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The Cross & the Pen: Craig Parshall on Fiction and Ministry

  • Eva Marie Everson
  • Published Jun 17, 2003
The Cross & the Pen:  Craig Parshall on Fiction and Ministry

Welcome to "The Cross & the Pen," Crosswalk.com's author-to-author interview column.  Ladies and gentlemen, as a novelist I can tell you that there is nothing zanier than two people who live in "La-La Land" engaging in "real" conversation. We talk about subject matter that if overheard would surely result in our being put "away" in some nice quiet hospital for the "titched."  So it was GREAT FUN to talk with Craig Parshall, author of Custody of the State, about the reality of writing fiction and the purpose it serves in ministry. After speaking with Craig and hearing his heart, I am proud to say I am among the ranks of such novelists as he.

Eva: Craig, your book is "edge of your seat" kind of stuff... What inspired you to write Custody of the State?

Craig Parshall:  Several different factors led to Custody of the State.  First of all, I wanted a definite change of pace from the first book.  In The Resurrection File, the story line is global and international.  In Custody of the State I wanted to be much more provincial, with the vast majority of the action taking place in a small, fictional farming community in rural Georgia called Delphi.  The second factor was the story line itself.  I wanted to write a story that addressed the slow, subtle, but powerful trend in the law where the rights of parents and families have been massively eroded.

Eva: Your last novel, The Resurrection File, introduced main character Will Chambers. Do you consider Custody of the State to be a sequel and will there be other novels featuring Will?

Craig: Both The Resurrection File and Custody of the State are part of the "Chambers of Justice" series.  The entire series features Will Chambers, who in the first book (The Resurrection File) appears as a broken, and disillusioned former ACLU lawyer.  In Custody of the State, Will Chambers (and Fiona MacCameron - a gospel singer with whom he has fallen in love in the first book) continue their relationship - while Will continues to take on challenging cases that involve a high degree of intrigue as well as personal challenge.  Book number three in the series (The Accused) has already been completed, and is scheduled for release in July 2003.  I am currently under contract (and well into) writing book number four.  I am also scheduled to write a fifth book in the series after that.  You'll see a number of the main characters following through from book to book, and, in an overall sense, the plot will ultimately weave together as the books go on in the series. Will and Fiona are, of course, constant characters in the series. You will also see some of the antagonists (Jason Bell Purdy, in Custody of the State as an example, is introduced in that book but also appears in The Accused).  The master menace in Will's life, billionaire Warren Mullburn, is a presence in all of the books, sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly.

Eva: Tell me a little about Will Chambers.

Craig: In The Resurrection File we're first introduced to Will Chambers. His father was a politically liberal editor of a small Massachusetts newspaper. His parents were divorced late in life. Will is an interesting combination of two tidal forces, both in his background.  He was raised a skeptic and an intellectual liberal. After law school he works with the ACLU in New York until he is forced to resign his affiliation with the ACLU because of what he perceives as their hypocrisy in touting civil liberties and yet they want to use federal racketeering laws to destroy prolifers. He then has a short (and turbulent) career with a civil rights law center in the South, but is fired there for disregarding a command not to represent a flamboyant evangelist who has been wrongfully accused of arson.  In a sense, Will is like some of the more intellectually honest liberals I've met - those who have the courage to really face the tough questions that they don't have answers to. The other tidal force in his life is a close relationship with an aunt and uncle in the Cape Hatteras coastal area of North Carolina.  His Aunt Georgia and Uncle Bull (a retired North Carolina judge) are strong, believing Christians and have planted spiritual seeds in his life.  

The Resurrection File begins as Will's personal life is slowly beginning to devolve into disaster. His first wife (Audra) had been murdered in the prior year, leading Will into alcoholism and despair. His professional life becomes so tawdry that his law partners in the law firm kick him out. He has no clients left except one - a new case that's just walked in his office that presents him with a unique challenge: he is required to defend a fundamentalist pastor who is being sued for defamation relating to an archaeological find that, on its face, seems to substantiate the non-resurrection of Jesus Christ. In order to defend his client, Will needs to prove the credibility of the gospel story regarding Christ's Resurrection. Being a genuine truth-seeker, Will finally faces the historical facts regarding the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus.

