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Interview

Dennis Covington is the author of five books, including the novel Lizard (Laurel Leaf) and the memoir Salvation on Sand Mountain (Perseus), a finalist for the 1995 National Book Award in nonfiction. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Vogue, Esquire, Redbook, Georgia Review, Oxford American, and many other periodicals, and has been widely anthologized and translated into eight languages. His awards include the Delacorte Press Prize for a First Young Adult Novel, the Boston Book Review’s Anne Rea Jewell Prize for Nonfiction, the National Theatre Conference’s Barrie Stavis Playwriting Award, and creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alabama State Council on the Arts. His other books are Lasso the Moon (Delacorte), a young adult novel; Cleaving (North Point), a joint memoir with novelist Vicki Covington; and Redneck Riviera (Counterpoint), a nonfiction account of his attempt to claim the two and a half acres of worthless Florida scrubland he’d inherited from his father. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, and graduate of the University of Virginia, Covington holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he studied under John Cheever and Raymond Carver. He taught for twenty years at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and since 2003 he has made his home on the high plains of West Texas as professor of creative writing at Texas Tech University. A fifteenth-anniversary edition of Salvation on Sand Mountain, with a new afterword by the author, appeared from Da Capo Press in 2009. The current book project discussed in this interview is under contract to Little, Brown and Company. He was interviewed by Jo Anna Gaona Albiar.

 

Image: In the prologue to Salvation on Sand Mountain, your book about snake-handling churches in Appalachia, you write about the “inevitable treachery that stands between journalist and subject.” You first approached these churches as a journalist, and then a personal connection quickly developed, including real friendships and also a desire to handle snakes yourself. Do you see the book as treacherous?

Dennis Covington: I think some of the people in the book may feel that way. The family of Punkin Brown (who later died of snakebite, as did his wife) may have felt that I didn’t portray him in a favorable light. But I wanted to give a sense of what he was like in his reading of the Bible. I remember when we were in Chicago to appear on the Jerry Springer Show, in the greenroom before we went on, Punkin got into a huge argument with Brother Carl about whether Moses went to heaven. Punkin said he didn’t, but Brother Carl was arguing, “How can you say that? He led the Israelites out of the wilderness. He brought the Ten Commandments down from the mountain.” But Punkin insisted that Moses wasn’t in heaven because he didn’t know Jesus. Sometimes telling the truth reflects negatively on one of the characters. And I call them characters even though they’re real people. The journalist is obliged to tell the truth.

Image: Did you feel the book becoming treacherous along the way as you were writing it and experiencing it?

DC: I was afraid all along that I would not do justice to these people as human beings. But I found that as long as I was being truthful, that they were going to come across as real and ordinary people. Flawed, like we all are, but searching for meaning and willing to risk everything because of a belief that certain verses in the Bible are true.

Image: Aside from Punkin Brown’s family, how was the book received by the community?

DC: Charles and Aline McGlocklin, the couple I became closest with, loved it. That’s to be expected, because they are genuinely good people who weren’t afraid to stand up and express their own views, even when they disagreed with the majority of the handlers. Brother Carl, who was a leader of the community, said, “The first time I read it, I hated it. The second time, I started to see what you were doing. And after the third time, I said to myself, ‘Brother Dennis, you did a good job.’” I’ve only gone back to a snake-handling service once since the book came out, and that was when an actor who had an option on the book wanted to see it for himself. We got preached at a lot. I think some of the handlers believed I had made a lot of money off the book. When I tell that to fellow writers, they laugh. I think the handlers may be doing better than I am.

Image: Are you still friends with the McGlocklins?

DC: I last saw them in 2002. They weren’t going to the church on Sand Mountain anymore, because they felt like there were evil spirits there. Charles and I sat on his front porch, and he baptized me with his tears. I had never heard of that, or seen it before, but it was true. My life had taken a pretty bad turn, and I was telling him about it. He said, “Brother Dennis, I’m going to baptize you with my tears.” And he started crying, laid his hands on my head, and I swear to you it was as though I were being immersed. It was like water was pouring down my scalp. Even though we haven’t seen each other since then, we’ll always be brothers.

Image: Do you still long for the holiness form of worship, or have you satisfied the call of your ancestors?

