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December 12, 2023 55 mins

If you’ve ever told yourself that writing a book would be futile because “nobody would ever read it” don’t miss this conversation with NYT Bestselling author William Paul Young. With no plans to publish, Paul wrote a story for his wife and six kids. 20+ million copies and a major motion picture later, he stands by who this book was for — which in his words was about 12 people. Connecting wide starts with connecting deep.


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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Pick up the pieces of your life, pulled them back
together with the word to write all the beauty and
peace and the magic that you'll start too fun when
you write your story.

Speaker 2 (00:13):
You got the.

Speaker 3 (00:13):
Words and said, don't you think it's time to.

Speaker 1 (00:16):
Let him out and write them down on cold It's
all about and write your story. Write you write your story.

Speaker 4 (00:29):
Hi, and welcome back to the Write Your Story Podcast Today.
I'm in the studio, well virtually in the studio with
someone who needs no introduction in many ways. But this
is a man who I've admired from a distance for
a very long time, and I'm so grateful to get
to chat with him today. He's someone that you've likely
heard of and read his most popular book, which is

called The Shack, and he's written many other books. He's
he's been a longtime writer and a really brilliant thinker,
and we're very lucky to get to hear from him today.
So welcome to the studio, William Paul Young.

Speaker 2 (01:01):
Thanks Sally, I told you to make something up, so
that's really nice.

Speaker 3 (01:05):
I appreciate that, did I do? Okay?

Speaker 2 (01:07):
Yeah, you're creative.

Speaker 4 (01:08):
Well, like I said, I'm so excited to get to
chat with you today. There are so many things that
I know, just so much wisdom that's in you that
I know you're going to be able to share with us.
I'd love to start kind of at the beginning of
the story, because you have such a fascinating story to
share of how you even made it into the world
of publishing. So I'd love to like rewind all the

way back. I know it's been like almost twenty years
since your first.

Speaker 2 (01:33):
Book came out, yeah, fifteen.

Speaker 4 (01:35):
Can you talk about like what that was like for
you in the earth? First of all, what drew you
to writing in the first place? What made you think
I'm going to write a book?

Speaker 2 (01:43):
Oh? You know, growing up the way that I did.
Reading was the way to get out of my world,
and then writing became the avenue of getting my inside
world out. Even though I burned a lot of my
stuff because the stuff I was writing was pretty dark,
because my world was pretty dark. And even though I'm

a missionary kid, preacher's kid, well maybe in some respects,
because I'm a missionary kid preacher's kid, you know. So
you know, there are a lot of things that weren't allowed,
and authenticity was one of them. So a lot, unfortunately
about religion is hiding. So my writing eventually evolved into gifts,

poetry and songs and short stories and cards and things
like that. But I didn't perceive myself really as smarter creative,
and that's part of the damage. That was part of
my life. So the gift part was really essential to
my journey. And the other piece that's really significant is

that I was reading good writers all the way up
from very young and some of the classics, or a
lot of the classics, you know, the Pearl or just
a lot of good writers and thinking writers. And then
it branched not only from fiction but into nonfiction, good
writers of nonfiction. So the Inklings were a big thing,

you know, Lewis and Dorothy Sayers and that group, because
they not only wrote good fiction, they wrote good nonfiction.
And I was getting into some of the philosophers and
people who could transfer over, and then people who are
good writers outside the box, some of them, you know,
philosophical nihilists or whatever. You know, you had your Herman

Hesses and did Arthra and Easter mysticism and things like that.
So when you read good writers, I think a lot
of times you learn how to write and how not
to write, So that was all part of it. I
never perceived myself as a writer. It was always just
gifts for friends and family, And even when I wrote

The Shock, it was a gift for my family, it
was a gift for my kids. So I didn't have
a bucket list on which becoming a published author was
on that bucket list. Sure, and that was an advantage.

Speaker 3 (04:05):
You were doing that during a time too.

Speaker 4 (04:07):
When you know, now in twenty twenty three, moving into
twenty twenty four, becoming a published author, it's just much
more accessible than it was back then. But back yeah,
in two thousand and seven or I don't know what
year you started writing The Shack.

Speaker 2 (04:21):
Five, Well, two thousand and seven it was published. I
was self published basically, So.

Speaker 4 (04:26):
During that time, the idea of self publishing a book
was just not nearly as common as it is now.

Speaker 2 (04:31):
So correct like I believe last year there were three
million books published, yes, which is crazy, And there was
a lot about publishing that I had never even. There
was no learning curve for me because it wasn't of
any interest for me, and I didn't know that the
average book sold, you know, three to five thousand copies,
over its lifetime.

Speaker 3 (04:51):
Yeah, well, a.

Speaker 2 (04:52):
Novel that hit fifty thousand was one half of one
percent of fiction. Yeah, and I didn't know that, you know,
So I was I was very naive and blind going
in which looking back had its advantages because I was
able to ask questions that sometimes when you come from
a blind perspective, you don't know what are the normal

questions to ask. Yes, so you ask the obvious to you,
but not the obvious to people who've been inside of
that world. One of the things that I that I
like to say about the publishing world, which has been
very kind to me in many respects, is that they
live walking backwards. When you get in the mechanistic side
of any institution, you basically have people walking backwards. They're

looking back at what worked or what worked in a moment,
so they're not looking forward as to what could be.
And so you know, this worked, whether it's a movie
or whether it's in a song, or you know. I've
got friends in the music industry, and they're kind of
bound to write what worked in the past, and so

it really shackles their creativity to explore what might be.
And I think I think everybody's a creative. Let's get
that out of the way. So it's not a category
of special people to me. All my kids are creative,
and some are scientists and some are cops. You know,
one is a scientist and one is a cop. But
they're very creative, which allows them to be in the moment,

creative to whatever the situation that is unfolding in front
of them. So, having said that, people who work within
the culture, inside of the recognized creative ventures, whether it's
poetry or song or theater or movies or whatever, they're
kind of pushed into a model that says, all right,

this worked, And unfortunately that has dominated the Christian creative
thing too. And I'm kind of tongue in cheek but
kind of serious when I say that Christian music basically
has two hundred and fifty words. You just have to
find a way to put them in a different any different.

Speaker 3 (07:03):
It's over and over again.

Speaker 2 (07:04):
Yeah, exactly. You just create a lot of repetition and
you hope something sticks. But when there's only that many words,
you have to go outside to have something. Most things
touch you, touch you deeply. And when you look at
the music scene in total, for example, you are touched
by people way outside of the Christian faith per se,

they have a way of being human that religious people
can't depending on where they are. So the systems themselves
are contrary to that kind of creativity. So one of
the advantages that I had is that one I had
no outcomes in mind other than to give my kids
a Christmas present. That was it. And so I wasn't

bound by any of the rules, which I didn't know
anyway of what was supposed to work. It really threw
everybody off, which I didn't know that it would. So,
you know, twenty six publishers turned it down for various reasons.

Speaker 4 (08:06):
But at what point in the process did you decide
to try to get a publisher tell us about how
that progression went?

Speaker 3 (08:23):
At what point in the process.

Speaker 4 (08:25):
Did you decide to try to get a publisher tell
us about how that progression went?

Speaker 2 (08:31):
So I made fifteen copies on the photocopy or at
office depot in Gresham Morgan. I.

Speaker 4 (08:37):
By the way, have received this story through our mutual
friends and have told this story so many times to
authors I've worked with to be like, just stay the course,
just write your thing, Like write that thing that's trying
to happen through you, And I just wanted to tell
you that that I heard this story and I've been
like telling it and retelling it, but I've never gotten
to hear you tell it. So I'm so excited to
hear it from you.

Speaker 2 (08:57):
It's like Paul the Apostle only telling out of Damascus
wrote one time, he only tells it one time. Everybody
tells it for him, but he tells it one time,
and it's very different when he tells it. So Kim,
the incredible person who saved my life that I am
married to, she was the one who kept kind of
pestering me every once in a while, like would you

just write something that puts in one place how you
think because you think outside the box as a gift
for our kids. And I never felt healthy enough to
do it. I had a long ways to go and
a lot of crap to deal with and a lot
of harm that I had to recognize that I had
done in the process. And so you know, I had

been on eleven year reformation process that began because Kim
caught me in a three month affair with one of
her best friends, and that started this. Really, you know,
it was either find a way to change or just
kill myself because I was afraid I was capable of
too much damage to those that I about. And eleven years,

and in the last four years of that is when
she started saying, you know, someday it took eleven years
for her and I to heal. That's the markers for me.
And those eleven years ended right before the year I
turned fifty. And it wasn't until the year I turned
fifty that I felt like I was healthy enough to
do this, to write a gift for my kids, because

I was still working out how transformation would happen. And
you know, it didn't involve so many things. That's a
huge story. But just recently she told me she was
thinking like one two pages, you know, but she didn't
specify that. I thought she wanted me to write something,

you know, and I like.

Speaker 3 (10:45):
Could you just make a bullet point list of like.

Speaker 2 (10:48):
Yeah, exactly. Well, first, here's the here's the weird part.
I've never written a novel or anything of substance. So
when she told me to write something, I was doing, Okay,
all right, what does that mean? How about and this
actually happened. I'm on the I'm on the train. To
one of my three jobs, and I think, what about

conversations with God? And I look up and our train
is passing a movie Marquis that says conversations with God,
because there was a movie that I didn't know about
called Conversations with God, and and I was thinking, okay,
so that's already taken. How about if I just start
with a's and work my way through the alphabet of

words that matter to me? And I'm thinking, like, no,
that'll kill my kids. They'll they'll try to read it
and go like, oh really. And so I thought, all right,
I'm going to write a story. I'm going to shift
the main character sideways so that it's my kids know
that it's me in both cases that is, I am

the main character, and I'm also the one that is
killed right because of the sexual abuse in my childhood
and all that. And also had a five year old
niece that was killed the day after her fifth birthday.
So the combination of the sexual abuse that started at
age five, and so Missy Melissa Ann Phillips her name
the acronym is MAP, and so is Mackenzie Allen Phillips

acronym is MAP, and so it ties the two characters
together so that I'm represented as and a lot about
Mackenzie is true about my history. So he is struggling
trying to figure out what faith even means to him
after the kind of damage that he went through his childhood,
and then he has this massive loss, and there's nothing
like suffering that brings to the surface the things that

are not resolved. Right. So by that time, in those
eleven years, I had done enough work transformative kinds of things,
dealt with so much crap in my life that I
felt like, all right, I'm healthy enough to do this finally,
and so I started writing. And it was just like

I jumped in a river. So you know, I was
working three jobs and it took me about six months
to write the Shack, and a lot of it was
on the train, and there's a lot of little peripheral
stories to all that, like, for example, one day I
had a Saturday where I wasn't working and Kim was
gone with the kids, and I started at eight o'clock
in the morning and ended at eight thirty that evening.

