Last January (2018) we featured Tyndale author Chris Fabry in our Tuesday Treasures spot. Today, Chris is providing us with an interview and talking about his newest release, so please welcome him back.....
You visited the set of Overcomer when it was being filmed. What did you take away from that experience?
A: I was amazed at the complexity of all the moving parts. I was also struck by the commitment the Kendricks and their team have to tell the story they’re given and not deviate. Their commitment to prayer on set was heartening and rich.
· Can you tell us a little bit about the story line, without giving too much away?
A: The film focuses on a fifteen-year-old girl, Hannah Scott. She’s been through a lot of loss in her life and struggles with her identity, which is universal. As you watch her grapple with what life throws at her, you will be encouraged to run your own race. Her coach also has a big part in the film and novel because he’s struggling with some of the same questions.
· This story suggests that we often let others, our culture, or the roles we play define us. What do you hope this story does inside readers?
A: First, I hope it captivates readers as simply a good story. I want you to turn the pages to see what will happen next. I was able to develop some of the story lines a little further and show a little more than the film can show in two hours. So my desire is for a satisfying read that takes you deeper into your own heart. Then, when you see the film, I hope you’ll be amazed at how the two versions of the story come together.
· Is discovering our identity in Christ something you can do “mentally”? How do you get the knowledge to transform the way you live?
A: There is a sense that you can “know” this and not experience it. In other words, there are plenty of Christians who get this in the head but not the heart. It’s our hope that this story will bridge the gap between head and heart. Transformation doesn’t come with knowing facts. It comes when you participate with God in the change he is making on the inside. That’s always a painful process but a good one.
· This book suggests that surrendering our lives to God is the only way to discover the life we were meant to live. Comment on that principle.
A: I once knew an old missionary to India who told me, “Your greatest mission in life is submission.” The best thing we can do with our lives is to fully surrender to God’s work. For those of us who like to control things (me being chief controller), this is a scary, vulnerable thing to do. But we find real, abundant life when we get to the point where we’re willing to allow God to do whatever he wants to do in and through us.
· What do we risk when we surrender control and place our future in God’s hands? What do we gain?
A: Surrender is a huge risk because we lose control. We lose the ability to write our own story. But when you take that step of faith—and another and another—you begin the journey of entering the Bigger Story, the Larger Story of what God is doing in you and in the world. Look at the disciples before they fully entered that story and after they entered it. You’ll never reach your full potential until you submit to God’s working in your life.
· This is your second novelization of a Kendrick brothers’ movie. What is your process for writing a movie novelization?
A: I love the fact that the Kendricks have drawn the boundary lines and have made all the hard choices. I call it the fence line—they’ve put up the barbed wire and I get to play in the pasture. I read the script, I watch the rough cut of the film about a thousand times, I ask questions about what’s on Hannah’s wall, for example. Why does she choose those images to put above her bed? Why does she wear that shirt on her first day of school? So I get to do things with words and answer questions that you can’t do in a film because of the limitations on-screen.
· Are there similarities between this story and War Room?
A: Yes. I could almost feel Miss Clara praying for this little girl. And there’s a sense of an unseen hand at work behind the scenes. Things come together in a way that can’t be explained other than the work of God in hearts and lives.
· What do you enjoy about this process?
A: I love the sense of exploring characters and their hearts. To me, these are real people. I like to put myself in the place of a coach who has defined himself by wins and losses. I like to run with Hannah and hear the struggle she has with asthma. And I enjoyed getting to know Hannah’s grandmother, Barbara. She’s a difficult character in the film, but in the book you learn some of the backstory of why she acts the way she acts. I just love that process.
· What is challenging about this process?
A: The most challenging thing about writing someone else’s idea is that I have to stay consistent with something someone else invented. It’s easy for me to go in some direction or add some motivation that isn’t necessarily on target with the vision of the Kendricks. So I lean on Alex mostly to rein me in and keep me in the pasture.
· What character will we learn more about in the book than we see in the movie?
A: Hannah’s grandmother, Barbara, has a tough, crusty exterior. And in the film you see a lot of her fear and how that motivates her life. Of course, you want to see her change by the end of the story, but we know that doesn’t always happen. So I found it challenging to tell more about what’s going on inside Barbara in the novel.
· Who is your favorite character in this story and why?
A: How do you not answer with Hannah? She’s just so relatable and real to me. But I have to say that Thomas captured my heart. When you see the depth of his struggle, the guilt he has lived with, the way God has taken hold of him—but that he is still growing in grace when we meet him—his face, his heart all comes through so strongly.
· How did you relate to this story personally?
A: I aspire to have my identity come from what God has done for me in Christ. In reality, I struggle with the same thing these characters are struggling with. Do I gauge my worth by my performance? Do I gauge my acceptability with God by some external thing, or do I really believe God accepts me as I am and that he sees the righteousness of Christ in me? Do I strive or rest? Those are questions that are huge in my life and I think will make a difference for anyone who reads or sees this story.
· What goes on behind the scenes regarding the film and novelization process that you’d like people to know?
A: I wish you could see the e-mails that go back and forth. We get into such minute detail in some cases. Alex has the freedom to say, “I didn’t like this chapter.” And then I probe and find out how I missed the mark. It’s such a collaborative effort, but at the same time I feel a freedom to go certain directions that we might not eventually use. I have freedom to fail, which is important in any creative endeavor.
Chris Fabry is an award-winning author and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live on Moody Radio. He is also heard on Love Worth Finding, Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, and other radio programs. A 1982 graduate of the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University and a native of West Virginia, Chris and his wife, Andrea, now live in Arizona and are the parents of nine children.
Chris’s novels, which include Dogwood, June Bug, Almost Heaven, and The Promise of Jesse Woods, have won five Christy Awards, an ECPA Christian Book Award, and two Awards of Merit from Christianity Today. He was inducted into the Christy Award Hall of Fame in 2018. His eightieth published book, Under a Cloudless Sky, is a novel set in the coalfields of his home state of West Virginia. His books include movie novelizations, like the bestseller War Room; nonfiction; and novels for children and young adults. He coauthored the Left Behind: The Kids series with Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, as well as the Red Rock Mysteries and the Wormling series with Jerry B. Jenkins. Visit his website at www.chrisfabry.com.
Overcomer by Chris Fabry can be purchased from Tyndale by clicking on the link and at Amazon in Print and for Kindle also in Audio, Hardcover and on CD
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