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with Sam Severn

Sam, tell me about yourself...

Where are you from?

I came shooting out of the womb in the sunshine capitol of America, Long Beach, California, home turf of Chuck Terry basketball sneakers, tennis star Billie Jean King, gonzo actor Nicholas Cage, and Snoop Doggy Dogg. My greatest renown in childhood came from being begged by numerous 9th grade teachers to stay after school and write on the chalkboard I WILL NOT DREAM IN CLASS. At age 29, I moved my long hair, John Lennon glasses and massive record collection to beautiful Snohomish, Washington (pop. 7,103) where I married, raised 3 children, 2 dogs, 7 cats, 12 pygmy goats, a cow and 7 ducks, and continued my holy quest to remain positively the lamest heavy metal guitar player still alive. Succeeding beyond even my wildest dreams, I then blew all of our family savings trying to produce an indie movie using credit cards, divorced, had a profound spiritual experience and found Jesus, remarried and moved to the South, where I now ply those same metallic six-string skills torturing Nashville music listeners.


How did you get your start as a writer?

I’d dreamed of being a writer starting at the starry-eyed age of 7. Back then it was Marvel Comics, Mad Magazine, and visions of being a journalist for Playboy or a rock writer for Rolling Stone. My first paying gig as a writer was to knock out a low-budget Sci-Fi feature film screenplay, for which I was paid $129.   


List some of your influences.

I adore everything about movies, music, TV and books! My greatest influences are Kurt Vonnegut, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Philip K. Dick, Stephen King, Flannery O'Connor, David Foster Wallace, the Bible and The White Album and Nevermind, Hendrix and Elvis, The Exorcist and Dr. Seuss. My #1 all-time to-die-for book is 1984 by George Orwell but I would also hock my left lung to have written A Confederacy of Dunces, Watership Down, Slaughterhouse-5 and Infinite Jest. 


What's the last book you read?

I just finished Do The Work by Steven Pressfield, author of The War Of Art, the absolute greatest book ever created for writers. I’m in the middle of East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and also engulfed in my second reading of David Foster Wallace’s wild-and-woolly reboot of the Great American Novel, Infinite Jest.


Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

Two words: NEVER SURRENDER. Never quit. Face your fears. (That's three words.) Believe you can achieve the unbelievable. Writing is a holy calling. Devote yourself to it. Pray over your work. Armor up, because to write is step onto a spiritual battlefield.


Why write another redemption story? You’ve worked on more than 50 in the past 10 years. Does the world really need another book about redemption?

I played guitar in a rock band once. It lasted one whole summer. We didn’t make any money. We were terrible. People loathed to listen to us. But when I played, when I hit all six strings, that shuddering chord felt like I’d downloaded a thunderbolt from the cosmos. Being a ghostwriter is like connecting with that same cosmic thunderbolt. Every time I hit my keyboard it’s a high-octane, one-lane highway to the Heaven of my imagination, and a trip straight to the Dark Side. Each keystroke is a high-wire act, each brainstorm a hair-raising chance that I’ll crash and burn, each page a shot at reaching my highest ground as a storyteller, a chance to hold nothing back. Redemption stories are like that: they hold nothing back. Redemption stories utilize failure and fear as fuel. They don’t scare us; they dare us. They deliver us. And if we allow them to, they save us.


What emotions do you feel when you write?


Inspired. Elevated. Intoxicated. Words have the power to give someone hope, to take the language of light and bring clarity to the darkness, to make the world a better place. Miles Davis said, “Play like you don’t know how to play.” So I try to write with purity and innocence, by letting go of control, trusting and surrendering to something greater than myself. Trusting that my fingers will be guided, will know what to do, how to do it, how to take all that passion and fire burning inside and bring someone else’s dreams into fire-breathing reality.


What is your favorite word and why?


My favorite word is OVERCOME. OVERCOME tells me everything I need to know about life. OVERCOME is a warrior word. When I hear OVERCOME I see visions of Rocky Balboa stepping into the ring to face Apollo Creed. I see David marching into a showdown with Goliath. OVERCOME means conquer your fears. Vanquish doubt. Prevail, crush, and clobber. It means pedal-to-the-metal and UNSTOPPABLE. It inspires victory and predicts triumph, the guts to listen to the angels urging us to rise and face whatever bottomless abyss of fear lies ahead of us, to climb the unreachable mountains that stand in our path. OVERCOME says to me Don’t overthink where to start. Once you’ve started, don’t stop. And once you’ve planted the first foot on the ground, DON’T LOOK BACK.

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