Pilgrim Strong: Rewriting my story on the Way of St. James (Author Interview)

Pilgrim Strong, looks like a great personal journey. Any plans for similar style books?

Yes, I'm already about 10,000 words into the second manuscript for a book that continues the "pilgrimage" or "quest" metaphor. It recounts in memoir-story-telling fashion three distinct periods that helped me arrive at what I consider a fullness of faith. The book is called Highbanks Road: From Off the Beaten Path to Fullness of Faith. That’s the working title, at least.

I'm also excited about an experience my wife and I will have later this year that will become the foundation for the third book. We will serve on staff for 90 days at Pilgrim House in Santiago de Compostela, serving the needs of pilgrims arriving at the end of their journey. I believe this will be an amazing experience to live out the gospel message, and to collect wonderful stories.

What do you think makes a great personal story?

All storytelling begins with good writing. The things that make personal storytelling unique are transparency and the ability to bring readers alongside you. I don't like "talking" to the reader, I prefer, rather, to hold her hand. When telling stories, I try not to tell them directly from my own eyes. Instead I tell them as if I'd just died on an operating table and my spirit is hovering above and watching. That's the best perspective for storytelling— a view from above.

Reading, traveling, understanding other cultures, and a world view are key to every good storyteller.

What inspired you when writing Pilgrim Strong?

I went on pilgrimage to celebrate my recovery from chronic depression, so, in essence, the entire experience was an inspiration. But mostly, I think, when you are surrounded by people from around the world in this environment where all you really have to pass the time is walk and talk, it's all about the people and the stories. I met amazing people who told me incredible stories. Not sharing them would have killed me, I think.

What are your ambitions for your writing career? Full time? Part time?

I’ve worked as a full-time journalist for 30-plus years and only recently made the transition into the literary world. It was a much wider cavern to cross than I’d anticipated. But yes, I’ve now dedicated my life to full time storytelling in the form of books and public presentations. We are now on a nationwide book tour much of which has been coordinated with REI stores across the country. There’s a core message about truth in all my writing and think of myself as kind of a “missionary journalist.”

When did you decide to become a writer?

My second year in college, when I realized it was just about the only talent I had.

When writing Pilgrim Strong did anything stand out as particularly challenging?

Well, there are countless challenges when writing and publishing your first book from managing the daily discipline to write to making the story more about the reader than it is you. That sounds crazy for a memoir, but that's how it works. The story is about the reader, not the author.

How did you come up with the idea to write about your journey?  

I prefer thinking of it as a quest rather than a journey.
Pilgrimage is not something many people really know about or really understand. The experience doesn't end at your final steps. When you walk 500 miles across a holy place it's an experience you process long after the final steps. You ask yourself ... what does this mean for me now? What do I do with this? Is it really over. I asked myself all those questions, and so as I do normally in every aspect of my life, when I'm asking myself questions, I write about it. This book is the result of my processing the pilgrimage through my mind and heart.

What do you like to do when not writing?

My style is pretty eclectic. I travel a lot, read, loving working outside in the garden. I’m also kind of an amateur chef who loves cooking and serving others. Food makes people happy and builds community in a unique sort of way.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

On Instagram: https: //www.instagram.com/pilgrimstrong/


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