DC: Well, I’m certainly not going to handle serpents again. I have to stay away from churches where I suspect that might happen. But I miss the experience of a Spirit-filled church, and I haven’t been able to find one since then. Partly because I feel like I’m not worthy of being in the church. I miss that spontaneity: the music, the incredible outpourings of the Holy Spirit. It’s hard for me to sit in a sanctuary and listen to a long sermon. I want to get up and shout a little bit. But I think I have found a church, which leads me into a discussion of my current project.

It’s not a church as we think of church. My friend Charles Bowden, who writes a lot about border issues, led me to it. He’s not a believer, but he told me there was something going on down in Juarez, Mexico, of a spiritual nature, and he wanted me to go check it out. Juarez, as you know, has been through a terrible drug war. More than eleven thousand people have died there—and the cost for the country as a whole may be over a hundred thousand lives. He told me about what he called a lunatic asylum, a place where one man, a guy they call El Pastor, is taking in the unwanted people from the streets of Juarez. These are people with severe mental problems, with physical deformities, former prostitutes, exotic dancers, people who have had trouble with drugs and violence of all sorts.

He’s got them out in a compound in the desert. It’s one of the most spiritual places I’ve ever been. El Pastor is not a doctor. He’s had a rough life, been a drug addict, been involved in all kinds of things, but he became a radio evangelist and started taking people in. The patients are the staff. They bathe and feed the ones who can’t bathe or feed themselves. They clip each other’s nails and wash each other’s clothes. After working hard around the place, they pray and sing and take walks in the desert. They love each other. It’s almost a vision of the Kingdom of God. But occasionally one of them kills another. It’s a hard, hard life, but I’ve started to think of it as my church.

Unfortunately I’ve been dragged away from Mexico by events in the Middle East. I’ve been going to Turkey and Syria, and I’m going back to Syria in a few weeks. Children are being targeted by violence there, marked for torture and execution. It’s a new kind of warfare.

But my heart is still in Juarez. I’ll be spending more time there during the leave I’m about to take from teaching. I’m drawn to places along borders, between cultures and between religions—the Middle East is that way—because I think those are the best places to look for faith. As a young journalist in the 1980s, I spent a lot of time in El Salvador during a civil war, where people seemed filled with a spirituality I’d never seen before. Even though they were facing the worst possible circumstances, they were generous, they were kind. They gave praise to God in the middle of losing everything.

I suspect I’m going to find that in these other places. I think I have in Juarez, and I think I’m on pretty solid ground in Syria. And there are other places. The divided island of Cyprus. The border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Maybe even the one between Sudan and South Sudan.

Image: So you’re still searching?

DC: Yeah, I’m still searching. I said Bowden was a nonbeliever, but after the bodies of over a dozen young women were found in the desert, he told me he could not fathom people who believed that life had no meaning. “Even the fucking dog at my feet knows that,” he said. I wanted to tell him that that, too, is faith. Life has meaning. It’s a good place to start.

Image: So, an environment of Jobs, people who are struck down, faced with nothing. That’s your church?

DC: That’s my church. That’s faith. Good heavens. What I’m trying to drive at is that it’s not just belief. Belief is fine, but belief leads us to doctrine: “You can’t be saved unless you go through an exact process, and you’d better get it right or you can’t go to heaven. There’s no afterlife for you if you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.” I’m sorry, I don’t believe that. I do not believe in hell. I could be struck down at any moment, I suppose. But that’s just belief. Faith is different. Faith is something tangible. It is a gift of the Spirit, one of those that Paul talks about. It’s not only a gift, it’s a fruit. It’s something tangible that you can eat. It sustains you. And that’s a different thing.

Image: In Salvation on Sand Mountain, you start out referring to yourself as a city boy. Now you live in Lubbock, Texas, a city on its own in the middle of tumbleweeds and cotton fields, with your daughters and grandchildren nearby. What’s it like for you to live here?

DC: Lubbock and Texas Tech rescued me. I was in pretty bad shape when I came out here. I was bankrupt, for one thing. My younger daughter and I lived in an abandoned farmhouse fifty miles east of here, near Crosbyton. That was one of the happiest times of my life. I love the West. I like that you can see way off if somebody’s coming for you, it’s so flat.

But recently I’ve started to miss the South. Maybe at some point I’ll go back. I’ve got to die within fifty miles of Birmingham, because my daddy took out a burial policy on me, and my funeral is free if I can make it back home. I told my daughters, if I keel over, stick me in the trunk immediately and get me across the state line. I miss the South now. For a while there, I couldn’t get far enough away. But I do miss it.

