Today through Friday, we quiz Jason Boyett, author of the Pocket Guide to the Bible (Relevant). Jason writes books that "mesh lots of information, pop culture references, plausibly hip vernacular, and modern spirituality into a tasty stew of highly readable goodness." He also wrote Pocket Guide to Adulthood and Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse.
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ARE YOU AN "ENTERTAINER" OR A "MINISTER"?
I see my writing career as more entertainment than ministry. Writing books is a way to put my talents and abilities to good use. It's a way to educate people, I think, on some of the subjects I write about. And if that causes them to think more deeply about certain topics (especially religious ones) or somehow draw closer to God, then that’s great. I suppose it has some ministry value there. But I don’t tend to want to overspiritualize it and say it's a capital-M ministry. It's a hobby, and a way to make a little money (emphasis: little), and a way to use the talents God has given me.
Which is not to say I'm not a minister at all. All Christians ought to be ministers. I minister in lots of other ways that don't have anything to do with "Pocket Guide" books. These opportunities are more personal, less public, and hopefully more focused on the "least of these," which rarely includes people with enough disposable income to buy books. Writing is not my ministry. What I do with my life is my ministry, and writing is a small, entertainment-oriented part of it.
WHO ARE YOUR LITERARY INFLUENCES?
I'm a long-time fan of authors like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I love David James Duncan’s fiction and essays, and Anne Lamott’s religious writing, and just about anything by Robert Farrar Capon, and the three diaries of Henri Nouwen. I’m not sure how much any of those are literary influences, as none of them are really writers of small, snarky religious books. In that regard, maybe Dave Barry and Jon Stewart (or, at least, his writers) would be more accurately called my influences.
WHO ARE YOUR SPIRITUAL INFLUENCES?
See above. I'm indebted to writers like Nouwen and Brennan Manning and Capon for expanding my spiritual thinking beyond the narrow Southern Baptist borders I grew up within. I continue to be inspired by religious writers who cause me to think—like Scot McKnight, Brian McLaren or N.T. Wright—whether or not I always agree with them. As for the non-writers, I owe my faithful skepticism to my dad. My commitment to prayer comes from my mom. And my spiritual gratitude can be traced back to my grandparents.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT ONE OF YOUR BOOKS?
A number of reviewers of this new book, Pocket Guide to the Bible (in addition to last year’s Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse), have mentioned the fact that it combines fun readability with education. You learn something from it, and you have a good time doing so. Lauren Sandler's blurb on the back cover—"Leads us through the Bible like Jon Stewart leads viewers through the day's news"—is pretty much the endorsement of my dreams.
WHAT IS THE WORST THING ANYONE SAID ABOUT YOUR BOOKS?
There's an Amazon customer review for PGTTApocalypse that calls it "boring, cocky and dry." That's pretty much the complete opposite of what I'm trying to be as a writer, so obviously I need to track down this person and perhaps try to explain myself better, or at the least, introduce her to Lauren Sandler.
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Come back tomorrow for the second part of our conversation with Jason Boyett. In the meantime, find him online at JasonBoyett.com. Follow his virtual book tour here.
Q&A: JASON BOYETT, PT 2
Q&A: JASON BOYETT, PT 3
FAST LOOK: ANDY ANDREWS (The Seven Decisions)
CONVERSATION WITH ANNE RICE (Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt)