That was my first reaction. I also went back to the manuscript, and re-edited it (and rewrote it) yet again.
He kept asking, and I kept saying no.
This went on for six months.
He asked again. For reason or reasons unknown, I said yes.
He was the second person to read the manuscript, after my wife. And then he said he wanted to publish it.
I wasn’t ready. The manuscript wasn’t ready. I could think of all kinds of reasons to avoid publishing it.
He kept asking. And one day, I said okay.
A professional editor went through it, making it bleed. A cover photo was found and the cover designed.
Six years ago, at the beginning of December of 2011, Dancing Priest was born. Michael Kent and Sarah Hughes saw the light of publication. I was terrified. Exhilarated. Hopeful. Scared. I was all of those things authors experience at the birth of a first book.
People responded to the story.
“I didn’t get the feeling that I was reading a typical book,” said one reader. “It was almost as if I were spying on these people’s lives. I was the insider into an amazing array of people and situations that had me at times happy and more often than I’d like to admit in tears. Young is not writing a behemoth novel for page or word count. He is telling a story.”
“I’ve read a lot of good, and not so good, and this was part of the best,” said another reader. “The death had to be, but was not dwelt on to the point of being revolting. Jimmy is someone I’ve known. Sarah I liked. Michael is someone I would like to meet.” The reader was 92 years old.
“This book isn’t ‘deep,’ but it is deep,” said a pastor in Indiana. “This book isn’t meant to be challenging, but it will challenge you. This book isn’t meant to be a life-changer, but it is life-changing.”
A pastor in Lexington Kentucky ordered copies of the book for his staff and elder board, saying it was the best description of lifestyle evangelism he had ever seen. I reread the book to figure out what he meant, and I surprised myself when I found it.
An Anglican priest in Australia said it got several things wrong about Anglican priests. And then said he saw what I had done to wriggle around it. He was right, but if I had focused on getting everything absolutely precisely I would have lost the main story. So I wriggled around it.
“It is a novel in the traditional sense, but it is so much more,” said another read. “It is a testimony of God’s grace and mercy weaved into the lives of its characters. It is a powerful reminder to live intentional lives for Jesus. That while there is loss, heartache and pain for every one of us, there is also great joy.”
One reader put off household chores to read it. “Instead of chores,” she said, “I was gifted with an evening of beauty. An evening to explore a story told in delicate dialogue that revealed more than just the goings on of the lives of two characters — it revealed their hearts and ultimately, their faith.”
Top photograph: This mountain road in Spain is the type of road envisioned for the road race in Greece in Dancing Priest.