Today we're talking to T.J. Macleslie, author of the Christian living/spiritual relationship book, Designed for Relationship. T.J. has been involved in a variety of Christian ministries since 1990, including pastoring, church planting, leadership development, prayer, and spiritual formation. He currently lives in the UK with his wife and two children where he leads a team focused on prayer and spiritual formation. You’ll often find him walking the fields with his dog, reading a book, or enjoying a warm cup of coffee.
Thank you for this interview, TJ. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
I was born and raised in America, but have spent most of my adult life living overseas. I have lived in 4 countries on 3 continents, studied 4 languages, and continue to enjoy the wonder of learning. I’m naturally curious and love diving into different cultures and perspectives. I have spent the last 23 years as a pastor and missionary and am still eager to grow and to share the lessons I learn along the way. I love my job as a soul friend and support for missionaries and ministers around the world.
As a pastor and missionary, my goal is to help people. Most of that is done in person, but writing allows me to share things that I, and others I care for, have found helpful with those I might never meet personally. My work is all about communication and writing is just one form of communication I’ve been using for years. But writing books is something I’ve only been doing for about 4 years.
Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
My latest book, Designed for Relationship, is the distillation of the paradigm for life and ministry that I have developed throughout my life. It is a book about the nature and character of God as well as the nature and character of us as people created in His image. We were purposefully designed to relate—to relate to God, to each other, and all of creation. As we begin to understand, and live from, this perspective we move toward a fuller experience of life and everything. This relational orientation has changed my life and is changing the lives of others as well.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
That’s a really interesting question for me, particularly because I considered several different genres as options. My first book, Pursuit of a Thirsty Fool, was a spiritual memoir about my journey, while this book, Designed for Relationship, captures and clarifies the lessons learned and makes them available for others as well as providing tools to help fellow travelers. They are two different approaches to similar themes and ideas. I feel like a more traditional non-fiction discipleship book would be the best way to help many people on their own journey with clear and practical help. I believe that each genre has strengths and weaknesses, and the next project I’m currently working on explores issues of faith through the genre of fiction.
What was your greatest challenge writing this book?
My greatest challenge was probably editing. I think it was E.B. White who said, “The best writing is rewriting.” I agree with him, but I still hate the process. I went through multiple drafts using various readers and editors as a part of my creative process. I am energized by the innovative and imaginative early stages of creating, but the sharpening and polishing are critical as well. I love that the book is improved with each pass, but I really don’t enjoy the re-writing.
Are you published by a traditional house, small press or are you self-published?
I am published by a small press publisher, Parvaim Press.
Was it the right choice for you?
Yes, it was. I feel like a small publisher has a lot of the benefits of self-publishing without the complications and loss of control that comes with a traditional publishing house. This is my second book, and my second small publisher. I like that small publishers are responsive and are invested in marketing and selling the book, the parts that I find most difficult. I wrote the book because I wanted to help people and I believe in the message, but selling anything is hard for me. I find the creative process to be a joy, but the publishing process to be really draining. I am happy to let someone else take the lead in the design, printing, distribution, and marketing of the book.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
Most of the promotion so far has been through word of mouth and social media.
How is that going for you?
It is hard to say really. The book has only been out for a few weeks. I guess it must have been selling well in the first couple of weeks as Amazon featured it in their top 100 in the Christian Discipleship category and also in the hot new releases. I think many of those early sales came from people who were anticipating the book’s release because they knew me, or had read the last book.
Can you tell us one thing you have done that actually resulted in one or more sales?
One thing I know for sure that has worked has been for me to share the concepts contained in the book with people in person. As people start to grasp the importance and the accessibility of a relationship with God, they want to learn more. I have even seen people ordering the book on their phones while we’re still having dinner together. That has been really fun and encouraging.
Do you have another job besides writing?
Yes, I have a full-time job leading a team for an international missions organization, Pioneers. We provide prayer and soul care for pastors and missionaries serving around the world. It is such a joy to get to listen to, pray for, and share with people who are experiencing God and helping people each day.
What’s next for you?
As far as writing, I plan to explore the issues of faith, culture, and personality through fiction next. But one of the really interesting parts of living connected with God is the adventure of letting Him lead you into what’s next. I have my plans and ambitions, but if the past is any indication, my plans will have little bearing on what comes next.
Thank you for this interview, TJ. Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
Thank you for interviewing me. I always enjoy talking about these things that are so close to my heart. I pray you will find all you are looking for.
You can find more information on Designed for Relationship at www.dfrbook.com and you can find me through http://about.me/tj_macleslie. I hope people will find me online and continue the conversation as we all journey through life.