Interview with Cheryl McKay

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 And they can get my book on Amazon in either kindle or print format.

Great Openings

Note: This is a totally subjective list, comprised of openings I found most amusing, intriguing, or arresting. You will not find “Call me Ishmael” here, largely because I never read the book. It’s a fine sentence, but it’s all I need. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is also excluded, even though I read A Tale of Two Cities and liked it. It’s a good opening, but the appeal has worn thin. Maybe it’s just been quoted one too many times for me.

The universe is infinite but bounded, and therefore a beam of light, in whatever direction it may travel, will after billions of centuries return – if powerful enough – to the point of its departure; and it is no different with rumor, that flies about from star to star and makes the rounds of every planet. Stanislaw Lem, The Seventh Sally (technically, a short story – but who said that wasn’t allowed?)

The only possible excuse for this book is that it is an answer to a challenge. Even a bad shot is dignified when he accepts a duel. G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

You don’t know me yet, so there is no reason you should care that I’m stuck on a highway with a blowout. But maybe we can relate to each other. Cheryl Mckay and Rene Gutteridge, Never the Bride

Marley was dead: to begin with. There was no doubt whatever about that. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

These tales concern the doing of things recognized as impossible to do; impossible to believe; and, as the weary reader may well cry aloud, impossible to read about. G. K. Chesterton, Tales of the Long Bow

Technically, the cucumber came first. Phil Vischer, Me, Myself & Bob

I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of gods. I have no husband nor child, nor hardly a friend, through whom they can hurt me. My body, this learn carrion that still has to be washed and fed and have clothes hung about it daily with so many changes, they may kill as soon as they please. The succession is provided for. My crown passes to my nephew. C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

In a hole in a ground there lived a hobbit. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason. You could be talking about Scrabble and they would instantly leap to the anti-American position. Ann Coulter, Treason

I don’t remember one thing about the day I was born. It hasn’t been for lack of trying either. I’ve set for hours trying to go back as far as I could, but the earliest thing I remember is riding in the back of Floyd’s wagon and looking at myself in a looking glass. Jonathan Rogers, The Charlatan’s Boy

Had he but known that before the day was over he would discover the hidden dimensions of the universe, Kit might have been better prepared. At least, he would have brought an umbrella. Stephen Lawhead, The Skin Map

And now a drum roll, please, for our final winner, the mother of all memorable first lines, never forgotten to this day, an irreducible part of Western culture …

It was a dark and stormy night. (I don’t know, and neither do you)

I was going to research the name of the author and novel – I saw it somewhere once – but that would just ruin the mystique. Nearly everyone knows this line, and yet they haven’t the faintest idea where it came from. It has not only outlived its author, it has outlived its book. That deserves recognition.

Review: Never the Bride

I was browsing through the library’s Christian fiction section and saw the title Never the Bride. So I picked the book up. This is probably evidence of some sort of problem, but whatever.

Jessie Stone has lived her life with one dream: to be married. She longs for chivalry, she practices wedding vows, she fills her journals with dream proposals – using her feathery purple pen. But now she’s 34, and Prince Charming has yet to show.

But on February 14, God does. He has a request. He wants Jessie to give Him her purple pen. He wants her to let Him write her love story. Or she can keep on doing things her way, if that’s working for her. To a woman who, on Valentine’s Day, just spent her evening speed-dating, this is a compelling argument.

Never the Bride is a wonderful book, funnier and more profound than you would expect. Jessie Stone’s intense desire for marriage isn’t the set-up for a stormy love affair; it’s the set-up for a lesson in trusting God. We all struggle with obedience, with doing things God’s way, with just trusting. “Thy will be done” is an easy prayer, until we discover His will isn’t ours. And Jessie will discover that letting God write her story doesn’t mean she’ll always like the script.

But there is nothing heavy-handed in this book. The authors make their point, but they keep a light touch. Humor flows throughout. The book is written in first-person, present tense – an unusual but very enjoyable style, and one that lets the heroine shine through. Jessie Stone is an excellent character. Capable, dependable, and an incurable romantic; a dreamer with a keen sense of humor and a compulsive need to have things just so. When a friend calls her a control freak, she proves that she can so handle disorder by nudging her stapler out of alignment with the sticky notes. Then she can’t look at it.

The plot is brisk, and Jessie’s search for true love takes ups and downs. There is one tremendous plot twist, which I will not even hint at. The writing is fresh and uncluttered, and the narrative flows easily.

As I said earlier, God appears to speak with Jessie, invisible to everyone but her. This is the sort of thing that can be done well and must be done very carefully. Ultimately, I believe the authors succeeded. God appears to Jessie as a handsome young man. Naturally, this guise doesn’t do justice to the majesty and fearfulness of the God of the universe. Yet the authors seem conscious of that. There is a moment when Jessie contradicts Him and,

He looks down at me, and for a moment I catch a glimpse of who He really is inside that young man’s body. I squirm.

Glimpses of who He really is, behind the guise of that young man’s body, are continually given. You see the divine prerogative in His interrupting her schedule to bring her onto His, or in telling her it’s His script and He’s not accepting nominations for Prince Charming.

Never the Bride is a lovely book, witty, moving, and profound. It’s a keeper, even if you’re not waiting to be the bride.