Not many Christian fiction writers can say the jungle provided inspiration for their craft. In that sense, New York Times best-selling author Ted Dekker has cornered the market. He is the son of missionaries who raised him in Indonesia.

Dekker’s vivid imagination has helped him create dramatic plots and compelling characters for novels like Blink, Thr3e and Chosen that take readers on wildly fantastic journeys. In seconds, he can brainstorm a plausible idea for a psychological thriller, fantasy or graphic novel that tests readers’ sensibilities, and in the process, draws them closer to God. 

Dekker, 45, recently spoke with from his home in Austin, Tex.

Your career path included a stint as a corporate marketing director and business owner. When did you become a writer?

Writing was always a hobby.  I wrote my first novel in my early 30s and enjoyed the process immensely. The idea of exploring (God’s) truth through characters was exciting.

I was in a time of worship when I had this incredible experience that propelled me into full-time writing.

I owned numerous companies and would increase their profits and sell them within a year or two years. I had enough money in the bank (in the late 1990s) to sell everything, move to a small Colorado town, buy a house for cash and write full-time for a couple of years while I tried to get my first book sold.

How long did it take for your dream to come true?
I wrote full-time for three years … and wrote five full-length novels before one was accepted and published. What kept me going was that I was very passionate about the themes of my novels—stewarding the mysteries of God through stories.  That’s my calling.

During that time, I ran out of money. I began to sell my “toys,” my motorcycles. I began to suspect at the end (just before landing a contract) that I had made a mistake. But the idea of going back into marketing, into business, into that life I had before was so unattractive to me, that I quickly shoved it from my mind and bore down on the task ahead.

I finally decided (the Christian publishers) were rejecting my novels because they were too edgy for them.  I decided I was going to write a novel that spoke their language. I wrote Heaven’s Wager and had four offers on it within a month.

Heaven’s Wager was published in 2000, and the books that immediately followed its release were suspenseful. However, your subsequent novels have become edgier, with an emphasis on psychological suspense and the battle between good and evil. Why did you up the ante, so to speak?
I wrote a string of four or five novels like Heaven’s Wager over six years. Then I decided I wanted to go back to the kind of novels I wanted to write, like Blink. There are very few Christians in there, but they really do explore the character of God as aggressively as the other novels. They just do it in a slightly different kind of story. 

Thr3e, my story about a serial killer, got the (2004) Christy Award for best thriller and Gold Medallion Award (now called the Christian Book Award) for fiction.
I characterize my stories as pure escapism with truth. People are either searching for or absolving themselves of guilt, angst or secrets. I’m tapping into this vein that exists in all of us. One consistent is this full-throttled exploration of the struggle between good and evil.

What drives you to create these kinds of stories rather than take a more traditional approach to Christian fiction?
In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul says the task of Christians is to steward the mysteries of God.