Billy Coffey crafts an uplifting inspirational romance with his new novel Paper Angels. A brutal attack has left the story's hero, Andy, with a broken body and questioning his faith in God. But things are not always what they seem. While Andy heals at a local hospital, a Heavenly friend — and angel Andy calls Old Man — and the hospital's beautiful counselor Elizabeth, help Andy discover that life has been anything but ordinary. Today RT reviewer Patsy Glans interviews Billy Coffey for an insider's look at the author's inspiration for this new story, his own thoughts about angels and how he hopes Paper Angels will touch readers' hearts.
What was your inspiration for the story line in Paper Angels?
I've never been one to put much stock in happenstance. There's a purpose behind the things that happen to us, some mysterious good in even the bad. I've always thought it a shame that we often go through life without the benefit of truly understanding how many lives we've touched and how many others have touched our own. I wanted to write a book about an ordinary person who gets that opportunity, and I wanted to discover if the pain he endures is worth that discovery.
What do you hope readers will learn after reading this book?
That Andy Sommerville is them. That their lives are just as extraordinary, no matter how ordinary they seem. If a lonely small-town gas station owner can find such beauty in his life, how much more is there in yours?
Are angels real? Or is it a person's subconsciousness?
My opinion? Very real. And yes, I believe each person has his or her own. I would imagine mine is very tired by now.
The angel you have looking after you, what type of shape does it have, does it resemble Old Man in Paper Angels?
I don't think my angel resembles the Old Man. To be honest, I used to have horrible recurring nightmares that featured an old man, and I put him into a book in the hopes that he'd go away (thankfully, he has). I think my angel is a woman. One of those grandmother-types who expects you to do what's right, makes you feel guilty when you do wrong, and loves you unconditionally.
Do you think readers will be changed in any way after reading Paper Angels, if so, how do you believe they will be changed?
I certainly hope readers will be changed, even if it's just a smidgen. I hope they'll take the opportunity to slow down and examine their own lives. To find their own angels. Because somehow life becomes less gray when you realize there is much more to it than what can be seen or felt, and because I promise those angels are there.
What are some of the comments you have received from readers on Paper Angels?
A lot of people have compared Paper Angels to It's a Wonderful Life. While I wrote the book without thought to either Jimmy Stewart or Zuzu's petals, I can see the similarities. Others enjoy the setting of a rural mountain town. I like to think we all have a bit of Mattingly in us.
All authors have to do some research for their novels, what type of research did you do?
It was amazing to me just how prevalent angels are. They are one of the few things each of the world's major religions share—not just Christianity, but also Islam, the Jewish faith, even Buddhism. But as I dug deeper, it was the Jewish notion of angels that grabbed me. To them, an angel isn't necessarily winged and haloed, it can be anything—a person, an object, even an emotion—that serves as a messenger from God. That idea is central to what has happened in Andy Sommerville's life.
Are there upcoming books? if so, can you give a blurb what it will be about?
The book I'm working on now is titled Into the Maybe. It's about a little girl named Leah Norcross who gets both an easel and an imaginary friend for her ninth birthday. If Paper Angels revolves around the notion of purpose, Leah's story revolves around the notion of faith. After that I plan to tell the other half of the story told in Paper Angels. What landed Andy in the hospital didn't just affect him, it affected his entire town. That book will be titled No Home for the Weary.
How can readers contact you?
The easiest way to contact me is through my website at billycoffey.com. I'm also on Twitter at @billycoffey.
One last question, it's a fun one: If you could have dinner with a historical person (no relatives, sorry) who would it be and why? What would the conversation be like?
I'd have to go with Hemmingway. I once told my high school English teacher that men who wrote books were sissies. Her rebuttal was the copy of The Old Man and the Sea on my desk the next day. No one tells a story like Papa. I figure our dinner would be on some Caribbean island and we'd eat what we'd caught that day out in the flats and shallows. He would tell me how there is nothing to writing but sitting down and bleeding, and I would have the good sense to keep my mouth shut and listen.