God Smiles for Me: Why Death Could Not Hold Me is a testimony of hope, promise and commitment, the power of prayer. and the healing grace of God. It is a Christian how–to book; a story of life, death, and life after death; of miracles and a heavenly journey; of loss, frustration, pain, survival, recovery and personal growth. It is also a story of love; of God, family, community and this wonderful journey called life.
Tell us something about yourself.
My name is Raymond Burroughs. I’m an architect, a dreamer, and an eternal optimist. I’m also a Christian. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1942, growing up was relatively easy. As a second child, I was pretty much on my own. That wasn’t all bad. I had to try harder, run faster to get out of trouble, and talk and smile my way out of a lot of situations no one bothered to warn me about. Once I got the hang of it though, I was on my way. My father was rich and my mother good looking. And to hear me tell it, I wasn’t so bad myself.
During the early adult years of my life, all went well. I received an excellent education, married my high school sweetheart, started my family, and had a good professional start as a promising architect. But it was too good to last. Approaching thirty-three years of age, I was on top of the world. I was Raymond Burroughs, the great American hope. All I had to do was smile and anything I wanted was there for the taking.
And then, with the discovery of a tumor at the base of my brain and a devastating operation, it was all gone- the good looks, the confidence, the ability to sell anything to anyone, the dominance, the strength, and the clout built up over years of hard work and bluff. The Raymond Burroughs I knew died on that operating table and, thanks to the grace of God and a second chance at life, a better man took his place. God Smiles for Me is the story of my life before, during, and after an incredible spiritual experience that became the core element in my unshakable belief in God and the promise of eternal life.
What inspired you to write this book?
At the age of thirty three I had a tumor at the base of my brain that was an immediate threat to my life. The doctors told me I had less than six weeks to live. On the day I learned of the tumor, I promised God that if I survived I would tell the world of His miracles in my life. Through speaking engagements, written articles, and personal testimonies, I’ve been trying to do just that for the past thirty-five years. God Smiles for Me is the next step in my effort to live up to my promise.
How did you choose the title?
During the operation to remove the tumor my heart stopped three times. After the third time the doctors decided the only way to get to the tumor without killing me was to sacrifice the nerve that controlled the left side of my face. So I lost the ability to smile. It took a while, but once I got beyond the shock of that devastating loss of my personal identity, I realized that if I did the right things, the right way, for the right reasons, I didn’t have to smile. God would smile for me.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book written?
To write a personal memoir of this nature I had to re-live the bad to get the good. I had to bare my soul, and to tell the truth the best way I knew how, based on the memories and details available to me. Like most writers, I’m a bard by nature. So the temptation to exaggerate or embellish the story to make it more interesting was always there. Exaggeration or embellishment may be the stuff great novels, legends and myths are made of, but it’s not something that belongs in a memoir about the most important revelations of my life.
It took four years to complete the first draft of the manuscript, and then about another year to get the stories out that weren’t directly related to the message the memoir was supposed to be about. The book needed to focus on the story of God’s miracles in my life. Some of the poetry that precedes each chapter in God Smiles for Me took a little longer. Portions of those were written while I was still a teenager.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
People who need faith, hope, and courage to face, deal with, or overcome the hardships they, their loved ones, or their friends are up against, seem to respond most enthusiastically about the book. I have been amazed at the overwhelmingly positive response God Smiles for Me has been getting from the people who have had the opportunity to read it. People of all ages, religious, socio, economic, and cultural backgrounds, from all over the United States and many places around the world have communicated through our website, by e-mail, and by handwritten letters, just how much the messages in the book has added value to their lives. I expected a positive response from my family and friends who already knew me and some of my story, but I had no idea what a powerful impact God Smiles for Me would have on the general reading public. The way the book is being accepted is a miracle in itself.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
Information on the book can be found at www.amazon.com; the website for God Smiles for Me www.godsmilesnetwork.com; or the publisher’s site www.emeraldhouse.com.
What do you consider the most important part of your book?
Undoubtedly the chapter called The Journey. It describes the trip to heaven, what I saw and experienced and the conversation with my deceased grandfather where I learned I must return to earth because God still had a purpose for my life. This became my basis for the commitment to write the book, and the core belief around which the universal truths revealed inGod Smiles for Me could be communicated.
How has writing and publishing the book affected your own life?
Sometimes I feel like a hunted rabbit in the field. When he jumps up, a hunted rabbit better know which way he’s going to run. God Smiles for Me has got me running toward God even faster than I was following my heavenly experience. I know God has a purpose for me, but I can never be sure just what it is. So everything I say or do, I have to consider how that particular action or word will affect others and whether it is the reason God gave me a second chance at life. I have a greater appreciation for preachers and social workers now. To have true empathy, you have to give up part of your heart every time someone opens up their heart to you. It’s both a great privilege, and a heavy responsibility to have an opportunity to help others when they reach out to you because of something they’ve read that you have written. I blessed to have been given a chance to do my part.
Where can the book be bought?
God Smiles for Me, Why death could not hold me is available through Amazon.com, through my website www.godsmilesnetwork.org, from many bookstores around the country and abroad, either in the stores or from their websites, and from my publisher Ambassador-International at www.emeraldhouse.com. My publisher, my agent Les Stobbe, and I, are continually looking for new ways to share this story of miracles and hope with the world.
What’s next now that the book is out?
Well, that’s up to the good Lord. I’m still heavily involved in my architectural and development businesses, and I still have a responsibility to live up to my promise to God, to do my part to see that the message in God Smiles for Me will reach as many people around the world as possible. If it’s in harmony with God’s plan, I will continue to do book signings anywhere and as often as I can, I will accept and fulfill speaking engagements as a means of telling the story of God’s miracles in my life first hand, and I’m sure, in the wee hours of the morning, as Idid for God Smiles for Me, I’ll find time to discover and understand additional universal truths about this miracle called life that I can share through writing and speaking with others.
So, will there will be other books?
Many who have already read the book are already asking when the next book is coming out. For now I need to focus on making sure the purpose of God Smiles for Me is fulfilled. As to another book, maybe so. If it’s in God’s plan for me.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Write about what you know. Write from the heart. Find a good agent that communicates well and specializes in your type of work. Find a publisher who believes in your work and is willing to do those extra things that help you make it the best it can be. Realize that there are about 400,000 new books a year being published, and that publishers and agents must make a profit to stay in business. Know your target market and meet the needs and interest of those you hope to buy the book. Do not be dismayed by rejection if you know you have a good book. Keep on keeping on until you find the right team to work with you. Then get ready to go to work. Writing is the fun part. Unless you are already famous, the real challenge is making enough people even aware your book is available to make the writing and publishing effort worthwhile. Pray for patience.