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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading debut author's novels or those author's who have not had many reviews thus providing them much needed encouragement 

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Thursday, 11 October 2018

The Awakened (The Lazarus Chronicles, Book 1) by Richard Spillman

The Awakened 

Two thousand years ago Jesus resurrected his friend, Lazarus and founded a secret organization: SOAR. Since then Jesus has added to the resurrected—The Awakened—to aid Lazarus in SOAR's battle against Satan's slaves, the UnVeilers. The threat is escalating. The UnVeilers have stepped up their attacks on mankind through a charming leader and a devastating series of bombings in Dubai and Tel Aviv. But the invasion doesn't stop with international terrorism. The UnVeilers are searching for a secret that Jesus embedded in Lazarus’ journal that not even Lazarus knows—and it will determine the fate of mankind. After a failed cyber-attack against SOAR's computers, Lazarus and his team of experts must find the secret before the UnVeilers do. What clue is he overlooking that could turn the tide of this ageless conflict?

The souls fighting with Lazarus are weary, but the war against evil is far from won. Can Lazarus and his team set aside their longing for heaven and put a stop to these satanic attacks before it's too late?

The Guru's Review: 

"What if.......?" "Yeah, what if what?" you may ask! Well, the "What if......" question and its variations are what makes fiction speculative and it is one of the exciting genres to read but is also one of the most misunderstood and sometimes controversial. When this speculative element is applied to Christian fiction, it makes for a wonderful story that allows an author to use poetic licence to fill in the gaps that exist in the source of their story. This can be especially true when applied to the Bible with its tenets, doctrines or supernatural events.

After reading this novel by Richard Spillman, I can say that he has applied the speculative element to create a wonderful story that is intriguing, engrossing, keeps you guessing. For a debut novelist, you would never know it! The speculative element he has used for the foundation of this novel is very clever. Those familiar with the Biblical account of Lazarus know that he was resurrected by Jesus (John 11:1-55). Here is where Spillman's speculative application comes into play. In the book of Hebrews 9:27 we learn that,
And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment. 
Spillman has expounded on this verse by proposing that because he had died (once) as this verse states, he could not die again. This would make him immortal. And Spillman has Jesus telling him so, 
"....He told me that it is appointed to man to die once and since I had already died, he brought me back in a body that will never die again." 
Then Jesus tells Lazarus that there will be more like him and that He has ordained this for a specific purpose. They then called themselves the Awakened.

From this plot arc and foundation, Spillman creates a multilayered world. 

Lazarus creates an organisation called SOAR to fulfil Jesus' specific purpose. The Awakened are to serve humanity by helping them soar, or bringing out the best in them. The name is an acronym for the Society of the Awakened and Restored. Humans can become Awakened but only by another Awakened who would pray over them once dead if they believed or felt this was God's will. 

Their other purpose is a supernatural one and that is to eliminate or "dust" the Undead, the UD, whose goal is to continue the work commenced by Satan in fostering rebellion against God and to take as many Naturals (humans who have not died) to hell as they can. These UDs are those humans who, upon death, are reanimated and demon possessed by other UD. These are Satan's army/slaves. "Dust"ing them means that they are turned to dust when an Awakened touches them and they are then returned to Hell. The Awakened call these the UnDead but they call themselves UnVeilers, UV, as they view their job as unveiling the evil within mankind. 

Herein lies another layer. The UD are involved in international terrorism in order to cause worldwide panic, chaos and then dominate the human population, the Naturals. They have leaders, other UD/UVs who are in charge of these activities and who are awaiting the arrival of The UD, their ultimate leader who can only be dusted by Jesus. Here, Spillman creates a military-style special ops and technological expertise arm of SOAR, that has Awakened operatives worldwide. SOAR also have a role with the NSA and all other government organisations worldwide. And it is here that we meet all of the other Awakened characters. All understand their Awakened status and role, all have a love for Jesus and support each other. They could be considered the ultimate special ops team on the physical, technological and supernatural levels. 

