Outside of a blog tour for Litfuse, the company I work for, I can't tell you the last time I participated in one. You know how busy I've been lately. I'm not very good with doing much extra on a schedule.
However, I immediately jumped on the invitation to join the tour for Charles Martin's A Life Intercepted when the publicist at Center Street. I was giddy in a way I normally shake my head at. (I would have ordered it pretty soon or put it on my Christmas list if I hadn't been invited for the tour. He's one of my must-read-outside-of-work authors. You know my book supply has overrun my office, so I don't have to ask for a lot.) I truly couldn't wait to start reading the book as soon as the mail arrived. I devoured this book faster than any book I have read in a long time. It was that good.
Although I do love me a good Charles Martin book, I was a little surprised at how completely sucked in I got, for two reasons. I will warn you, like a reviewer I work with warned me, if you don't like football, you may struggle just a bit. I abhor football. I do. And there is a lot of football detail in this book. The other reason is, who can love a main character who is a convicted sex offender, especially when a victim is a minor?
The writing is so good that neither of those two reasons matter. Stop screaming that I've lost my mind and that I am a horrible person to even think such a thing. Give me a minute to explain. Let me share the book description first!
Twelve years ago Matthew "the Rocket" Rising had it all. Married to his high school sweetheart and one of the winningest quarterbacks in the history of college football, he was the number one NFL draft pick. But on the night of the draft, he plummeted from the pinnacle of esteem. Falsely accused of a heinous crime with irrefutable evidence, it seemed in an instant all was lost--his reputation, his career, his freedom, and most devastatingly, the love of his life.
Having served his sentence and never played a down of professional football, Matthew leaves prison with one goal--to find his wife, Audrey, whom no one has seen since the trial. He returns to an unwelcoming reception from his Gardi, Georgia, hometown to learn that Audrey has taken shelter from the media with the nuns at a Catholic school. There she has discovered a young man with the talent to achieve the football career Matthew should have had. All he needs is the right coach. Although helping the boy means Matthew violates the conditions of his release and--if discovered--re-incarceration for life, he'll take the chance with hope of winning back Audrey's love.
OK... me again. See, even the cover copy says that he's falsely accused! That's how you can like the guy! It is possible to cheer on such a character.
But, no one believes him. Not his best friend, not his wife, not his lawyers, no one. One redeeming element is that there is a news personality in the book you can hate even more. Someone more obnoxious than an actual certain victims' rights person on a network that shall remain nameless because I do work with them on occasion, so I cannot speak ill of them. #jobhazard #yesthatwasthegrammarnazisworsenightmareofasentence
Will Matthew be able to prove his innocence? Will he be able to coach the next great quarterback from Gardi to be greater than him? Will he get caught and go back to prison?
The reason you can get through all the technical, tedious football talk is because the book reads like an auto biography. Men will love the football story and women will just love a good story.
A story of redemption and second chances. A messy love story where everything is not perfect. Heart wrenching.
My only gripe is the resolution comes together just a little too quickly after the tension throughout the book. Some things could have started coming back together a little sooner. That's just me being a critic though.
I admit I am OCD and there are details in the trailer that don't match the book that drive me a bit crazy!
A Conversation with Charles Martin
Author of A Life Intercepted
What inspired you to write this book?
I stood on the sideline last year watching my son play this game that once meant a lot to me. Watching him play surfaced some things in me that I’d not dealt with for a long time. The depth of those feelings – even after twenty years – surprised me. Pretty soon, I found myself working out those feelings and that bled into this book. Which is true with all my stories – it’s where I work out with my fingers what my heart and mind are dealing with. It’s a story I’ve wanted to write a long, long time.
What experiences or skills from the football field have most influenced your life?
Football is a game with defined boundaries and rules within which you get to play with reckless abandon. Where eleven do what one can’t and never will. It is, quite possibly, the greatest of games. I probably learned more from losing than I did winning (but I liked winning a good bit more). It’s also where I learned to fight through difficulty, pain, and circumstances you can’t control. It’s where I learned that heart, when it counts, trumps talent and skill any day. And it’s where I learned that when things get difficult, and I want to throw up my hands and walk away, I have the choice to quit or not. It’s that simple. As a writer, I’ve endured some major defeats. My first book was rejected 86 times; I’ve seen contracts cancelled, books rejected after I hit the NYT list, and known days on end when the words just don’t come. Now, if you’re beginning to think that I’m some strong stoic, able to pick myself up by my own bootstraps, don't. I’ve been beat down and humbled. And I have known defeat. The great thing about football is that it formed something in me at an early age, creating that gumption to buckle up my chinstrap one more time.
You son is currently a star high school quarterback. What do you hope he takes from the book?
