Writing with Spirituality
Alternative Theologies, parables for a modern world
Phyllis Irene Radford
Reading a book imbued with spirituality and later trying to write those qualities into my own work has fascinated me for a long time. Spirituality is more than religion. To me it is a spiritual character, someone who lives their faith and has a personal relationship with their beliefs. Their faith guides every decision they make even when they question the advisability of the decision.
For them there is no division between the divine and reality.
I played with these ideas in Guardian of the Vision, Merlin’s Descendants #3. https://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/guardian-of-the-vision/
Griffin Kirkwood is a Roman Catholic priest who must wrestle with the strict teaching of his religion, weighing those truths against the truth of Magical talents in himself and his family. “A spell is nothing more than a prayer.”
I started to see that faith is more than emotion, but it needs to invoke an emotional response from the reader. That is hard to do but begins on a character level. The writer, and the reader need to bond closely to the character and understand what they believe and why.
Then came the Confederated of Star System series by C.F. Bentley. https://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/harmony/
Sissy dove head first into my life and would not go away until I told her story. An undereducated factory worker, our heroine found herself dragged into the Temple Caste and made High Priestess because the powers that be thought she’d be malleable and do as she was told. They learned otherwise. But finally given the right and the means to read the history of Harmony, both goddess and planet, she has questions that she cannot reconcile with her very direct and magical connection to her home and her faith. No one messes with the avatar of a goddess, even when she is forced into exile on a space station.
That series exhausted me, and I went back to more mundane topics. Until…
My best friend and co-writer, Bob Brown, came up with a new anthology idea. We’d already co-edited and written for Alternative Truths, which hit several Amazon bestseller lists, and More Alternative Truths. He published a couple of other books without me while I wrote a couple books on my own. But then I got a phone call. “Want to edit Alternative Theologies?”
How could I say no?
We racked up almost 150 submissions.
In every open call anthology there are a few inappropriate entries. Some in the “What were you thinking?” category that make me head for the hand sanitizers. There are a few that are beautifully written pieces that don’t quite fit the theme. We bought two of those for the next anthology “Alternative Apocalypses.”
And then there is the good stuff. The really good stuff that made us cry when we had to choose one from among four with similar themes.
We hit #1 on Amazon in 3 categories.
In reading the stories I had to sit up and take notice, then I had to think. Think about my own beliefs, think about how the authors presented themes, think about the readers who would also think, even if they ended up throwing the entire collection against the wall. I thought about the stories when they made me laugh, or made me cry, or made my heart swell with new faith and affirmation.
This collection does not bash or denounce religion. It does rail against those who pervert the teaching of their faith. It examines why we believe, crave believing in something bigger and grander than ourselves. And it gives me new foundations for my own beliefs.
Believe what you will, in the deity who speaks to you. And I hope you can read these stories and think.