Eva: As a novelist myself I believe that the BEST protagonists (or main characters) are the ones with some inner conflict.  Does Will have an inner conflict, and if so, what?

Craig:  In The Resurrection File Will's personal, internal struggles are multiple. He is still grieving over the loss of his first wife, he is trying to figure out whether he even wants to continue pursuing his legal practice, but most important of all, he is trying to come to grips with the reason why he senses a massive spiritual void in his life. In Custody of the State Will is now trying to work out his newly discovered worldview, and integrate his spiritual faith with his law practice and his interpersonal relationships (primarily with Fiona).

In the third in this series, The Accused, Will's decision about the future of his relationship with Fiona has come to a head - while at the same time his is forced into a harrowing confrontation with his darkest of personal demons, and his possible responsibility for his first wife's death.

Eva: How does Custody of the State deal with the issue of God's providential protection?

Craig: In Custody of the State Mary Sue Fellows and her farmer/husband, Joe Fellows, are charged with child abuse regarding their young son, Joshua.  Will Chambers is called on to represent them, and defend them against the shocking allegation that Mary Sue Fellows is poisoning her only son.  Mary Sue and Joe are Christians, and insist that they are innocent.  This raises the question - why does God allow His children to be wrongfully accused, and abused by government systems that are sometimes callous (or even corrupt)?  A parallel is drawn between the Fellowes family and a young First Century family - Mary, Joseph, and Jesus - who are forced to flee the Judea region because of a wrongful attack by a local corrupt government (Herod).  The book deals with the questions of why God allows His children to be wrongfully accused, and how He extends His faithful, providential protection in the process.

Eva: You are an attorney.  What kinds of family rights/parental rights issues have you faced in your law practice?

Craig: Over the course of my twenty-eight years as a trial lawyer I have handled a number of cases involved in parental rights and family issues.  I have defended numerous Christian clients who have been wrongfully accused of child abuse and child neglect in a variety of circumstances.  Some of them were homeschoolers, some of them because their children had complex medical conditions and they were insisting on second or third opinions from physicians, some because of trivial or emergency circumstances (i.e. leaving children alone in the car for a few minutes during an emergency), which was later characterized as child abuse by the authorities bent on "teaching a lesson."  In some of my cases I attacked the illegality of unjust, anti-parent laws directly. 

Eva: Okay, Craig.  Give your fans a bit of a sneak preview.  What's on the horizon for Will Chambers?

Craig: In book number three - The Accused - the reader is going to get a clear picture of what the future holds for Will and Fiona.  The legal issue in that case involved a decorated Marine named Caleb Marlowe who was part of a super-secret, covert anti-terrorism unit of the American military.  Colonel Marlowe heroically rescues the United States Secretary of Commerce when he is kidnapped by a terrorist cell group.  But, while in Mexico, and while pursuing the fleeing terrorists, Colonel Marlowe makes a command decision that has tragic consequences.  He is faced, first, with a potential court martial in a military tribunal.  Will defends him there - and then is subpoenaed to testify before a slanted Senate subcommittee hearing, and finally defends Caleb Marlowe against "war crimes" allegations before the newly created, and highly controversial International Criminal Court in the Hague - which is the global criminal court recently created by the United Nations. In book number four, Will and Fiona, together, combine wits to unravel a legal mystery that has tarnished the name of a local Cape Hatteras Island, North Carolina family for three hundred years.

Eva: Finally, Craig, would you give us a short prayer for America's family?

Our Heavenly Father, King of the Universe, and Divine Designer of the Family - give us wisdom in our family affairs and in raising our children, and love and enduring patience in our marriages; make us passionate advocates for Your paradigm of the family, which is reflected in Your sure, certain, perfect, and immutable Word; restrain the forces of evil  which come against healthy families, and quicken our courts, our institutions, and our government leaders to the need for protection of the rights of responsible parents, and to the necessity for justice according to the right standards of law - rather than the shifting winds of the prevailing climate of opinion.  And to those who are writers and communicators, make our pens the ready instruments for Your truth, given to Your world, in preparation for Your coming Kingdom. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams & Summon the Shadows and an award-winning national speaker. She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at Bridegroomsbride@aol.com or you can go to   www.evamarieeverson.com.