Today, my guest is Timothy Fountain. Timothy grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California, despite having no football skills. After a stint running a jackhammer and three years in the Army, he abandoned thoughts of a legal career, attended a seminary in New York City, and devoted almost thirty years to Christian preaching. He and his wife, Melissa, and their two sons, one a lad with autism, moved to South Dakota in 2004. Tim continues a life of trial and error as a husband, dad, family care giver, preacher, and writer. Raising a Child with Autism is his first book.
Welcome, Timothy. Begin by telling us when you decided to become a writer? In other words, what made you actually sit down and write something?
The best answer is WHO rather than when or what. Teachers throughout my school years recognized and encouraged my writing gift.
Every writer is eventually asked this question, but where do your ideas come from? Why do you write what you do?
Most of my ideas come from prayer. I don’t sit down and say, “OK, God, give me an idea.” But prayer is a big part of my life, and it keeps me open to inspiration, to catching an idea through my senses or something I read, and to needs around me. I was in the park with my son with autism, and as I was giving thanks for the beauty of that afternoon, the idea to write a book about care and inspiration for other family caregivers came to me.
Do you work from an outline or plot or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you? How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
As a preacher, I joke that I “think in outlines.” I’m more prose than poetry. But in most of what I’ve written, I started with an idea and some broad assumptions and let the rest unfold.
What is the hardest thing about the creative process of writing?
Again it’s the preacher in me. Sometimes I try to force an idea or point where I should just let a story unfold. I’m getting better at that, and I’m grateful for editors and others who’ve called me on it.
Name your three biggest frustrations about the writing business.
• We live in a time when many people are not into reading anything more than a text (or even just an emoji). There’s a fear of futility when I sit down to write.
• I’m noting that most secular fiction I read seems to be for or about women, even stuff from male authors. I’m not a woman, and, while trying to think and write from a point of view not-one’s-own is important to good writing, I’m probably not going to write romantic fiction or feminist historical revision. I’m a middle-aged (almost old) man.
• One humbling and worthwhile frustration is that what I perceive as my most brilliant stuff on social media never gets as many likes as my simple posts of Bible passages.
On the flip side, what excites you the most about the creative process?
I am invigorated by the constant rediscovery of God’s love and His enlisting me in His effort to communicate it. So many of the choices I make to use (or eliminate) a word or idea are shaped by an awareness of a need God is trying to touch. Writing can be a powerful prayerful process in which “God’s story” can be heard over some story I’m trying to tell.
What are you reading at the moment, and who are a few of your favorite authors and why?
I just read a collection of essays about and by Titus Brandsma, a Dutch Carmelite priest who was killed by the Nazis in WWII. He was chaplain to his country’s Catholic journalists and organized them to refuse to print Nazi-mandated propaganda pieces. His fidelity to honoring God in print cost him his life—at least the one in this fallen world.
I like short fiction a lot, and so I come back to Gogol and other Russian short story writers, as well as Ernest Hemingway. I recently read a collection of stories called Loss Angeles by Mathieu Callier and was impressed by his diversity of engaging characters and the parable-like qualities of the stories, leaving the reader with questions to engage.
I’m currently reading Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. I’m impressed by their solid use of Scripture in dealing with emotional challenges. Christian psychology and counseling don’t have to be superficial or compromised. And they are helping me grow toward the full stature of Christ.
I’m also reading a literary journal by military veterans called 0-Dark-Thirty. Combat veteran Ron Capps encourages writing as a way for veterans to deal with post-traumatic stress, moral injury, and other deep wounds and experiences.
Authors I enjoy include Tolstoy, for his heroic efforts to weave solid Christian thought into good and enduring fiction; Thomas Pynchon, for his amazing imagination and ability to shift moods on a dime—although I read his Bleeding Edge last year and it left me cold; Buck Storm, a good storyteller whose book Miracle Man needs to be a movie; and Stephan Eirik Clark, whose novel, Sweetness #9, and short stories I love.
Thank you, Timothy, for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us what your social media links are and what your website is?
And if readers would like to purchase your book, where might they do so?