Image: Are you still conscious of being a city boy?

DC: I am not a good rancher; let me put it that way. I tried. I fixed a lot of broken, frozen pipes, did all kinds of stuff out at that farmhouse. But that’s not me. I love nature, but that’s different from making a living in it. I could never do that.

Image: You said you needed to leave Lubbock.

DC: I think it’s time. I really want to spend more time in other countries, not to see the sights, but to learn about the culture. My travels have taken me to Antioch, the place where Christians were first called Christian. The name of the town is now Antakya, in Turkey. Peter and Paul preached there. The people who live there call it the City of Peace, and it is. It’s extraordinary. All the major western religions are present. There are not many Christians or Jews, but a few. It’s predominately Muslim, both Sunni and Shiite, and all of them seem to get along together just fine. They’re proud of it. I want to spend time there. I want to spend some time in the Dominican Republic. And I’ve got some land in Idaho. During the bankruptcy proceedings, the trustee returned it to me because it’s not worth anything. Lubbock’s nice, but it’s not home. Crosbyton, the farmhouse, was home. But I couldn’t stay there forever. I was essentially squatting. The owner knew I was there, but we were squatting.

Image: You’ve written about how in your young adult novel, Lizard, the title character meets people on the road whom you didn’t expect. You’ve traveled many roads and met a lot of surprising people. How have they fit into your personal narrative of faith?

DC: The boy who was the model for Lizard was one. I met him while doing volunteer work at a school for retarded boys when I was in the army. His name was Lovado, and I never heard him speak. I heard him sing one night, which was extraordinary. He had monstrous physical disabilities. His eyes were on the sides of his head, and he limped and had a hunchback. I knew when he sang that the sound of that voice was going to stay with me. I tried to write about it in an essay, but it didn’t work. Then one day, I was sitting at my desk, and I heard the voice of a character who very much resembled him. “Lizard” was what the kids in the fictional school called him. I think he was a spiritual boy. I think the character, for me, was a vehicle to try to find my way back to God. Lizard is looking for his father, and looking back now, I see that as a metaphor for my own spiritual search. The real kid, I don’t know what happened to him, but he gave me Lizard, who in his search for his father, led me to mine.

In a way, Salvation on Sand Mountain is just another way of expressing that same search. At the end of the book, it’s my father I find. My real father is my closest representation of a spiritual father, of God. I guess I’m obsessed with trying to work my way back to the God of my childhood. When I was a kid it was easy for me to believe that I was loved. And that’s what God is all about. I hate to be so simplistic, but God is love. And trying to work back into that, and to feel that and know it and acknowledge it, has been a lifelong concern for me.

There were all kinds of people in Lizard. Lizard winds up playing Caliban in a production of The Tempest in Birmingham, Alabama, which is just ridiculous. The crazy director, Raldo Stakes, was modeled on my brother-in-law, a wonderful actor and director who founded a great little theater in Birmingham. He’s dead now, but he was full of the spirit of God, even though he was sometimes reckless. I think we’re looking for God in the wrong places sometimes, in people who are really kind of dead spiritually. There’s more God down in that lunatic asylum in Juarez than there is in Washington, for instance. I think that’s pretty safe to say.

Image: You end Salvation with an image of your earthly father coming to the lake to call you home. You’ve spoken just now about trying to find your way to God. But do you not see him coming to you?

DC: One of my favorite parts of the Bible, if I’m remembering right, says something like, “If you draw near to God, he will draw near to you.” So even as I embark on a journey to find him, I know that he’s doing the same thing. We’re headed toward each other, and he’s going to welcome me home as he welcomes all of us home: the way the father welcomes the stray son, the prodigal. There are so many wonderful images in scripture of reunion, reuniting, being one. I believe that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Other people might disagree. But I think everything’s going to be okay.

Image: You once implored me not to read Cleaving. Would you still ask that?

DC: Yes. I tell my students not to. I’m not ashamed of the book. I think Vicki and I did the best we could to take a hard look at our marriage and write about it truthfully. On the other hand, I’m not particularly proud of that time in our marriage. But there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s out there. I ask my students, “Please don’t. If you’re going to read something, read Salvation on Sand Mountain. Or read Vicki’s novels, which are wonderful.” But that just causes them to want to get it. It’s a reminder of how cruel people can be. Our family suffered a great deal through that experience.

Image: Is there anything of value in the book?

DC: People have told us that it was useful to them in showing that it was possible to have a direct conversation within a marriage about the things that are most threatening to the marriage. But if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t write it. I used to say I would, because I was proud that it was the first time two literary writers had both written honestly about their marriage and told the real story together in one book. But now I wish it hadn’t happened, because it hurt other people, too, not just us. I thought it was possible to disguise real people in a nonfiction book by giving them different names and biographies, but it doesn’t work. Or I didn’t know how to do it well enough.

Image: I know a few writers who don’t share their work with loved ones until right before it’s published. But you’ve included Vicki in a lot of your writing, and she seemed to implicitly know how to help guide you along your writing journeys.

DC: Vicki didn’t start writing fiction until after we were married, and at that point, I helped her along. Then she helped me along. And then we were on parallel tracks. It was a good, good professional relationship, and it was a good marriage. I know that sounds funny. People who’ve read Cleaving would probably say, “My God, you call that a marriage?” It was a good marriage. But all marriages: tenuous. They can go one way or another at any moment. But as far as the writing goes, we both worked hard and we helped one another. We read each other’s work; we gave suggestions. It’s hard for two writers to stay married. I guess that’s true of everybody, though.

Image: Was that Vicki’s way of laying hands on you?

DC: When I think about Cleaving, I forget about the spiritual elements, but they were certainly in there. I mean, that was the point. Our original title was Living Water, because we felt like we had reached a point in our marriage where we were happy but we were looking for something else, that thing Jesus calls “living water” when he talks to the woman at the well. We thought we could somehow find it by drilling for actual water in El Salvador. But it kind of backfired on us. As we were wrestling with these issues, we were reading the Bible to each other at night. We would take turns reading the New Testament, and we’d pray together aloud. And we were blessed. We were deep into a tremendous blessing that was mutual. We were, essentially, laying hands on one another, though not literally. I don’t know what happened. Some people would say, “Well, Satan got hold of you.” When things are good, maybe that can happen. It’s a rough journey.

Image: In your nonfiction and memoir, not only do you not hide your flaws, but you seem to drag them out into the light. You put them on display. The result is completely engaging, but do you ever have a fear of not being liked?

DC: I’m just like everybody else. You want people to like you. On the other hand, I’ve always been a little bit of a recluse. When I was a boy, the thing I most loved was to go alone after school to the lake and hunt for turtles, or down to the creek for snakes. I had a tree in my backyard where I would just sit and think about things. That’s what I remember, more than interactions with other people. But I had a healthy childhood. I hate to think that people hate me, but if they do, they have good reason.

Image: Where do you get the courage to overcome that, if there is a fear?

DC: You have to just put it out in front of you. In my writing, I do acknowledge all kinds of things. For instance, that my worst nightmare is shitting in the living room during a party. Some people would say, “What’s that doing in the book? That’s odd.” Well, that’s me. Particularly as a nonfiction writer writing about your own experiences, you just have to lay it out. I had to acknowledge in Salvation on Sand Mountain that I was an adrenaline junkie. I’ve always been attracted to danger in one form or another. And I wanted to make sure readers knew I knew that about myself, because, for me, handling a poisonous snake was different. It was genuinely a spiritual experience, a spiritual sign that I had asked for in prayer. I didn’t talk about that in the book much.

Image: Were there a lot of things you were holding back in Salvation?

DC: There came a point where I got sidetracked, and my editor saved me. He said, “Dennis, you’ve stepped over the line. You’ve got to come back. You’ve lost your sense of humor, and you’ve lost your objectivity.” I was getting in so deep with the handlers that I was becoming a bit of a prig. I was becoming a little like Punkin in a way. And my editor was absolutely right. I needed to be clear-eyed and dispassionate enough that I could give a sense of the people and the environment.

In literary journalism, the writer is free to use the first-person pronoun and to use techniques that we normally associate with fiction in order to give the story velocity, pace, and to bring the characters to life. But the writer can’t talk about a thing if there is no physical evidence of it. In Salvation, I could not write that I had received an anointing of the Holy Spirit to take up a serpent, even though, for me, that is the truth of my experience. I couldn’t report it because it’s not objective, it’s not evidentiary. I can tell the reader what it felt like to take up a serpent, but I can’t say what the cause was.