I wrote four complete chapters, including fifteen, which is called
Festival of Friends. And Festival of Friends is the only
chapter in the shack that has never been touched by
a rewrite or edit. It is the way that it
is the day that I wrote it, which is now
I realize how highly unusual that is. And Kim comes

home and she looks at me and said, what happened
to you? I said, you know what happened to me.
I stepped out the back door and there was a
river there, and I got caught in the river and
it took me fifteen miles downstream and spat me out,
naked and bleeding. Exactly yep. So there was this flow

and the shock. It wasn't a hard thing to write
because I had been waiting fifty years to give this
gift to my kids, and I didn't even know it.
And so you know, from day one trinity which has
become so centrally essential to me. Part of it I
got from my heritage. They didn't know how to talk
about it, but they knew that it was important. And

so you know, Papa, being a black woman that was
there from day one, that was just assumed. Now you
have to realize, I'm writing this for my six kids,
not for the world. So I write the first draft,
first complete thing, as far as I'm concerned. It's the
one I gave my kids, and I made fifteen copies,
so I had extra copies and fixed to the kids.

Kim and I kept one and I just gave the
rest of my friends and that was it. I went
back to work. It did everything that I wanted it
to do. I was done. But my friends started giving
it to their friends and they said, we need more copies.
I'm going all right, So we put a little collection
together because I was I didn't have any money, and
we made fifteen more copies at office Depot because there

was a price break between that and Kinko's, you know,
and you got a better price, a price break at fifteen.
And they started giving it to their friends, and I
started getting emails that I did not know how to
answer because they weren't like, oh, I read your book.
It was great. It was like, can I tell you
about my great sadness. This book has reached deeply into

my heart. This book is transformative because I've never considered
that God was this good, and I'm kind of terrified
that you might be wrong that kind of thing. And
I had been a driver for an actual author. One Saturday,
I drove him all over the place because he needed
a driver. And he's the only author that I actually

had any connection with. So I wrote him an email
and I said, all right, how do you answer this
kind of email? Because you know you're an author, you
must get emails like this. And he wrote back and said,
why are you getting emails like this? So I sent
him an electronic copy and he did the author thing,
which I completely understand. It's like, well, it might take
me six months to get to it, but I promised

my professor at college that I would read at least
twenty pages of anything anybody sent to me. And I'm
going like, I don't care if you read it. I
care if this.

Speaker 3 (16:19):
Help me respond to the email.

Speaker 2 (16:21):
Exactly what do you do about these emails? And so
that was on a Friday night and I'm like, I'm
waiting for him to respond to my actual question. On Monday,
he phones me, which he didn't do, and he says,
what were you thinking sending me that email? And I'm like, ah,
just throw it out because I'm thinking he's offended. And

he says, no, no, no, I can't print the pages
fast enough. I'm like, what he said, Paul, I haven't
read anything, and I don't know a decade where my
first response is I have a lot of friends who
need to read this, like right now, ten or twelve,
And I said, I don't care send it to him.
He said, I already did. Well. That started a conversation

and he had a couple friends who didn't know each
other in California. He lived in California, lives in California,
and they started having a conversation about this becoming a movie.
That was the first conversation pre publishing that they wanted
to make this into a movie. And they later told
me that if you can sell one hundred thousand copies

of a novel, Hollywood will come to you about a movie.
And when they told me, I'm thinking, like, there's way
more than one hundred thousand people, even in Portland. What's
the big deal? You know? That's how much I was
know you. And then in a conversation with them, they said, well,
maybe we should publish it because if we can get
it published and get tow a hundred thousand and then

we've got a clear track in terms of the movie.
And all right, sounds good to me because here's an
important piece. My identity was not tied to this book. Yeah,
my identity was already securely in my relationship with God.
And so anything that happened with a book, had it

already did everything I wanted it to do. Yes, with
the fifteen copies, well, with the six copies actually, and
this is really important, as you know, Eli, you can't
let your identity be inside of your writing. If you
do that, you are harnessed to hidden expectations. You are
you're owned by whatever you are afraid to lose.

Speaker 4 (18:29):
And honestly, even if the outcome is beyond your wildest expectations,
you won't be able to take it in or enjoy
it if it's linked to your value and will.

Speaker 2 (18:39):
No, and there's never enough. Yeah, if your identity is
tied to that, it will never be enough. And that
is one of the great gifts for me is that
I didn't write this. Well, I couldn't have. But if
I had written something that became this big before I
was fifty years old, it would have killed me. Yeah, yeah,
and harmed every body around me. And so when people say,

you know, did this book change you? I say no, Well,
it added one thing to my life, but it didn't
affect my identity my worth, my value, my significance, my security,
my meaning, my purpose, my destiny, my community, my love.
It didn't touch any of those things, which is what
I look at that now and I go, oh the grace,
Oh the grace. And you know, I tell people, my people,

my evangelicals, because they know about the Old Testament. I say,
you know, the shock is proof that God can still
speak through Balem's ass and my people will understand that story. Yeah,
so we start talking about publishing it, so we get
it ready. Took almost two years because I'm working three
jobs and the editing process and as a side point
right here, learn to love the editors. They're worth their

weight in gold. And there are two kinds of editors.
There's content editors and grammatical editors, and both are they
are so great. When I wrote Crossroads and I sent
it to both those editors, my grammatical editor came back
and said, wow, it hardly had to touch anything. And
I'm looking at the pages are full of red marks.

