Archive for April, 2012

Character Profiles: The Suave Villain

Writing | Posted by Shannon
Apr 26 2012

What sharp little eyes you have, my dear.

– Lord Archelaeus Burleigh, The Skin Map

Archelaeus Burleigh was an earl – rich, refined, well-dressed, every inch an aristocrat. He was a great traveler, too, and a man of books. As may be expected, he was very reasonable, in the sense that he generally gave people a chance to join his side before he killed them.

Burleigh was a Suave Villain. Suave Villains are an interesting breed. They are taken as being more intelligent than their uncouth cousins – henchmen, enforcers, hot-tempered leaders of the pack. They’re also taken as being more evil. I don’t know why. Maybe the hot blood of angry, aggressive villains is at least mammalian, but the cold-hearted cunning of the Suave Villain is definitely reptilian.

There’s an irony in such characters that lends them depth. Burleigh was educated, urbane, at the top of society; the Suave Villain is by definition a master of the conventions of civilization. He is also, by definition, lawless. His manners may be the height of etiquette, but his philosophy is the philosophy of the jungle. Outwardly, a civilized man; inwardly, tearing up the roots of civilization.

A similar contrast is found in characters such as Gaston and Jadis: beautiful on the outside, ugly on the inside. These characters illustrate the superficiality of good looks. Maybe characters like Burleigh illustrate the superficiality of what they call “good breeding” – all that smooth comportment through society, always knowing the right thing to say, the right thing to wear, the right fork to use.

Many, many people have been coated with this lacquer of civilization without it ever touching their souls. These are garden variety snobs and egotists and selfish people – and, just now and then, Suave Villains. The Suave Villain’s hands may be dirty, sometimes even bloody, but his fingernails are very clean.

Review: Finally the Bride

Book Reviews | Posted by Shannon
Apr 20 2012

Missing:

My husband. He’s tall. He’s dark. He’s handsome. I think. Actually, I don’t know. I may not have met him yet. He could be a short, balding blond with a dimpled cheek. If you find him, please call me at 1-777-HUSBAND. Reward offered. If you are that guy – the one who hasn’t shown up yet – your M.I.A. status is completely unacceptable to your future wife.

– Cheryl McKay, Finally the Bride

A missing poster, it must be said, is better than a wanted poster. On the other hand, even a wanted poster is better than being put on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. That will come later, in chapter six. The missing poster is the beginning – the opening salvo of Finally the Bride.

In Finally the Bride, Cheryl McKay takes on the plight of those who have to be single without the Apostle Paul’s special gift for it. She begins by “introducing the impatient one”: herself. She’s single, in her thirties, and everyone has a diagnosis as to what’s causing that. Maybe you can relate. If you feel the sting of those well-meaning people, telling a single woman what her problem is – you probably do.

Using her life as a baseline, Cheryl McKay spends the next twelve chapters exploring singleness in all its facts and feelings. She writes about the upside and the downside, the advantages and the vulnerabilities. She writes about how to best prepare for marriage; she writes about living the single years to their fullest.

She writes the most about God. Here we come to the main idea of the book. God, Cheryl tells us, cares about our hearts and will write our love stories – if we let Him have the pen. Surrender. Let God have His way.

Sometimes God’s way is a hard one for us to walk. Cheryl writes very openly about how she grappled with God’s script-writing for her life. Although singleness is always in view, Finally the Bride is broader than that. It transcends marital status as Cheryl brings us through her journey of waiting, of yielding, of learning to trust God even when His will was painful to her.

Yet and still, the book is written primarily for single women. There’s much advice, and I found it valuable. I would like to highlight two pieces of it – one on the practical side, one on the spiritual.

For the practical, she cautions women about the pitfalls of close friendships with men. (Briefly: here. More thoroughly: read the book!) I chose this because it is important and rarely heard. It’s needed – especially in our society, where the loss of old rules has left the sexes mingling with new ambiguity.

