ScreenMaster Books

AN INTERVIEW WITH GOD: Official Movie Novelization

An Interview with Robert Nolan

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Robert, when did you first become aware of the film “An Interview with God”?

I first began to hear some buzz about the film from The WTA Group, as they have been a part of the film from day one. I could tell it was a project very close to their hearts and was a unique movie by its approach to the complex questions of faith. Because most all WTA does is work with faith-based films, for them to be this invested, I knew it had to be something special. So when I got the call to write the novelization, I was all in. And then, of course, after I saw the film, I was excited to get started.

You’d already worked on some high profile, faith-related books based on hit films, right?

Well, “high profile” and “hit” are perspectives, right? But, yeah, the bulk of my writing work is connected to faith films in some way. The most notable to date would be that I worked with Bart Millard on his memoir connected to the film about his life—I Can Only Imagine. That film and the book have touched so many lives in so many amazing ways. I also wrote a companion book with Tim Mahoney called Evidence of Faith that connects to his documentary Patterns of Evidence. I’ve written devotional books for the films Do You Believe?, Woodlawn, God’s Not Dead 2, and Indivisible. Bart Millard and I also wrote a devotional book on I Can Only Imagine. I really love being a part of writing projects that connect with great faith films for people to dig a little deeper following the movie, which is a unique component of faith films that mainstream films don’t have.

How did “An Interview with God” differ from those other works?

Great question. I have two adult sons in their twenties and we discuss our faith and having a Biblical worldview in this culture all the time. This film is about a young man in his late twenties who’s a Christian who is having major life issues for the first time. The way his struggles are presented are very real and doesn’t sugar-coat or “preach to the choir” like so many faith films do. This movie is relevant to anyone who struggles with doubts and the “why’s” of life, which if we are being honest, is all of us. We can’t be afraid to ask the hard questions and the very fact that the Psalms are in the middle of the Bible tells us that God is okay with our doubts and questions and will communicate with us when we desire to get real.

The film really digs deep on matters of faith and theology, doesn’t it?

Yeah, but not in a way where you have to have a theology or Bible degree to understand — which I don’t by the way — even though I’ve held almost every position in a church you can have from pastor to custodian. I think the way the screenwriter Ken Aguado crafted the dialogue, the film deals honestly with faith through a great story. Which, when you think about it, Jesus could have presented the kingdom of God to us like the greatest theology professor ever, if He had wanted to. But instead He told stories. In fact, once the disciples asked him why He told stories. In essence, He answered,  “Because that’s the best way you are going to get this and understand.” I think this film follows that pattern of dealing with the Christian life through the story of a young man who is struggling with both the stuff of Earth and Heaven.

What were the themes in the film that really struck a chord for you personally?

I like the fact that God pushes Paul and actually acts like a loving Dad who invests and cares deeply about His child. Then God, who is played by David Strathairn, whom I’ve always respected as an actor, lets Paul yell, get angry, show his frustration, and ask all his crazy questions, sometimes repeatedly. You know, just like real people do! We need the reality of the Biblical brand of Christianity communicated in this culture, not the sanitized, religious version we have seen for the past several generations. To show the difference between a relationship and religion. While all faith films are going to get criticized profusely by the very nature of their content, this story is honest in that to arrive at real victories in faith, you have to struggle first. The Bible is full of men and women who show us that same pattern.

What were the biggest challenges when adapting this film to novel form?

After talking at length with Ken, the screenwriter, it was very important to me to respect and be true to his original story, while also being able to develop the text a bit more where a very expensive film can’t. One thing I have learned with movies, every minute of dialogue is costing someone a whole lot of money so every word literally counts. That’s not true with a book. Sometimes when you read a novelization of a film, I think the author felt it was their duty as a creative to show how much they can change the story. I wanted to expand without betraying the integrity of the original ideas. Ken and I also made the conscious decision to keep the page count low to try and invite more readers. The western culture reads less and less because we stare at screens, not books, so we knew a 400-page treatment would be a deal breaker for too many. We want this story to get out there so creating a nice weekend read was our goal. This book was certainly a labor of love, not a money-grab so we want the message to get to as many people as possible across generations.

Finally, if you could interview The Almighty, what question would be first on your list?

Well, if I’m going to be honest about my relationship with God, not trying to sound over-spiritual here, but I keep a constant dialogue going with Him all the time. So I am constantly interviewing Him, so to speak, asking Him questions. A relationship with Christ allows us full access to the throne of God and I take that literally and seriously because the Bible tells me I can. So I talk to Him, as well as listen to His voice, constantly. He is as real to me as any physical human I know, sometimes more. But to directly answer your question, I would ask Him: “How do you choose when you will intervene to change circumstances and outcomes, and when you don’t, or won’t?” My biggest on-going struggles are trying to navigate my understanding of life’s circumstances and God’s will, because obviously they don’t match up all the time. I’m not going to understand a lot but I still want to know. I want to see on the other side of some things that I just won’t be able to see on this side of Heaven. And, I think that was exactly the gist of what the lead character in the film, Paul Asher, was crying out to God to show him too.

Last shot—anything you want to leave with the readers?

Yeah, see the movie, whether you read the book or not. Talk about it with some folks. Be honest. Then ask your own questions to God. Paul’s story can also be your story. That’s the whole point.

 

 

 

ROBERT NOLAND is an author, writer, and project manager for Christian publishers. He and his wife of 30+ years live in Franklin, Tennessee, and have two adult sons. Visit robertnoland.com.