You know, but from their point of view, the part
and the content editor has become a friend. And you know,
when I wrote Eve, we edited out forty thousand words. Wow,
So understand that they're on your side, but it doesn't
mean you have to believe everything they say. So it's
it's this kind of a relationship, but iron sharpens iron

if the angle's right. So we got it ready for publication,
had the cover. We went through a bunch of different
ideas for covers, got the cover and it was ready
to go. We sent it to the twenty six publishers.
They all turned it down. The faith based people thought
it was too edgy, and the secular people thought it
had too much Jesus in it. And again they're walking backwards,
so they don't realize that there are millions of people

stuck between Edgy and Jesus. But nobody had spoken into
that space. And I didn't know I was speaking to
that space. I didn't know that when you wrote human,
you touched humans. If you have an agenda, especially in fiction,
I understand the necessity of an agenda in nonfiction. I
get that nonfiction works as a whole different set of

rules and fiction does. But if you write fiction and
you have an agenda, it is no longer art. It
is propaganda. And so people are not attracted to propaganda,
only those who've been trained that that's supposed to be
what they like. And so if it has an agenda,
which most Christian books do right because they if they're

writing for those unbelievers, they want to get those unbelievers
saved so they don't go to hell and they feel
better about themselves. And that kind of an agenda driven
art is not art, and so that's important. So we
got it ready, they turn it down. They had one
issue in common. They didn't know where to put it
in store.

Speaker 4 (22:00):
Which is so funny that this happens in publishing a
lot where publishers don't have a vision for something because
there's not a section for it in the store, and
you're just like, this is the obstacle that we're trying
to overcome that there's no like, the book is good,
but there's no section for it, so we're not going
to print it. That just makes no sense, but it does,
I guess sort of from a business standpoint. But then

as an artist, you're just like, wait, I did my job.
I made something unique enough that it hasn't been made
a hundred times before, and that's the reason that you
don't want to print it.

Speaker 3 (22:31):
It's so strange.

Speaker 2 (22:32):
I have found the shock in the middle of Amish romance,
Amish romance section. It's great. I pictures that I found
it in psychology, self help, esoteric, new age stuff, the ology.
It's found a place on every kind of shelf you
can imagine, fiction, fantasy, science fiction, so which is so great,

it's so funny. So then we get it ready, they
turn it down and I ask the question, how hard
is it to publish a book? And so two of
the guys friends, two of the friends in California, they
had always wanted to have their own publishing company for
their own stuff. So my question fed right into that.
So they created one for I don't know, five hundred

bucks or whatever it was. And so they created this
publishing house, and I had a publisher.

Speaker 3 (23:23):
Just like that, Just like that.

Speaker 2 (23:25):
Yeah, they just came out of it a good yep.
So one of them found a public printer close to
his house, and he volunteered to ship books out of
his house at night because he was putting in people's
sprinkler systems during the day. And I'm working my three jobs.
And it's like, all right, we got the first print run.
We ordered ten thousand copies, which we were told later

is eight thousand in your garage. After you run out
of friends and family.

Speaker 4 (23:50):
Yes, it's another maybe moment when your naivete served you,
because if you had been working and publishing for ten years,
you probably would have ordered a thousand copies in the first.

Speaker 2 (24:00):
Yeah, exactly. But this printer had a price break at
ten thousand and they sent us eleven thousand. It's called
overage right where you're allowed to accidentally print an extra
ten percent and charge you for them, which, if we
had a marketing budget, that destroyed it right there. And
so the goal became, all right, let's see if we

can sell eleven thousand copies in two years and then
work our way up to one hundred thousand in five years,
and then Hollywood will come talk to the guys about
a movie. Now I own no part of the publishing house.
That was their thing. I was just working my three jobs.
They're doing the things We went through about a year
and a half of editing that was before. So two

thousand and seven, eleven thousand copies land in the garage.
So two thousand and seven and copies land in the garage. Great,
So we gave a whole bunch of way to our
friends and family. Here's our genius. This is so funny.

We put a website up, actually the publishing website, and
it have the shack on it, only thing they had
on it. And the only way you could find the
website was at the back of the book. That's brilliant,
isn't that brilliant? So the only place you could buy
it was off the website. So our goal was, all right,
in two years, let's go through eleven thousand copies. This

is May of seven May, June, July, middle of August.
Three and a half months later, I get a call
from the guys, Paul, we need to order more books.
I'm like, did we give them all away?

Speaker 5 (25:45):

Speaker 2 (25:46):
People are coming to the website and they buy one,
and then they come back and they buy five, and
then they come back and they buy cases. I'm like, really,
how many should we order? So we ordered twenty thousand,
and they landed in the garage because the guy was
sending him out of his house, right, they landed in
the garage the day we have one case of books

left from the first print run, and we got twenty
two thousand. Of course, you know saverage. And so we
went through twenty two thousand books in sixty days, and
then we went through thirty three thousand books in thirty days.
Now by this time, stores are trying to find out
where this book is because people are showing up their

stores wanting to buy. And we're not on anybody's system,
nor is the publishing house these guys created on anybody's system.
So they backtrack and find us, and Barnes and Nobles
calls us up and says, hey, we're really excited about
your book. Can you send us your marketing oppressiver, yeah,
so that we can get on board.

Speaker 3 (26:47):

Speaker 4 (26:48):
We're like, so as your sales team, and you're like, wait.

Speaker 2 (26:52):
Yeah, yeah, can you send us Can you send us
one of those so we can cut and paste it.
That's what our response was. And the guy he hangs up,
He just he laughed and he said, I'll call you later.
And two weeks later he calls back and he says, look,
we normally there's a lot of conversations happening starting with normally.

Normally we charge a publishing house thirty to fifty thousand
dollars a month to put their books on the front
on the front of our stores nationwide, and we we
only deal with publishers who have at least ten titles,
but would you consider putting your book at the front
of our stores nationwide for three months for free? Yeah,

and so we did so. In the first thirteen months,
from May of seven to the end of July August
of eight, we spent less than three hundred dollars in
marketing and advertising and shipped one point one million copies
of The Shock.

Speaker 4 (27:53):
And this is all before a publishing contract. Correct, one
point one million copies, before you ever signed a.

Speaker 3 (28:00):
Talked with the publisher.

