El río (The River), the much talked about first novel by award-winning songwriter and worship leader Michael Neale, is now available in Spanish by Grupo Nelson ($14.99). In the book, the author tells the story of a man who must reconnect with his past by confronting the same river that is responsible for his deep sorrow. We had the opportunity to interview Neale regarding both the novel and his book-related multimedia show.
Writers have used rivers as metaphors for many things. Did that literary background have anything to do with the way the story came to you?
I love rivers. I’ve rafted and fished in many of them over the years. One trip in particular with my wife Leah really opened my eyes and heart to the story of El río. We rafted through the beautiful gorges of Colorado and at one particularly treacherous spot Leah fell out. She disappeared into the whitewater. I felt so helpless. She was only under for probably 10-15 seconds but it felt like a lifetime. That day, a truly visceral experience was written on my soul. But the full inspiration for El río came from a collection of life experiences. Eleven years later, I finally got the courage to try and communicate a story that was stirring in my heart. It was almost as if the story chose me.
When Gabriel, the protagonist, is a young boy he witnesses a devastating event. Do you think anyone is capable of confronting his/her past successfully in a similar situation?
Pain and suffering find their way to us all. It´s part of the fabric of being broken people, living in a broken world. The good news is: it is not forever. I think we all have to deal with our “brokenness”, the question is how? For Gabriel, it meant giving himself-heart, mind and soul-to the river. However pain and suffering have made their way to you, God will meet you in that place. Just like a jagged rock is worn smooth by the hands of the river, our pain, in the hands of God, can create something new and beautiful.
You have created a multimedia show based on El río, how different was planning the show from writing the book?
The show is 90 minutes. The audio book is seven hours. You have to be concise and precise about delivering the best possible content in a fast paced, theatrical environment. The great thing about the show, it delivers an altogether different experience. Hopefully, once you read the book, you want to see the show. Once you see the show, you want to read the book!
Could you share with us what you are working on now?
Most of my time for the next few months will be promoting El río, taking this message to the world. But rumor has it I’m working on the sequel.
About the author
Michael Neale, 40 years old, is an award-winning songwriter and a featured teacher at conferences around the U.S. El río is Neale´s first novel. His second book, Your Great Name, will be released in October 2012.