One plot arc that I feel will appeal to most readers is Lazarus' journal. This acts to support, and develop the experiences of Lazarus since his Awakening (resurrection by Jesus) and show some of the battle histories between the UD and Awakened. It also reveals in a touching and empathetic way, the relationship he had with Jesus and his longing to be reunited with Him. I found Spillman's writing here captured Lazarus' feelings and what he went through to be very convincing. It reads as if it actually happened. It also endears the reader to Lazarus. We see him not only as the leader of SOAR, military and special ops commander but as a vulnerable but strong spiritual leader who has flaws. I was especially taken with Spillman's depiction of how Lazarus experienced Jesus. That really did tug at my heartstrings and desire to know Him better! I teared up on a few occasions when Lazarus described this to Ricki. Spillman has depicted Jesus very respectfully and as for who He is. This read in my mind as if it was a movie segment, so real and poignant it was. 

This shows some of Spillman's own relationship with God. I know that in crafting a novel, an author will inject some of themselves into the characters and other parts of the novel's construction and this definitely shows here in relation to Lazarus as well as in other parts of the novel. This definitely adds strength to the novel's overall impact on the reader. Novels can either be character driven or plot driven predominantly. To me, there is a healthy mixture of both in this novel. That just makes it all the more enjoyable. 

Another layer of Spillman's worldbuilding is a mystery, a secret. Embedded in this journal is a secret that Jesus had included. Both Lazarus and the UD seek to reveal this secret. In this novel, the first part of the secret is revealed and it lays the foundation for the remainder to be revealed in subsequent novels. It is in this plot arc that we are introduced to Ricki Spenser who becomes an integral part of SOAR and in Lazarus seeking to find the journal secret. Here Spillman introduces a touch of romance between these two that I presume will be further developed in the remaining two novels. 

It is through this plot arc relating to these two that Spillman introduces his spiritual theme of forgiveness, of ourselves for our sin but also from what others have done to us. This is explored and depicted well between Ricki and Lazarus and I found this to be tender and relational. In doing so, Ricki also finds peace, closure, her need for God and to become free from the abuse of her upbringing. I could so relate to this on a personal level as I see this in myself and in others on a day to day basis. I love Spillman's snippets of what forgiveness means as seen between Lazarus encouraging Ricki 
"Love abounds where forgiveness is practiced.  
It doesn't take strength (to forgive), it takes love. Love for yourself more than anything.Unforgiveness allows the sin of others to change us. We become defined by their transgressions. It leaves us stuck in a perpetual cycle of pain.
The enemy uses our unforgiveness to create confusion, hate, bitterness and defeat.  
We may rage against evil forged in the fire of injustice, but in the process, we are consumed by it as well.  
Either we begin to believe we're unworthy and deserve the pain, or we become embittered and closed off by the injustice.  
Sin wounds and heals. Forgiveness heals and restores. We are freed from our hurt." 
Another layer to Spillman's worldbuilding is a very clever feature called AIM, Awakened Incident Manual. Snippets of this manual head each chapter. These snippets add further information to the nature of the Awakened, the UD, the battle between them, how the Awakened are to act and other relevant info. This is effective as it does not interrupt the main plot arcs and pace, as they would if included therein, making these two elements disjointed and fragmented. Seeing this has become part of the structure of this novel, I pray Spillman continues this in the series. I have come to enjoy this feature. 

In many novels, names are either created to sound good, fit the character, place or event but have no meaning to these elements. Not so in this novel. Spillman has used names that are appropriate to the role of the character. What this does is add depth and purpose to these characters and strengthens the plot. An example here is the mysterious character, Renaud Christian Yount, 
Renaud was his current name, but his birth name was Melech Sroel Abraham...... he selected names that meant something special. His birth name, Melech, meant "king." His current name meant "counsel"....... Merikh means "death"
My only concern is in regard to a character, Damijana. She is extracted physically from the terrorist organisation she belongs to by Ariella (Awakened operative) and the reasons were given for this extraction but Spillman has not taken this to its implied conclusion. What becomes of her once she is now in the Awakened camp? The role of SOAR is to bring out the best in humanity, and this was their aim in extracting or kidnapping her from the terrorist group, but this subplot relating to this character is left unfinished. I can only hope that this is addressed in the next novel. I just feel that this derailed the plot somewhat.

I also recommend downloading the short story on Spillman's website called, "Dusted" that gives a more detailed account of how the Awakened eliminate the UnDead.

The Discussion Questions at the end of the novel are worth investigating and reflecting upon if only for your own sake.

