Jack Walden is retired from running a speciality construction company. He lives in Tennessee with his wife of thirty-five years. They have three adult children and two grandchildren. He is passionate about writing, drawing, gardening, and teaching the Bible to children.
Jack Walden is available for speakings or readings. Get in touch with Jack Walden via email: Jack@readjackwalden.com
A: I've just completed a series of novels that is subtitled, "Adoption Is How God Says I Love You." All four are set in the rural south and deal with adoption from the guy's point of view. "Bubba Two" is about a birth father. "Wishing for Christmas" tells the story of an adopted son coming home. "Sons In My House Tonight" is told from the perspective of an adoptive father. The fourth book, "Hunting Lessons," is a sequel to the adoptive father's story.
Until I had drafted the second book, I didn't know about the masculine triad of adoption. The fact that the birth father, son, and adoptive father are forever linked in the genetics and environment quagmire amazes me.
Q: Why did you choose to write about adoption?
A: The best way answer that question is to say, read all four books and you'll have an idea of what motivates me. It's that simple. I'm an adoptive father times three. I can't get over it!
Q: Are the books autobiographical? Are they about your kids?
A: No, our lives aren't nearly as interesting as the fictional lives I create. Besides that, I could never share the private lives of my children. They would get me! I have to admit that the experience of taking them into my arms for the first time is something I still find very moving, and maybe that's where the desire to write about these things came from. As I was starting this series, I thought if I wrote about the subject at length I would get over it, have a catharsis. It didn't work. I'm not over it and I'm resolved to the fact that I never will be, this side of heaven.
Q: The name of the series takes a pretty broad stroke at theology. Can you defend your thesis?
A: There are many scriptures that describe the relationship between God and a new believer as an adoption. We become joint heirs with Jesus Christ through this process. It's all over the New Testament. Plus, Jesus was adopted by Joseph into the line of David. It's right there in Luke 3:23 - where the Davidic line of Jesus has the words - that Jesus "as was supposed" to be the son of Joseph. We know that Jesus is the son of God. Mary was a Levite. Jesus was adopted by his earthly father and so are we when we believe in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This how you become born again, made a joint heir, and not some kind of stepchild or poor relation, but a joint heir with Jesus. As you can probably tell, I can't get over this either.
Q: Tell us a little about the settings of your stories. They are southern you say?
A: Southern, yes. Tobacco Road, no. These novels are populated by people who attend a wonderful fictional church, Mars Hill Baptist. It's located in a fictional place that has the name of a real community, Nutbush. But it's not the same place, so don't bother to look for it, it's just not the same. The Nutbush I write about is a made up place filled with made up people. My writing bends the geographical facts of West Tennessee a little and enhances the Forked Deer River until it runs perfectly clear through a beautiful valley filled with early architecture and tall oaks.
I write about beautiful homes and the church is beautiful, too. There are places like these scattered around West Tennessee. You just have to know where to look. The people are made up, too. But the types of people I write about are real. I write about the type of individuals I have known all my life: friendly, loving, unpretentious followers of Christ who enjoy the tranquility of the country and the short drive to town, Memphis.
Q: One of your principal characters is a mail carrier. You worked for the Post Office didn't you?
A: Yes, I did for 6 years in my early thirties, but my character Todd Baker is not Jack Walden. He's a better mail man than I ever was and much more impulsive. Carrying the mail used to be a good job in the south. A lot of people that had rural routes farmed when they got home early in the afternoon. I'm a supporter of the USPS even now. Go buy some stamps and mail a handful of greeting cards. It's a way to help us all!
To get back to your question, my characters are from my imagination. I use them to move the stories along. None of them are sketches of any real person. Another one of my characters worked as an actor in Hollywood. Another is an art professor. All made up.
Q: What are some of the other themes you write about?
A: I seem to have a good bit to say about grief. There is some drug and alcohol abuse. I write about Alzheimer's disease. People dealing with fear. But there's also purple hull peas and gardening in almost every story. I really enjoy gardening. There are several trips to the woods in "Hunting Lessons," but that's not all it's about. People have salvation experiences over and over, in different ways, but always with one savior, Jesus Christ. I love a good church scene, but most of all I'm interested in relationships between people. I like for my characters to fall in love and stay that way. People say, this is not how it is in the real world, but I disagree with that. Respectfully, of course! I see the way life happens to people and not all of it is good. I want to write about the hope of life getting better this side of heaven. We fill our days with bad news, bad people, bad outcomes that happen to distant strangers most of the time. I don't want my readers to have to have more of the same. I want to give people a reason to believe in prayer and a happy ending.
