I have the distinct privilege of welcoming Brandon Clements into Awesometown today. Brandon is a pastor, a writer and a blogger and his book, Every Bush Is Burning was one of my favorite reads in recent memory. If you’re skittish about reading a book until you can really leaf through it, go to Brandon’s site where he gives you a FOUR CHAPTER sample. It’s so generous and I guarantee that if you read those 4 Chapters, you’ll HAVE to know how it ends.
But that’s not the only way Brandon is generous. He’s also hosting a giveaway at his blog. What kind of giveaway, you ask? Is it a pack of Juicy Fruit or maybe a used pair of rain boots? No, dear friend. It’s a Kindle Touch. And he’s giving it away for free. Boom. That’s so much better than a pack of Juicy Fruit, guys.
So click here to enter the giveaway, but only AFTER you’ve read my interview with Brandon that delves into important issues like face tattoos, Chicken Tender Arms and laser tag.
1. Brandon, Introduce yourself and your book.
Thanks for having me Knox!
I’m a pastor at a young church plant in Columbia, SC called Midtown Fellowship. I work with our Recovery ministry and help oversee our small groups. Happily married to Kristi, no kids yet—
My book is a novel called Every Bush Is Burning. The back cover says “A book about forgiveness, satisfaction, and the sins of the church.” It’s a story that was birthed in me while I struggled with tough questions, such as: “Why does so much of American Christianity suck?” It encapsulates a lot of my passions and hopes, both for broken people like myself and for a very broken but beautiful church.
2. I recently read Every Bush Is Burning and I absolutely adored it. Did you know the purpose for writing it going into the story or did it unfold as you wrote?
I actually started writing it in college, and it was a narrative non-fiction, Donald Miller-esque apology for how the church in America had misrepresented Jesus. It was called Bathing Jesus (I kid you not).
Then, luckily I realized that:
a) I was not as funny or as cool as Donald Miller, and…
b) That the book sucked. (I should have known that from the title.)
So I was at a pastor’s conference and I heard Alan Hirsch talk about Revelation 3:20, and he said that although many people apply that verse to individual salvation, it’s more accurately a letter to a church.
And then he says, “My question is: What the hell is Jesus doing locked outside of a church?”
And that was when the idea came to turn the book into fiction. But it of course changed a ton over the few years of writing and revising.
3. How much of yourself did you put into the story’s protagonist, Jack?
Honestly, a lot. But that’s kind of scary to me, because many people I’ve talked to say something about hating Jack (even though they also loved him).
But there’s a ton of Jack that’s totally not me as well. I’ve had to answer several questions like, “No, I didn’t cheat on Kristi…”
4. Do you have a follow-up project you are currently working on?
Starting to work on would be a better term. It’s a narrative non-fiction book about Moses and how sometimes life sucks and you have to wander through a wilderness with a bunch of whiny people before you finally get to your (I mean, die at the foot of) your promised land
I’m really excited about it.
5. (Two parts)
A: In terms of writing, who are your biggest influences?
CS Lewis. Donald Miller. Douglas Coupland. Marilynne Robinson. Leif Enger. Nick Hornby. Flannery O’Connor.
B: What’s your writing process like?
I’m totally an inspiration/spurt guy. I’ll take a weekend or a couple days somewhere and just crank out words until I get dizzy. Last summer when I was finishing EBIB up, I think I wrote almost 50,000 words in 10 days. It probably went through five drafts total, with some very nice friends and a great editor tearing it apart in the middle.
Five Rapid Fire Questions
1. Favorite current / all time book?
Current: Umm…either A Praying Life by Paul Miller or Home by Marilynne Robinson.
All-time: Probably The Great Divorce by CS Lewis. Sparked my imagination like no other book has.
2. Favorite current / all time television show?
Current: Friday Night Lights. Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose!
All-time: Lost. Of course.
3. Favorite movie?
4. Favorite fictional character?
Holden Caulfield from Catcher In The Rye. Because he’s not a phony.
5. Favorite Meal?
Blackened salmon from my grill.
Five Hypothetical Questions
1. In 5 years, time travel will not only be possible, but it will be commercialized. As such, you are invited to participate in the Laser Tag Championship of All-Time, which is no doubt sponsored by ESPN and Geico. Spanning recorded history, name the 3 people you would select for your team and why.
Abraham Lincoln—because he killed slavery AND vampires! The Rock—because he wins every fight on all the 3rd rate action movies I see on TBS. And last but not least, Cher—because how could you lose anything with “Do you believe in life after love” blasting over you as you race into battle?
2. Let’s assume that in 10 years, scientists can raise cartoon characters from their static life as animations and into real humans.
Let’s further assume that the motivating factor to do this is that humanity as a whole has devolved into such an underwhelming code of ethics that we look to fictional characters to fill our leadership void.
Understanding all this, let’s assume Buzz and Woody from Toy Story were turned into humans. Which character would receive your vote in a presidential election?
Woody for the win. I never trust a man in a space suit.
3. Consider Tom and Jerry. Do you think the fundamental element behind their relationship is a mutual respect for each other’s role as an antagonist or is it just a pure hatred for each other?
Pure, maniacal hatred. Someone should call PETA on both of them.
4. Let’s assume that in the near future, scientists invent a dream DVR that records your nightly dreams with excruciating detail. They appear as though they were a HD television show each time you dream and no details are left out. The feelings, emotions, and action within your dreams are all expressed and contextualized properly, though it is clearly conveyed that these are simply dreams.
However, the only way you can watch these dreams is if 10 of your closest friends / family assemble to watch your dreams with you. Do you agree to this?
Umm…well (biting nails)…sure. Where do I sign up?
5. Let’s assume that civilization has crumbled after an unspecified natural disaster. In the course of these events, you suffer a tragic and unfortunate accident where your left arm is lost. Given the tumult surrounding the crumbling of society, your doctors give you two options: you can lose you arm or it can be saved, but it will appear as though it has been deep fried. Essentially, your arm will appear to be a giant chicken tender. It will function as a normal arm would, but it would appear exactly like a chicken tender. Which option do you select?
Duh. Chicken tender arm it is.
Follow up: if yes, do you ever sample yourself if chicken regeneration is impossible?
Just a little nibble. I couldn’t not do it…that would be a lame story.
Five Final Random Questions
1. Would you rather that your natural fragrance be the faint scent of fish sticks or that you had a facial tattoo like Mike Tyson?
Face tattoo. I’m all for looking scarier.
2. What’s something the average human would be surprised to learn about you?
We had a dog for 2 years at the beginning of our marriage. I hated it so much I gave it away to someone on Craigslist while my wife was on a mission trip to Peru. True story.
But…before you go judging me, she (the dog—not my wife) was practically possessed. And I gave her to a single mom & a 12 year-old boy. And my wife only cried a little…and she forgave me.
You’re still judging me, aren’t you?
3. Would you rather spend 15 minutes on the moon or an entire summer in Europe with all of your expenses paid?
Europe all the way.
4. What is your biggest pipedream?
To be on the NY Times Bestseller list.
5. In 10 years, where do you hope to find yourself?
Pretty much what I’m doing right now. Being a pastor. Loving my wife and hopefully some little chittlins by then. And having several more books out.
And don’t forget the NY Times Bestseller part. You can get me on there, right Knox? With a name like Knox McCoy, what can you not do?