I first met Jeremiah several years ago when he was assigned to open and lock up the building we were using for a Write Well Sell Well conferences. Our whole faculty was impressed with Jeremiah’s sweet, ready-to-serve attitude that he brought every day and to every task. He politely asked if he could sit in on some of the sessions since he was going to be there all day and we of course said yes.
That encounter led to discovering that Jeremiah was a talented writer who had been working toward degrees and publishing a book. I met him for coffee here and there. He once asked me to look over some material he’d written and I didn’t have many notes. He seemed to already know what he was doing.
Fast-forward several years and I decided to invite him to be a speaker at WriterCon. I knew he and I couldn’t be the only C.S. Lewis fans who enjoyed diving into Lewis’ writings on writing. Jeremiah gave a great presentation and that led to the senior Guideposts editor, who was also a speaker, to reach out to him. This April Jeremiah landed the COVER of Guideposts magazine.
I encourage you to also check out his book Removing the Dragon Skin, which deeply affected me when I was lucky enough read an advance copy of it.
I decided to interview Jeremiah for this week’s blog. I hope you get as much out of it as I did.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
My early life was a bit chaotic. Like many people, my parents were divorced before I was old enough to remember them together. This causes me to move around quite a bit. By the time I was in the 3rd Grade, I had lived in at least several different homes, in two different states (Oklahoma and New Hampshire).
It wasn’t until moving in settling down in the small town of Wellston, Oklahoma in the 3rd grade that my life developed some sort of stability and normalcy. Here I developed some lifelong friendships that are still striving today. The strong sense of stability however came via my relationship with older brothers. I credit them for giving me the strongest sense of normalcy and safety that I’ve ever had.
I remained here until my dad experienced some deep financial issues and a loss of a job. This cause he and I to end up in a little trailer home on Lake Texhoma, where I finished my last three years of high school. While we were severely poor, and even went without electricity and heat at times, I was a generally happy kid. Although my brothers were off leading their own lives at this point, they had taught me how to make and value friendships, and I found many new brothers and sisters to share my adolescents with.
After eight years in the Marine Corps Infantry, three deployments, a bit of combat, becoming a father, and suffering a divorce of my own, for reasons still beyond me I found myself interested in going into ministry. I had become a single dad at this point, and it was this chapter in my life (my years in seminary, my tried and failed attempts at professional ministry) that my aspirations of being a writer began to take shape.
I was eventually introduced to writers like C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and G.K. Chesteron, and they fanned a flame I did not know existed. They introduced me to the possibility of mixing a bit of logic with childlike fantasy and a passion for Christ, all the while remaining very in tune with their own flawed humanity… it was all very refreshing and exciting to me.
Was writing a childhood dream, or did you come into the idea of writing as an adult?
I never gave much thought to being a writer as a child. I did enjoy reading whatever worn-out up fantasy novels I could find in my school libraries on occasion, but that’s about as close as I ever got to engaging with any sort of literature. I never thought I was very smart, and never considered going to college. No one in my immediate family had gone to college yet, so me becoming a writer, if it had crossed my mind, would have been in the same realm of fantasy as the mythological stories I enjoyed so much.
Funny however, it was not until I was an instructor in the Marines that I overheard my friend Dustin tell one of our students, “Yeah, Braudrick is (expletive) smart).” That one statement put a huge smile on my face. Someone thought I was smart?! After that I began investigating what it would take to get some formal education. If someone else thought I was smart, just maybe they were right… despite the fact that my feelings told me quite the opposite. So, as a side note, if you think something positive about someone, verbalize it. It could literally change the trajection of their life… expletives and all.
One day I should probably tell Dustin what he did for me.
You’re very open in your writing and in your life about your past struggles. Has writing helped you work through those, has it been cathartic? Or was it something you were uneasy about diving into through writing?
Very much so. Writing is very therapeutic for me. That’s how my first forays into writing started. It was just me, writing for me. I never thought others would enjoy it, let alone be blessed and encouraged by it.
C.S. Lewis said, “I don’t know what I mean till I see what I said.” Writing helps me organize what I really believe to be true as I, along with the rest of humanity, struggle to navigate this broken world and to pull something decent out of it.
