Author of The Shack Speaks About His Best Seller
Where is God in a world filled with such unspeakable pain?
When Mackenzie Philips broaches this subject with “God” in the New York Times best seller, The Shack, the answers he receives challenge his beliefs about God’s character, power, mercy, and grace, as well as his perception of what it means to be loved by Him.
The self-published work of fiction is described as “somewhat autobiographical” by author William Paul Young, who spoke to more than 800 visitors to campus on February 17. The event was hosted by the Church Connection Initiative at Trinity.
Young said the story draws on his life experiences—from staggering losses to transformational healing—and was written for his six children, with no intention to publish. In fact, the first 15 copies were printed at the local office supply store to give as gifts to his family and friends.
How the number of books grew from the first 15 to the one million copies distributed through Windblown Media in the space of a few years is explained by Young as “a God thing, not a Paul thing.” A year after it was originally published in paperback, The Shack debuted at #1 on the New York Times best seller list (trade paperback fiction) where it has remained for 38 weeks.
Throughout the evening, Young shared various stories, which elicited laughter and even tears from the audience. He shared just a few of the thousands of responses he has received from readers all over the world who say their lives have been changed by reading The Shack.
Young also addressed some of the “push back” he has experienced from those who question his theology and his portrayal of God the Father as a gregarious African-American woman.
“All imagery created to represent God is inadequate,” he said. “God doesn’t fit into our categorical boxes.”
Young credits his life as the son of missionaries with his own thinking “outside of the box.” He was born in Alberta, Canada, but spent the first decade of his life with his missionary parents in the highlands of Netherlands New Guinea (West Papua), among the Dani, a technologically stone age tribal people. He later graduated summa cum laude from Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon, with a degree in religion. Currently he works as a general manager, janitor, and salesman for a small manufacturer’s rep company in Oregon where he lives with his wife Kim.
Young said he has always been a writer and has written stories and poems over the years to give as gifts to family and friends. “I’m not a real author,” he said. “I’m an accidental one.”
This “God thing,” as Young describes it, seems to continue to surprise the author, as much as his portrayal of the Holy Spirit as an Asian woman surprises readers. And the meaning of her name Sarayu, according to Young, seems to represent how The Shack has affected so many thousands of readers—like “a wind that takes you by surprise.”
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