This is part 2 of an interview with Steve McCutchan, pastor and author of the spiritual mystery novel A Star and a Tear. If you missed Part I, you can read it here.
Q. On the spectrum of theology, I fall pretty far to the conservative end of things. I’m curious what you hope that your colleagues, both from the conservative end of the spectrum and from the liberal end, would take away from this story.
While my protagonist, Frank Sessions, is moderately liberal, a main antagonist, Bob Godwin, is conservative. I tried to show some strengths and weaknesses in each and to show how both genuinely struggle with their call from God. I hope both conservative pastors and liberal pastors will have some sympathy for both characters and also see some lessons and truths in their struggles.
As Frank says to Bob at one point, I think there would be some real value and benefit to our churches if liberal and conservative pastors would engage in some private conversations with each other—not to win points but to share in their common struggle to be faithful.
Q. Another interesting sub-theme is that of power and accountability – particularly within the church. The two main pastors have very different kinds of relationships with their church leaders, and that plays out in how their churches handle crisis situations. What kind of lessons do you hope pastors and church leaders will draw?
In the novel there is a chapter that switches back and forth between a worship service at Bob’s meagchurch and Franks moderately large but more traditional church. I will be interested in the reader’s response to how I have depicted them. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. One is more focused on the corporate church and the other on the importance of the leader. One draws on the historic tradition and the other draws on the modern technology to convey an enthusiasm.
As one of the reviewers of the book who is a presbytery executive said, ” McCutchan presents the tensions between liberal and conservative perspectives – not as ideology but as different behavior patterns and values.
I think it would be fun if some clergy from both styles of churches read and discussed that together.
Q: Tell me about your writing process. How was it different from sermon preparation? What habits from sermon prep did you have to unlearn in order to write fiction?
In many ways, I find a similar process. I believe that Scriptures should illuminate life and that life raises questions about faith that need to be answered. Maybe the main difference between sermon writing and novels is that in a novel you have an opportunity to be more complex and you have time for a few rabbit trails that you need to avoid in sermons.
Because sermons are an oral presentation, you need to keep them focused and clear, while novels offer an opportunity to raise questions that the reader can ponder.
Q: What feeds your creativity? How do you collect ideas to work into your stories?
Having been in the ministry for over 40 years and always being fascinated by the variety of life experiences that people have shared over time, I have never been at loss for ideas. While I don’t share actual stories from people’s lives, I do draw on their behaviors and incorporate that into my characters.
I am aware that there will be people in the churches that I’ve served who will try to match up some character in the book with a member of their congregation. That might be fun but all the characters are fictional.
A Star and a Tear is available on Amazon, in both Kindle and print editions.
Interested in keeping up with Horizons of the Possible? Sign up for the Possible Horizons monthly newsletter, and you’ll receive a digest of the best posts of the month.
The Fine Print: I received no compensation from Steve for this interview other than the warmth of his Christian fellowship and a complementary review copy of the book. However, purchases made through all of this site’s links to Amazon do provide a modest remuneration to me. Thanks for your support.