For Dr. Elena Burroughs, life is divided into two chapters—before and after the death of her husband. Today marks the point that her span of being a wife is equal to her span of being a widow. Even her success as a psychologist and her worldwide acclaim for a book on the interpretation of dreams is dimmed by an unspoken “If only.”
Then a new patient arrives, one so private only her first name is given. Impeccably dressed and escorted by two bodyguards, Sandra recounts a frightening series of recurrent nightmares. Elena agrees to consider her case more carefully, convinced that something ominous may be at work here.
Elena’s interpretation of Sandra’s dreams confirms that, indeed, the new patient and her family confront a powerful global network of dangerous forces. As the story unfolds, they face a key question of the Christian life: How do you understand and fulfill the will of God?
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Davis Bunn did his undergraduate studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, where he earned honors degrees in both economics and psychology. He then travelled to London, where he continued this dual approach, earning a Master of Science degree in both industrial psychology and international economics. After teaching at a Swiss university for a year, he entered into a business career that took him to more than 40 countries in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
Davis came to faith at age 28, and began writing two weeks later. Before that point, he had never written anything longer than a business report. He wrote for nine years and completed seven novels before the first was accepted for publication. That book was The Presence, released by Bethany House in 1991. Davis and his wife, Isabella, make their home in Florida for some of each year, and spend the rest near Oxford, England, where they each teach and write. Visit Davis at www.davisbunn.com
Q & A with Davis Bunn
Your novels usually have a very strong sense of place, and Book of Dreams is no exception. Why did you set this story in Oxford?
When it became possible for us to live from the writing, Isabella and I moved to Oxford. She had been offered a position to do her doctorate here in Christian ethics and law.
I did not particularly want to come, but she was so instrumental in making my own dreams of becoming a writer take wing and fly. Her dream for years had been to obtain her PhD and teach. That’s just the kind of mind she has.
The city and the university have become a true gift to us both, with amazing opportunities for service and personal growth. I have wanted to place a story here for a long time.
In Book of Dreams, you revisit a theme from one of your earlier books, The Warning. Why did you write about the crisis in the banking industry?
The Warning, published in 2003, focused on the then-current financial crisis. It was about a man who felt called by God to warn people that financial upheaval was coming, and the difficulties he had in getting his message across. That book was in the top five on the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) best-seller list for 14 months.
The week I started writing Book of Dreams, the news broke that not one single banker responsible for the mortgage crisis and bank crisis had been convicted of a crime. The banking industry came out of this crisis relatively unscathed while 3 million American families lost their homes — that’s almost 15 percent of all homeowners in America. That, to me, is just not right.
The banking industry is all about self-interest and making money. The American banking industry spends $1 million a day lobbying Congress, while the international banking industry spends another million per day lobbying the American political system. With that much money on the table, there’s a potential for huge profits – the banking industry wouldn’t invest that much money for any other reason.
The question became: “What could happen that would stymie this self-absorbed lobbying?”
The answer: An independent commission that would oversee these transactions so there’d be nowhere for these people to hide. I built Book of Dreams around that premise.
Book of Dreams explores the question: “Where does the human psyche end and God begin?” Why did you choose that question as the framework for your story?
Psychology has always fascinated me; so much so that it almost became my profession. One question I love to explore is why so many psychologists are vehemently opposed to the idea of a personal faith.
Those in the camp opposed to faith and religion say that psychology is about wrestling with and identifying personal issues, emotions, and things from the past that block one from being happy. Opponents believe that when you insert faith into the situation, it serves as an excuse for not looking at the past, not being honest about one’s emotions, and not taking control of one’s life.
On the other side, there is a deepening within a group of psychologists and psychiatrists who are strong in their faith. Rather than trying to convince the larger group about the value of faith, their goal is to look at things honestly, with God and prayer as components of the healing process.
