Interview with Timothy Carson

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I guess you'd say I had a pretty ordinary childhood, whatever ordinary means. I had a stable two-parent family and I was the oldest of two brothers. What might have been a factor in my love affair with story and writing was the influence of my father who was an amateur dramatist and writer of funny poetry. I combined those elements, the sense of story and interest in writing as I went along. My mother was the deeper one, the more spiritual one, and in her I discovered the deep well of spirit that has been a part of me ever since. As I think about it the fact that my father's business constantly moved him and our family around the country contributed to my sense of being lots of places in a changing world. That later showed up in my hunger for new experiences, places and people, and on the spiritual plane always a longing for more - a constant theme in my writing and certainly a part of this book, The Square Root of God.
When did you first start writing?
I hate to say it but as a younger person I was almost anti-literary. I'm not quite sure why that is except that my parents didn't really read, I mean other than the paper or a magazine. It wasn't really until college and my exposure to a liberal arts education that I was exposed to the classics, and then I was hooked. What I experienced was a correlation between the world of reading and the world of writing. And it really flourished later when my vocation called upon me to be a word factory. I did it reasonably well and from that began to write not only in my role as a pastor but as a spiritual writer with an audience beyond.
What's the hook in your latest book?
The hook, really, is an intersection and an unlikely one at that. Most people like me who are interested in philosophy, psychology, history and literature were never captivated by mathematics or for that matter science. Our brains just weren't wired that way. I was only later in life that I began to discover the intriguing relationship between the humanities and the sciences, and in particular theology and science. A lot of that had to do with building bridges between worlds of knowledge. That intersection is the genesis of this particular book for the space between faith and mathematics becomes very, very rich when you allow each to talk to the other. No, I'm not a mathematician. But I am able to let the concepts and metaphors of each discipline inform one another. And that's when it really gets exciting. I discovered common threads I had never imagined. And from what people say who read my book, they haven't either.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
What a great question. I have four previous books with traditional publishers. So I know that whole scene. They still play a very important part in the whole publishing enterprise. The strengths of good literary agents and publishers is that they have standards and separate the wheat from the chaff. They know what a public is buying. They have well-developed distribution channels.

But a lot of that is radically changing. We are experiencing a mega-shift in the way people create, offer and access everything. And that includes books. The kinds of projects I'm interested in now often seem too risky to an industry that has battened down the hatches in recent tumultuous years. The truism is true: No matter the brilliance of your project, if you're not a known low-risk quantity that can sell for sure those doorkeeper agents and publishers will pink slip you forever. They miss some of the very best opportunities in the world by doing so.In a sense I'm outgrowing that old model and I'm wanting to write what I'm wanting to write. Indie publishing provides that opportunity in astounding new ways. It is the revolutionary literary shift in our time. I bit the bullet and said I wanted in.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I'm new to the whole downloadable e-book scene so the tale is yet to be told. I can see the potential but like anything, you have to be found in order to be discovered. And like in traditional publishing people still search out the tried and true, the familiar, those authors they know. Why try that new title, that new author? It has to be pretty compelling to jar me out of my old pattern to try something new. So that's the greatest challenge for a new indie author, especially if you inhabit a select niche like I do in culturally relevant spirituality.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Writing is communication, story-telling, casting ideas into the world of thought and experience. All that requires soul searching, the writing out of the most honest, deepest aspects of what you have at the moment. That discipline and passion requires something of you when you are at your best. It refines you, plumbs your depths. At the same time the written word must be received for it to complete the circle. As it is taken in by another set of eyes and heart an invisible bond is established between author and reader. That bond, that new reality, even if I don't directly perceive it, is the source of much of my joy.
What do your readers mean to you?
Have you ever tried to dance a tango without a partner? It's possible of course, to go through the moves in your perfect isolation. That exercise can have meaning, like keeping your own personal journal. The reflection and writing is for yourself. But writing for an intended audience changes the dance. The partner affects the way you move, the way you present and even the content of what is shared. Readers are the "Thou" of Martin Buber's "I-
Thou" relationship. You become a self by virtue of the other ... and vice versa.
What are you working on next?
The impossible project. Well not impossible exactly. For the first time I'm entering into a collaboration with an wonderful artist and we are creating this spiritual journey through spoken and visual word. I don't want to give it away but the entire book will be a spiritual journey a la Dante without the flames. We'll see. With these kind of experiments you just never know until they write you.
Who are your favorite authors?
Oh my, so many in so many genres! In the classic fiction category I'm a sucker for the Russians like Dostoyevsky. And I never grow tired of the French existentialists. I just re-read The Plague by Camus. What a treat. One of my favs of all times is Kundera and the Incredible Lightness of Being. And Nikos Kazantzakis never wrote a word I didn't adore. Right now I am plowing through the most dense book ever written by the Russian mystic and scientist Pavel Florensky. It is not for the faint of heart. But he didn't intend for it to be.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Life, the soul rising to meet God as the day rises to the sun, love, a purpose and profound gratitude.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
My day job is being a pastor, which is a vocation and way of life both. It provides the superstructure for much. But aside from that I enjoy time with family and friends, enjoying the arts - especially music. My first degree was in music so I am always pursuing that outlet for beauty and joy.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Almost always by referral. Ever so often I find them listed among other books I have been reading.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, it was a description of a trumpet in a composition class in my Junior year of high school. It was a romantic, sugary piece of trash. But the teacher commended me for it and I never forgot.
What is your writing process?
It always begins with imagining a plot or constellation of ideas. Most often the light bulb goes on when I make a new connection I don't think I've seen anywhere else. I start to sketch the idea and relationships on a pad and allow that to grow. If I can boil it down to six or seven sub-headings I know there is enough substance to proceed, that it's not just an overblown article or column. Too many books are really expanded short stories or articles.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Yes, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. I'll never write anything that good, ever.
How do you approach cover design?
Like the amateur that I am. I am utterly dependent on artists and pros who know what they are doing. The only thing I offer is an idea, a concept, and they create away.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich. He names the inside of faith like no other.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. No book gets on the inside of the American psyche like this.
In the Beauty of the Lilies by John Updike. He describes the spiritual crisis of our times.
Commerce of the Prairies by Josiah Gregg. Just because the story of the Santa Fe Trail is my family story.
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. A story of the impossible that actually happened.
What do you read for pleasure?
Biographies. I want to know how people lived their lives, the obstacles they faced and how they either fell or rose because of them.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I'll never tell.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Personal contact and events.
Describe your desk
Clean with a few stacks. I have a file drawer on top where I keep projects in process.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Well, The Square Root of God is not a narrative. It is a compilation of give guiding ideas/metaphors of mathematics applied to life and faith. For instance I borrow the concepts of The Number One and Infinity and allow the mathematical definitions to inform the theological ones: How in the world can Unity also contain the Infinite? It does, but how?
What is your greatest hope for The Square Root of God?
My greatest hope is that it will provide a culturally relevant on-ramp for people who would like to take another run at faith. My second hope is that people of faith who are practicing already will find another way that their faith journey can connect in relevant ways with the larger thought world of the sciences. They've been too separate for too long.
Published 2013-08-30.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Square Root of God: Mathematical Metaphors and Spiritual Tangents
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 24,580. Language: English. Published: April 24, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Religion and Spirituality » Christian Theology / Apologetics, Nonfiction » Inspiration » Spiritual inspiration
This playful exploration of the shared mystery of mathematics and spirituality ushers the reader into a whole new understanding of God and the universe. For the practitioner of faith it provides new and relevant ways to speak of God. For the seeker or skeptic it provides bridges between ancient wisdom and contemporary views of the universe