Image: When you write as a journalist, do you temper your writing for a secular world?

DC: I have mixed feelings about this. For one thing, a lot of the journalism that I did was for magazines that would warn me, right from the beginning, “We don’t want God talk in here.” And I understood. I knew what they meant. On the other hand, I didn’t want to be hamstrung. I did a piece for Redbook magazine about a couple who had sixteen children, all natural births, no twins involved. The editor kept pressing me, “Why? Why on earth would somebody have sixteen children? Find out. What’s the deal?” I said, “Look, I don’t think there’s much of a mystery here. They’re Roman Catholic, and apparently they have sex. This is what happens.” The editor said, “I want you to find that woman’s doctor, and I want you to ask him why her uterus isn’t dragging on the ground.” And of course I said, “Well, first of all, the doctor’s not going to give me that kind of information. And secondly, that’s a ridiculous question.” There is a bias against the introduction of matters of faith in objective reporting. I try my best to be accurate and objective, but at the same time I try to communicate in some way that the spiritual element of our universe is as real as the substantial, physical part.

Image: You and I once talked about faith in a crowded bar at a table full of half-empty, or half-full, beer glasses. You seemed to lament that faith was so easy for some while it was elusive for you. Do you think it’s actually better if faith and religion are elusive?

DC: I think in our search, if we think we’ve found it, whatever it is we’re searching for, we’re probably wrong to some extent. I don’t think we’ll know, or be in any position to know, until we’ve gone on. And then Paul says that we “will know as we are known,” which indicates that we will, for the first time, be able to see ourselves through God’s eyes. That’s not going to happen in our mortal life. We can get glimpses. That’s what I think joy is. We leave ourselves long enough to see ourselves through the eyes of God, and we feel joy. But the minute we feel joy and acknowledge it as joy, it kind of goes. I’m suspicious of people who seem too self-assured, though maybe I’m guilty of this, too. I have faith, but faith for me, again, is not beliefs; it’s a substance that I can actually hold onto and that sustains me, no matter. I can be sinning, or whatever I’m doing, but there’s this thing. Some people call it the God gene. Maybe it’s just a physical, chemical thing that’s passed down. Anyway, when I see somebody who’s got the answer, I’m a little leery. We’ve got to step back and respect mystery. Mystery is not the absence of meaning. It’s the presence of more meaning than we can comprehend.

Image: In an interview in Sojourners in 1996 you said, “That is how the gospel came to us, in the form of a story, and I don’t know why. Why did God choose that as the medium? Stories make sense of our experience, clearly.” Eighteen years later, would you add anything more about why God reaches us through story?

DC: It is the greatest story ever told, the story of Jesus, whether you accept it as literal fact or not. They call us—Christians and Muslims and Jews—people of the book. We all have a text. We believe it is the word of God, and that the Word is God, as Saint John writes.

Brother Carl says that word is “Jesus.” He says that when God created the universe, he spake it into existence, and it was the word “Jesus.” God had this remarkable idea: Jesus. And the thing just came into existence. Brother Carl is a good theologian. Once during a sermon he said, “God ain’t no white-haired, white-bearded old man up there somewhere. He’s a spirit. He ain’t got no body. The only body he’s got is us. And when we’re borned again, we’re borned into the body of God.” That is sophisticated theology from a guy with a seventh-grade education. And Jesus, I think, would approve of that. He didn’t choose intellectuals as his disciples, although intellectuals could certainly serve. He chose fishermen. Peter, I think, was very much like Brother Carl.

About Christianity and its story, I feel this way: if I had a choice, if I could choose what kind of God to believe in, I would want a God of love, of forgiveness. I would want the kind of God who would take on human form and come down to my neighborhood and experience it as a human being and suffer and die the way we’re all going to. I don’t know of another religion where that is the case. The incarnation of God, not as a swan or a serpent or a fish but as a real man, is the most incredible story there is.

Image: In that same interview, you say that artists and writers are called “to do an impossible thing. We’re called to step out on the water and walk on it. This requires a surrendering of self. It requires listening to the work. Most of all, it requires faith that the One who began this good thing in us is going to bring it to completion.” Do you think writers have a Jesus syndrome?

DC: To the same extent that Peter did. I mean, he walked out and sank. We’re always going to sink. But it’s the act of walking out that’s laudable. It’s not an attempt to be Jesus any more than it is an expression of the truth that we are all Jesus in a way. It sounds sacrilegious, but I do recall that Jesus said, “Don’t go looking for the kingdom of God here and there and everywhere. Look inside you. It is within you.” That’s important.

Image: Do you feel deep down that you’re still chosen to spread the gospel?

DC: Brother Carl said that. That if I told the truth, I’d be spreading the gospel. All I can say is, because of Salvation on Sand Mountain, I have been able to speak the name of Jesus in places where it wouldn’t be allowed otherwise. Places like public schools. In that way, I guess I am. I’m not a good instrument for spreading the gospel. I’m not an example for anybody in terms of personal behavior. But I am committed to the idea that we live in a universe that is full of mystery, that is a wondrous place, and that has a spiritual component. It’s not all just matter.

Image: Do you still only read the King James Version?

DC: Absolutely. Is there another one? It was good enough for Jesus, and it’s good enough for me. That’s what the handlers would say. The King James translation is so beautiful, and it does result from these odd turns of phrase. I don’t think you’ll find “the substance of things hoped for” in the Revised Standard or any other version. I don’t want to know what they say. I know people will say, “What about the original Aramaic and Greek?” I don’t care about that. I’m interested in those odd words.

Image: Throughout your life you’ve been a great risk-taker, from traveling in war zones to risking a lot personally in your own writing. You’ve even said you consider yourself to be addicted to risk. As you’ve gotten older, how has risk continued to shape your writing?

DC: My best shot at bringing characters to life on the page, fictional or nonfictional, is to put them in risky situations. I’m not good at giving an interior life to people who are, for instance, happy. Laurie Colwin, who wrote a collection of short stories called Happy All the Time, could bring happy people to life, but I can’t seem to do that. I don’t always need to write about people in terrible circumstances, just people who are uneasy and frightened and aware of their own mortality. Those are the people who interest me, because that’s the way I am. I tell my students: a life that is not in danger of being lost is a life not worth writing about. Because we’re all mortal, we’re all going to die. And if that understanding doesn’t lie at the heart of a story, then it’s not real, it’s not a story about real people or real life. The story doesn’t have to be about death or tragedy, but we have to understand that these characters, at any moment, could lose their lives.

Image: Redneck Riviera, your book about your father’s tiny plot of land in Florida, was published ten years ago. Its subtitle is Armadillos, Outlaws, and the Demise of the American Dream. Is the American dream still dead?

DC: Well, that particular one that my family had is. I essentially got run out of Florida by hog-hunters. But I still own that land. They didn’t take that away from me. And I got a book contract out of it. My editor had told me, “No bullets, no book.” So when they started shooting up my cabin, trying to kill me, I knew I had a contract. And I used the money to put a down payment on some land in Idaho that really is my father’s dream. He never went West, but he loved western movies. He bought into that Florida land scheme because it had a western motif: River Ranch Acres. I felt everything worked out all right. My daughter, who’s an ex-Marine, wants to go down to Florida and take on those hunters after I die. She begs me to leave that land to her so she can go down there and teach them a lesson.

Image: You wrote in Image’s special issue “Why Believe in God?” that a writer’s audience is not on this earth.

DC: That’s right. It’s something that a lot of people don’t like me to say, because it sounds mystical. But it is true. What we’re obligated to do is to tell the best story we can in the best way we can. The only audience that matters is the one we present the story to, the one who also happens to be an artist, the one who made us. That artist understands that it’s going to be imperfect, as we are imperfect. But we’re doing our best. I’m a Platonist. I believe in Absolute Beauty, Absolute Truth. We’ll never, ever get there, but that’s what we’re aiming for. It’s not to make a bestseller list, although that would be nice.

Image: Tell us about your next project.

DC: The working title, which is too long, is Beyond Belief: A Search for Faith in a Post-Christian World. I don’t know what “post-Christian world” means, to tell you the truth, but I hear a lot of commentators use that phrase. It intrigues me and forces me to look beyond Christianity, to consider spirituality as it relates to different religions and transcends religion. I’m taking a look at places where cultures collide and where people are living on the edge. I think that’s where I’m going to find the substance of things hoped for. Faith.


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