Interview with Russ MastersonBurnside Sells Out — By Jordan Green on July 5, 2011 at 5:00 am
Russ chronicles that fast in 40 Days Without Food: Divine Goodness to a Starving Soul, an e-book just released by Tyndale. You can find out more at RussMasterson.com.
Burnside Writers Collective: Let’s start with time frames. You actually wrote this book six years after your fast, right?
Russ Masterson: Yes, I’m constantly writing and journaling so I journaled my way through the fast. I didn’t do it because I had some grand idea of a book some day. I just did it because that is what I always did. A journal had become a place for me to vent and create. A few months after the 40 days I fiddled with the journal entries some to see if there was a book in there somewhere but I couldn’t find anything. Six years later I found it.
BWC: What changed in those six years?
RM: During the 40 days, and even the months following, I didn’t know how the story ended – how my life, which I was so manic about, would play out. I couldn’t write the book until the story was complete. That’s not to say my story is complete or anything. I’m completely a work in progress. What I mean by the story was completed is that I had reconciled, and processed, so many of the issues I was wrestling with during the 40 days.
BWC: Were there any specific insights you feel like you could only understand years later?
RM: Mainly how the Lord guides and gives to us over time, even when we don’t see it.
BWC: I think one of my expectations in doing a fast for that long would be that you’d eventually hit some really major spiritual breakthroughs. Like, you’d literally hear God speaking to you at some point. What did you expect going in?
RM: I expected I wouldn’t finish. I figured I’d bail at some point for some reason. I did think the fast might feel like floating on a cloud, a spiritual high of sorts. But it wasn’t. There were some divine emotional moments but much of it was lived just as life, in the reality before us. I think part of that was a revelation in and of itself — the divine isn’t some far off emotional high — God meets us where we are, sometimes we’re aware of it and sometimes we aren’t.
BWC: Besides not eating, what would you say was the hardest part of the fast?
RM: Not becoming overly focused on the issue most prominent in your heart. With the flood of extra time comes, and the attempt to pray to God about a particular issue, it’s easy to become obsessed with that issue rather than simply putting it before the Lord asking for wisdom.
BWC: You are really straightforward about your shortcomings in the book. I think I’d also expect a fast to be about transcendence and communion with God, but it seemed the process laid you bare and forced you to confront some dark areas. Was it painful to revisit some of those things years later?
BWC: Were there any downsides to the fast? Do you feel like it damaged you in any way?
RM: It put a huge strain on my marriage, which you’ll read about in the book. That was tough.
BWC: What do you hope people learn from your book?
RM: I hope people begin to release the tight grip of control we usually have on our future. I hope people see the need to deal with the issue of personal value before giving yourself to any purpose.
BWC: Initially, your book is only being released digitally, so it seems like you’re part of an experiment in how books will be released in the coming years. Do you have any insights into how a digital-only release works?
RM: It’s all new. Exciting really. Everybody is just trying to figure out how to strategically use ebooks. Literary agents and publishers and stores have always been filters for books to reach consumers. I think there will always be filters because the average reader doesn’t have the time to weed through the mass of self-pubbed ebooks that will begin to flood the market. I’m not sure what the filters will be, perhaps it’s simply Amazon’s control over which books you see and which ones they recommend. The ebook sort of relieves the author of physically traveling places, since the more vital thing is to go places online. I love that, because I love being at home with my family.
RM: It’s just all so different. There’s little reason to have a book release party or to go on a book tour. The physical world doesn’t matter as much. Meaning, there’s little reason to speak somewhere compared to publishing an article on Huffington Post or somewhere else hot online.