The Sneak Peak at Ascension, Book Two whets the appetite for this series continuation. We will have to wait until August 2019 for this one. 

All in all, I am very impressed with this novel. Spillman has crafted a strong base with excellent worldbuilding, characters who are relational and endearing, intriguing speculative elements and one spiritually uplifting and entertaining ride. 

Highly Recommended.

The three ratings below are based on my discernment: 

World Building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Story 5/5

The two classifications below are based on the booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland: 

Spiritual Level 4/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.6/5

To buy or preview this novel, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icon below: 

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Guest Blogger: David Bergsland: Yes, Powerful Christian Writing Requires Anointing.

When I started reading Christian fiction in 1995, I just wanted to be entertained. This was a carryover from reading secular fiction to which I had become very disillusioned. Even my favourite author, Clive Cussler was not cutting it with me any more. 

One of the first Christian fiction novels and the first edgy, speculative Christian fiction novels I read was Dwellers by Roger Elwood. I was taken by the question posed by the author concerning the possibility of redemption for the Nephilim described in Gen 6:1-4. Not only was I entertained but my faith was strengthened, I was spiritually uplifted and an interest in apologetics was born. I was impressed by Elwood's use of biblical theology and doctrine to answer this question concerning the Nephilim.

What Elwood achieved in this novel showed me that God uses the Christian author's talent, creativity and imagination to not just entertain, but educate, uplift and show how biblical theology, doctrine and principles can be applied to answer issues of this fallen world and much more. I have read more than enough Christian fiction across its diverse genres to see how God has used Christian authors to show: 

  • who He is, 
  • the many aspects of His character, 
  • His plan of salvation and redemption for mankind, 
  • angelology and demonology, 
  • relying on God through difficult and trying circumstances, 
  • how to develop faith and trust in God, 
  • encouraging others, 
  • spiritual warfare, 
  • being true to yourself, 
  • standing up for what is right, 
  • Godly romance, 
  • sex and sexuality.
  • controversial issues

The power of story. Jesus used story-telling in the form of parables to show us how to live as He originally planned for us.

From my diverse reading, I have experienced the following benefits from Christian fiction and its authors and it is what I pray I continue to experience: 
  • it has entertained me immensely, 
  • it has encouraged my walk with God, 
  • it has not deviated from biblical doctrine, and it will not, I discern, lead a non-believer astray or promote false doctrine, 
  • it honours God, 
  • it has educated me on a particular issue and has challenged my thinking on it and encourages me to seek God further regarding this issue
  • it does not encourage worship of the created (eg angels) instead of the Creator (God).

However, for an author achieve the above, it appears to me that the Christian author would need to be writing for God, under His guidance, and be a willing conduit for Him to deliver His message in their writing. 

My experience is also shared by author David Bergsland. He discusses this further in the following blog post. I post it here as encouragement to other authors and to readers. It is posted here with David's permission. It post can also be found on his website, Reality Calling.

Thanks for continuing to help us spread the word about all the incredible Christian authors of the 21st century. These are holy warriors in the final harvest. Click here to enlist: YeeHaw!
The not-often discussed truth that powerful Christian writing requires anointing reveals your path as a writer for the Lord. Jesus was not kidding when He said, “…without Me you can do nothing.” I don’t care how facile you are with words and turns of phrase. Your wit will not change lives. At best, it will convince readers that you are wonderful. At worst, it will distract readers from repentance.

First, how do we recognize powerful Christian writing — non-fiction or fiction?

Easily. Excellent and powerful Christian writing transforms lives, brings repentance, offers comfort, edifies the reader, and/or offers the Baptism of the Spirit to broken and needy people. Backsliders reexamine themselves. The heathen is convicted of sin. Readers’ hearts are opened to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
The difficulty, of course, comes with finding testimonies. They come from reviewers, commenters, and readers. However, simply asking the Holy Spirit to show you solves that problem quickly. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the core of the whole process.

So, how do you get the Holy Spirit to produce powerful Christian writing through you?

“You ask for it. You ask sincerely, humbly, and fervently before you write—every time you write—that the Holy Spirit will take your thoughts and words and make them into rhema for your readers. You pray that your flesh and old self will be kept out of the way and that you can be a channel for the Holy Spirit now. You pray you can be given the ability to convey truth which will not mislead. When you have prayed for wisdom and anointing, then you can write freely, trusting He will do what He promised. Without this power applied to your writing, it is just a career choice. If writing is your calling and your ministry, it will be worthless without the power of the Holy Spirit transforming your work. This anointing is essential.” Bergsland, Writing In Holiness: While Keeping It Real (pp. 13-14). Radiqx Press. Kindle Edition.

