What If You Could Have a Conversation With Your 23 Year Old Self?

An interview with James L. Rubart by Allen Arnold

I met James L. Rubart back in 2009 and we became friends almost instantly. I had a hand in shaping three of his novels, Soul’s Gate, Memory’s Door, and Spirit Bridge, but his latest is one I’m discovering for the first time just like most of you. 

So was excited when he asked me to interview him on Novel Rocket for the just released, The Five Times I Met Myself. First, a bit about the story and then we’ll dive into my interview.

What if you met your twenty-three-year-old 
self in a dream? What would you say?

Brock Matthews’ once promising life is unraveling. His coffee company. His marriage.

So when he discovers his vivid dreams—where he encounters his younger self—might let him change his past mistakes, he jumps at the chance. The results are astonishing, but also disturbing.

Because getting what Brock wants most in the world will force him to give up the one thing he doesn’t know how to let go . . . and his greatest fear is that it’s already too late.

Q The Five Times I Met Myself is your seventh novel, James. Does it get old? Seeing another novel come out?

Not even close. It’s still a rush to see that box of books show up. I posted on my Facebook author page the other day that I feel like George McFly in Back to the Future at the end of the movie when his book shows up in the mail and Lorraine says, “Your first novel!” And this novel is pretty special to me.

What about this one makes it so special?

All of my novels contain a lot of me in them, but this one more than most. Close friends will definitely see things about me in there that will make them smile, along with serious elements that will hopefully make people think. 

Plus, a slice of trivia for you, the story I tell in the novel of how, Brock my protagonist and his wife met, is the exact story of how Darci and I met back in 1984.

Did you have a theme in mind as you wrote it?

The desire in my mind the whole time I wrote the novel to give people hope for the future no matter the choices they’ve made in the past. I wanted to tell a story that shows how to escape the continual cycle of regret we often put ourselves through and into the freedom God wants for all of us.  

What early opposition did you encounter to your love of writing and how did you get past that?

I fell in love with writing when I took a journalism class in eighth grade. At the end of that year, when the journalism teacher asked who wanted to be part of the school paper in ninth grade, I almost sprained my arm I raised it so quick. 

Wasn’t chosen. Made me believe the lie that I had no talent. I buried my desire to write for twenty five years. It was Jesus and my wife going on a three day fast that finally showed me the way to step out of the shadows and pursue the dream.

When you ask God what he thinks of your writing, what do you hear him say?

That’s such a great question, Allen because when I ask God that question, he says, “This is fun, isn’t it? You and Me. Creating stories together. Writing the stories you’d love to read yourself.”  

When I hear that, it takes all the pressure off. It makes awards and sales figures and deadlines fade away and I remember why I write.  I love the feeling of being exactly where I’m supposed to be, the place closest to the deep desires of my heart, playing with words on a page. 

Q  Who is your favorite character from LOST? Why? 

Love Jack, love Sawyer even more, but John Locke wins. He’s the man of faith, he’s the one that has gone through so much pain and yet chooses to believe anyway. He’s resolute and has a fire that doesn’t come out often, but is always there simmering beneath the surface. He continues to grow, stretch himself, push into the mystery. 

What’s the book or books that haven’t been written yet, that you can’t write, but that you want most to read? 

At the end of the gospel of John, he says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” 

I read a little bit of the gospels every day and when I finish John, I start over. Every time I find myself saying, I want to read those other stories. But I’m not the one to write them. Anyone? 

Are you excited about the new Star Wars movie coming out? 

Yes and no. Yes, because I’m a huge Star Wars fan. No, because I have no idea what it’s about. I don’t want to know anything. I want it all to be fresh when I get to the theater. Probably comes from a phone call I got back when Return of the Jedi came out. 

My best friend at the time called me up and said he’d just been to the movie. I asked him how it was, if he thought I’d like it. He said, “It was great! Darth Vader repents!” No, I’ve never forgiven him for that.

I’ve already seen exceptionally strong reviews for The Five Times I Met Myself. Did you expect people to resonate with this book as deeply as they seem to be doing?

My wife, Darci isn’t a big reader of novels, but she has an innate sense of people and stories, whether it’s on TV, in movies, or in novels. So when she said The Five Times I Met Myself had replaced Rooms as her favorite of my novels, I took notice. 

That told me there was a good chance others would like it as well. I’ve already had readers e-mail me telling how powerfully the book has set them free from past regrets and that’s the greatest feeling in the world.

The best way for people to stay in touch with you? 

Probably the best way is to head for my website and sign up for my newsletter. 

Any final advice for people not as far along the writing path?

I believe that in God’s way of looking at life there is only definition of failure: You didn’t try. When we shed this mortal coil, the money, awards, reviews, recognition that comes from writing won’t matter for even a breath. 

What will matter is God saying to us, “I gave you talents, maybe not as many as the other guy. Not ten or five, maybe just one. What did you do with it?” And when we answer, “I tried,” His response will be, “Well done.” 

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man’s body. He thinks he’s still young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys they’ll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He’s the best-selling, Christy, INSPY, and RT Book Reviews award winning author of seven novels as well as a professional speaker. During the day he runs his marketing company which helps businesses, authors, and publishers make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at www.jameslrubart.com