He was one of the first to read it. If it is in his heart to be good at football, I hope he plays it all out. Plays it with his whole heart. I hope he wins and succeeds and knows the fist-pumping jubilation that comes with great achievement. And when someone beats him – because they will – I hope he goes out with his buddies, eats a cheeseburger, drinks a chocolate milkshake, and then wakes up the next morning with a desire to get better. Lastly, I want him to know that he’s free to walk away from it. He doesn’t have to be me, doesn’t have to love it like I love it. I’m not measuring him by his success on that field, and the scoreboard is not the indicator of his value. It’s a game. That’s all. It’s a great game, but it’s still a game.
Yes, but that was due to my immaturity. As I’ve grown, and aged, they mesh together pretty well. Both are expressions. This morning, I’m writing. This afternoon, in about three hours, I’ll go for a run. I need both. And I’m not sure I’d be very good at one if I didn’t have the outlet of the other. I’m grateful God allows me both.
What do you hope readers take away from this story?
Love does what hatred cannot – and never will.
I hope readers like my stories. I hope they’re entertained. I hope they pass them around and talk about them. But more than that, when the lights go out and they’re facing a tough tomorrow, I hope that something about my story reaches down inside them where the world has dinged them, in the dark places they don’t talk about, and whispers the words they alone need to hear.
This is your tenth book. How have you grown as a writer since that first book? Is there a novel or character you're most attached to?
I’d say that my writing is “cleaner.” Less filler. As a writer, I’m comfortable in my own skin. Maybe my characters are more developed. Maybe my plot developments leaner, more taut. As for being attached to a specific character – no. They’re all walking around inside my head. I talk to them all the time.
What does the writing process look like for you?
Books don’t write themselves. It looks like a lot of time in this chair. I’m very comfortable spending days on end right here and seldom coming up for air. Being able to do that is a gift – God gave it to me. Like Eric Liddle said, “It’s where I feel God’s pleasure.”
How have others described your writing style?
At a speaking event, an audience member once called out, “You write like a girl!” and it used to ding me when readers waved my books in my face and stated, “You write love stories.” Made me feel like a windswept Fabio should be posing on my covers. I’d scratch my head and glance over my shoulder. “Why can’t I write cool, guy-stuff like Vince Flynn, Clive Cussler, Robert Ludlum, W.E.B Griffin, or Louis L’Amour? What’s wrong with me?” But while I enjoy those stories and admire those writers, deep down I don’t want to write like them. It took me a while to see that. To be okay with being me. I like what I write. That’s why I write it. I used to joke that I write like me cause I can’t write like them. I quipped, “If I could, I would.” We both know that’s not true.
I’m writing the stories in me that I can’t NOT write, regardless of how they come across. When that lady stood up and screamed, “You write like a girl!” she was affirming that I write with emotion. That I don’t bury it. That I say things that her heart and others’ hearts need and want to hear. And yes, that goes for me, too. And I’m okay with that.
Us guys are good at living out of one side of our hearts but we stumble when it comes to living fully out of both sides. (This goes for me, too. Just cause I’m talking about the idea doesn’t make me a pro.) We’re good at storming the castle, at slaying the dragon, but we ain’t too good at dinner table conversations in the weeks, months, and years ahead. “Good with sword and spear” does not necessarily equate to “good at listening to wife” or “good at engaging with kids.” Maybe my stories are my attempt to awaken this part of my own heart.
What role does faith play in your writing?
Hanging above my desk is a sign that reads, “Imagination is evidence of the divine.” I like that. I also believe it’s absolutely true. God thought me up and shared with me the ability to dream, think, create, and to do so independently of Him. If you let that sink in, that’s an amazing Creator.
I used to give long drawn out answers to this. Let me skip all that and invite you into my prayers. When I pray about my life and specifically my career and writing, I ask the Lord to let my books stand, as C.S. Lewis and others have said, “as road signs to Jerusalem.” I pray they do that. Secondly, Psalm 45. Read it for yourself. I pray that at the end of the day my stories “make His name known to generations.” His glory. Not mine. Lastly, I pray that on that day when I’m there standing before Him, that He knows me, finds me worthy (and because of Him I am), and then leads me by the hand into His personal library. He points to a stack of well-worn books on His desk and says with both a smile and tear, “Look what I’ve been reading to my angels.”
About the author:
Charles Martin is a New York Times bestselling author of nine previous novels, including his most recent book Unwritten. His work has been translated into seventeen languages. When not writing, his hobbies include bow hunting, working out (a blend of old school stuff and martial arts, called Fight Fit), and Tae Kwon Do, in which he currently has a black belt, though he notes he is "the least flexible person you've ever met." He lives with his wife, Christy, and their three sons in Jacksonville, Florida.