Speaker 2 (28:01):
Yep, yep.

Speaker 4 (28:02):
Well, the self published the publisher that your friends created.

Speaker 2 (28:05):
But not a for real one, you know. So then
they entered into a publishing contract to take the book
internationally and handle the distribution and all that kind of stuff.
And then it kind of blew up around the world.
And I remember, for the first time in years, we
got to go on a vacation with the family. So
we took the family to Hawaii and we're in Hanama Bay,

you know, snorkeling and looking at the fish and the plant,
you know, the the coral reef and all that. And
I happened to look up at the beach where my
kids were, and they're like this, They're like and I'm
thinking shark, you know, because you know that's what you
think when you're in the water and they're yelling, and
so I get out of the water and they go, dad, Dad, Dad,

Your book showed up on the New York Times bestseller list,
And I go, it did, and they said yeah, and
it showed up at number one. It did, and it
was number one on the New York Times seller list
for forty nine weeks in a row. Wow, it was
in the top ten for like two hundred and sixties.
And I think they just took it off because they're
tired of.

Speaker 3 (29:07):
It, and they're like, we got it again.

Speaker 2 (29:10):
So you have to understand how weird this whole thing.

Speaker 4 (29:13):
Was before we go on. Do you know what the
current sales numbers are? I know it's over twenty million.

Speaker 2 (29:18):
But yeah, I don't know twenty so I think it's
over twenty four, I think, and a whole new generation
is coming into it.

Speaker 4 (29:26):
I reread the book the other week, by the way,
because I knew we were going to be having this
conversation and I hadn't read it since I don't know,
two thousand and seven or eight, and it landed in
a whole like a much deeper way. I think partly
because I've become a parent since I read the book.
I've got two little kids, so that.

Speaker 3 (29:42):
Was part of it.

Speaker 4 (29:43):
And just living another fifteen years of life, really experiencing
that kind of deep sadness in a deeper way, just
having lost people and faced more tragedy and seeing tragedy
in the world.

Speaker 3 (29:56):
And yeah, so yeah, it'll.

Speaker 4 (29:58):
Be interesting to see, like you said, a whole new
generation come into it.

Speaker 2 (30:02):
Yeah. And here's an important point. As I look at
the Shack and what it did, and also what Crossroads
has done and Eve has done, etc. These things have
landed in the hearts of people because these are not
religious books. They're human stories, and they're honest. And I
had been through enough religion. And now you have to understand,

I love Jesus, and I love the Trinity and all
of that, but I'm not a big fan of religion
and of religious systems, and I don't have a chip
on my shoulder anymore. And these are not accusations, they
are observations, and they grieve me deep. Well, let me
tell you just a recent story, just two days ago.

I have a friend and every year I do a
widow's Christmas gathering. I'm the only man they've ever invited
to it, and I've done it for like a dozen years.
So I get together with all these widows and it
is a precious, precious time. The gal that leads this Joanne.
She is a dear, dear, dear friend of mine that
I have known since before Kim and I met. Kim

and I have been married for forty four years now,
and so we meet in a for the last few
years in a church, a particular one. And she's a
hospice chaplain, that's what she does, and she's in her eighties.
She is one of the most kind human beings I've
ever known, and empathetic and inside the sacred space of

people transitioning right dying, and she has been really in
the middle of it. She's had two families that are
right in the middle of it. Plus her husband is
in hospice and is transitioning. So she calls me a
few nights ago and she is right on the edge
and she begins to just weep, and she said, I
just got I just out of nowhere, because our gathering

is a week from a week from Saturday, and she says,
I just got a notice from the church that they
found out that you're coming to speak here and they
can't allow it. You can't even be in the church property,
and you can't be interviewed or a speaker or anything.
Because you might be a nice human being, but we

have to take a stand for the scripture right. And
here is where the literal approach to scripture is very compartmentalized.
They'll take a snake talking in Genesis literally, or God
saying kill all the babies literally, but they can't take

the Sermon on the Mount literally right and enemy love
or kindness, which is a great sadness for me, and
they are my people. They're my people, but I don't
personally take offense to that at all, but it grieves
me that they that they would do this to her,
you know, and do They're doing it with good intentions,

and I refuse to make them mine enemy, but I
know I know what they bring to the table and
the kind of religious trappings and bondages that blind that
kind of thing. So when I wrote, I didn't write
a religious book. I didn't even write a Christian book
because because Christian.

Speaker 3 (33:19):
Christian publishers were like, no, no for us.

Speaker 2 (33:23):
Yeah, no, God is a black woman. Uh huh, right, yeah,
And I tell people, well, I could have suppose I
could have used a metaphor write out of scripture and
God could have come as a big hen, but I
just didn't. I just don't think it would have done
the same thing, right, Yeah, And people who are literal
are literalists have a real problem with metaphor anyway, and

with genre, different kinds of genre. So my story is
about all that is unusual and I mean really really strange.
But the book has become a watershed piece for what
is happening in the world. And I made fifteen copies
it off as depot from my kids, and the kinds

of things that have happened around this are absolutely miraculous
on so many, so many levels. And the part of
the beauty is fifteen copies did everything I ever wanted
it to do. Yes, And so I'm watching this like
everybody else, And as far as far as what is happening,

it as much surreal today as it's ever been. And
I'm cheering from the cheap seats, you know. And so yeah,
I've been pulled into an awful lot of conversations. Oh
I told you that the book had nothing to do
with all this major stuff in my life, but it
did give me a gift that I didn't see coming.

Speaker 5 (34:46):
It is the gift, and it's been a gift to
me and to my family and to my friends. It's
an invitation to walk on the holy ground of other
people's stories. The beauty of fiction, if it's art.