The Holy Spirit anoints if you ask — BUT…

You must allow it. This is not automatic writing where a spirit takes over and controls your flesh. You ask Him to use you, listen carefully, and write with an attitude of awe and wonder. Even then, you may not recognize the anointing upon your writing. It’s not for you, but others. Sometimes I am aware I wrote something beyond my ability. But, often I have no idea until I hear testimonies.
I’m grateful for that. I don’t need the swollen head, for I did little except to try to allow the Spirit to convert my writing to rhema. He gets the glory for the power comes from him. But, there’s a lot more to it than you being anointed.

It’s not about you

Who do you work for? Who called you to be a writer? For some of you, the answers are: you work for yourself and your decision to be a writer was a personal one. If so, I’m not talking about you or to you. I’ve written extensively about the various spiritual levels of Christian fiction in my foundational book, A Spiritual System for Rating Books
As I wrote there, transformational power is generally not available in any book offering less than Redemptive or Spirit-filled stories. But for this article specifically and this Website generally, I am speaking to authors who believe God has called them to write.
…my vision is to help you understand that your call to write is very important. It is part of the effort He is putting out to save everyone possible before it is too late. My vision is to encourage you in that, and to provide you with the knowledge necessary to communicate clearly with your writing. Typography, page layout and book design are the tools of your trade just as much as excellent dialog, compelling characters, immersive worlds, and carefully crafted stories.
I am not called to talk you into feeling guilty if your books are not forceful sermons—dragging your readers kicking and screaming from Hell into Heaven. Preaching doesn’t work in books. Manipulation by guilt is fleshly at best and often sin. Quoting scripture is only appropriate in scenarios where you would naturally do so in real life with your friends and acquaintances. Just like friendship evangelism, you learn what your reader needs and fulfill it. You listen to them, come to understand them, answer their questions, and gently lead them to the Truth. Only the Holy Spirit can enable them to act upon that Truth. All you can do is provide access to it. We are teacher/storytellers not master/slave drivers. We lead by example and the clear statement of reality toward Truth and the acceptance of that reality. Bergsland, David. Writing In Holiness: While Keeping It Real (pp. 14-15). Radiqx Press. Kindle Edition.
Powerful Christian writing has a definite place helping prepare for the soon-coming return of our King and Messiah—commonly known as Jesus of Nazareth, in English. God has strongly called several, even many, authors to bring the Gospel to hard-to-reach readers of speculative fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, and action-adventure.
In this reality, our question becomes simple: what do you want me to do, Lord? If we are called by Him to write, we must follow His lead in accomplishing this. It’s not about you, but about the Lord—and those sheep to whom He wants you to speak. You get to experience His power to make your book better, more realistic, and powerful. It’s a real rush.
But never forget: you work for Jesus to serve His people, those readers He has given you to be shown the Truth of the Gospel in your books.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Blog Tour: Richard Spillman: The Background Story to The Awakened (The Lazarus Chronicles Book 1)

Today I am hosting Richard Spillman as part of his blog tour to promote his debut novel, The Awakened, to be released on October 1st. If you like books in the genres of Christian inspirational, speculative, fantasy, supernatural, action and adventure, you’ll love this thriller and suspense novel. The miracle surrounding the biblical figure of Larazus has fascinated me since childhood so I was very much interested in reviewing this novel when Richard asked me to do so. 

So sit back and explore The Awakened by Richard Spillman.

Click here to pre-order your copy of The Awakened.

Before we start, here is a little about the author: 

Richard Spillman is a retired Computer Scientist who typically writes Christian non-fiction (Do What Jesus Did) is available on Amazon as well as a Christian blog ( His latest passion, however, is Christian fiction. His first novel, The Awakened, will be released on October 1. The story asks the question: “What if Lazarus didn’t die a second time?” He was led to write it after avoiding being kidnapped by ISIS in the Philippines and then receiving death threats (to behead him in standard ISIS fashion) during the rest of his missionary service there. