By Edwin L. Carpenter – Associate Editor, The Dove Foundation
Frank Peretti, the prolific author known for “This Present Darkness,” “Piercing the Darkness,” “Hangman’s Curse,” and “The Visitation,” among other works, takes a simplistic approach to his work, despite the obvious depth of effort which goes into his writing.
In a recent interview with The Dove Foundation, Peretti—a gracious man, answered the question about what compelled him to write for the Christian community. “Well, I wanted to write and I was a Christian,” he replied succinctly, signifying his simplistic approach.
When thanked for taking the time to do the interview, he in turn thanked Dove for taking the time to interview him. His amiable personality again shines through.
Formerly a pastor, Peretti decided that writing was his true calling. He said, “One of the lowest moments in my life, which was quite awhile ago now, was when I pastored a church with my dad. I spent five years in a pastorate to find out I wasn’t really cut out to be a pastor because of severe burnout, disillusionment and so forth. What’s interesting is out of that came “The Visitation” the book. I created the character of Travis Jordan—a burned out, former minister—modeled him after myself. I got a whole book out of that.”
Peretti hit the big time with his writing in his mid-thirties, with the publication of “This Present Darkness.” He has been asked many times about when this best-seller will hit the big screen, especially since “Hangman’s Curse,” and “The Visitation” have both been made into movies.
“Twentieth Century Fox is working on it,” he said. “Chuck Russell is the [screenplay] writer and director and I think Michael DeLuca is producer. Last I heard they were still trying to get a script figured out. They apparently want to go ahead with it. It was just in a drawer for about six years or longer. The term is turnaround. They basically stick it in a drawer and if they decide to do something with it they take it out of the drawer.” When asked how long it would take before it hits the big screen, Peretti replied, “It will take a few years to do it.”
Peretti may possibly do a cameo for the film version of “This Present Darkness,” as he did for “Hangman’s Curse.” In that film he played Professor Algernon Wheeling, an eccentric yet brilliant man of science. When asked if he based his portrayal on a particular subject, he said, “Oh no, not really, no. I first conceived the character for the book as a kind of a funny, eccentric professional. We needed a little controversy there.” It has been suggested that his portrayal is reminiscent of Doc Brown from the “Back to the Future” films. “I heard that,” he agreed.
When asked about doing a cameo in “This Present Darkness,” he laughed. “Well, I don’t know. I’d like to. Doing those cameos is a lot of fun.” A fellow cast member praised his acting and when it was suggested to Peretti that he had a talent for it, he said laughingly, “I’d like to think so!”
Peretti is aware that the film incarnations of his books have hit heavy on supernatural themes, and when asked about his beliefs in the supernatural, in comparison with how the films portray it, he replied, “You have to take it with a grain of salt. I have a Biblical view—angels being good and evil— but the stories; some of that stuff is imaginary. Nobody really knows what angels look like to be exact, what their strategies are—if they’re using swords or machine guns. I imagine it, and for a story it’s more fashionable, but it’s a story.” He suggests no one knows for sure if the made up beings in the films are accurate or not.
Peretti enjoys the relationships he has made in working on the films. He cites Joe Goodman, producer of “Hangman’s Curse,” as an example of a Christian man fired up to do a Christian-based film. Speaking of Goodman, Peretti said, “He is a fine man of God and wants to honor Christ in everything he does. I really admire him for that.”
When it was mentioned that these works could plant seeds of faith in unbelievers who work on the movies, he replied, “Well exactly! That’s kind of the kick I get out of this. It works both ways—it brings these people to a project that uplifts the Lord and it gives them a chance to kind of taste that culture as opposed to what they usually get. And, it gives us a chance to be involved in the [entertainment] business as well.”
Peretti was asked which book, “Hangman’s Curse,” or “The Visitation,” became more like the film he had envisioned while writing. “’Hangman’s Curse’ had a lot of adjustments, but I think it pretty much captured what the book was about,” he said. “’The Visitation’ is a whole different story—it’s not very much like the book,” Peretti said. “On the positive side, the movie is exciting and spooky and suspenseful—it provides thrills and screams and fun for whoever watches it. Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend it for small children—it’s very intense. On the other hand, you should look out for false Christs, because they are out there—they’re gonna get you!” he laughs, referring to the theme which the movie emphasizes.
Edward Furlong of “Terminator 2” was cast as Brandon Nichols, the false prophet, appearing as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Peretti said the portrayal of Nichols was a departure from what he had written and what he had envisioned. “Brandon Nichols’ character is a fraud but when you first read about him in the book, he is gentle and beautiful and alluring—he is so easy to love and he holds such great promise to bring joy and healing. He is the perfect angel of light in disguise. In the movie you know right from the get-go there’s something creepy about this guy. There’s no mystery about him being the bad guy.” Peretti was asked if creative control is a frustrating thing. “That’s always an issue,” he replied, “not usually with Namesake [Entertainment Company], they’ve been really good at working with me, but I think in reference to that guy [Nichols], I could have said more, could have done more, the story could have been a little more like the book in that regard, but I guess we did all right,” he laughs.
Peretti is not only congenial but another one of his qualities is his ability to show diversity in his writing. He is the author of a short story titled “Tilly.” An interesting set of circumstances led to his writing the story.
“‘Tilly’ was originally a radio drama,” he said. “The background of the story is that I was at church and there were some ladies—four of them I think—with WEBA, ‘Women Exploited by Abortion.’ Each of them gave a testimony about how they had an abortion and the Lord helped them reconcile the fact, finding forgiveness and so forth. One of the gals talked about a dream she had. How she went to heaven and was able to meet her aborted daughter, and how that was such an important experience for her because she was able to find forgiveness and healing. She knew she would have a child in heaven waiting for her and all that really cool stuff. ‘Tilly’ is available as a book, published by Crossway Books, and also available as a video. It’s a touching story and it’s still out there.
When questioned about future plans, Peretti said, “I have a couple more book ideas that I’d like to develop.” He is also amazed that it has been eighteen years since “Piercing the Darkness” was published. When asked how many books he now has published, Peretti said instantly, “Nineteen.” He also said he asks the Lord for inspiration as to what he should write about before he begins.
Peretti cited what he considered to be rewarding moments over the years as a result of his life’s work. “Let’s put it this way—my biggest reward is when I hear from people that my books have touched their life in some way, that their prayer life has changed, or their relationship [with God] has been better, or they’ve gotten saved. It’s just the nature of these things. If you’re touching lives, that’s what it’s all about.”
That is what Frank Peretti is all about; touching lives and keeping it simple.