For the spiritual – well, let me quote the book: “God is a romancer. No one can match His love. No one in this world can love me more than Him. None. My search to find a love greater is fruitless. God’s love is unmatched. We search for many things to fill our God-sized holes. Only He can fill. Only He can fulfill. Only He can reach.”

In all this, Cheryl McKay does not write as a theologian or a commentator; she doesn’t write from a distance. She writes as one woman to another – and as a woman who herself is still waiting. Despite what the title may suggest, she was not finally a bride while penning these chapters.

That is the first twelve chapters. Then the book changes a little. The last few chapters read much more like an autobiography – but with a twist. Cheryl McKay wrote as events unfolded in her life – wrote each installment of the story without knowing how it would end. So these chapters have a real-time feel to them that is fresh and enormously compelling.

The book’s last chapter is written by Christopher Price. He gives another side of Cheryl’s story, as well as advice to both single men and women. It is an excellent addition to the book, as is the appendix. The appendix is a collection of stories – written by the women who experienced them – of God’s romance scripts. I wish there had been more.

Finally the Bride is a wonderful book. Cheryl McKay is a fluent writer, able in bringing depth, feeling, and humor. Her focus on God is encouraging and good medicine for the unwillingly single (and, for that matter, everyone else). There’s a rare realness and immediacy to this book. I recommend it to anyone waiting to be the bride – and even to those waiting for something else. Surrendering to God’s good sovereignty is a lesson we all need.


To learn more about Finally the Bride, or to buy, go to Amazon or Cheryl McKay’s website. My interview with Cheryl may be read here. I received a review copy of this book.


Interview with Cheryl McKay

Writing | Posted by Shannon
Apr 05 2012

Cheryl McKay is a screenwriter and professional author of fifteen years. She co-wrote the Wild and Wacky, Totally True Bible Stories audio series and books with Frank Peretti. She was also chosen to write the screenplay for Jim Stovall’s novel The Ultimate Gift. In 2007, Fox released The Ultimate Gift into theaters. The movie won a Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival and a CAMIE Award for one of the Top Ten Films of the year. The Ultimate Gift also received three Movieguide Nominations, winning one of the Ten Best Family Films of 2007.

Cheryl wrote a screenplay called Never the Bride that was adapted as a novel and published by Random House in 2009. Less than two weeks ago her nonfiction book Finally the Bride was released. In Finally the Bride, Cheryl tells of her journey as a single woman and what, through it, she learned – about singleness, about hope, waiting, and God. I am planning to post my review of the book in a week or two; today, I am posting the interview I did with Cheryl McKay. Enjoy.


First, can you tell us the genesis of your book?

During the novelization process of my script to book with Rene Gutteridge, I started to feel God prompting me to write a non-fiction version of my story, sharing of all my years of being single and waiting on Him to do something about the lack of love in my life. He’d asked me to surrender my pen to Him (just like I wrote into Jessie’s story). And the years that followed of waiting on Him included a lot of trials, lessons, and preparation that I felt God wanted me to share in Finally the Bride.

Did it take a lot of faith to keep on writing about how God does write love stories, when He hadn’t written yours?

Absolutely! First of all, it was hard with the release of the novel version, Never the Bride, to have to answer to so many interview questions about how I keep my faith alive and share this message with the world that God does this for people when He clearly hadn’t done it for me yet. God was stretching me, asking me to put myself out there, and declare that I had faith that He was at work even though I had no tangible evidence in the natural. Releasing a book like that put my “singleness” in my face daily. My “wait” got a lot harder. Then He asks me to write this book while still waiting. (I thought if I wrote it fast enough, the husband would follow quickly. Not so much. I shelved it for a year before continuing to write, and even then, it wasn’t yet with the conclusion of my love story. That came two years after we released Never the Bride.) In the process of writing it, I found my way to loving Him more and more each day. It was quite a journey and it’s why this book has a “real time” feel. I wrote it while I was going through it, not as a reflection of what I learned and what God did in and through me “after the fact.” I always knew without a doubt one day God would move in this area. I just didn’t know when and had to write, in faith that He would. I just didn’t realize the story of my novel would so closely match the story my real life would take on! That was the fun part to watch!

You write a lot about receiving a “prophetic word” from God. There are Christians who don’t believe God does that, or who believe He might but haven’t experienced it themselves. What would you say to them?

That is an excellent question. I have been unable to find any evidence in Scripture that says God would stop talking to us after the last word of the Bible. We’re not talking about writing New Scriptures, of course. But in His word, He says His sheep know His voice and follow Him. If we never hear His voice, how will we follow Him? How can we be directed by Him? I didn’t always share such a communicative relationship with God, as I didn’t know He wanted to be so personal with us. But when I think of God as our True Husband and that we are looked at as the Bride, it’s hard for me to imagine He would just be completely silent, not guide us, and leave us on our own down here while He’s tucked “way up there” so impersonal and uninvolved. As you know from reading the book, I share a lot of cautions about prophetic words because not every allegedly prophetic word we receive is from Him. Yet, He gets the brunt of our anger sometimes when we feel like He’s let us down on something He never actually said or promised. So, prophecy is not to be taken lightly. But experientially, I have felt and known God’s presence, including words I’ve felt He’s said to me directly or through His Word or others. And He’s given me amazing testimonies to share about what He’s told me in advance and then how it paid off in real life. It takes faith, and confirmation through multiple sources sometimes, to discern what He’s saying.

What is the most important thing for a woman to do while waiting for a husband?

I do have a whole chapter on what to focus on while waiting. I would hope each woman could still live life to the fullest and not spend a lot of her time in the angst that I felt, like something is missing. I wish I had been more settled in my wait, and not so anxious for God to always change my life. (You’ll see in the book many journal entries about this.) Growing closer to the Lord is always time well spent, figuring out what we want to do with our lives, career and ministry wise, is too. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the freedom they have while they can make decisions for themselves and use the time to do things they may not get to do once married.

I also think, while waiting, we should ask God for the grace to not make a bunch of mistakes that we’ll regret or carry into marriage later.

In your book, you warn that close friendships with men can be a snare for single women. Can you explain why?

Yes, I call that dilemma “The Best Friends Syndrome.” I had at least five of those in my seven years of not dating, leading up to marriage. These days, guys are waiting longer and longer to pursue or to seek marriage. But they still seem to want close, intimate friendships with women. As women, we love and crave emotional intimacy. So we take on these friends, especially if there’s an attraction to them, hoping as we get closer the friendship will move beyond that to a relationship. Unfortunately, that is not the norm. At least for me, when a guy wasn’t pursuing me in the beginning beyond friendship, it never went further. With Chris, my husband, his pursuit was so direct it took me off guard! I wasn’t used to a guy being so clear that he wanted a relationship; he wasn’t just calling me to “shoot the breeze”. It was a refreshing change, even if I didn’t say yes to him right away. The challenge with our “best friends” is they’re hard to let go of, they make us look unavailable to others. And if our hearts are involved deeply in the hope they’ll eventually choose us, we truly aren’t available to be open to a real pursuer. Giving up a best friend is like going through a break up. This happened to me in a big way, in a story I share in the book, and it almost wrecked my chances at my marriage to Chris. I share a lot more about this as a cautionary tale for women who find themselves in these kinds of friendships.

Many singles, when they start to feel that they’re running out of time and options, try online dating. What do you think of that as a way to find a spouse?

