Last night I finished reading The Walk, by Richard Paul Evans. I met him once when I introduced him as a speaker at a League of Utah Writers conference in Park City, and I've seen him interviewed on TV here and there. He appears to be a man with many layers and complexities that even he finds amusing, as if every day is filled with self-discovery.
Whatever else he may or may not be, he is a solid storyteller, and I'm amazed at how quickly he pulls the reader in and holds attention. He does that with several effective devices. He uses the character's journal entries to tease the next chapter, which he has done in previous books as well, and it hasn't become tiresome because it isn't pretentious. His chapters are usually short, and that makes his books easy to pick up and put down when life is busy, and yet when you pick it up again, you're immediately drawn back into that compelling world he has created. He devises solid plots, believable characters and uses a "telescope" writing style – that is, he can focus on minutia when it reflects the character's state of mind and then he can pull out and look at the big picture. It's something like getting into the "zone" where the left and right sides of the brain are working together to write and revise, and creativity is pouring out of the keyboard from your fingertips. His writing is seamless, apparently effortless, and that's what tells me that he worked hard to achieve that flow of ideas and action.
Most fascinating to me is that he uses first person POV to tell his stories, and that requires becoming the character mentally and emotionally during the writing process, sort of like an actor creating a role for stage or screen. I have never written in the first person, but I think I've had a similar experience when a character comes alive in my imagination, telling me his or her story. It's like taking dictation. They tell me their story and I write it down. When the story has been told, the characters go away. Recently I had the startling experience of coming to the end of a book and saying goodbye to the characters, but they wouldn't leave. It was as if they were saying, "We have a story to tell and we choose you to tell it, so get busy." So I listened to them and wrote another book.
Evans always has his characters dealing with thought-provoking moral and religious issues, meaning his books are character and idea driven. That's what I write, and reading another author's take is very satisfying. I'd recommend The Walk, and hope the other three volumes yet to come in the series will also catch me, pull me in, and make my stay worthwhile.