Pursued: God’s Divine Obsession With You by Jud Wilhite (FaithWords, Feb.) takes on the messy biblical tale of Hosea and Gomer. God tells the prophet Hosea to marry the prostitute Gomer, whose infidelity and bad life choices bring untold disgrace and sorrow. Hosea eventually buys Gomer back from a slave trader, bringing her back to himself and a loving relationship. Wilhite, who pastors a church in Las Vegas, talked about what led him to focus on this puzzling story.

What made you decide to write about Hosea and Gomer?

The story of Hosea and Gomer is the second most powerful picture of God’s love in the Bible. Other than Christ’s death, there is no greater picture of love. I’ve been personally moved by the story of Hosea and for seven years have wanted to write a book about it.

But how do you contextualize a book like this for people today? What changed in the seven years since you began thinking about such a book?

I had a lot of guilt and shame when I was running from God, but nothing like when I was running for God. I was always looking for God’s approval, and that’s where the guilt and shame came out in a big way. We have all these performance urges, but if we have to perform all the time for God, there is no real place of rest for us. In the book of Hosea in chapter 3, God tells Hosea to pursue his wife, to bring her back to love again. This story says so clearly that God isn’t waiting around for Gomer to come back to him, but is actively pursing her—and us—in the brothel of our pain and hurt to live a new life.

How did the writing go once you were able to decide on a focus for the book?

I had a lot of stops and starts writing this; I had a big file on it, but it was so old that I had to buy an app to update the file. But when it all clicked, the book flowed out effortlessly in just a couple of months.

The book made bestseller lists. How did this happen?

We had done three to four months of ground campaign before the launch; we had a team of 500 people who developed a sense of ownership. I had asked via Facebook, Twitter, and my blog if people were interested in becoming part of the launch team. We asked them to read an early copy of the book, be prepared to write a review of it on their blogs or website, and start spreading the word about the book. They did.

You developed a relationship with these people?

There was definitely a community. We asked them to post on Facebook and Tweet on certain days and offered rewards such as autographed copies of the book. We were working hard together for the book. Now we’re celebrating together.

What can you say to other authors about marketing their books?

Usually authors don’t like the marketing side of things. We like the writing, but you have to have as much or more effort in the marketing. How’s that for exhausting? I will tell you based on the success of Pursued that none of it just happens. We did a lot of work rallying people around the message of the book before it was ever published. I want to offer a word of encouragement to authors: You have to feel called to the message of your book enough that you want people to get that message. When you get to that place your passion goes through the roof, and then the other stuff happens.

Are you done with marketing now that you’ve made the bestseller list?

Absolutely not. There is a lot of content on www.pursuedbook.com, including a 15-day free email devotional, and we’ll get back together and do a second and third phase of marketing. We’re trying to do different things to get the message out there.

Tell us a little about your church and how it’s becoming involved.

Central Christian Church in Las Vegas is raising money to send 10,000 copies of the book to prisons around America through God Behind Bars, our church’s ministry to those who are incarcerated. Our church has been reading the book together and there’s a lot of energy behind it, which is only God’s mercy and grace.