C.S. Lewis to accept the Christian faith. The Christian story is similar to pagan myths. Joseph Campbell pointed this out too, as seen in the hero’s journey or monomyth. However, what Tolkien argued was that in the case of Christianity, the story we see everywhere in cultures across time actually happened historically in the person and work of Jesus. Therefore, Christianity is the one true myth... the one true story. And my book tells that same story.
Q: You say the shadow in your book is real. What is it, or what does it represent?
The shadow is all the pain behind you. It’s all the bad things that happened or the good things that didn’t happen. It’s the fear that the pain will return, and it’s the emptiness within that drives us to exhaustion, addiction, consumption—you name it.
For me, the shadow grew into a black hole that held everything I cared about in its gravitational pull and threatened to pull my life apart. It drove me nuts and then drove me into counseling. Then it drove me to write this book.
Q: We’ve all had the feeling at one point or another that something’s not quite right with our lives. Where does that come from?
That feeling that something’s not quite right with our lives comes from the fact that something’s not quite right with our lives. I think we see the problem most clearly when we get everything we want or achieve everything we set out to achieve, yet we still feel empty and unfulfilled.
People are like plants. Plants droop, wilt and wither, and can’t bear fruit when they’re not filled with water. People are like restless, uprooted plants. We wander around looking for fulfillment in this product, that experience, and the next achievement... anything but sticking our roots in the dirt, being still, and soaking up the water of life. That’s what’s not right. It’s a sickness. We’re created to live in union with God. We’re made to be filled with his Spirit. When we soak in his unconditional love, we become plants that stand up straight and bear fruit. God is freely-given water of life, but we don’t believe that, so we uproot and go wandering in the desert.
Q: What are some ways people seek to ignore or fill the emptiness in their hearts? Why are these methods not effective?
The list is endless. We try to ignore the emptiness with pleasure: entertainment, sex, drugs and alcohol. We try to fill the emptiness with achievement: writing a book, degrees, making more money, positions of power, and raising perfect children in perfect families in perfect houses with perfect lawns. Religion is probably the worst because it often offers moral achievement as the way to control God into blessing us. With religion we might give up on ignoring the emptiness through pleasure, but we still end up trying to fill the emptiness with achievement, and on top of that religion adds self-righteousness and anger.
All the effort isn’t effective because it’s all striving for something that is already ours. The very striving itself robs us of the peace and contentment that’s freely given, if we would just trust God like a baby trusts his mother to protect him and feed him at her breast. Scripture says God has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing in his Son. Again, we refuse to believe it.
Q: What is the most genuine way to survive in a broken world like ours?
Give up on survival.
We desperately want to bring something to the equation besides our helplessness in a broken world. That’s the reason we refuse to believe everything we need has already been provided by God. That’s why we don’t put down roots into God and let him fill our emptiness. We need to stop pretending we have it all together. We need to stop fighting for survival, open clenched fists, and receive God’s unconditional love and care with open hands. We need to stop being a bunch of posers.
We settle for survival while our heavenly Father offers salvation: death, resurrection, and the redemption of all we’ve done and left undone while trying to merely survive.
Q: What responsibility do you think Christians have to show others how to handle the suffering life often brings us?
My mentor and friend Steve Brown often says that every time a pagan gets cancer, a Christian gets cancer so the world can see the difference. What’s the difference? I suppose it’s that we know we don’t go through the suffering alone. We have a God who knows what it’s like to suffer because he chose to enter into our broken world and, through suffering and death, bring redemption and restoration of all that’s been lost. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted.” When we suffer, God suffers with us. While that doesn’t make the pain go away, we are comforted by his presence.
Q: Explain the concept of a fractal and your fascination with them.
A fractal is a simple, self-similar, repeating pattern. They appear everywhere in nature. In fact, nature is all self-similar repeating patterns. A tree is a great example. The branches are simply smaller versions of the trunk that split off and get smaller and smaller until twigs form smaller versions of the branches. These smallest branches bear leaves and seeds that become new trees with trunks that split into more branches and bear more seeds. Look at a fractal and you see eternity.
Everything from galaxies to clouds, mountains, plants, animals, and even our nervous and circulatory systems all consist of fractal patterns. What’s so fascinating is that all this complexity comes from such simple, self-similar repetition. And now that we have computers that can handle the computation, we can reproduce these amazing patterns using simple mathematical formulas that are referred to as the seed of the fractal. The visualizations of these simple equations are literally infinitely beautiful.
Q: Why do you view The Seed as a type of fractal?
All through the book there are self-similar, repeating patterns. One example, hopefully without giving too much away, is the labyrinth with a tower in the middle. The labyrinth itself is a self-similar, repeating pattern, but one character, Madeline, ends up trapped in the center of it. Later we find out there was another labyrinth in Madeline’s past with a towering tree in the center instead of a literal tower. This tree contained evil and when Madeline... well, I probably shouldn’t say anything more. Trust me, there are self-similar, repeating patterns throughout the book.
Beyond the patterns in the storytelling, the book is literally the seed of a fractal. It’s the seed of what I call the Love Fractal. There is an idea in this book that is dangerous in a delightfully, disruptive, good way. My hope is that by consuming The Seed, you’ll see the self-similar, repeating pattern of Love forming within you and your life—maybe even see this pattern filling the whole world. This pattern is what it means when we hear we are made in the image of God: a self-similar, repeating pattern of joyous being, selfless giving, and grateful receiving... a divine fractal... the Love Fractal.
Q: Why do you think most readers will be able to identify with the struggles of the characters in The Seed?
By telling my story, I’ve told your story. That’s because our story is really Love’s story. And Love’s story is universal because it really is true.
Again, I have written a true myth, and I honestly don’t believe I wrote this story alone. I believe God will use the imagery, characters, and events in The Seed to speak to you, to plant a seed within you that will blossom with freedom and joy.
Q: The Seed is packed with Trinitarian theology but doesn’t use the typical “Christianese.” How did you take care to present the Gospel in an accurate way while still creating an entertaining and engaging story?
I went to seminary to write The Seed. I read lots of books and attended lots of lectures to get the insight of theologians so I could take what they taught and communicate it in a way people who won’t do all that work might be able to hear and internalize. I started seeing a counselor and wove insights from therapy into this book. It took years, lots of shooting ideas around with friends and a number of talented editors to get the story right—or at least as right as I could get it. So how did I take care to do this right? Basically, I didn’t do it alone.
All that being said, The Seed is fantasy fiction. I like to call it a mythic spiritual memoir. It’s not strictly allegory, and that means some liberties had to be taken to tell a good story that rings true. Still, read this book and you’ll be hard-pressed to miss the heart of the message of the Bible, rich Trinitarian theology, and the good news Jesus brought us.
Q: What is the overarching message you’re trying to communicate to readers in The Seed: A True Myth?
The Love Fractal will grow, filling the world with joyous being, selfless giving, and grateful receiving, and you can experience it by embracing helplessness and trusting Love... because Love never fails.
Get 20% off Amazon's price and FREE shipping when you order Hidden Agendas and The Seed together from Key Life. Plus, all the proceeds go to support the ministry! Just click the image below.