Is this your first novel for the Christian market?  And did this affect how you wrote?

This started with a call from Thomas Nelson.  And when they asked me if I would be interested in doing this, I said, “Absolutely!”  And we sat down to talk about it and I said, “Look, you can’t tell good stories and preach to people.  It’s obnoxious.  It kills the story.”  And I said that’s not something I want to do.  I’m not interested in hitting people over the head with the way I look at things or the way I see things.  I told them what I would like to do is just change the rules of the game a little bit.  We see a lot of young heroes who are rebellious or alienated or out of sorts in some sort of way and at war with the world and cynical.  And I wanted to created a hero who wasn’t that guy—a guy who had faith, who loved America and was a patriot, who suddenly finds all of those values challenged in a suddenly terrifying situation.  And they went with it.  I was surprised.  I thought that they were going to say no.  At no point did anyone ever wag their fingers at me and say you can’t do this in the Christian market.  My stories are informed by my worldview; they’re not shaped to sell my worldview.

How do you make a mental shift from writing for adults to writing for teens?

When I write for adults, I write pretty harsh stuff.  And so I wanted to make[The Last Thing I Remember] something you could give to your kids without thinking about it.  And not have to worry that someone was peddling a dark, violent, ugly thing that you didn’t want them to see. 

So that was one thing that I thought about from the beginning.  But the other thing is that you have to get it right.  I was writing about a specific kind of a kid.  Charlie’s a straight-arrow kind of guy.  He’s not an outcast or anything like that.  But at the same time I wanted him to be real.  I didn’t want to make references that come out of my youth instead of the youth of people today.  I have a son who’s about Charlie’s age, so that helped me a little bit.  And I keep my ears open anyway, and I listen to the way people talk and what people are thinking about.  And, of course, online you have a vast resource of people talking and interchanging information and dialoguing, so you get to hear the way people talk.  The hardest thing—the most important thing for me—was just getting it right.  Getting that world right and those people right, so that they wouldn’t think I was trying to force anything on them or make anything up that they wouldn’t experience themselves. 

Where did you get the story idea for The Last Thing I Remember?

It’s kind of what I do, but in this case it reflected portions of my own faith journey.  In a way, it’s my faith journey turned into a thriller.  I came a long distance to get to my faith.  I was raised Jewish.  I was raised in an interesting way in that I was taught the Jewish traditions, but not taught the Jewish faith.  I wasn’t taught to believe in God.  So the traditions ultimately seemed empty to me.  Ultimately, I rejected that and rejected God at the same time and went for many, many years as an atheist or an agnostic.  And it put me in this really interesting position.  I had to reinvent my faith from the ground up.  I had this wonderful training and analytical way of thinking of tearing things apart and every time a little spark or flame of faith would flare up in my heart I’d be able to dismantle it, take it apart and analyze it to death.  And I had to do a lot of that before I started turning that analytical skill onto the analysis itself and realizing that the heart really does have its reasons.  So I really did build this faith, and then it came and met me halfway.