When Boxing is Discipleship

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Fight was written by Luke Wordley, a man who lives in the south of England. His aim with this book is to supply young men with quality fiction. That said, I didn't count on being able to really enjoy the book myself.You can imagine my surprise when I found myself HOOKED!

Wordley follows Sam Pennington's struggle with life and faith in a way that is so real. He creates characters who seem like they could live next door. Sam may be the main character, but I found myself focused on Jerry Ambrose. Here is a man whose life is aimed at knowing God and making God known. Jerry is a trainer at a boxing club but he is also a devoted Christian who seeks to use boxing as a way to develop discipleship relationships with the men in his ring. Jerry's passion makes him the perfect hero, but Wordley made sure to make him human by giving Jerry his own sin to fight.
The Fight is about more than boxing...The Fight is about life. The Fight is about what happens when boxing brings people together and they decide to really listen to one another. Faith in God takes center stage.
In short, this is a book worth reading!
The one caution I have is that I don't know that I would be able to recommend this book to very young men. Without offering a spoiler, I can say that there is one passing reference to marital relations and several threats regarding rape. I know that compared to most books, that's nothing, but I can't not mention it in my review.
In addition to receiving a review copy of this book, I had the opportunity to interview the author! I would like to thank Mr. Worldey for his efforts in writing quality fiction and for stepping away from his writing desk to take the time to do interviews and interact with his readers.

Questions About The Book
Victoria @ Through * For * By: "I enjoyed the unique way that this book was able to cover so much time. What made you decide to write The Fight in 'parts'?"

Luke Wordley: I believe we are all on a journey, especially in relation to faith. Even if we have a Damascene moment, there is always a back-story that precedes it. To reflect Sam’s journey particularly, the story needed to cover a significant passage of time. I’m also a believer in moving a story forward!

Victoria: "The Fight features some long term discipleship type relationships that are very refreshing. What has been your personal experience with one on one discipleship?"

Luke: When I came to faith at 19 years old, my Church student minister took me under his wing. I also have two male Christian friends in particular who I hugely respect and have been a great example to me of living out your faith. I have really enjoyed mentoring lads in various youth groups I have been involved in. It can be discouraging at times, when they get sucked into worldly lifestyles, but has been a huge privilege too.  
Victoria: "Jerry seemed to have a hands off approach in starting a relationship with Sam. Is that an approach you would encourage Christians to use as they attempt to build relationships with those outside the faith?"

Luke: I think you have to follow God’s leading, even if it is sometimes against our own desire. And we must be sensitive to those we’re trying to build relationships with. You generally don’t make friends by being all over them. It has to be based on love and friendship. I would imagine there is nothing more off-putting to someone without an active faith to feel they are someone’s project.

I also think as Christians, because of our shared faith, we can sometimes
get to a deeper level of friendship and openness much quicker than with
other folk. So we must bear this in mind and be patient.  

Victoria: "My next question is a little strange, but I am genuinely curious...Throughout your book, the characters use the word "flippin". Is that a common word among the English?"

Luke: Fairly common. “Flippin’” is mild slang. I had no idea that we had so many uniquely English colloquialisms in the UK – until working with my publisher to prepare the book for the American market! It was actually quite an effort to find words which work for both an English and American audience. For example, a public housing complex in the UK is a “Council Estate”. So living
on an “estate” over here is generally associated with living in a fairly deprived setting. I understand in The States that living on an “estate” means you are living in a privileged area, which changed the story completely. So we had things like that to iron out too. There, I’ve done it again. Is “iron out” (the creases) an expression over there? I never realized I used so many sayings!

Questions About Luke Wordley's Faith

Victoria: "In the 'about the author' section [of The Fight], you mentioned your own struggles. Would you share a few specific ways your breakdown influenced this book? "

Luke: No problem. I believe the best fiction nearly always has some truth and personal experience behind it. I wrote the first third of The Fight when I was just 25 years old, travelling with my wife around Asia and Australasia. As you know, the opening portion of the book centres upon a character called Sam – an angst ridden, testosterone-charged teenager. It wasn’t so many years since I had been a teenager myself, so writing Sam’s story was relatively easy.
Our travelling came to an end and we returned to the UK to volunteer for a small international development charity. Within a few months we found ourselves running it and the manuscript was put away. God blessed the work and organisation amazingly and before long we were supporting projects in more than 40 countries around the world. It was a privilege to be able to help improve and sometimes save lives, and we threw everything into it. But with the inexperience of youth, I didn’t pace myself. I over-committed to projects, didn’t take enough time off, didn’t look after myself physically or spiritually. And it became very, very stressful.