Speaker 2 (35:00):
Is that it creates more space on the inside than
it uses on the outside, and people can now hear
for themselves and see for themselves things that I didn't write.
Like you said, you know that you just read it
again and there were things that it that it touched
in you that didn't the first time. And people go

like I've I've got friends who've read it a dozen
times and they go, I didn't see this. I didn't
see this. How can that be? And I say, because
you moved you know, the mountain, the mountains the mountain,
but when you move around the mountain, it continues.

Speaker 3 (35:35):
To look different, It looks different from each angle. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (35:39):
Absolutely, that's the beauty of fiction. You know, you're creating
space that people can hear for themselves.

Speaker 4 (35:46):
I would add to that too, it's in addition to fiction,
because you made the distinction between fiction and nonfiction, but
I think so many of our listeners who are trying
to write a personal narrative, it operates very similarly to fiction.
It's a story, so the details are not fake, you know,
or or untrue. The details are true, but you're building

the narrative the same way that you do with fiction.
And I think the point you made about if you
can enter into this without an agenda and just tell
the story, then the story starts to teach you things,
and what the story is teaching you, it also teaches
your readers. And I think that happens almost like outside
of you or without you doing anything. It's like the

story starts to teach you. And I think that is
true in memoir as well as fiction.

Speaker 2 (36:34):
I agree one hundred percent, and that people ask me,
is the shack true? And I say, yes, it's just
not real, you know, and so would flip itself for
autobiographical things. It's like, yeah, yeah, it's real and it's true.

Speaker 3 (36:46):
And it's true.

Speaker 2 (36:48):
So that's that's a significant point. Thank you for raising that,
and even nonfiction has you know, when I wrote lies
Lies you believe about God, which is particularly the one
that got me in trouble this week. It's apped inside
of story. Story is what frames the theology. Each thing
you work on will have a different it'll have a

different feel to it. Crossroads was very much like The
Shack in its genre and feel eve totally different. It's
much more fantasy, science fiction theology, and it was It's
the hardest fiction I've ever written because I had to
deal with the theology that's out there and reframe it.
So again, you're different. You know, when you write something

that's not what you've written in the past, you've changed
in the process and so you're bringing a different person
to that. And let me say this, grow perfectionism.

Speaker 3 (37:42):

Speaker 2 (37:43):
It's a target you cannot hit and it creates a
set of expectations that absolutely bind you. So you know,
people say I just can't get started, and it's like,
just right, you're trying to write something perfect. Yeah, yeah,
And don't put yourself on a timeline. Yeah, I've got

a science fiction that's now waited for almost twenty years.
And if it's if it happens, it happens. If it doesn't,
it doesn't.

Speaker 3 (38:12):
You know, it'll be ready when it's ready.

Speaker 2 (38:15):
And there's a lot of things that I write that
in the editing process. I even change during the editing process,
and that's part of the editing process.

Speaker 3 (38:33):
How do you negotiate that insight?

Speaker 4 (38:35):
Because now you're a published author, I'm certain that you
have publishers who are knocking on your door wanting you
to what's the next thing we're working on?

Speaker 3 (38:42):
Paul? You know, like, when's the next book coming?

Speaker 4 (38:45):
So how do you negotiate being an artist who's sort
of waiting on the thing to happen, and also like
being on the timeline of publishing and having those expectations
and meeting the expectation of the reader, even who read
the Shock and wants to know what's the next thing
You're going to say? How do you live inside of that?

Speaker 2 (39:06):
I don't. I a couple of different things. And this
is for me, this is not all of this that
we've talked about is for me, not for anybody else
necessarily that might give a perspective, it's helpful, but long
time ago, I learned most of the time to stay
in the present tense, to only respond to that which

is in front of me at the moment that it's
happening in front of me. I'm not a future tripper.
I don't create imaginations that don't exist. Right, So it's made,
it's required some changes. I won't open myself up to
the publishing process until I have a fully complete manuscript.
I won't play the game, the gambling game.

Speaker 4 (39:47):
Where you pitch a deal with I'll write you three
books if you give me X y z amount of
money whatever.

Speaker 2 (39:53):
Yeah, yep, I don't do that, Yeah, because I don't
think it's fair to the publisher. It's it's there, you know,
they're trying to throw stuff up against the wall hope
something sticks. And so what becomes most important is what
do they call that? The document that you write?

Speaker 3 (40:07):
That document?

Speaker 2 (40:09):
Yeah, yeah, that one that becomes the most important document.

Speaker 4 (40:13):
I love that you don't know what that's called. The
fact that you've sold twenty something million copies of a
book and you don't know what a proposal document is
is like the perfect representation of the message that I'm
wanting people to get from this episode.

Speaker 3 (40:25):
So that's just that's just beautiful.

Speaker 2 (40:27):
Yeah. Thanks. So I have such great relationships with every
publisher that I've had that I have relationships with right
now because I don't I don't hide because and we've
told people. If we're going to even talk about a deal.
Number one thing is relationship, Yeah, and then terms of

the contract, and then any money if it's upfront. Right,
those are the three things with a standard publisher. And
I said, look, if we think the money that you're
offering violates the relationship, it's not going to happen. So
that's important. Also, people need to understand that right now,
you've got your traditional publisher, you've got your self publishing,

which is becoming very much more nuanced and intelligent. Right,
And there's a lot of people working in that space,
but the same thing applies. Be a truth teller and
respond to the next right thing.

Speaker 3 (41:25):
Yes, And for.

