Buck Storm admits his new book, The Beautiful Ashes of Gomez Gomez (Kregel Publications), isn’t your typical faith-based novel. In fact, in his own words, he describes it as a bit funky, sometimes over the top, and rarely going where you’re expecting it to go.
Storm didn’t set out with a teaching theme or spiritual message in mind when he started writing; instead he let the story take over. However, that doesn’t mean readers won’t find God throughout the story. “As authors, artists, songwriters, etc., we all have soul-themes that will insist on finding their way into our work. They won’t be quiet… If I’m honest in my work and let things flow out of my personal relationship with God, then His relentless pursuit will resonate in a reader’s heart in an authentic way.”
Read more from Buck Storm in this second half of his Q&A. Q: Without giving too much away, tell us a little bit about the story itself. Who is Gomez Gomez?
It’s essentially a quirky David and Goliath match up, pitting an eccentric, homeless widower against a wealthy and influential businessman. Gomez Gomez has lost his wife, Angel, in a head-on collision and, grieving, he’s moved into the bushes next to the crash site to basically drink himself to death. It’s sacred ground to him.
He’s always been a little (or a lot) out there, and alcohol certainly doesn’t help the situation—thus the talking to snakes and the stars and the sequined, jumpsuited Elvis who occasionally turns up. Sonny Harmon, who owns the car dealership next door to Gomez Gomez’s vacant lot, wants the land to expand. Sonny wants Gomez Gomez gone yesterday. He basically doesn’t even consider Gomez Gomez human. The town squares up and takes sides. Hopefully, so does the reader.
Q: As much of a lead player in the story as Gomez Gomez himself is Father Jake Morales. He doesn’t quite seem like your typical priest. Is he?
Once, back when I was touring a lot, I saw a priest wearing an old cowboy hat. He was drinking a beer in an airport bar. I don’t know why, but the image always stuck with me. I wished I would have talked to him, gotten his story. I know both the man and the hat must have had a few tales to tell. But I didn’t get his story, so I did what I’ve done more times than I can count—made one up for him. Father Jake has shown up in some of my previous work, and I felt it was time to bring him out to center stage. He’s always been serious and quiet. Kind of a Gregory Peck cowboy, collar, and cassock sort. This story pulls him out of his safety zone.
I think we often consider clergy, especially ones who live a conspicuously set-apart life, as existing on another plane than the rest of us mortals. It’s ingrained in us even as kids. Of course, we know they’re really only human, but we still find ourselves taking that reverent step back. I wonder, What are their thoughts? Their dreams? Favorite songs? What did they dress up as on Halloween when they were kids? Who were their first crushes? Who were their heroes?
And, in Jake’s case, what if he fell in big, fat, messy, miserable love?
Q: Did Father Jake join the priesthood for the wrong reasons? Was he struggling with grief in a different way?
I’d put forth that all of us do almost everything for the wrong reasons all the time. After all, in this life, our flesh, our self, has an influence no matter how hard we fight. No matter how spiritual we consider ourselves. As followers of Christ, we want to do His will—and we do—but we’re not God, so every decision naturally comes with an element of our humanity attached. In books, the very best characters are the ones who are the most human. In this novel, Father Jake has certainly run to the priesthood more as a place to hide than as a true calling. We find that out almost immediately. Not that he doesn’t do his best to honor the commitment, but life presses no matter how high a person builds their spiritual wall.
This, by nature, was a touchy subject to write about. I’m not Catholic, for one thing. So I guess that makes me either the exactly wrong or exactly right person to write a novel about a priest struggling with his calling. I did talk with Catholic friends. A situation like Jake’s isn’t an uncommon occurrence. I wound up doing quite a bit of research and learned a lot. It was fascinating, really. In the end, I had to just follow the story.
Q: At the risk of sharing a bit of a spoiler here, why did you put a priest in the middle of a love triangle?
Who better? It’s built-in conflict. At the foundation of every good story is a great big what-if. What if a huge shark shows up and terrorizes a small beach town? What if the unsinkable ship isn’t actually unsinkable? What if a farm-boy nobody on a distant planet finds a message in a cute little droid?
So . . . what if a priest falls in love? Or what if he’s always been in love but situations drove him to hide from the fact behind a collar? It’s a natural and interesting conflict because on first look it’s essentially unsolvable. What can we do with this guy? I found it a very interesting conundrum to explore.
Q: What message do you hope readers will find in The Beautiful Ashes of Gomez Gomez?
I almost never start writing a book with a teaching theme or message in mind. For me, starting out with that kind of weight on my shoulders bogs down the whole process. It allows too much of me in. Too much thought. And that invariably gets in the way of the story. I personally feel a little taken advantage of when I read a sermon thinly disguised as a novel (whatever the faith, political bent, or agenda might be). It’s okay for books to just be books, stories to be stories, even if they exist in the faith-based market.
But that being said, as authors, artists, songwriters, etc., we all have soul-themes that will insist on finding their way into our work. They won’t be quiet. I love God. I love Jesus. I love His love. So, by nature (I hope) these things will find their way into anything and everything I produce, whether it be prose or song or even how I love my family and neighbors. If I’m honest in my work and let things flow out of my personal relationship with God, then His relentless pursuit will resonate in a reader’s heart in an authentic way.
In the end, there is a beautiful hope in everything. About the author Buck Storm is a critically acclaimed author and musician whose stories have found friends around the world. His nonfiction work includes Finding Jesus in Israel and Through the Holy Land on the Road Less Traveled. Storm’s novels include The List, The LightTruck Stop Jesus, and The Miracle Man. The latest, The Beautiful Ashes of Gomez Gomez, launches his new series, Ballads of Paradise.
Storm and his wife, Michelle, make their home in North Idaho and have two married children.
Learn more about Buck Storm, as well as his writing and music, at buckstorm.com.
He can also be found on 
Facebook (@buckstormauthor)Twitter (@buckstormauthor), and Instagram (@buckstorm).