Hey Ray,

Well that was actually a lot of fun. I guess I do enjoy swimming in Lake Me. Those were some great questions which prompted much pontification. Thanks so much for honoring me with this interview. I hope someone chose to interview you too!

1. Where did you grow up and what was it like? Your family, friends, upbringing, neighborhoods, etc. How did it shape you?

I grew up in suburban Rockville, MD not far from D.C. It was beautiful. Riotous leaves in the Fall with their wet smell. Piles of snow in the winter. Hot summers at the ocean. I was the oldest of four kids. My brother who’s two years younger than me was something of a psycho and used to chase me around the house with knives, then I’d disarm him, beat him up and we’d go play soccer in the back yard.

My dad did, and still does a lot of world travel for his work (cancer statistics) and wasn’t around much when I was growing up, so I had to figure out a lot of things by myself which is probably why I’d rather try things my own way and fail than just have someone help me.

I think I was just a normal, happy, blissfully unaware kid. I always loved books and spent many a Saturday reading in the only quiet place in the house - up on the roof. I’d take a blanket and a book and snacks and spend all day up there. Okay maybe I wasn’t totally normal. I loved sports too and played all of them growing up. I took piano lessons from the time I was 7 until I was 12 and hated every minute of it. It wasn’t until I got a guitar for my 16th birthday that I really fell in love with playing music. The funny thing is, I think I do have a good bit of talent on the piano but I stink at it because I’ve never practiced. I don’t think I have much talent for the guitar but I’m good at it because I’ve worked so hard at it for so long.

I had pretty much the same small group of friends growing up and I’m still close to them. In high school I became very shy and withdrawn at school, but I lived for our church Youth group. We had around 100 kids and we did lots of sports and activities and I was at every one of them and had lots of friends. I was a very straight-laced teenager, except for my secret smoking habit.

2. Was being a father of four challenging? What does fatherhood mean to you? How did it change you?

Oh my gosh, YES it’s challenging. At one point we had four kids under the age of five. My career was just taking off, but tenuous so I was working 60 – 80 hours a week. We were part of a church plant with a whole set of challenges and I was the Worship Leader. Fortunately my wife stayed home with the kids, but she was overwhelmed. Every day I’d come home exhausted and open the garage door and there would just be this sea of toys and empty chip bags and clothes and dolls and bottles that I’d have to wade through. I just thank God none of them had serious medical issues because I know those trump every other trial I went through. Those were some very tough years though. Now that they’re older it’s SO much easier. They’re like real self-sufficient people now. They’re my best friends and every day is still an adventure. I do miss that new baby smell and their flannel nightgowns though. I get all misty just thinking about it.

3. You're a religious/spiritual man, but you don't impose your faith on others. How do you find that balance and what does being a Christian mean to you?

I guess I just try to be myself and be transparent. I don’t feel like it’s my responsibility to force change on people. I know what truly changed me was just hanging around guys who were normal, honest guys but who were serious about their personal relationship with Jesus. I finally saw that it wasn’t a “church on Sunday” thing or a “pretend to be holy around other people” thing or even a rules thing, it was a life thing and a community thing – it was a brotherhood of guys just like me and you who had fallen in love with Jesus and were passionate about being close to him. That’s when God really made a change in my heart and my identity and the anger and darkness that I’d become accustomed to just kind of burned away.

To me, being a Christian means freedom. Freedom from so many things which weighed me down and caused me secret pain and freedom to enjoy God and enjoy others and explore the riches of this life.

4. What were the inspiration behind your series? Why did you feel compelled to write them? What do they mean to you? What are you going to do next?

I’ll take the answer to the first question from my website (http://www.jayyoungweb.com/Junk_Drawer.php)…When I was a kid I wanted to be an author when I grew up, but somewhere along the line I gave up on it. When we moved to Texas in 2005, I decided it was time to maybe spend less time focusing on music and try something else (I had pretty much devoted my 20’s to the guitar). I had occasionally toyed with the idea of writing, but I couldn’t think of what I could possibly write about. SQL Programming? How to play the guitar? How to change diapers? Then one night I was out riding my bike and I decided I would pray about it, and I suddenly realized I had never prayed about it before. So I prayed and immediately the idea for the novels sprung into my head. I realized that I had several ideas and several parts of scripture that I had been studying that would fit into an exciting story. By the time I rode home, I already had the storyline and most of the characters in mind. It was like God had been holding this gift-wrapped box for me for twenty-five years, just waiting for me to ask for it.

