Thursday, February 9, 2012

Old words, new life!

Since “Reign of Silence” has found a new life and audience through the miracle of Amazon and epublishing, I’ve had some questions crop up. I’m not going to do an itemized list, but here are some generalities I’d be pleased to share.
First, the book is NOT autobiographical. I am not Joshua Nix. A couple of the characters are loosely based on real-life folks, but most everyone in the cast are figments of my imagination, or composites of people I do know. Then, there are those characters like Precious who are totally generated out of the ether. I really like my characters, love the dialogue they have with each other, and have been mightily amused at how they react to each other and the otherworldy events facing them.
As for some of the incidents and setpieces in the book – some of those do have a basis in “fact,” sort of. I’ve always thrilled to a well-told ghost story, especially those that were told to me as truth. So, there are a couple of sequences in Reign of Silence that are part of my own family’s oral traditions.
About 2/3 of the way through writing the book, I came to realize that I was going to raise a lot of questions in my own mind that I had no possible way of answering. Some things are a mystery to me, for sure. If you haven’t read the book yet, I promise that you won’t be left with a “lady or the tiger” ending – it does resolve itself nicely, and I found the end very satisfying. But if you’re left with some nagging “theological” questions, that’s going to have to be OK. I had a seminary professor say once that you would spend your whole life hammering out your personal theology. Well, there just isn’t a lot in orthodox systematic theology that deals with ghosts and haunted houses. So a lot of what I wrote was intuitive from what I DID know.
I grant that telling a ghost story from a Christian perspective makes a lot of folks uncomfortable. I’d just like to say to my fellow believers that, as Christians, we HAVE to acknowledge the existence of a spirit world. How does that world intersect with the physical world? Aye, there’s the rub … and the foundation of the tale. Heh-heh-heh.
One other question that I’ve dealt with a good bit here lately: What authors are your inspiration? Well, Frank Peretti is an obvious call. When I read “This Present Darkness,” I thought – this dude has made an audacious attempt at telling a really scary tale – about modern day demons, no less - and pulled it off. Later, when I read “The Oath,” I was irritated because he took on a theme I’d been pondering – I’ve often wondered how “the sins of the fathers” would be visited on future generations. At the risk of being cast out into the outer darkness to spend eternity gnashing my teeth, I’d be amiss by not mentioning Steven King … I remember reading “Salem’s Lot” and being blown away by reading what I think King himself said was “Our Town with vampires.” Worked for me. My favorite book of his was “The Stand,” and I think it was because it had a nifty internal theology that put some real gravitas in the story. So did “The Green Mile.” You can rail against King’s subject matter and what might be considered offensive content, but that sucker can tell a story. I’m a big, big fan of Tolkein; but the biggest influence for me, perhaps, has been Harper Lee. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” both book and movie, are as close to flawless as storytelling can be. Lee bombarded us all with truth, but not in a heavy-handed way.
In a future blog, I do want to share with you how “Reign of Silence” was birthed, and detail the process of writing it. It was unique in my experience. This is my first stab at a novel – I’m kind of in awe of my fellow authors who turn out books weekly, it seems (as in “Book Seventeen of the Builder’s Chronicles Series”). There is a second book being hammered out right now, and a third outlined. Maybe it gets easier as you go along. I genuinely like the one I’m working on now. We’ll see.

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