For whatever reason, I never had any desire to act like I had my life together, or that I had this whole Christianity thing down. I don’t. I’m a very fallible human being with a track record of making some bad decisions, along with a few wonderful ones. I think it’s refreshing when others are open and honest about their sinful humanity (the same one we all share), so I just decided to always be open and honest about my failures, despite the fact that I am in professional ministry (whatever that means anyway).
I never wanted to be a Christian that non-Christians feel uncomfortable around. Just being real solves a lot of that. I find when one is open and honest with their faults and shortcomings and questions, even going as far as to record them for the whole world to read, instead of judgement and ridicule, it is very refreshing. It serves as a relieve valve, releasing some of the pressure they feel about their own failures. More often than not, they appreciate it. They are reminded that they are not the only flawed people walking this planet.
There’s a market out there for such writing, and I do not mean financial… Craving is probably a better word.
You describe being in sort of a lost state in life when you ran across one small quote by C.S. Lewis on Facebook and that changed the course of your life forever. What do you think made you decide to go into a full-on study of him rather than just print that quote out and hang it on your wall for encouragement?
I think it awoke something inside me, when I realized that this was the author of Narnia. The nostalgia around the Chronicles of Narnia was always very strong. I remember being enchanted and caught up in the magic of it all, like millions of other children, but I also remember Aslan being a very comforting figure. Narnia was not just a wonderful place of adventure, it was also a place of healing, and one of a chaotic, violent world being made right. Aslan comforted me during my adolescence, and his creator was now comforting me as an adult. I think I knew right away that a deep dive into C.S. Lewis was going to be a healing experience.
You have a diverse background: you served in the military, worked in prison ministry, and have studied at Oxford. You’re about to receive your doctorate. Writing still remains a huge passion for you. How do you think all of these things will lead you in the future of what you write?
I think having a range of diverse experiences is incredibly important for the imagination and to maintain a proper, humble view of oneself. When it comes to interesting writing, I believe it’s crucial.
It’s so easy to make our worlds small; to only take in a small set of experiences, surrounded by a small set of people who all think and act alike. To me, that seems to detrimental to the imagination, and the awe and wonder that God gave us all. God created a lot of beauty, both in the world and within humanity (as flawed as it can be sometimes), and I would assume he delights in his creation discovering that beauty.
I think God hides himself in those small bits of beauty, and every time we discover a bit of it, we discover a bit of the One who created it, whether it’s in prison, our children, our churches, or combat on foreign soil. Beauty is all the more special when it is found in a place it doesn’t belong. As an aspiring writer, that’s what I long to capture: I found a small bit of beauty today, in an otherwise rough and tumble world, and I wrote it down. But it takes leaving our small little worlds from time to time to do so.
I’m not sure where that leads me, or what my next project will be. But I have a few ideas.
You just landed the cover of this month’s Guideposts magazine. That initial connection to the editor at the magazine was made at WriterCon. What do you think, as a writer, the value is of writers conferences, even if you’re already published?
I’m still fairly new to the world of writing, but I can honestly say with one-hundred percent certainty, that I would still be at the starting line if it were not for the relationships I’ve formed with people who do what I want to do. They’ve spurred me on, challenged me, inspired me, and told me where I needed to improve. Writer conferences are an excellent opportunity catapult this forward. They not only grow in one’s technical skill of writing, but also to build and grow the ever important community of writers.
Simply put, I would never have had this article in Guideposts if it were not for attending WriterCon. The doors that writers conferences can open, and the relationships that they can build, cannot be overstated.
I would hate to get to a position in life where I think I am done learning and done growing. Attended conferences and training that are inspiring, while exposing one’s shortcomings and celebrating one’s successes are crucial for continued growth. That, and surrounding oneself with people who will do the same as well.
You have acquired several amazing 1st edition copies of coveted books. What would be your dream 1st edition book to own?
That’s a great question… I’ve been thinking a lot about The Screwtape Letters here lately. I’ve always thought it would be incredibly cool to have, not a 1st Edition UK version (as insanely awesome as that would be), but to have one of the original magazines (The Guardian), that ran one of the letters every week starting in July 1940, until all Screwtape letters were written. This was their first form before they were collected and published as a book.
A set of The Chronicles of Narnia, 1st Edition, UK version would also be a treasure. Every once in a while I come across a set for sale. I would absolutely love to purchase one someday, but I think I’ll send my son to college instead.