In my story, the main character, Elena Burroughs, is the world’s foremost authority on dreams. A psychologist who is deeply involved in current trends in human psychology, Elena is also a devoted believer. She is in the process of discovering that the barrier between God and the human psyche does not exist.
Your story explores how God uses dreams and visions to communicate with people. What inspired that idea?
My wife and I did a wonderful Bible study on the book of Daniel, in which we explored how dreams were one component of Daniel’s gift of prophecy.
When I wrote the book, I tried to build in two key components about communicating with God through dreams or visions. The first is humility. Rather than using a vision or dream for one’s own aggrandizement, I believe that the less the person is involved, the more God can shine through.
The second component is, “How does this vision tie in to the scriptures?” When I was in the Middle East, I saw beautiful cryptograms of the Lord’s Prayer. It was so telling to see the Lord’s Prayer in terms of artwork. This inspired the idea of a book written in Aramaic – the language Jesus spoke – with each verse of Lord’s Prayer on one page of the book.
As I drafted the story, I looked at the Lord’s Prayer one verse at a time and that became my prayer time. It took three months to write the book and I did not finish the Lord’s Prayer in three months. It was a beautiful experience for me.
When the character of Elena follows God’s lead, her life takes a different path than the one she planned or expected. Davis, in what ways does your own dependence on God’s leading take you in surprising directions?
It’s remarkable how this question comes up now, because it seems like this entire year has been one of being open to God’s OTHER direction. This has been true both in my creative work and in my walk of service.
Obviously I had no idea what was in store for us when I wrote the Book of Dreams (remember, the story is completed between nine and twelve months before its publication). But this really has been a reflection of what the story has tried to reveal – that sometimes the most important gift is what at first is what we fear.
Change often feels threatening, but so long as we struggle, we can’t see the true divine intention. To arrive at this point, where our prayer becomes one of genuinely seeking God’s call and His illumination, we must first embrace the change that is there in front of us.
Do you write down your prayer requests? In what ways do you recognize and acknowledge God’s power at work in your life?
What a beautiful question. There are several components to this, and it goes back to the earlier issue of accepting change. There are moments in my prayer life when I feel as though God is speaking the words for me, and my task is first and foremost to treat my heart and mind like an open window. To hold onto nothing except the moment, and allow the spiritual winds to pass through me and on into the world. At these times it is important to write them out, because oft when the moment is past I cannot otherwise even remember what has transpired.
The other segment here is in dealing with change. I often feel in such uncertain moments that I have no real understanding of what is happening, or what God wishes to bring me to, until it is done. Looking back becomes vital, and it is also sometimes rather hard, because the rush of events and the speed of unfolding newness requires all my attention. And yet, if I can pause just for a moment, and reflect upon all the uncertainty and fear I had to wade through in order to simply respond with a simple openhearted ‘yes’, the wisdom that comes from this moment of backward reflection is a gift, and needs to be recorded.
Too often we seek completion, a sense of drawing everything together into a nice tidy bundle before we stop and draw the prayerful breath. But life is not like this. And here is the third element of discovery that has come through my prayer time during this year of transition. It is important to stop, just for a moment, in the pressure and the fatigue of a day’s end, and give thanks for having made it this far.
For me, when the uncertainty of unfinished work pushes at my every waking moment, there is a great temptation to forget this simple task. But if I can stop and simply affirm the goodness of this incomplete day, this human hour, this imperfect world, my NEXT day is so much fuller, and my vision so much clearer.
Is a sequel for Book of Dreams planned? If so, when can we expect it?
I am this very moment completing the sequel, which is entitled Hidden in Dreams. Howard/Simon and Schuster have this slated for release in July 2012.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My website, blog, and interactive discussion group are at www.davisbunn.com
Twitter: @davisbunn – http://twitter.com/davisbunn
E-Newsletter: My free e-newsletter always includes a giveaway contest for my latest book. To subscribe, fill out the form at www.davisbunn.com or send a blank e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll receive a confirmation e-mail. Click the link in that e-mail, and you’re all set.