Speaker 2 (41:26):
Those who are in our world, truss the Holy Spirit
and don't make your decisions based on outcomes. That's future tripping, right,
because that's fear driven. If you're trying to get if
you're trying to get an identity from being an author,
let me know how that works for you. Because those
kinds of things have killed me my whole life. That's

why I asked the Lord, can I can I have
dreams now? Because visions have been killing me my whole life, right,
Because every time I get a vision I think that
I'm supposed to make something happen, and that's not you
look at the whole Old Testament, but he's trying to
make visions happen, and it kills them all the time
and they end up with really catastrophic situations. So, like
I said, don't make your decisions with an idea of

an outcome that is going to give you identity, worth, value,
significant security meaning purpose, destiny, community, and love. Don't do it.
And I mean that will really become the crux. And
people say, well, God asked me to do this, and
it's like, yeah, I bet he did, because he needs
to deal with your crap, your false identities, your false
sense of security. You're finding security in something that doesn't

even exist. So you've got a set of expectations that
are driving you about something that doesn't even exist because
you don't have a capacity yet to stay present to
the one who loves you, and man, that's important. You've
got to deal with the crap. But it's going to
be that's what's going to raise it to the surface. Yeah,

So publishing self publishing, there is now growing a community
of publishers.

Speaker 3 (43:00):
That are in the middle hybrid publishers.

Speaker 2 (43:03):
Hybrid publishers exactly. And I've got friends who are doing that.
And who will I go with in terms of a
specific sort of project. I don't know because it's not
here yet.

Speaker 4 (43:15):
Yes, yes, but there are so many options available. I
think it's the important thing for people to hear that
if if you go into this, what I hope people
are getting from this is if you go into this
with the expectation I'm going to write this thing, I'm
going to finish it.

Speaker 3 (43:28):
I'm going to print twelve copies.

Speaker 4 (43:30):
Then when you get to that place, you can make
a decision do I want to publish this more widely,
and if so, which option makes the most sense for
my project?

Speaker 3 (43:40):
But you don't have to know ahead of time.

Speaker 4 (43:42):
I work with people all the time who get very
attached to they want to go with a traditional publisher
because it feels like the real way to do it,
and so they spend months and months and months and
sometimes years writing a book proposal document and don't get
the manuscript written. And it's so difficult to watch because
you're like you a thing. That's that I do believe

people feel called or asked or invited or whatever to
write this project, and then they're working on this other thing,
like growing their social media platform so that a publisher
will pay attention, writing the book, proposal document, making themselves
look good, you know, whatever it is, so that a
publisher will pay attention instead of just answering the call
and writing the thing. And that's one of the things

I love so much about your story is that you
just did it.

Speaker 3 (44:26):
You just wrote the book.

Speaker 2 (44:27):
Yeah, I know, and and I want to approach everything
else that I do the same in the same sense,
because I don't know what will happen in the moment,
because it doesn't exist yet. I could die tomorrow and
that will screw up any agenda that I thought I had. Yeah, yeah,
And that's Jesus words. You know. If you're going to

make this business, always say if God, if it's God's will,
and I'm alive, right, so, and you don't have to
make those decisions. And there's this whole capacity of trust
where we disassociate what we're doing in the creative space
from the presence of the inner dwelling of the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit, and we separate, we create a

separation as if we're going to make decisions about something
that doesn't exist. And in that, in isolation, you are disempowered,
right because it doesn't exist. And it's like, do the
next thing that's in front of you, and that is,
if you have a sense that you are to write something,

then do that, not based for the outcomes, because the
outcomes don't exist in this moment. And here's another thing.
There's an old saying that comes from the early Church.
God will not be God apart from us. That is,
the activity of God is always one about participation. One
of the phrases that I absolutely hate is that God

will use you because I would never say that about
my child, elder grandchild. Oh, I can't wait for you
to grow up so that I can use you.

Speaker 3 (46:05):
This is really bizarre.

Speaker 2 (46:06):
It's it's not only bizarre, it's wrong. And this is
not about God using us. This is about an invitation
to participate, you know. And a lot of people disassociate
themselves from their from their artwork because they are their
shame drives them to disassociate because they don't want to
be associated with something that's not perfect, right, and that's

the perfectionist thing that will kill you. So you know,
people will say to me, would you read this. God
wrote this through me, or God wrote this or God
gave me this. And I read it and I'm like,
God is really a bad writer, you know, it's just
does horrible art. And I have a friend and who
is in the music industry, and he got pursued a
lot by you know, Christian musicians, and he said, this

is not my best moment, he said. So he finally
kind of breaks into his office says, you've got to
listen to this. God gave this to me, this song,
And finally, just to get him out of his hair,
he said, all right, I'll listen to it, and he
listens to it. What do you think, Well, I think
that God gave this to you because he didn't want it,

Oh my God. And so you know, whatever your hand
finds to do it, do it with all your strength,
which is a moment by moment, in the moment presence,
everything that's real is now. It's not in some imagination
about what this is going to mean. You know, if
you if you want a gateway drug to future tripping,
buy a lottery ticket right because all your problems will

be solved in your imagination and you're going to have
to already figure out what you're going to do with
the kids, and how much money you're going to give them,
and what lawyer you're going to need, and what this
means in terms of taxes. You know, you bought a
lottery ticket and that's a gateway drug to future tripping.
While so is this right and a much smaller scale,

But it's the same thing. And this is not about
I am with you, Abide with me, take no for tomorrow.
You know, keep your I will keep you in perfect
peace if you keep your mind stayed on me. In
the presence is fullness of joy. This is where the
real world is. So part of the beauty of being
inside this kind of fresher is that it will bring

to the surface all the things which are not true.
It's risky to trust. That's why we love religion because
you don't have to trust God.

Speaker 3 (48:25):
Yeah, and all the rules, oh the rules.

