Matthew West has entered the "scary new world" of book writing and the popular contemporary Christian musician who describes himself as a storyteller is tackling the subject of forgiveness with the help of narratives drawn from the lives of more than 20,000 people in his first project.
"Having this chance to write a book which was inspired by one of the songs I've written, it's a scary new world for me," said West in a recent interview with The Christian Post in St. Louis, Mo.
Simply titled Forgiveness the book is set to be released on July 23, 2013. It's the same day West is expected to appear on the nationally televised Katie Couric Show where he will be singing his chart-topping song of the same name and promoting the book at the same time.
"It's a rare opportunity to be a Christian singer on national television talking about really the Gospel message which is about forgiveness and for the audience to see that play out in living color. We're really praying and believing that God's gonna do a mighty work and help people take steps to freedom in their own life," said West.
He explained that the opportunity to write without the trappings of rhyming lyrics for a song was a liberating moment for him because it freed the storyteller in him.
"Really, I'm a story teller at heart and that's what got me into writing songs as a way of telling the story of my life. I've been on a mission over the last few years to tell a story of a different kind through my music and what I've been doing is I've been giving people, anybody who wants to, the opportunity to share the story of their life with me. And it's those stories that have been inspiring the songs that I've written," said West.
West's open invitation for stories yielded more than 20,000 narratives from around the world. As he got deeper and deeper into the disparate lives reflected in the stories, however, he noticed a common thread.
"Many of those stories dealt with the topic of forgiveness from one angle or another. Stories dealt with someone's journey on learning how to forgive somebody that wronged them. Another would be how they learned to ask for forgiveness and humble themselves because they had done something wrong. Or maybe it was the topic of learning how to forgive yourself for past mistakes, the shame or guilt you might feel in your life," explained West.
"This book is not just my writing but each chapter begins with the true story of somebody's journey out of the darkness of bitterness and into the light of forgiveness," he added.
West then talked about Renee Napier, the woman whose story inspired his 2012 song "Forgiveness," which eventually led to the writing of the book.
"She lost her daughter because a drunk driver got behind the wheel of his car one night and crashed into her daughter's car," said West.
"That young man is the reason, she'll never see her daughter again. That young man was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the crime he committed. This woman Renee wrote to me about how she was the one who felt like a prisoner because she had all this bitterness, hatred and anger in her heart towards that young man," said West.
"So she wrote to me about how she just began to surrender that and she's like, I can't go on like this. And God began to lead her to a point where she could forgive that young man. I asked her when I met her for the first time. 'Renee, how did you manage to forgive him?' And she said, 'I didn't, I came to the end and I asked God to take me the rest of the way'," he explained.
West notes that he believes the book will resonate with readers because it "is driven by true stories, these are just real stories that we can find a bit of our own stories in there."
"In one way or another I think we can all find our way into these stories that people are gonna read and hopefully they can say 'hey, I'm not alone. I'm not the only one that struggles with this topic of forgiveness but I know that God's gonna take my hand He's gonna lead me the rest of the way. And there is a way to find true freedom in our lives," he added.