Born in Indonesia of missionary parents, John and Helen Dekker, Ted Dekker learned at an early age the value of observation, or as he terms it, looking inside the bubble from his location outside the bubble. His father, a Dutchman from Holland, and his mother, a native of Montana, became Canadian citizens before setting off to do mission work in the jungles of Indonesia. Dekker quickly learned to blend in as he spent time in boarding schools and other establishments while his parents traveled with their work
Dekker now lives in Montana with his own family after returning to America several years ago, obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree, running a successful business and now, sharing his observations from outside the bubble through characters and stories that leave the reader breathless.
Since 2000, Dekker has had 11 books published. An amazing accomplishment by itself, but currently, (Feb. 2005), all three of his Circle Trilogy books are on the Christian Booksellers Association bestseller list. No one can quite figure out what genre he’s writing in, though. Is it fiction, fantasy, science fiction, thriller, mystery, Christian fiction? He’s crossed genres in all of his books, and perhaps that’s what makes his work so appealing.
OBSESSED is Dekker’s eleventh book, which combines mystery with a huge dose of suspense; historical fiction with compelling characters; and a quiet introduction to the true power and meaning of love. Dekker explains some of his philosophy, a look behind the scenes of OBSESSED and his passion for observing the human race in our interview.
Q. In OBSESSED, we once again take a journey whose ultimate destination is the fulfillment of a great romance. You’ve managed to keep each story unique while still getting across the message that God leaves no stones unturned as He seeks our love. Your passion for conveying this message seems to leap from the pages of your books. When did you first understand God’s obsession to win us over, and how did that defining moment occur?
TED: I don’t think there was a defining moment in which God’s obsession for us became clear to me. My realization of this fundamental truth came over time as I reflected on the purpose of God’s creating us. Why did he create beings in his own image? To what end? Follow these questions to their end and you’ll discover a Creator who is obsessed with a romance.
I’ve told my whole story on this matter in The Slumber of Christianity, a non-fiction title due out this July.
Q. Your well-developed characters tell me you not only observe human nature, but you also seek to understand that nature. I was not surprised to read that you embrace the role of being an observer of life. Where do you like to go to observe, and who do you like to observe – how do you observe?
TED: Like most people, I’ve observed all my life and I now pull from many past observations. My observation was perhaps more intense than most because I was essentially abandoned when I was 6 years old through no ill intent on my parent’s part. Without a family or a culture of my own, I had to watch others, change my skin to adapt to theirs, and become like them to fit in, not just once or twice, but constantly. This made me a passionate observer of human nature.
Q. You’ve a great talent for portraying evil in its vilest forms. How do get into the head of these seriously creepy characters?
TED: Ha! Getting into the head of seriously creepy characters is surprisingly easy. After all, we all are, or were at one time, seriously creepy. I find unique ways to express that creepiness, but I certainly don’t embellish it.
Q. How did you research the historical aspects of OBSESSED – the Holocaust.
I chose the Holocaust because it represents a period in history when ordinary people seemed to demonstrate their horrific creepy natures nearly overnight. How could a whole nation have fallen in lockstep behind such evil? Yet we know it will happen again.
As for the research: Books, Movies and documentaries, Internet.
Q. I’d like to see Stephen again in another book. His somewhat bumbling attempts to save the day added charm to his efforts and made the story come alive. I laughed when he cut the hole in the garage. Did you practice that scene?
TED: There’s a running dialogue on my website about readers’ favorite scenes in the book. Stephen’s antics are leading the list, particularly the scene when he dresses as a woman. I will swear to you that I practiced none of these scenes.
I knew going into this novel that my plans to blend the horror of the Holocaust with the humorous antics of Stephen would present a significant challenge that would raise the brows of some more traditional readers. For me the humor undermines the horror and I find that terribly appropriate. Now I’m happily learning that most readers have the same take.
Q. OBSESSED made my heart pound, my heart ache and tears to fall, as your words evoked sadness, anger, desperation, joy and longing in the depths of my being. Without giving away the story, one of those emotional scenes was that of the past, when Ruth gave birth. The tension that scene creates actually had me holding my breath, then dissolving into tears when the baby, Esther, is held by the different women, in turn, at Ruth’s command. She knew that small, newborn baby, was a gift of hope from God, and she was compelled to share that hope.
How do you prepare to write those scenes? And how do they affect you?
TED: Scenes like that make me choke up even now, when I read your question. I’m not known as an emotional person by my friends. I’m the logical, levelheaded kind, they say. But deep down inside we are all blubbering children, weeping and raging, and laughing as we have in our brightest and darkest moments.
I have found a way in my writing to go deep and mine those emotions by casting scenes that unveil them for both me and my readers. I’ve been going deep so long that I really don’t know how I do it. I suppose it’s a form of meditation, fingers clicking away while my mind searches out the light at the end of dark tunnel. That light is Christ, always, but He reveals himself in many ways.
Q. As I read OBSESSED, I again felt a sense of worship coming through your words; a desperation maybe to introduce the true character of God to anyone who reads the book. How do you define worship?
TED: Worshiping God is simply doing what He created you to do, which includes many things including seeking Him, discovering Him, and loving Him.
Q. I’ve found that the veil between heaven and earth means different things to different people; and through your books, including OBSESSED, I feel that we, as a society of “Christians” are missing the true joy of heaven that’s within our grasp right now. What are your thoughts on that subject?
TED: In a nutshell, our lives on this earth exist primarily for the intoxicating life that awaits us in the next life. This is a truth that has gone missing. It’s also the primary topic of The Slumber of Christianity, due in July. The benefits of our faith were never meant to bring ultimate satisfaction to this life. Any form of Christianity that preaches this fails us. We were created for far more than we experience here and now, mark my words.
Q. If you were able to issue a challenge to writers of all genres, what would that challenge be?
TED: I would say that if your novel doesn’t engage the great questions that face all humans, it will fail to pluck those chords in every reader longing to resonate with a greater truth than they can now readily experience. Write fantastic stories that keep the reader glued to the pages and remember that the most fantastic story of all is the battle for man’s soul. That battle between good and evil, in all of its chilling, terrible, wonderful redemptive detail is what life is really all about, isn’t it?
Q. You’ve said, in another interview, that if you could wish for anything to be inscribed on your tombstone, if would be, “He Wrote about God.” What do you hope God’s words to you will be when you enter Heaven?
TED: Never thought about that. Maybe these words, delivered with a smile: “You wrote about me.”