RR Interview: Russ Ramsey

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As the Advent season approaches, Behold The Lamb of God will be a popular topic of conversation around the Rabbit Room. Andrew Peterson’s album and subsequent tour has become a beloved tradition for many at Christmas time. The addition of Russ Ramsey’s book added a new dimension, telling the Advent narrative in 25 chapters as a lead-in to Christmas Day.

This year, we’re proud to introduce the special Behold the Lamb of God audiobook, read by Russ himself. The book was always intended to be read aloud, so the audiobook presents the material in the way it was intended to be taken in. The way in which we hear a story can alter it entirely, and Russ hopes the familiar becomes fresh in this new offering.

What’s the hidden challenge in making an audiobook? Is the process different than you thought it would be?

Because I wrote the book to be read aloud, the actual process of recording it in the studio went pretty smoothly. It had been a while since I had read the book, so it took a little bit of time to get back into the rhythm, but once I did I enjoyed the entire process. It makes a huge difference working with people who know what they’re doing.

This really was a community effort. My good friend Stephen Gause [record producer] offered to help me make the audiobook. We recorded it in his studio over the course of four sessions. Andrew Peterson came in and read the foreword he wrote, and Andy Osenga played some guitar swells for the bumper music. Roy Roper, who designed the beautiful dust jacket for the book, lent his talents to creating the cover art.

You said the book was meant to be read aloud. What is it about the oral version of a story that changes the dynamic or meaning?

Two things about that. First, much of my own editing during the writing process came from reading what I had written aloud. If it sounded like writing, I rewrote it. I wanted this book to be something people could read to each other because beautiful are the feet and voices of those who bring good news. There’s something rich and lovely about one person telling the story of the coming of Christ to another. We personalize the stories we read in the ways we read them, and for a Christian to read aloud the story of the need for and the coming of Christ, they read the story of their own lives. I certainly felt that way reading it in the studio.

Second, words work in mysterious ways. They carry not only information, but emotion, gravity, humor, etc. Devices like alliteration, when read aloud, engage not only the mind, but the imagination. One of my personal favorite lines from the book comes in chapter three, which tells the story of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. The line is: “But there in the garden, the serpent spoke a sentence, subtle and slow, creating a slippery slope of uncertainty and suspicion.” When you read that line aloud you hear the serpent hiss in a way I hope brings a sense of foreboding for what’s to come.

What’s been the response to the book so far? Do you have a favorite response? Has it been what you’d hoped for?

When you release your first book, you hope it is something people will connect with. Folks have reached out to tell me stories of how they’ve used the book in their churches, small groups, and family devotions. I love it when people tell me reading the book has become an annual tradition. I wanted it to be a servant of the story of Scripture—something that would help people worship Christ during the holidays. If people come back to it after one reading to read it again, that gives me hope that I didn’t get too much in the way of the story God has been telling down through the ages.

Do you have a favorite audiobook of your own, a book that came alive in a new way?

I listen to tons of audiobooks—in the car or while exercising. Its often the only way I can get in any “pleasure reading.” My favorite would have to be John Cleese’s version of C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. He reads it like a demon dictating letters into a recorder. It is utterly sinister—a little too convincing.

By the way, we should mention that you have a companion book on the way: Behold the King of Glory. When you first wrote Behold the Lamb of God, did you picture a sister book like this in the beginning or did that come later?

Yes. In fact, when Andrew and I first started talking about me writing a book with Rabbit Room Press, it was an Easter book. This was back when he released Resurrection Letters, Vol. 2. I wanted to write a book about the last eight days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. I mapped it out and everything—40 chapters, one for each day of Lent. But the whole time I was working on it, i felt like I needed to write about what led up to that week. That’s when we started talking about writing an Advent book first.

This year I’ve been writing the Easter book, which I’m calling Behold the King of Glory: A Lenten Narrative. Crossway Books has agreed to publish it, so I am writing as much as I can to meet the deadline for the first draft early next year. It is written in the same voice as Behold the Lamb of God and picks up where the advent book left off, covering the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Man, what a story!

Profile photo of Matt Conner

Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.


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