While mixing dark, dramatic subjects with evangelistic hope may not be a literary norm, Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal member Trenton Guthrie artistically melds the two styles in his first book, The Red Man: A Collection From The Pit.
The novel’s main character, The Traveler, compiles letters, stories and poems while secluded in a pit against his will by the antagonist known as The Red Man.
“It’s interesting because thinking Christian, whether it’s a novel, movie or TV show, whatever it may be, horror is never really a genre that mixes in with it,” Guthrie said. “For me, a lot of people say, ‘It doesn’t work that way. You can’t mix horror with Christian,’ and I said, ‘Watch me.’”
As a senior English major at Rogers State University in northeastern Oklahoma, Guthrie has worked diligently to finesse his writing skills and style throughout college. But his interest began in childhood.
“I was writing random stories when I was younger,” he explained. “I had a giant children’s poetry book that I carried everywhere I went.”
Before Guthrie began college and became a Christian, he was always drawn to dark subjects. He strives to find ways to incorporate his interests and religion into captivating pieces.
Writing muses for his book The Red Man included Stephen King’s attention to detail, author Frank E. Peretti as well as C.S. Lewis’s book The Screwtape Letters.
“I really like that it is a Christian fiction novel that’s not so — and I like to put this lightly as possible — cheesy and predictable,” Guthrie said. “That was one of the reasons why I wanted to write Christian fiction was a lot of Christian fiction has just been so predictable and not all that interesting. They kind of blend together as the same, and I want to do something different — something unique and unpredictable.”
During his last semester of studies, Guthrie is helping develop a church in Enid, Oklahoma, where he also holds a part-time barista job at Da Vinci’s Coffeehouse and Gelateria. His work boosts his creativity by giving him an opportunity to reflect while also meeting and conversing with customers from a variety of backgrounds.
“I think that’s honestly the best way to do something creative is to take time to think,” he said.
Finishing projects requires self-discipline, and setting daily writing goals helps Guthrie stay motivated.
“It challenged me to stay in the grove of writing, but also not to give up but to keep going,” Guthrie said.
Although The Red Man: A Collection From The Pit only took Guthrie five months to write, the idea for its storyline began as a poem he wrote two years ago.
“From there, I just kept writing things based on that poem,” he said.
Rather than limiting himself to one specific style, Guthrie’s novel incorporates stories, letters and poems.
“It was very weird because honestly, it was kind of an experiment where I didn’t know if it was going to work out or not,” he said. “I describe it to people as my mad science experiment.”
He began putting the book’s contents together in May 2019, and by November, he self-published The Red Man: A Collection From The Pit through Barnes & Noble.
“I wanted Christian readers to kind of take a moment and step back and say, ‘Wow, this is very intense,’ but the main purposes of this book —and one of the main meanings behind the book — is just hope,” he said.
“It’s highlighting the idea that no matter how intense life is, no matter how hard, difficult, insane it may be, hope is what’s going to carry you through.”
Knowing the negative connotations the term “red man” signifies, Guthrie added the subtitle to try and better represent the book’s storyline.
“The Traveler, which is the main character who writes everything that you read, he actually talks about how … in the world that they live in in this book, terms like that no longer exist because there is just one main evil, and that is this red man — this evil entity that’s just basically bringing pain and suffering to everyone, despite their individual backgrounds,” he said.
While The Traveler is held against his will and is awaiting death inside The Pit, he writes poems, letters and stories to those on the outside as pieces of faith in a dark, dreadful world.
According to Guthrie’s blog, “The reason why The Red Man: A Collection from The Pit is so intense, dark, and sometimes horrific is due to the reality of our world. It is intense. It is dark. It is horrific. However, in the midst of a horrific world, we have a terrific hero. … The intensity of the novel, in the end, correctly highlights the eternal hope in Christ Jesus, the everlasting hope.”
The book highlights good and evil, and the antagonist represents Satan as well as the trials that accompany life on earth.
He continued on his blog, “This novel reveals a lot about the monsters under my bed. The ghosts in my closet. The demons inside. This is my expression of it so I could find ways to express it all. It may seem intense to some, being unhealthy to others, but this novel has actually helped me in great ways.”
Guthrie currently volunteers with Open Door Church in Enid that began fall 2018 where he is gaining experience as a community leader. He finds serving others through ministry rewarding and is thinking about attending the Southeastern Theological Seminary in North Carolina after he graduates in May 2020.
“I want to go get my master’s in theology and then move on to be a youth pastor,” Guthrie said. “That’s one of the next major steps; I just don’t know if that’s the next step in my life.”
Although he recently wrapped up his first novel, Guthrie’s creativity continues to flow, and he is not wasting any momentum. He recently finished outlining his next project, “because a creative mind never shuts off,” he said.
Stay up-to-date on Guthrie’s latest projects by reading his blog at imaspoon.blog.
To order The Red Man: A Collection From The Pit, visit cpn.news/guthrie.