Many people dream of one day writing a book that makes a lasting impact on the culture—Jim Pence (MA[BS], 2002) is living out that dream. His novel, Blind Sight, published by Tyndale last summer, tells the story of Thomas Kent, a man disillusioned by the tragic loss of his family. A mysterious message and a voice from the past draw Kent into a fight for the lives of two children, as they seek to escape the clutches of a powerful cult. As he works to expose the cult, he finds himself confronting his troubled past and the God he has denied.
Pence's work is part of a line of recent Tyndale Christian thrillers (called "suspense with a mission") that push the edge of traditional Christian publishing to infiltrate mainstream markets. Rather than being content to influence only the evangelical subculture, writers for this line of resources speak to those open to spiritually focused writing that presents life-changing challenges.
Jim's writing journey began amidst the grief of losing his one-week-old daughter, Michelle, seventeen years ago. "[Her death] was, in effect, the catalyst that moved me to become a writer," Pence said. "I worked through my grief by deciding to write a book about my experience. I never wrote that book, but that event moved me to start learning how to write."
Through this initial impetus Jim began studying fiction writing and using his skills to develop Sunday school curricula and other projects. Later Jim enrolled in classes offered through Dallas Seminary's Media Arts in Ministry program. His semester project in Creative Writing, which focused on the loss of his daughter, later became an article in Kindred Spirit, the Seminary's quarterly magazine.
Through taking additional writing courses, Jim began what would be his first novel, a young-adult thriller titled Friendly Revenge. When publishers passed over this work, Jim pursued an adult suspense novel under the working title The Osmosis Project.
By 2000, Jim had followed God's leading to pursue prison ministry, leaving behind his pastorate of fifteen years. During this time he began creating a website development course for his brother's training company. On a whim Jim transformed his notes into a book query and sent it off to several publishers. Osborne Publishing asked for a full proposal that later became his first book, How to Do Everything with HTML. A second computer book soon followed.
Through a series of divine appointments and his friendship with Dr. Reg Grant (ThM, 1981; ThD, 1988), professor of Pastoral Ministries, Jim met with an agent from Waterbrook in 2001 to discuss his completed novel. Contacts with Bethany House and Tyndale soon followed, with Jim eventually choosing Tyndale. Two years and three rewrites later Jim held in his hands his book Blind Sight.
Jim credits training at Dallas Seminary with equipping him to write fiction. "Humanly speaking, the DTS writing courses are why I am doing what I am doing. My professors in the track all played huge roles in equipping me to serve Christ as a writer."
What for many is a dream has become a reality for Jim Pence. Yet Jim's vision extends beyond Blind Sight and writing. Three years ago he started Tuppence Creative Ministries to promote excellence in the arts for the glory of God. Jim encourages viewers and listeners through music and chalk art as he ministers in churches, in prisons, and on college campuses. He also continues to use his skills in website development and artistry to connect with audiences as he shares his faith.
Dillon Burroughs (ThM, 2002) is a pastor to students and a freelance writer in the Dallas area.