William P. Young’s wife pressed him for years to write something for their six children that would give them an insight into his views and feelings about God. The Canadian’s life story includes living with a tribe in Netherlands New Guinea as a child to crises of faith.
Finding himself without a Christmas gift for the family and some time on his hands because of a long job commute, Young finally started to write. The fruits of that labor was “The Shack” (Windblown Media, $15) originally self-published in 2007.
“The Shack” is the story of a father who following a devastating tragedy loses his faith in God. He can’t understand why if God is so good would he let some a horrific event happen. God decides to answer those questions and invites the man to spend a weekend with him to go on a spiritual journey.
The original printing was only 15 copies but because those who read it would pass it on, Young began to get requests to have more books printed.
It has now sold more than 18 million copies and been turned into a motion picture starring Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer and Tim McGraw that debuts March 3.
The book has become an inspiration for millions something Young never expected would happen.
“When I wrote it, 15 copies did everything I intended it to do. I never intended to be a published author,” Young says. “I never wrote it thinking this would be something people would love.
“But I started getting emails from people I didn’t know. And they weren’t just to say ‘thanks for the book.’ They were people telling me stories of how these words have intercepted great loss or great tragedy in the family.”
Young was surprised at the reaction. All he could think about was how he was an average man with six children working three jobs who wrote a book for his family. The author jokes that he thinks God’s sense of humor is that he was to write the book for his children and then God would give it to his.
The book reflects Young’s changing views of God over the years. He grew up with what he calls a distant, bearded God who was “Gandalf with a bad attitude.” Now, he believes that God no longer exists but the God he believes in is a Trinity who is more about love instead of just being disapproving. That is shown in both the book and film version of “The Shack.”
Not only did Young become the published author he never expected to be but caught the attention of Hollywood executives who are always looking for projects to serve as the basis for a movie. Getting a book made into a major motion picture has made many authors very rich because books account for 65 percent of the movie scripts.
Young won’t be joining them as he has turned over all the film rights to the publishing company that gave him his start.
“I have absolutely no regrets about that,” Young says.
From the movie to national attention, the funny thing about all of the success the author has attracted from “The Shack” is that Young far surpassed what his wife originally wanted him to do.
“She said to me ‘when I asked you to do this, I was thinking four to six pages,’ ” Young says.