Awww, that’s such a sweet story innit? Anyway, besides all the adventure and complex storylines in my books (which really appeal to my meticulous side), I really wanted to deal with a few key themes in a way that wasn’t preachy. The protagonist’s character arc over the four books is very similar to my own – a naïve young man with a wisecrack for everything who is mentored by a mature, older man; the early 20’s young man being refined in the fires of life and eventually broken; the young man who becomes a leader and experiences the burdens of leadership and betrayal and learns to truly rely on God. I like to think my stories are also universal. There are no rigid paradigms or easy answers. Jesus doesn’t save the day and make all the problems go away. Characters struggle and suffer and fail and laugh and love.

When I go back and read the first book (Heroes of Old) I naturally cringe at my naïveté as a writer, but I console myself that perhaps that’s part of the charm of the first book – the sweet naïveté of the characters. I think book 2 (Spirit of Heroes) is where I hit my stride and managed to bring some complex storylines together in an interesting and action-packed way. Book 3 (Sanctuary of Heroes) is definitely my favorite. It’s much darker and heavier than the others with little patches of gold in the mire. I really feel like I was able to dredge the depth of some of the characters in a satisfying way. Book 4 (Tribulation of Heroes) is the last one in the series and will be released soon (I’m hoping before Christmas). I had originally outlined five books but decided to trim all the fat and combine the last two into an all-questions-answered thrill-ride. I think it’s an exciting and satisfying conclusion to the series.

What’s next? I’ve been working on a manuscript that’s more along the Urban Thriller lines. It’s very slick and stylish, like a Chuck Palahniuk novel, but it lacks depth and focus so it’ll likely be a long time before I’m ready to do anything with it. At this stage of my life writing is just a hobby. I still have SO much to learn. I think I have good organizational skills and am basically a good storyteller, but writing is a craft and I’m still just a novice. Maybe by the time we get the kids out of the house I’ll have learned enough to do some serious writing.

5. Tell us five random things about you that not many people know.

I proposed to my wife over the phone from halfway across the country. She hung up on me. She called me back later and said she’d make all the arrangements and all I’d have to do was show up, so it worked out just fine.

I’m in two books. I make a brief appearance in John Levitt’s latest novel New Tricks (http://www.amazon.com/New-Tricks-Joh...9098562&sr=8-1) and I’m also featured in several (not so flattering, but true) stories in my friend’s book Mullets and Mayhem (http://www.amazon.com/Mullets-Mayhem...9098594&sr=1-1).

I’m a wicked awesome database programmer but I never talk about it outside of work because I don’t want to bore people.

A few years ago I got on a memorization kick and memorized eight books of the Bible word-for-word and could quote flawlessly for several hours.

I shave my chest because I can’t grow a decent crop of chest hair.

6. "You are what you are" or "you are what you do"? And why?

You are what you do, definitely. I tend to believe we all have a warped self-image – overly inflated in some ways and hyper-critical in others, and it’s all relative anyway. There’s always someone smarter or nicer or uglier or worse, but each of us can choose to do our best for those around us. Acting maturely, even if you don’t feel worthy of it is better than simply “being mature”, if that makes any sense.

7. What was your deepest regret or darkest moment and what did you learn from it?

When I was in college, I spent almost every night with my roommate at our friends’ apartment drinking beer and playing Spades. We’d play for hours and get very drunk and rowdy. One of those friends was named Frank and he was a relief pitcher on the baseball team. He was tall, handsome, and very gregarious but had absolutely no ego. He was like a big kid and we were very close. I loved to do little things to upset him like pour pickle juice into his box of crackers or set his baseball caps on fire.

So one night I’d had way too much to drink, as had Frank. I was sleeping in my apartment when he called and started yelling at me, accusing me of something I knew another friend of ours had done. I was furious and told him I was coming over to “kick his a$$”. Fortunately my roommate talked me out of what would likely have been the worst beating I ever received, but he did let me go over and put a note on Frank’s car.

The note, of course, was every cruel thing I could think of to say, including the fact that he would never make it in MLB and he’d end up with a menial job because he was a dumb jock (among other things). I went home afterward and passed out. I didn’t see Frank for about a week after that. Eventually we started hanging out again since we had the same friends and I think I offered a drunken apology at some point. We became fast friends again. Several years later I was the best man at his wedding. Our families get together every Thanksgiving and try to see each other a few times a year. I love him like a brother.

