Meet Ray Sutherland, Author of 'Secret Agent Angel'

Ray Sutherland is a Kentucky native who grew up on a farm outside of Bowling Green. He served in the Army, spent two years in Germany, received his B.A. in religion from Western Kentucky University, and his PhD in the Bible from Vanderbilt University.  Ray has served of Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke for over thirty years, pastored a small church for nine years, and is retired from the Army Reserve. He and his wife Regina live in North Carolina and have two sons and four grandchildren.
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Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Secret Agent Angel, and what compelled you to write it.
Author: If angels are God’s secret agents then you know there are some really good secret agent stories they could tell, and my first novel Secret Agent Angel tells some of them in first person as told by one of the angels. Samuel is an angel who often comes to earth in human flesh and blood form to be God’s secret agent. Samuel specializes in persuasion and encouragement of people in a crisis, refers to God as “the Boss,” enjoys the unpredictability of humans, has a weird sense of humor, and is a junk food junkie. By design, he often is as unaware of the Boss’s real purpose as are the humans he comes to help and as a result has some significant misadventures along the way and even some failures. But he persists in the certainty that God will put it all to good use, even if humanity and even Samuel himself don’t see how.
My main purpose in writing the novel was to tell a story that was entertaining, exciting, and uplifting.  It takes a cue from Billy Graham’s book “Angels: God’s Secret Agents” and tells of the adventures of one of those angels who serves as one of God’s secret agents.
M.C.: What is your book about?
Author: Secret Agent Angel tells of the exploits and adventures of an angel who comes from heaven to earth to help some humans through various crises. Samuel the angel specializes in persuasion, but sometimes gets the chance to do a little more. Samuel comes to protect a porter on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in 1968, to persuade truckers in 1970 Omaha to take an interest in an abused child, to a World War II veteran in a dream to get him to forgive the Germans, to an accountant in the present U.S.A. to get the accountant to treat an account ethically, and they all come together in a contemporary truck stop where they have to oppose a powerful fire demon who threatens to undo all their good work. Unless Samuel has been successful in strengthening several peoples spirits.
M.C.:  What themes do you explore in Secret Agent Angel?
Author: God is always at work around you. You have a soul; take care of it. (Both of those statements are borrowed. Both are very good.)
M.C.:  Why do you write?
Author: I write as entertainment first, then to uplift. If I’m writing something and it doesn’t entertain me, I drop it. I also try for writing a story that is spiritually and emotionally uplifting. I want the reader to leave the story feeling good and with optimism.
M.C.:  When do you feel the most creative?
Author: When I’ve written six pages in one day. If they’re good.
M.C.:  How picky are you with language?
Author: I’m impatient with endless polishing and rearranging. I’m very picky about story and plot. I try very hard to write a scene correctly, but my goal is to get it right the first time. I don’t assume that my first draft is perfect and I am willing to make adjustments and, above all, to fix problems, but my goal is to get it right the first time and then leave it alone. Can’t always do that, but that’s the goal. Pretty language is good, but the story takes precedence.
M.C.:  When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
Author: Very little and when I feel that, I strongly suspect that it’s my subconscious, not an outside power. I have to think too intensely and work too hard at writing to believe that some outside power is controlling me. Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan, said that sometimes he felt as if he were simply relating someone else’s adventures as if that hero were telling them to him in random order. I seldom had any such feeling. My feeling was that the story was up to me and that it would succeed or not depending on how good a job I did.
M.C.:  What is your worst time as a writer?
Author: Rejection.
M.C.:  Your best?
Author: When Secret Agent Angel was accepted for publication. Another is when my wife told me that I had written a good book.
M.C.:  Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
Author: Death or dementia. Otherwise, I’ll keep on.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
Author: That’s a tie between finally finishing Secret Agent Angel and when it was accepted for publication.
M.C.:  Is writing an obsession to you?
Author: No. I enjoy writing and I love thinking up stories, but it doesn’t take over my life. In my regular job I’m a college professor and being obsessed with writing would be detrimental to that very important work. Still, when I’m deep into a writing project, I get into it so much that it gets difficult to do other things.
M.C.:  Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
Author: All of the episodes in Secret Agent Angel relate to parts of my life. I have spent much time in hospitals, trucks, tanks, truck stops, and hamburger joints. The main exception is that I have never been on the Ho Chi Minh trail. That chapter took a lot of research.
M.C.:  Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Thoughts?
Author: Reality doesn’t destroy my stories, it informs them, even the fantasy part. Especially the fantasy part. Even though the main character in the book is an angel, he appears to people who are very realistic people and are in very realistic situations. I am firmly convinced that we have spiritual assistance more often than we think. I strongly believe that is reality, so from that perspective, even the angelic visitation element is reality.
M.C.:  Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
Author: is my website.