Welcome, Lazarus Barnhill. Congratulations on the publication of your new book! What is Pastor Larsen and the Rat about?
Reverend Martin Luther Larsen — highly regarded, completely ethical, genuine and sincere —has dedicated his life to the pastorate. Now, in the face of the drudgery, church politics and frustration that are the usual professional hazards of the ministry, a dangerous and intriguing complication has slipped into his life: Ange. No one in Larsen’s close knit congregations knew of the existence of this woman, the daughter of a parishioner who appeared just in time for her mother’s funeral. For Larsen, Ange is more than mysterious. She is alluring, wise and astonishingly intuitive. . . . And then there is the issue of the large rat that seems to be taunting the members of his church.
That rat. Such an interesting part of the story. So mysterious! But that’s only one of the mysterious aspects of the book.
Underlying the story are multiple mysteries that get solved and secrets that get revealed. Most church-goers have little conception of the attitudes, aspirations and frustrations of the ministry. The more readers assume what they read in Pastor Larsen and the Rat is totally unlike their congregation and sect, the more likely the story is a perfect mirror of their religious world. Then there is the mystery of mistress: who is Ange; why does she go out of her way to seduce Larsen; will she destroy him either intentionally or accidentally — how could it be otherwise? Finally there is the rat. Is his annoying, persistent presence some sort of sacred portent or is he just a varmint on the loose?
What made you write this particular story?
I actually conceived this book back in the 1980’s when a big rat took up residence in the church I served in Dallas. For weeks we tried everything to kill or capture the rat, without success. Over the years, the story grew, developed and transformed itself until at last it was complete in my mind. Once I started the actual writing process, the novel just wrote itself. Then I let it marinate for another twelve months, periodically re-reading it, until the publisher said, “It’s time!”
Are you worried that people will find Pastor Larsen and the Rat controversial?
To a degree. Some will find it profane. I hope some find it insightful and hopeful. Those familiar with religious bodies — and with the way spirituality operates in human life — will not be able to deny it’s honesty–not the sex part, but the organized religion part, and the divine intervention part. Ultimately I hoped when I wrote it that non-religious people would read it for the naughty romance and gain some insight into how the holy is able to work in our midst despite all that religions do to prevent it; and that religious people would “force themselves” live with the titillation in order at last to read something truthful about their gatherings.
Why do you write fiction? You once were a preacher. Isn’t that a better way of reaching more people?
When you write about a controversial issue, you don’t have to make it the center of your story to express it fully. You just work it in. For instance, when I wrote The Medicine People, I dealt a lot with the quiet underlying bigotry Native Americans and Western European descendants still harbor for one another but never express out loud. And while it was essential to the story, it didn’t overwhelm the novel. Stories have the power to make an issue live in the mind of the reader the way a speech never can.
In Pastor Larsen and the Rat, your religious background plays a big part. Do you believe writing is a divine inspiration?
I believe that whatever force there is out there in creation (call it God, destiny, a Higher Power or whatever you want) actually wants you to write. When you write, you are fulfilling an essential aspect of your truest purpose for existing. What do you think??
I am beginning to believe the meaning of Creation is creation, so by writing — or doing anything creative, even just living creatively — we are participating in Creation.
For the sake of argument, let’s say the universe wants you (in fact the whole perverse group of us literary creative people) to write. Is there such a thing as praying for help with your writing? What would you pray? “Get me unstuck, O literary angel”? What about this, “Let my writing muse guide me to express my truest self as a writer, and trust the outcome to be in greater hands than mine”?
What if your literary angel has a purpose and story in mind for your writing that is greater than anything you can currently imagine? Of course that implies that being on the NY Times bestseller list may not be the greatest destiny.
You ask good questions, Lazarus. I wish I had the answers, but I do like the idea that our writing has a purpose greater than being on the NY Times bestseller list! Still, I hope one day your books will achieve such stardom.
Thank you, Pat. And thank you for talking with me today.
Thank you, Lazarus, and best of luck with Pastor Larsen and the Rat.
Pastor Larsen and the Rat is available from Indigo Sea Press http://indigoseapress.com
It’s also available from Amazon and is currently $0.99 on Kindle. https://www.amazon.com/Pastor-Larsen-Rat-Lazarus-Barnhill-ebook/dp/B01GGIKF4A
Click here to read an Excerpt From PASTOR LARSEN AND THE RAT by Lazarus Barnhill