May 2018 Stories have power to inspire and transform—be they parables, books, movies, or the hit Broadway show Hamilton: An American Musical. Author Kevin Cloud felt this deeply when he saw Hamilton with his wife in October 2016. He was moved to explore the musical’s themes further, sparking the upcoming book God and Hamilton: Spiritual Themes from the Life of Alexander Hamilton & the Broadway Musical He Inspired. God and Hamilton’s twelve chapters focus on topics such as grace, equality, despair, and redemption. Details from the musical, both on the stage and behind the scenes, naturally spur further Scripture-based discussion of each theme. Historical facts about Alexander Hamilton and the revolutionary era, beyond what is found in the musical, enrich each chapter, while modern anecdotes show its relevance to modern life. God and Hamilton is due to release on June 7, so we decided to catch up with Cloud and learn more about his hopes for the book, his writing process, and what he has learned along the way. Learning to See the Gospel in the Arts “When I look at the story of Hamilton, I see the story of Christ, shame, redemption,” Cloud says. “I hope this book helps people understand what this story is about—the truth.” But he has even bigger goals than drawing on Alexander Hamilton’s story to inspire and challenge his readers. He hopes, he says, “[Readers] also learn how to see the Gospel in the stories that our cultures tells.” Cloud has always seen a connection between the arts and the spiritual life. That is no surprise, considering that he’s a pastor with both a music degree and an MDiv. However, as he researched and wrote God and Hamilton, he says, he learned more deeply the lessons he now shares with his readers. This is an important part of writing, he believes: writing first for your own benefit. “If you want to write, it has to start from the writing you’re doing for yourself first,” he explains, referencing the advice he received at a writing conference. “It’s only when you’re learning something, you’re discovering something, that your writing has anything to offer anyone else. The focus has to be a desire for God to use this to challenge me, teach me…” This approach gave Cloud freedom and inspiration as he worked on his book—after all, even if his message doesn’t reach as broad an audience as he hopes, the first goal, growth in him, will have been met. “Writing God and Hamilton was a transformative process for me,” he says. “God used the time I put into this book to teach me and inspire me and challenge me and convict me. This book in a lot of ways was first and foremost for me.” He learned, specifically, “about how God uses stories to transform us—the way that God has created us that we uniquely respond to stories to inspire us, to challenge us, to transform us. Jesus taught primarily by using stories because he knew that was an effective way to transform people’s hearts and lives. [I learned to be] open to stories around me, to be aware that [this] is how God changes us—through story.” Sharing the Lessons While Cloud learned a lot, and the advice about writing for himself first was inspiring, he didn’t finish God and Hamilton only for himself. He sought publication, and Deep River Books’s CEO, Bill Carmichael, reached out to him. As they talked, Cloud concluded that DRB “seemed like the right option as a first-time author.” Since then, Cloud has dived into his part of the promotional efforts. He hired a publicist and ran a month-long Kickstarter to both raise funds and spread awareness. “Kickstarter is a really great tool to let people who are already in my network know about my book,” he says. “It helped me sell some advance copies.” And while the Kickstarter began with those who already knew and loved him, it expanded outside of his personal network, resulting in a very successful campaign. This, he said, “built a little of early momentum around the book before it launches.” He’s also booked speaking gigs at churches and universities. There will be a blog tour for his book—among other marketing efforts. And Cloud doesn’t intend to stop his writing with God and Hamilton. As a pastor, he continues to write weekly sermons, as he has for twenty years. He writes articles that generate further interest in his book—and, eventually, he would like to write a new book: “I love this process and I hope this is the beginning of a long process of writing and sharing my ideas.” More about Kevin Cloud Kevin Cloud is a pastor, church planter, and author. He is a lifelong musician (drums, guitar, piano, ukulele, and harmonica) and holds an undergraduate music degree from the University of Kansas. When he walked out of the Richard Rogers Theatre after seeing Hamilton in New York City, he knew that he had experienced something transcendent, something spiritual, something that drew him into the presence of God. Cloud received an MDiv from Nazarene Theological Seminary and has planted four churches in the Kansas City area over the past twenty years. He currently pastors at Midwest Fellowship in Kansas City, where he lives with his wife, Allison, and their four sons, Samuel, Benjamin, Andrew, and Levi. To learn more about Kevin Cloud and his book, be sure to check out the God and Hamilton page on our website, as well as his website.