(The following interview first appeared on Books-and-Authors.net in June of 2011)
Books-and-Authors.net: Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life? Who were your earliest influences and why?
PWW: I was born in Roswell, New Mexico. However, after my third birthday, we moved to Midland, Texas. That is where I grew up. My parents were both avid readers, so I picked up the habit at an early age. The first book I remember reading was Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White. I was around six years of age, and I was moved to tears when Charlotte died.
My father loved crime novels and would always pass them onto me when he was finished. Joseph Wambaugh's The New Centurions and The Choirboys were two books which made an impression on me.
However, my biggest early influence was Dan Jenkins. I was raised in a family of sports fans, and when I was around ten or eleven years of age, my grandfather gave me a subscription to Sports Illustrated for Christmas. Jenkins wrote for the magazine, and I quickly became a fan of his. He went to TCU with my mom, so I had an indirect connection to him.
In 1972, he published his first novel, Semi —Tough. I somehow convinced my parents to let me read it. It was a very racy book for that time, so this was a pretty progressive move on my parents' part. This book blew me away. I had never read anything like it. The characters were so real — you actually felt like you knew them. It is still one of my favorite novels, and Jenkins is still one of my favorite authors. I have read every book he has ever published.
Books-and-Authors.net: Why do you write?
PWW: The short answer is because I love it, and it is comes naturally to me. I have a very vivid imagination and writing is one way to harness that and share it with other people. More importantly, I just seem to communicate better through the written word.
Books-and-Authors.net: Briefly tell us about your new book Drawing Straight with Crooked Lines. Who is Rocky Gates?
PWW: It is a quirky little book, set in San Antonio. The main character is Rocky Gates, a drug addicted, disbarred lawyer who has totally ruined his life. He has lost all hope and tries to commit suicide.
However, God has a different plan. He takes on human form and personally intervenes to save Rocky's life. The pair spends a week together, during which God (who likes to be called "Pops") teaches Rocky how to stay clean and gives him a special message to deliver to the rest of the world. In addition to Pops, Rocky also meets Jesus Christ, Satan, the Apostle Paul and Judas Iscariot.
It is a fast paced and action packed read. It also deals with a lot of dark themes — drug addiction, relapse, blackmail, murder, betrayal, prostitution and homosexuality, just to name a few.
A lot of people assume that Rocky Gates is just a thinly disguised version of me. This is simply not the case. Granted, there are some common elements. I am a recovering addict, a chronic relapser and a former attorney, just like him. But Rocky is really a composite character, combining the different personality traits of dozens of recovering addicts I have known. Like Rocky, these addicts are intelligent, often brilliant, people.
Books-and-Authors.net: Explain the title Drawing Straight with Crooked Lines as it relates to the book?
PWW: I believe that when God created man, He gave us this amazing gift of free will. He literally gave us the ability to create our own lives. Unfortunately, we often misuse this gift. We make decisions based on fear, rather than love. And God is a gentleman. He never takes this gift back. He lets us make whatever decisions we choose, and allows us to suffer the consequences of those choices. He has a perfect plan for each of us, but He never forces it upon us.
However, once we awaken to this fact, and acknowledge our fearful and selfish agendas, God can use our mistakes to further His perfect plan for our lives. He can literally make something perfect out of something flawed. But you have to invite Him to do it.
Books-and-Authors.net: Discuss your faith as it relates to Drawing Straight with Crooked Lines.
PWW: My faith is very simple and somewhat non-traditional. I believe Jesus is who He said was. I also believe we are who Jesus said we were. But I think a lot of folks are afraid to take God out of the box. We limit what God can and will do for us by being close-minded. We are often asleep to the fact that we can have a vibrant relationship with our Creator. However, in order for me to have a personal relationship with God, my finite human mind had to personalize the infinite God and give Him a face. That is what this book is ultimately based upon — my personal conception of God.
Books-and-Authors.net: If Hollywood called and asked you to cast Drawing Straight with Crooked Lines for feature film who would you cast and why?
PWW: Woody Harrelson would be my first choice to play Rocky. Rocky is a complex character, so you need an actor who can embrace both his goodness and his dark side. Although we have not mentioned her, Rocky has a love interest, Gretchen Baylor. I would cast Connie Britton in that role. She did an outstanding job in both the movie and television versions of Friday Night Lights, and she understands the Texas mentality.
Casting someone to play God is always challenging, but I think Bill Murray would be a great choice. His personality is exactly like Pop's. My version of Jesus is cool, charismatic and in control. I would pick Matthew McConaughey for that role.
There are two primary villains, Bones (Satan) and Beau Walker, a corrupt District Attorney. Steve Van Zandt from The Sopranos would be a great Satan and James Spader would be perfect as Beau. There are still over thirty other characters to cast, but time and space prevent us from doing that now.
Books-and-Authors.net: What was the last book you read?
PWW: Eli by Bill Myers. It is one of the most thought provoking novels I have ever read. In my opinion, Myers is the best Christian author of this generation. Now I am reading Bud Shrake's The Borderland. He is also one of my favorite writers. We lost a great talent when he passed away.
Books-and-Authors.net: What's next?
PWW: I should have two books out by the end of the year. The 7th Flag Over Texas, my second novel, will be out in the late Fall. I have high expectations for this novel. It is a blend historical fact and fiction. It is centered around the growing influence of the Mexican drug cartels, and explores how the state of Texas could soon find itself in a state of war with a powerful and corrupt enemy south of the border.
The other book is The 25 Greatest Moments in Texas Sports History. And although I can't give a firm release date yet, I hope to publish a sequel Drawing Straight with Crooked Lines sometime in 2012.