It may surprise some of my readers to find that I've pursued this hobby of writing theocratic fiction (theofic?) with some reluctance. Scratch that. A LOT of reluctance. As Witnesses, we've been trained to be cautious when reading theocratic material posted on the internet and/or by those claiming to be our brothers and sisters. Just seeing the words "Jehovah's Witnesses" on a website usually gets the Red Alert! sirens going in my head, and I'm sure many of you out there are the same.
This is a protection, of course. These days anyone with web access can hide behind an avatar spreading falsehood under the guise of "enlightening" the friends. The possibility that I'd be viewed this way made me put off writing the first book for years. (Three, to be exact.)
Far from criticizing the organization or weakening the brothers' faith, however, I yearned to tell stories that did just the opposite. I wanted to encourage and bolster the friends; I wanted to fuel their imaginations as regards our future hope. Although the characters and events would be fictionalized, they demonstrate the truths we can live by today: keeping in step with the organization (despite not fully grasping the reasons for certain changes and direction); fully relying on Jehovah in times both peaceful and tumultuous; cultivating our art of teaching to as to save ourselves and those who might listen. (All three of these themes have appeared to some extent in the previous two books, and they will be even more evident in the current story, Critical Times, which I deliberately set during the most trying period of humanity.)
Still, good intentions aside, I feared the worst. What could I do? As mentioned, I shelved the idea for years, feeling the time just wasn't right to start such a project. Then, in 2013, things changed. More and more, it seemed like the organization was encouraging us to meditate on our future blessings. And so I put pen to paper and churned out a first draft of All Things New in a little under four months. I actually prayed about that project (and the ones after it), trying to determine if it was a good idea or not. I figured my 'fleece test' could be gauged by the readers' response. If there was a lot of negative feedback, I'd have my answer. If, on the other hand, it proved to be the encouragement I'd intended it to be and the response was positive, I'd trudge carefully ahead.
To date, the overwhelming majority of feedback has been positive. In fact, in the nearly three years that the first book has been floating around, I've received only one email from someone strongly opposed to the books, and it turned out they had misunderstood some very crucial details about the novels (and hadn't actually read them, as a matter of fact).
Because I'm writing for the friends, I've always felt that offering my work free of charge is the right thing to do. (The exception to this, of course, are the Amazon books, which cannot be listed free of charge due to publication and printing costs.) While I'm sure most secular writers would cringe at an author giving away so much of their hard work for free, I'm not in this for the money. Never have been, never will be. I have a day job, and don't expect to quit anytime soon.
I guess this post has rambled a bit somewhat, but the bottom line is that I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of writing these three books, and I hope to continue with more stories in the future. The emails I've received (some of which have moved me to tears) have shown me that many have been encouraged by my work despite its fictional nature.
Please, keep those wonderful emails coming, and don't be afraid to let me know when you find an error! (I love those emails, too.)