I hung on for a year, but from a 32-year old at the top of my game I became a wreck – wracked with anxiety and insomnia, addicted to caffeine and increasingly erratic in my decision-making and work relationships. The crash came. And it wasn’t pretty. Depression, a crisis of faith and a sense of personal failure followed the inevitable resignation from my job.

By God’s grace, and the wonderful support of my wife, I was slowly restored to health and normal life once more. About a year later, I felt prompted to get my manuscript out again – untouched for seven years. I was amazed to find that I had stopped writing just at the point that my other main
character, Jerry – a Christian in his 30s - suffers a depressive episode and crisis of faith. I began typing again, with an authenticity and insight that I would never have achieved seven years earlier.

Victoria: "You also shared that you came to faith in your early twenties out of a strongly antireligious viewpoint. As a young man, what changed your mind? Was there any one person who played a crucial role in your conversion?"

Luke: Up until that time, I had only experienced “organized religion”  rather than a living vibrant faith. My experience of church had been, frankly incredibly boring and seemingly irrelevant. Meeting Christians at University with a living, breathing, Spirit-filled faith blew my mind. I also met my future wife on the day I made a commitment, so it was a good day all round! Although we didn’t start dating for quite a while, she was, and continues to be, one of the biggest Christian influences in my life.

Questions About Luke Wordley's Writing:

Victoria: "Would you tell us about your journey writing The Fight?"

Luke: I’ve covered some of my personal journey above, but in terms of actual writing, it has been a steep learning curve too. I’ve discovered I’m not someone who can write in short bursts, or at odd times of day like when the children are finally down in the evening. I heard Davis Bunn once say that
when he started out, he would write anywhere – even in the back of taxis! I just couldn’t do that. I have to dedicate a whole morning or afternoon to writing, which I was lucky enough to be able to do.
I generally spend the first hour reviewing and editing what I wrote last time, and then settle on the “scene” I plan to write next. I am quite a visual person so I imagine the scene almost like a film and then type like crazy as it plays in my head. I have been blessed with many positive comments about my relatively short chapter structure, which keeps the story moving and tempts readers to read “just one more chapter!”. I’d like to say it was planned, but in reality, each chapter just represents one sessions work. There are 60 odd chapters, so I wrote the novel in 60 sessions, more or less.

What took me a lot longer was the editing process. I was completely untrained when I started writing. The first mistake I fell into was the concern of how I could possibly write enough to fill a whole book! So I over-told the story, explaining the plot and the emotions of my characters in far too much detail. By the time I had finished the 1st draft of The Fight, it totaled 150,000 words – almost twice as long as (I subsequently found out) a debut novel should be! It was also irritating to the reader, as
I hadn’t given them space to imagine the story for themselves. So I then had to take a red pen to my manuscript, which was very, very painful, and much
harder to do than writing it in the first place!     

Victoria:"How did you go about getting this, your first novel, published?"

Luke: I self-published The Fight in 2012. Christian fiction in the UK is a tiny genre, so the options for traditional publishing are very limited. I therefore decided quite early that I would self-publish. I did it in a very professional way, which took a lot of time, effort and money. It was relatively successful. The book sold 1,000 copies, which is quite a lot for over here in the UK, and I gave another 1,000 copies to prison ministry in the UK (see my website). Nevertheless, I was still heavily out of pocket. 
What self-publication did allow me though was to retain control over my work and generate a track record of positive reviews and sales to showcase to American publishers. I got a huge break when a successful American author I met kindly read my book and then strongly recommended it to Chip Macgregor - a leading American agent. He put me on to Tyndale and the rest, as they say, is history (Is that another English saying?)

Victoria: "What has this journey taught you? What would you say to aspiring authors?"

Luke: Two things. Technically, the editing process is just as important as writing your book in the first place. Never finish writing the first draft, and then think it is ready to fire off to agents, publishers etc. This is a sure-fire route to rejection. Secondly, work out why you want to write. Be passionate about it. My passion/motivation for writing is to write stories that encourage people in their walk with God, wherever they are on that path. Forget about the dream of making money from your writing, and just make the book as good as it can be. To use a sporting analogy, leave nothing on the pitch in terms of effort and endeavor.

For Readers of The Fight

Victoria: "What are some final words that you have for the men (young and old) who are
reading your book?"

Luke: I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you!

How's that for a great book, with a very real back story to add to your summer reading list? 

You can pick up your copy of "The Fight" by clicking HERE.

* I was provided with a review copy of this book by Tyndale. All thoughts are my own honest opinion.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love hearing from you! Please be sure to leave your e-mail so that I can reply. :)