Monday, March 10, 2008
FEATURED AUTHOR: Andrew Clarke
I’ve lived in both England and Australia, having a parent from each country and the family spent a few years in England while I was young. I went to high school in Murwillumbah, N.S.W. and became a high school teacher. I loved stories, and wanted to make up my own since the time my mother read to me. When I became a Christian, I saw a whole new reason to write. I worked for 25 years as a High School teacher of English. I’m married, with five children.
“Outcasts of Skagaray”
“Outcasts of Skagaray” says some things I’ve wanted to say for as long as I can remember. It is not meant to be about classical heroes, but real ones: the ones who suffer for doing what is right, but they struggle to do it anyway. It is a book about hope and good outcomes, because in Jesus there really are some good outcomes. It is about faith, and seeing reason to go on living and help others to go on living. It is also a love story, with two pairs of lovers. Love is part of hope.
What would you like your readers to take away from your book?
I would want anyone who read the book to be left with a feeling that they themselves have worth. They may not get much encouragement from those around them. They may be ridiculed as ‘losers’ by some people. But in the sight of God they have value, and are precious. They have something to offer and no-one should take that feeling away from them. It comes from God, not from mere humanity. If the reader is a confident person, who is popular and gets the approval of those around them, I would hope that they see that everyone matters. It is a cruel and evil thing to reject those who don’t impress us. The idea that some people are not fit to live is behind what the Nazis did in Europe in the mid Twentieth Century, and any number of brutal things. People are suffering now because others do not properly care for and appreciate them. And there could not be many more agonizing things to see than an abandoned baby.
What inspired the story?
I was reading about the mythology and spirit beliefs of the Vikings and other early Europeans. The Vikings believed in different kinds of ghosts. One kind was the ghost of an abandoned child. Sometimes ancient Scandinavian families would get rid of an unwanted child by leaving them out in the snow at night, to die. The ghost of that child, they believed, would sometimes come back to take revenge on the family who rejected and abandoned it. Rather than being frightened by the thought of this ghost, I felt horrified by the idea of living a little child out to just perish. Other ancient peoples did similar things. I was taught at school that the Ancient Romans did it. It was a way of keeping their race tough. And the Spartans could be very harsh, making outcasts of those they considered weak. Likewise the Celts, early people of the British Isles. I wanted to write a story in which someone found the abandoned babies and children and took them in, and let them live. It’s not an original thought, after all. Many people have made a mission out of helping the abandoned and unwanted. But my story was set in a world something like early Europe. And Christians should remember one of the most important messages of the Bible. No child should be rejected and left uncared for. The ones we least expect may have some of the most precious gifts to give. In my novel, the unwanted outcasts prove to be the only ones able to save the very ones who rejected them.
What did you learn while writing this book?
When the story was first written, it was meant to be a childrens’ story, and was only a few thousand words long. I could see how each of the characters could be much better developed, so that the story was more detailed, and how to extend the plot. That was how I rewrote it at over ten times the size. For myself, I learnt that kind and positive thinking can be uplifting to the person who engages in it. Of course, sometimes stress and disappointment can get you down and leave you feeling angry and cynical. Despair is one of Satan’s deadliest weapons. But if you resolve to fix your mind on what is good, and seek the help of God, you can fight off the bitterness and regain your hope. About writing, I learnt that to make your characters real then they have to have faults and failings. Characters that are too good are not believable. And the bad characters have to be real, with real failings but still some human reality so that we can recognize people in them, and them in others, including if need be ourselves.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
I wish I had known God properly from earlier in life. I could have avoided some very bad choices, such as taking up smoking, and getting involved in some foolish things that were better avoided. I could have avoided the most incredible amount of angst and misery if I had had the faith to know that God was watching over me and would make things come out for His good purpose.
I wish that I’d learnt to see other peoples’ viewpoints and problems better than I often did. It is too easy to be sure that you’re right when you do not see where other people are coming from.
Having said that, it is also true that I would have done better if I’d stuck up for my own principals at times, instead of compromising to get on with other people. Doing the right thing can cost you, but in the end you feel worse if you do not than if you do. And that old saying is true: for bad things to happen, all it needs is for people to see them happen and do nothing.
What do you do to make time for yourself?
One of the best ways is to go for a walk. Our house is right near the edge of town, and it’s easy to get out into the country and away from things for a bit. My wife and I both enjoy some traveling, by car, and looking round new places, or old ones we like to get back to. For myself, apart from walking, I love to read – both fiction, especially good Christian fiction, and history.
My website address: http://www.threeswans.com.au/.
My blog address: http://threeswans.blogspot.com/
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