Q: Your characters pray a lot. One character even says the same prayer a lot. Are you concerned that readers might find it repetitive?
A: Not at all. I believe in prayer. I need to spend more time in prayer. I depend on the prayers of others. I know that with a little effort, a little dismantling of our veil of pride, we can become the kind of people who can take someone's hand, spend a few seconds going before God, giving encouragement where there was none. I know this can happen. It happened to me. Oh, "Thank you, Jesus, for today."
Q: So you've got me guessing that you must be some kind of super Christian. Are you?
A: Christian yes, super no. I may lose my religion before I get out of the parking lot, but I will never lose my salvation. I believe the Bible. I even believe in the church. I'm a Southern Baptist. I know it's not the only launching pad to heaven. Being a Christian is not about how good you are. It's about who your trust is in. My trust is in Jesus Christ. There is no other name. Read my stories, I think they do a good job of illustrating how good Christians are. It's probably a spectrum.
One thing about Christians is that they realize they need a savior and that they are not good enough to approach God on their on terms. They need Jesus.
Q: What are some of your favorite scenes from your novels?
A: Well I have to admit I really like the endings of all my stories. I don't know if it's because I'm just glad to be through with the work or if it's the conclusion of the story. But seriously, it's neither of those things. Instead, it's the way they end. There is a sadness when I reach the last page of a story, like I don't want it to end.
In "Sons In My House Tonight," there is a day Todd spends in Memphis, first with a good doctor then he goes looking for biscuits and ends up with guacamole smeared on his face.
"Wishing for Christmas" has the hero using a beautiful ripe tomato for something a little different on the Fourth of July.
Towards the end of "Bubba Two" three guys face each other in front of a big horse. This scene may be my favorite in the whole series. I was concerned about bringing the characters together in a believable way. When I arrived at the blank page to begin creating this scene it was effortless. See, why waste time worrying when you can pray?
"Hunting Lessons" is full of special things for me. I had to write a sequel to "Sons In My House Tonight" because you can't write about adoption and not face the fact that kids grow up and leave home. I want my reader to see how the sons turn out. There's a trip to Chicago in this book that I like. You just need to read it and see for yourself.
When I write I don't always have an ending. I want the reader to enjoy the time they spend with me. I want to share my take on adoption, maybe even encourage people to adopt and not waste too many years they could be parenting. Most of all I want to point towards Jesus Christ.
You ask me what I like about the stories and the truth is, I keep rereading and still enjoying them after at least 60 passes each. A friend from church came up to me one Sunday laughing about a line she found to be humorous. A character was regretting wasting her melon balls on a guest that wouldn't play along with her scheme. I had no idea it was funny, but it sure meant a lot to hear her chuckle.
Q: Are there any words of advice about adoption you would like to share as we wrap this up?
A: Adoption is about meeting the needs of the child. It's about going the extra mile, giving the extra kiss, saying the extra prayer, and giving at least three million pats on the back. It's about kindness that goes far beyond being polite. It's about standing before God one day and answering about how you loved the little soul he trusted you with.
In one of my stories a character says, "If you think adoption is another charm on your bracelet to make your life complete, you are wrong, dead wrong. It's about the needs of the child."
Q: Anything else?
A: I think that sometimes when we are seeking counsel we seek out opinions that agree with our own. In the last few years I've read of failed adoptions, especially concerning older children, say older than 7. For what it's worth, my opinion about forming families with older kids is that the child needs to choose the parents and not the other way around. Don't try to bring an older child into a family that they are not wildly enthusiastic about joining.
One more thing. If you are an expectant mother who is considering placing your baby in an adoptive home, don't let anyone talk you into it. Don't let the promise of an open adoption sway you. If you can't walk away, don't leave the baby. But if you can, my prayer is that God will heal your hurts and bless you beyond reason.
Q: So, Jack, your four book series, "Adoption Is How God Says I Love You" is available on Amazon as both paperback book and Kindle for ebooks. Anything else you want to say?