Speaker 2 (48:29):
Yeah. And it's like, no God is after anything in
you that is not of love's kind. If it's this
process that will bring that crap to the surface that
keeps you from being fully human and fully alive, bring
it on. Yep. This is such a beautiful world that
we get to participate in without the necessity of an outcome,

you know, is the one worth enough for you to
be a participant in a creative process? Is the one
worth enough? And what if the one is you?

Speaker 3 (49:04):

Speaker 2 (49:05):
Is that enough? And we know that the one is
worth the entire cosmos? You are? You areeah? Yeah? So
you know that frees us from from all the bondages
that the world experiences because of outcomes.

Speaker 4 (49:22):
Paul, You're such a beautiful person. I could literally talk
to you all day. I have a thousand other like
faith questions that I want to ask you, but I
will save that for another time. But I do one
more question I want to ask before we wrap up.
Do you call yourself a writer?

Speaker 2 (49:33):
Now? No, I write, but being a writer is not
my identity, you know. And people would say what do
you do? And I would say, well, I'm an accidental author,
you know.

Speaker 4 (49:46):
So do you get recognized, like, do people recognize you
as the author.

Speaker 2 (49:50):
Of not much? And they did at one point. I
mean it was just all over the place because I
was all over the place. Yeah uh. And it was
kind of the a little bit of a cross to bear,
and it was a the temptation was to begin to
believe notoriety is is a culture of violence. A culture

of notoriety is a culture of violence. But notoriety also
has its advantages, I mean really good advantages. Like Joseph Daniel,
God is a redeeming genius, not for an outcome of notoriety,
but for an outcome of care for others that can
be served by notoriety as long. And the thing about

it is, you cannot. You cannot. You cannot make your
identity that. I don't mind saying to people I'm a
writer if it's helpful. I don't mind saying that I'm
a Christian if it's helpful, right, But a lot of
times it's not helpful. Yeah, I'm also a singer. I
don't I'm not good at it, you know. I'm also
a grandfather. They're all categories. In my relationship with my

own dad. One of the greatest things about forgiveness that
happened when he was eighty was that I finally let
him become something greater than being my dad, and that
was being human, right, because being a dad had all
kinds of expectations linked to it. Yeah, right, And it's beautiful, Oh,
it's so incredible, And it's what jump started a relationship

that had never existed because I let him be human.
And when I let him be human, suddenly his story mattered. Yeah,
and suddenly I was able to listen because what I
had found out was I was loving strangers way better
than I was loving the people that I was in
relationship with.

Speaker 4 (51:41):
It's quite common, isn't it. It's easier to love people
that you don't have to live with.

Speaker 2 (51:45):
Well, not only that you have a much you have
a much less entangled or attached sense of belonging. Yeah. Right,
and so there's not the expectations you don't go. Expectations
are just prophesied disappointments. So yeah, do I call myself
a writer if it's helpful, If it's helpful and I

don't have to make an issue about it. You know.
It's the Greek word for accusation or accuser is categorizo
my or category. It's to create categories in which you
put people. So am I writer? Sure it's helpful, but
sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's like, no, I write, but

I'm actually I'm like you. I'm a human being. Yeah,
I made in the image of God like you. I'm
in dwelt by the Father Son and Holy Spirit, like you,
there's never been a separation between the truth of who
we are, which is included.

Speaker 4 (52:49):
Thank you so much for all of this. Thank you
for everything you shared. Thanks for your generosity with your time.

Speaker 3 (52:54):
We're so grateful to you invited me.

Speaker 2 (52:56):
Come on, come on.

Speaker 3 (52:57):
Thank you. I really appreciate it.

Speaker 2 (53:00):
Oh, me too. It's always a two way street. Sometimes
the Holy Spirit allows me to hear through my own
voice things that I need to listen to.

Speaker 4 (53:09):
Yeah, yeah, I resonate with that too. It's one of
the reasons why I love to write, because that's one
of the one of the most powerful ways God speaks
to me is through my own writing.

Speaker 2 (53:18):
Me too, Me too. And it's great. It's such a
gift that people have listened over my shoulder as it were,
you know.

Speaker 3 (53:28):
Thank you, Yeah, thank you, welcome, Thank hug.

Speaker 4 (53:32):
I hope you enjoyed that conversation with William Paul Young
as much as I did, and I hope it inspired
you to write the thing that is asking to be
written by you, and to not worry about what the
outcome is going to be, and to not pay too
much attention to how you're going to publish it or
if or when or whatever is going to happen in
the future, but just to write the thing and plan
to get it finished and print twelve copies and give

it to your closest family and friends. I wanted to
make sure that you know that if that's something that
you're trying to do in your life right now, I
have an opportunity available, starting in January of twenty twenty four,
for a small group of authors to walk through this
process with me over the course of six months. You know,
it's interesting that Paul mentioned that it took him six
months to complete his book while he was writing the

train back and forth between his three jobs, because I
created a book in six months exactly for this reason.
I think it takes about six months to finish a
book when you're really ready to begin writing it. And
if this is you, if you have a book idea
that's been nagging at you for a while and you're
ready to get going on it, and you just need
a little bit of support, some encouragement along the way,
maybe some accountability, some other people to be part of

a group, then this opportunity is a really amazing chance
for you to get all of those things that you
need to.

Speaker 3 (54:44):
Get the manuscript written.

Speaker 4 (54:46):
We're going to be starting our process on January third,
twenty twenty four, and meeting for the first six months
of the year until July third of twenty twenty four.
By the end of that six months you will have
a finished manuscript. And this program is open and available
now for registration. You can find out more at a
book in six months dot com and registration will be
open until we begin forced work on January third. So

I hope to see you in class
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