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'SALT OF THE EARTH'

Richard Paul Evans, author of Grace, The Gift and more, infuses his books with hope and healing.

Richard Paul Evans has sold more than 13-million copies of his books in more than 22 languages. The first was The Christmas Box (1993), a tale about the importance of loving one's children that has been embraced by many parents who have lost a child. His parade of New York Times bestsellers includes 11 novels for adults, five for children and a financial guidebook, The 5 Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me.

Among his novels are The Gift (2007), about a child with the gift of healing, and The Locket (1998), about an elderly woman mourning for lost love.

Four of Evans' books have become made-for-TV movies. All of them are sweetly old-fashioned inspirational stories of the fight between good and evil and, ultimately, happy endings, shot through with belief in a Christian God who cares for his children.

"Our family of 10 was destitute," Evans, 45, recalls of his growing-up years in Utah, when his parents lost three houses and struggled for financial stability. Now, his literary success means he and his wife and children "live a nice life," he acknowledges, but "I didn't want money to ruin their lives. At the end of the day materialism will never get you anywhere."

He has poured the proceeds from his books into shelters for abused children and into programs to help foster children make the transition into independent adulthood. "Let's use the money to do good, to show what money should be used for," he says.

Evans' newest novel, Grace, about a teenager who is impregnated by an alcoholic stepfather and seeks shelter in the shed behind a school friend's home, was published Oct. 7. The author, known to his friends as Rick, spoke recently from his home in Salt Lake City.

Who are your readers? What are you providing that they're hungry for?

They're the salt of the earth. They're very real people. What they look for in literature is a connection. When they read the books they find a gentleness that makes them feel safe and secure and hopeful. Hope is healing, and fundamentally that's what the books are about.

Tell us about your own religious faith.

I'm a Christian. (Evans is a Mormon.) I believe in God. Everything I do is informed by God. Communication with the divine is something I talk about quite a bit. Prayers are essential. When a nation goes to war, the first thing they do is knock out the communications systems. We're in a very real war between good and evil. We need the communication from the divine that comes through prayer.

What do you read? Whose work inspires you? Have you read The Shack by Wm. Paul Young?

I'm pretty eclectic. I like Eric Larson's books, like The Devil in the White City. I don't read much fiction. I have Tourette's syndrome, and it's hard for me to read. (Tourette's is a neurological disorder characterized by vocal and physical tics that Evans shares with his character Nathan Hurst, the hero of The Gift.) I think I've got attention deficit disorder. If it isn't very, very engaging, I can't read it, it's drudgery. I just started reading The Shack last night. I figured if there's this much buzz about it, I need to know what it's about.

Some of your fans have said they see the image of a young woman beside you at your appearances. Have you figured out who that is?

I think it's my sister Sue (stillborn at 9 months). I've had more experiences about that lately and I'm very curious about it. Six months ago in Phoenix, a photographer said that when he photographed me on an earlier visit, there were two colored orbs beside me in all the photos and they ruined all his shots. This time he was shooting with a digital camera and he showed me the images, and they're there again, one white, one purple, floating above me. Then two months later in another city a woman told me the same thing. It's really interesting.

I don't like to speculate on what I don't understand, but something's happening. I do recall that in both cases I was saying very powerful things and feel as if I transcended myself.

Judy Stark, the Times' former Homes and Garden editor, is a freelance writer in St. Petersburg.

Meet the author

Richard Paul Evans

He will talk about his novel Grace at 2:15 p.m. in the Campus Activities Center.

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