Electrician-Novelist Amazed Where God Is Taking Him – Part I
- 2005 11 Jul
Dale Cramer, former construction electrician, says he's amazed at the direction his life has taken since he tried his hand at writing "Sutter's Cross" (Bethany House, 2003), a novel with what he calls the "sow's ear principle – if God wants to make a silk purse, He'll start with a sow's ear every time."
"Bad Ground," Cramer's second novel, is a finalist in the 2005 Christy Awards for excellence in Christian fiction. His outlook on life, faith, and Christian fiction is revealed in this exclusive interview.
Q: Tell us a little bit more about "being called to something bigger" (a phrase from your bio).
A: I believe every Christian has a sense of calling, a sense that somehow life experience is shaped and pointed toward a specific goal. Most often, we don't know what God has in mind, or don't trust the knowledge.
I had to learn that if you bring faith to your decision-making process and learn to recognize God's handwriting, your life will automatically move in the right direction. I went through a lot of changes and was a long way down the road toward being a novelist before it dawned on me that God's fingerprints were all over it, and what I'd taken for random life experiences, were not random at all.
Q: What is it like to move from electrician to novelist?
A: First, though it seems like a great leap, it was actually a thousand little steps spread over about six years. Second, I was wonderfully, mercifully, spectacularly ignorant – if I'd known it couldn't be done, I wouldn't have done it.
I do remember being very doubtful when I finished "Sutter's Cross" and started looking into publishing, but I never felt as if I were the one in control. I really didn't want to spend the next ten years collecting rejection slips, so, as strange as it sounds, I asked God how far I had to go before I was allowed to give up. And the answer planted solidly in my heart was, "Get one person to read it." I sent the manuscript to seven agents. One of them read it, and that was the last piece of marketing I ever did..
Q: How did you decide to quit your job and stay home with your sons?
A: We first thought it would be great if one of us could stay home for the summer so the boys could swim and climb trees and be boys instead of going to daycare. I worked in a trade, which meant I could quit my job and get another one in the fall. My wife worked for the post office. If she left her job she couldn't get it back, and her benefits were better than mine. The plan was originally for me to stay home just for the summer, but the financial adjustment wasn't as hard as we expected and the whole family seemed happy with the arrangement. I actually wrote "Bad Ground" while homeschooling my older son.
Q: How do you interject your personal faith into your novels?
A: My stories are theme-driven, which means only that when I start out, I know a lot more about what I want to say than how I want to say it. The characters usually help me figure out the story. In "Sutter's Cross," the theme is the sow's ear principle – if God wants to make a silk purse, he'll start with a sow's ear every time.
"Bad Ground" is about how God gives us the greatest gifts in the darkest places, and "Levi's Will" (due out this summer) simply says love is the proof of God, and forgiveness is the proof of love. Tolkien said a Christian writer could hardly write from any other place, that it would be nearly impossible to keep his faith out of his writing.
Q: Why did you decide to throw your hat into the ring of Christian fiction?
A: The decision was made for me. When I was ready to write a novel I had three ideas in mind, one of which I thought would be a Christian story. It was my third choice, but people who had seen the idea kept bringing it up and asking when I was going to write it. There was one particular morning when I knew it was time to start on a book, and I happened to be reading about Gideon.
My five-year-old son and I were waterproofing the foundation of our house at the time, and I'd lost my keys the evening before while unloading a truckload of gravel in the edge of the woods. So as my little boy dragged me out the door that morning I laid a fleece. I just sort of casually said, "Okay, God, if these hints are coming from you, and if you really want me to write this book, then show me my keys."
I spent forty-five minutes scratching around in gravel and leaves searching for my keys, and ended up standing on top of the gravel pile dejected because I didn't know if God was saying no or if He just wasn't listening.
My son walked up, hooked an arm around my thigh and said, "Whatcha doin'?"
"Looking for my keys." I was not happy.
He bent over, stuck his finger in the gravel between my feet, held up my key ring and said, "Is this them?"
Randall Murphree, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is editor of AFA Journal, a monthly publication of the American Family Association.
© 2005 AgapePress. All rights reserved. Used with permission.