When I think of ripping his heart out and smearing it on a page and putting under his windshield wiper, I honestly want to die. But in all the years since then he’s never mentioned it or even alluded to it. He taught me what it means to forgive and forget and both of our lives have been richer for it.

8. What was your proudest or happiest moment and what did you learn from it?

It’s hard to think of anything which surpasses the birth of my first child. Up until then everything had been a beautiful black and white picture, but suddenly there was color. Suddenly there was this strange little crying, slimy person and I knew what it was like to be helplessly, selflessly in love. I knew I’d die to protect her without giving it a second thought. I think that was the first time that I truly understood how God loves me and why God chooses to call himself “Father”. It changed everything.

9. What makes you unique? What unique experiences you had that set you apart from others? Or make you become aware of your place in history/community/etc.?

That’s a tough question. I don’t really feel unique or particularly special and I certainly don’t think I have a place in history as it were. The things I do – music, writing, jokes, working hard – those are all good and I enjoy them, but they’re not particularly special. I’m perfectly fine with that. I don’t want fame or accolades or sweeping social change. I’m a small fish. What I do want is to go deep with a small handful of people and to let Christ shine through me and accomplish his work. Nobody’s going to be downloading my MP3’s in a hundred years, but hopefully I’ve encouraged my friends, acquaintances, and even my enemies towards a loving relationship with God.

10. List a few things you're afraid to ask but you've always wanted to know.

Between Google and AW I think I’ve already asked them all. Seriously, I guess that’s one of my virtues – I’ve never been afraid to ask questions. Afraid to act on the answers, certainly, but not afraid to ask.

11. Tell me what your typical day is like. Then tell me what an atypical day is like, one that you remember the most -- what did it mean to you?

Typical weekday: be intimate with my wife (if I’m lucky), go to work, go out to lunch by myself and read, go to a church activity (band practice, coaching my kids basketball teams, men’s accountability), come home and play with the kids or help them with homework or go for a walk, watch a little TV with my wife, maybe play the guitar or do some writing, be intimate with my wife (if I’m lucky), go to sleep. Weekends I always cook big breakfasts for the family and we usually do a family activity like Six Flags or camping or movies and church on Sunday. Sunday afternoon is nap time for Daddy. We do a good bit of traveling to see friends or host friends from out of town and I travel about once a month; either business or personal. My wife and I try to do the occasional date night, although we need to get much better at it.

Atypical. Hmmm, there are plenty of those depending on which friend is in town. My wife and I have a standing agreement that anytime the other wants to go out for the night or weekend, they can do so at the drop of a hat. But atypical – I try to take each of my kids on their own individual “date”. It’s tough because it takes up an entire evening and once I take one I’m obligated to take each of them. So about once every 2 – 3 months I’ll go through the cycle. They get to choose whatever they want and we go on a date. It’s usually mini golf or movies and dinner and ice cream. We talk about everything that’s going on in both of our lives and they can ask me any question at all. It’s always an adventure and a great time of bonding and hopefully they are learning what a date should be like.

12. What is the meaning of life?

Love. That’s the only thing I’m really sure about. True, selfless, agape love. Ultimately it’s about receiving God’s love and being transformed by it, but I think it’s self-evident to our species, life is about love.

13. What's the most interesting thing about you we should know about? Or not.

I like comfortable silences. Barring that, I like to listen to someone else talk briefly. Barring that, I’ll talk briefly. But really I like spending time alone. I have no interest in talking to strangers. I have no interest in talking on the phone. Just sit next to me and let’s read our books. Ahhhh. That’s nice.

14. What do you want to do/be when you grow up?

Honestly, I want to be Deep. I feel like I’m still on the low foothills of the journey from Shallowness to Depth. I’m still so self-centered and concerned with what people think about me. I still have so much to learn about the world around me and about true compassion and maturity. I’ve been blessed to have been mentored by guys that I do consider to be Deep, so I think I know what it looks like. It’s not flashy, but it saturates every aspect of life. But there’s still so much “Jay” that still needs to be burned off.

15. Give me one reason why I should buy you a beer.

Because I’m a good listener and I have good comedic timing. If you buy me a beer, I’ll listen to you talk and make you smile. I’ll take a Sam Adams Honey Porter, please.