Personally, I never wanted to. But that in no way means that it’s a wrong way to connect with someone. The irony was that I got reconnected with Chris because of Facebook, so that was technically online since we’d lost touch since the 90s. But it wasn’t because I was looking for a date like on traditional date sites. In fact, I kept my single status off FB because I didn’t want people, especially strangers, to target me based on marital status. That was actually a funny frustration for Chris when we first connected on FB because he couldn’t tell if I was single or not. Because of my own personal history (which will be shared in my next book Finally Fearless), I had a policy to not date strangers, or at least people who didn’t know people really well that I trusted. Connecting with people online doesn’t really allow for the strong and reliable personal references about a guy’s character and that he is indeed who he says he is. I know others who’ve tried it and enjoy it or have gotten married because of it. So, I know it works. I just always wanted to feel safer in a dating situation than I would have, dating someone I met online. That could have also been some God prompting too since God knew I already knew my husband (and just didn’t realize it). If a woman surrenders her love life to God, she can always ask Him how He feels about it. It could be the vehicle He intends to use. It would take some good discernment.

Caedmon’s Call has a song called “Can’t Lose You” with this line: “And maybe I have the gift that everybody speaks so highly of. Funny how nobody wants it.” Do you think singleness is a gift even when it’s unwanted?

Yes. I think every stage of life has gifts of its own. I never felt called to singleness for my whole life as a gift, put in terms that Paul the Apostle discusses. But I think there are parts of life to be celebrated as a single, that you only have while single, as well as benefits you only have (or should only have) once married.

Once you called yourself “never anybody’s choice.” That phrase so perfectly, and so poignantly, expresses the pain that many single women feel. Any words of encouragement for these women?

In hindsight, I honestly believe I wasn’t anybody’s choice before my husband, because God was protecting me. It’s hard advice to accept during the many, many years of rejections! I get that. I hated it, too. In some ways, God can’t “win” because I ask for His protection. He gives it to me in the form of not letting the wrong guys notice me, then I get mad when no one likes me and feel unlovable.

But when I look back on every person who didn’t see me “that way,” I feel certain it’s because God took my request to write my love story seriously. And He didn’t want me getting distracted by any of the wrong people. Had any of my “love interests” responded favorably, I would have dated them, probably gone through more break ups, or maybe even ended up with the wrong person. (I believe our freewill can get in the way of God’s best.) It’s not that they were bad people, but not God’s best. Now that I’ve been married almost a year and have started to see the ministry ahead for my husband and I, I understand why God was so specific in His choice. None of those others, who I was so upset wouldn’t choose me, would have been as suited for ministry alongside me as my husband is. It wouldn’t have fit with someone else, and I would have had a very different life ahead. So while it may have felt like I had that giant sign on my head “Nobody’s choice,” I feel like it was God’s protection until the right one came along. As I said many times while writing Finally the Bride, I would rather have stayed single than ended up in the wrong relationship.

In Finally the Bride, you write that “Ruby” is God’s nickname for you. In Never the Bride, that is the name of the woman eating alone in the restaurant right before the dancing scene. Coincidence?

Wow! Good memory! Not a coincidence. I hadn’t done that in the script initially, because the character is non-speaking in the script, and I didn’t have to name her. But when we were working on the novelization, I asked Rene to put that in as yet another symbol of faith on my end that God was at work.

You mentioned a sequel to Never the Bride Finally the One. As a fan of the first book, I have to ask – when might I get a chance to read that?

While I have a first draft of the script done, I need to wait until we shoot the film version of the first film to see how having actors in Never the Bride will affect the sequel. One little story change for the sake of the film could change how I want to do the sequel. Then once I firm that up, we’ll try to set up it as a book first, with Rene, then a sequel film. But I don’t have a timeline on that yet.

Any other projects in the works?

Rene and I have another novelization in the works, based on my romantic comedy script Greetings from the Flipside for B&H Publishing. It’ll come out next year. I also wrote the film sequel to The Ultimate Gift, called The Ultimate Life. I hope we shoot this year. And of course, we’re still working on raising the funds to shoot Never the Bride, my passion project! I hope we get to shoot in Charleston, SC, such a romantic city.

People can keep up with me and my film or book projects on my website, Purple PenWorks.com. And they can get my book on Amazon in either kindle or print format.