Monday, August 29, 2022

Steven T. Collis Interview - Praying with the Enemy

Photo Content from Steven T. Collis

Steven T. Collis is the author of the nonfiction books The Immortals and Deep Conviction and the novels Praying with the Enemy and At Any Cost. He is a law professor at the University of Texas-Austin School of Law and founding faculty director of UT's Bech-Loughlin First Amendment Center and related Law & Religion Clinic. Prior to his appointment at UT, he was the Olin-Darling Research Fellow in the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School and an equity partner at Holland & Hart LLP, where he was the chair of the firm’s nationwide religious institutions and First Amendment practice group.

He is a sought-after speaker on both writing and religion law to audiences across the United States, including foreign diplomats from countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and South America on behalf of the United States State Department. He has been interviewed by and quoted in various news outlets, including The Deseret News, Bloomberg, The Washington Times, Law360, Public Square Magazine, The Salt Lake Tribune, PBS, The Denver Business Journal, Law Week Colorado, CBN News, and many others.

Before embarking on his legal and writing career, Steven graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, where he was elected to the Order of the Coif and served as an editor on the Michigan Law Review and the Michigan Journal of Race and Law. Steven also holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he served as the associate editor of the literary journal Blackbird. He completed his undergraduate studies, with university honors, at Brigham Young University.

Originally from New Mexico, Steven lives in Austin with his wife and children.


Greatest thing you learned at school.
To never, ever give up.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I was in fifth grade and fell in love with reading a number of fantasy series, so I went to my English teacher and proudly announced I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. That dream never left me. I just feel more alive any time I get lost in a good book.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
I enjoy everything Laura Hillenbrand puts in writing, so Unbroken and Seabiscuit would be tied here. She has a way with words that drives the narrative forward. I am both jealous and in awe of her.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Praying with the Enemy is based on a true story, and after it was published, a woman showed up at one of my book signings who had actually met one of the men I had written about. She had met him forty years before I published the book and had written about him in her journal, which she showed me. That was just remarkable, because the man lived in Korea and she in the United States.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
The absolute best and worst distraction during any of my writing is my family.

Can you tell us when you started PRAYING WITH THE ENEMY, how that came about?
I found the story twenty years ago in the basement of a university library, and it has been in the back of my mind ever since. I began the earnest writing of it two years ago, after I pitched the idea to my editors, and they fell in love with it.
What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from PRAYING WITH THE ENEMY
I enjoyed writing about the love story between Ward and Barbara. At one point, Barbara has been told repeatedly that Ward is not alive. In anger, she heads outside to be by herself. Staring at the night sky, she knows he is alive, but she can’t explain why: “It was her connection to him. That invisible power, perfectly munificent, still tugged at her heart, at her soul; it was the link to Ward. It seemed to stretch from her innermost core, up into those stars and through the heavens, then back to wherever he was. It was as strong as ever, a spiritual joining. A gift from God perhaps? Maybe, or just an unexplainable transcendent bond that no scientist or philosopher could ever explain.”

Around the same time, Ward was lying in a pit in North Korea, captive, broken, with all hope lost. For the first time in his life, he tried to pray. “In those prayers, his mind went into a place beyond perception, drifting away from his body and broken bones to another plane of existence.

“Or at least it seemed so.

“There, in that place beyond knowledge, he talked with Barbara. In a quiet voice, or perhaps no voice at all. I’ve prayed, Barbara, he said. I’ve prayed. He wanted so badly for her to know that. Somehow, he knew the message would get to her. He didn’t know how, whether she would feel it or see it or hear it like a whisper carried by a soft breeze, but he knew it would reach her.

“When he returned and felt the earth beneath his aching body and a nighttime breeze blowing in directionless bursts just strong enough to reach him in the hole, his eyes were brimming with tears.”

What is the first job you have had?

Best date you've ever had?
My wife and I went on a sunset walk on a secluded beach on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
It used to be hot chocolate. Now it’s that I’m too old to start my day with hot chocolate.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
Seinfeld—I often fall asleep watching an episode of Seinfeld.

First Love?
My wife. I’m lucky.

Most horrifying dream you have ever had?
I used to have a recurring dream as a child that a giant machine filled with lava was coming to attack my hometown. It always left me waking up in a sweat or crying.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
Mine and my wife’s love story.

"Mesmerizing story. Collis instantly establishes himself as a literary force in historical fiction. A remarkably fresh voice to wartime inspiration." —Booklist, starred review

Based on the true story of an American POW during the Korean War and a North Korean soldier who become unlikely allies united in their shared faith in God during a daring escape to freedom.

When pilot Captain Ward Millar is forced to eject over enemy territory in North Korea, the ejection explosion snaps both of his ankles. Unable to walk, he is easily captured by North Korean and Chinese soldiers who interrogate, threaten, and starve him for strategic wartime information. He feeds the enemy false information while plotting his escape. But it's only a matter of time before they discover his lies. He knows it will take a miracle to gain his freedom, but his previous self-reliance on his own capabilities has never included appealing to a higher power. If only he had faith like his wife, Barbara, whose firm belief in God can move mountains.

North Korean soldier Kim Jae Pil was raised to believe in the power of prayer, but, knowing the Communist Party's views on religious groups, Kim and his family must keep their Christian faith secret. He is desperate to escape the army, return to his family, and then flee to South Korea.

With Millar imprisoned and unable to walk, and the North Korean army increasingly suspicious of Kim's actions, it seems impossible that either man will find the freedom they so desperately desire. But when these wartime foes cross paths, they find in each other an unlikely ally. Despite speaking different languages, Millar and Kim find common ground in their fragile faith and must rely on each other to undertake a daring escape.

Praying with the Enemy is a story of courage, determination, unlikely friendship, and enduring faith.

You can purchase Praying with the Enemy at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you STEVEN T. COLLIS for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Praying with the Enemy by Steven T. Collis.


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