John B. Olson
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"You will not fear the terror of the night."--Psalm 91

A monstrous waking nightmare is pursuing graduate student Hailey Maniates across San Francisco to Golden Gate Park where she is rescued by a towering homeless man. She seems able to read her rescuer's mind but is it just a delusion? Doctors diagnose her as a paranoid schizophrenic and attempt to prescribe away her alleged hallucinations. But too many questions remain around Hailey and the man who saved her. He appears to suffer from her same mental condition and is convinced that some type of Gypsey vampire is trying to kill them both.
Against reason, Hailey finds herself more and more attracted to this strange man. But what if he is a fantasy. What if he is the monster?

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How did you become interested in writing?

 I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I first read C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. I was absolutely floored when I realized that a man who had been dead for years had reached past the grave to have a profound influence on my life. If I could do the same thing, even for one person… it’s a goal I’m willing to devote a lifetime to attain.

 NOTE:  Here’s an article I wrote about how I began my journey as a writer.

What’s the matter, Bunky? You say you’re already failing six courses and you’re only taking three? You say your P.O. box is always empty even though you’ve already mailed yourself three letters? … You say your English teacher told you to write an SA and you don’t even know what the two initials mean?

 Thus I began my writing career — a short blurb on a flyer advertising our college fellowship group. Two hundred xeroxed copies slipped under dormitory doors. I don’t know that a single bleary-eyed freshman ever read the blurb before wadding it up and throwing it in the trash, but it was the most important paragraph I’ve ever written. It was a beginning.


From that first paragraph came more paragraphs. And then full stories… One novel after another shot down in their prime by gun-slinging editors in black Stetsons. But gradually as I started attending writers conferences, I began to figure things out. Eventually Bethany House bought Oxygen, my first novel, not so much because the proposal itself was so compelling, but because of all the notoriety I’d received from the rejected proposals that came before it. And then the magic happened. As I struggled to finish Oxygen by my deadline, all those unpublished paragraphs were there, right behind me, whispering in my ear. God doesn’t waste anything. In fact… remember that flyer?

One day as my wife and I were talking about the critical events of our lives, she mentioned a flyer she’d received when she was a freshman in college. She commented that if it weren’t for its humor, she might never have gotten involved with the Christian group that had such a profound influence on her life. And without that group, she and I never would have met.
Now I know what you’re thinking, but I graduated the summer before her freshman year. It couldn’t have been my flyer…
“Wait a second. I still have it.” She got up and ran to the small cedar box she keeps her treasures in. There, folded carefully on the bottom of the box was Bunky.

God doesn’t waste anything – least of all words.


What compelled you to write a book on this subject?

 I don’t even know what the subject of Shade is. I think it has something to do with dueling dualities—the raging battle between the opposing world systems that make up our human experience: light vs. darkness, guilt vs. grace, natural vs. supernatural, sanity vs. insanity, science vs. faith… But I didn’t write Shade to explore any subjects in particular. This book, more than any other novel I’ve written, takes my heart and lays it raw and bleeding on the page for all to see.  It’s not clean and it’s certainly not pretty; I doubt anyone else will even be able to understand most of what they’re seeing, but it’s all there without any masks or filters.

What is the main theme or point that you want readers to understand from reading your book? Are there any other themes present in the book?


Guilt vs. Grace:  Melchi has been living under a works-based Old Testament system of guilt and self-mortification. At the end of the book he’s just starting to understand love and grace.

Sanity vs. Insanity:  When Hailey experiences something that medical science tells her can’t be real, she and her doctors are forced to conclude that she is paranoid schizophrenic.

Science vs. Faith:  Hailey and Boggs are scientists. How can they reconcile their belief in God with a discipline and daily experience that doesn’t leave room for the supernatural?

Natural vs. Supernatural:  How does the natural world interface with the supernatural?


Are there some specific lessons you hope readers will learn and apply to their lives after reading your book?

 The human race isn’t as smart as we think it is. There’s far more to this universe than we can observe with our five senses. If we live life by sight alone, we’re going to be herded blindly down a dark road that leads to places we really don’t want to visit. I’m praying that Shade will help readers look with more than their eyes and feel with more than their hearts. 

Do you have a favorite part of the book or a favorite chapter?

 Honestly? Not really. I love the whole idea of a romance between a beautiful graduate student and a dirty homeless man who’s never even been to school. I also like the relationship between Melchi and the Booklady, Hailey’s friendship with Boggs, the surreal quality of their encounters with the supernatural. If I had to choose the best chapter in the book, I’d probably choose chapter 3 – the chapter in which Melchi and Hailey meet. But my favorite chapter is chapter 15. The readers probably won’t like it at all, but I really enjoyed writing it.

What makes your book different than any other books similar to yours that are in circulation today?

 I do. Trust me on this one. My mind doesn’t work like most people’s minds work. I’ve been able to write fairly normal books in the past, but with Shade I was able to put a little more me into the writing. The result was a book that’s really quite quirky. One of my reviewers described Shade as “warm, tender-hearted, uplifting horror romance,” but I don’t see it as horror at all. (I don’t do horror. It scares me way too much.) I think Shade is much more lightier-darkier than most of the books out there. It’s also more supernatural-sciencier. And it’s only the tip of the iceberg – a small piece of a much bigger invisible story that’s going on all around us.


How does the book intertwine with God¹s call on your life and how you are currently serving Him?

 Again, I have no idea what God is really up to. God called me to write what seemed like a pretty quirky book at the time, but I was obedient and wrote it. How He uses it is up to him. He’s also called me to serve Him in ministering to teens and young adults who are mainly in their twenties. If you were to come over to our house on almost any day of the week you’d find lots of quirky people assembled here: middle schoolers playing role-playing games with Christian adults who have advanced degrees in biochemistry and computer science and theology and archaic languages and physics and Norse mythology; parents and kids meeting together for Bible study – with the kids and adults taking turns leading; teens and young adults hanging out or watching an old television series like Roswell or Firefly; writers and artists and designers and chefs hanging out to talk about the meaning of life. I couldn’t begin to tell you how it all fits together, but somehow it all feels right.

Do you have a favorite Scripture verse? What is it and why is it important to you?

 My favorite passage is Psalm 90. I love the fact that even though everything in this world is ephemeral, if we can learn to fear God and number our days, He can establish the work of our hands.

Are there any authors that either influenced you personally or influenced your style of writing? Who are they and how did they influence you?

The books that influenced my writing most were the ones I read when I was young: E.R. Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes, Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel, C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra, J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, Anthony Hope’s Prisoner of Zenda, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, George MacDonald’s The Princess and Curdie, and P.C. Wren’s Beau Sabreur. I love these stories of heroism, adventure, romance and intrigue. I spend a lot of time in this petty, self-indulgent, mundane world; I don’t want to read about it. The reality our society has created is a mere shadow of the reality God intends for us. We’re called to live life bigger than that. When I read a book, I want to live in a more solid world where people are bigger and more alive than the shadow people I meet during the commercial break we call life. This is why I love to read, and this is why I have to write.


When you are not writing, what do you like to do? Do you have any hobbies?

 I lead the middle school group at my church and love to create quirky BIG games for us all to play. I also build robots, paint, go on hikes, ride mountain bikes, program computers, lead and host small groups, lead a role-playing games, and create large-scale real-life adventure parties.


When you are not writing, what do you like to do? Do you have any hobbies?

 I lead the middle school group at my church and love to create quirky BIG games for us all to play. I also build robots, paint, go on hikes, ride mountain bikes, program computers, lead and host small groups, lead a role-playing games, and create large-scale real-life adventure parties.


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