Literary Spotlight: William P. Young
William P. Young, self-published author of the novel The Shack was raised among a stone-age tribe by his missionary parents in what was New Guinea. He worked as a former office manager and hotel night clerk in OR. His book debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times trade paperback fiction best-seller list.
Q: What accounts for the popularity of your book?
A: It is a little outside the box like a parable. It’s the truth inside a story. It appeals to the heart as well as the brain. There is a lot of sadness out there and people have questions and want to have them discussed in the open. People speak out of pain, and this is a positive message that grace extends to anybody.
A lot of the success has come from word of mouth. And what has surprised me are the people who send e-mails describing its transformational impact. The people it helps are those who are hurt and broken. I’ve seen it help those in prisons and those in grief counseling.
Q: You have succeeded in creating a marketing success by self publishing. What was that like?
I am an accidental writer. I wrote this for my children as a gift. There is a huge group of readers not being written to. We tried twenty-six major publishing houses. The answers were either ‘too much Jesus’ or ‘we don’t’ have a niche for it; its too edgy.’ No one wanted us. There is an unspoken rule in publishing; if nobody else is doing it we can’t do it and if everybody else does it, we can’t.
So we printed fifteen copies at a local printer and gave some to people we loved and asked them to give it to people they don’t know. We learned a lot from the feedback. In sixteen months, there were four major revisions. I was very open to conversation about the book. The response was great, and we formed Windblown. Without intending to we shook up the publishing industry in a good way.
Q: You have said the shack is a metaphor for the house you build out of your own pain. Explain.
A: The shack is a metaphor representing the heart and soul of a human. We all build the inner house where we hide our secrets, shame and addictions; lot of us don’t let anybody in and fake the house on the outside. We live in two worlds; the world of shame in the shack and the other world of façade.
Q: How do you respond to the criticism of some Christian leaders?
A: This is a work of fiction. There are people who try to turn it into a theological conversation and they are missing the point. They see what they are looking for and it supports their own baggage. The interesting thing is that some of the angriest people who are against the book haven’t even read it.
Carlotta Holton is the author of Salem Pact and Touching The Dead, and is a member of the National Federation of Press Women and an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association.
Carlotta Holton has just received her second award for Touching the Dead from the National Federation of Press Women Communications Contest. Click here to purchase the book.