Today, we are Interviewing Richard Rossi, He is the author of the new novel Canaan Land, which is on Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook. It tells the story of Brother Billy, a con-man preacher who falls in love with Sister Sara Sunday, a sincere Christian. She helps him realize his con game isn't a game anymore.
He has also directed and acted in the film by the same name which is about to be released soon! Let's hear about his journey!
How did you get into what you do right now?
In my teen years, I wrote songs, poems, and stories. Some of them were published. Songs I wrote were well-received, and I had the opportunity to perform them. I knew then I wanted to write for the rest of my life.
Please tell us more about your journey?
My writing deals with big questions, like what is love? Is there life after death? Does God exist, and if so, what is God like? How do we find purpose in life? Canaan Land is one of those stories I felt compelled to tell, having lived much of it myself. In my young adult years, I worked as a pastor and faith-healing evangelist, praying for the sick with sincerity, and I was committed to being honest about the results or lack thereof. My time in this world of Pentecostal Christianity exposed me to many frauds who faked healings and merchandised religion dishonestly. This shattered my idealistic naivety; as a young man, I assumed those who knew the Bible well and preached it were good and honorable people. So my writing was my salvation to process my thoughts about the difference between the fake and the real, the genuine versus the counterfeit.
Canaan Land has had a long journey in my life, over twenty years in the making. I first did the story as a play in 1998. The play went through revisions and modifications. My dream was to release it one day as a novel and film. I'm so grateful now the novel is out and the film soon to follow. I direct the film and play the character of brother Billy opposite my leading lady Rebecca Holden as Sister Sara.
Here are the trailers of Canaan Land
Here is the song from the film Canaan Land
Who are your role models?
My role model for acting is Brando because he adds realism to what he does and nuanced portrayals that go beyond the text of the script to the subtext. As a director, I've been inspired by Fellini and Bergman because they get into the inner world and burdens of their characters.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by the Parable of the Talents, which says we have been given talents and what we do with our talents is our gift back.
Please tell us about your novel
My novel Canaan Land is already ruffling religious feathers. Some well-known televangelists have threatened to sue me for revealing some of their trade secrets of how they fake miracles and fleece the flock. I stand by my novel because I believe a writer must be committed to tell the truth. My novel is, of course, fiction, but my time in the religious world gave me plenty of real situations, I blend into composite characters in the novel.
What's your most memorable experience?
Directing Canaan Land, the film version of my novel, was a wonderfully memorable experience. We had a very talented cast of known and unknown actors. To see the full cast, visit imdb.com, and search “Canaan Land.” It was shot in Hollywood at many iconic locations, which was fun. Viewers will see scenes at locations like the Hollywood sign, Venice Beach, the Santa Monica Pier, the Walk of Fame, and the Hollywood Bowl.
Which social media channels work best for promoting your work? What exactly do you do on the social media channel that makes it work for you?
Facebook was a blessing (facebook.com/canaanlandmovie), as well as GoFundMe in raising support for the film version of the novel. Canaan Land has a Twitter and Instagram page as well. They are both @canaanlandmovie
What's your greatest fear?
The film is set for a 2020 release and will play in all fifty states in theaters as the COVID limitations lift. I am concerned the restrictions will limit our ability to screen the film in public theaters to the degree I want, but we can overcome that by screening in the states that are open first, and eventually screen Canaan Land publicly in all 50 states.
Looking back, what's one thing you wish you understood better before you ever got started?
I wish I understood that not everyone will like what we do, but our work finds its audience. Put your art out there, and don't worry about critics too much. Every book, film, or work of art has people who like it and don't like it. Early on, I was so identified with my work; I was sometimes sensitive to pleasing others. The artist must first please himself, not them, and make his own spiritual and artistic journey.
What are the strategies that helped you become successful in your journey?
To finish what I start and do the best I can with what I have. My films and novels are created with modest budgets as a labor of love, but I move forward rather than wait for an elusive billionaire to back me. I make art with what I have. The talents we are given are God's gifts to us, and what we do with those talents is our gift back, as I mentioned before, from the Parable of the Talents.
What keeps you going when things get tough?
The desire to leave behind art with a message of faith, hope, and love. I want to create a body of work that will touch this generation and generations to come.
Any message for our readers?
I want readers to become better critical thinkers, and not let leaders, be they religious, political, or otherwise, manipulate them with fear and lies. I want to rescue readers from rigid religion that is toxic. If they choose to believe in God, I hope they will believe in a loving God of redemption. Even Brother Billy repents and is redeemed. It's never too late for anybody.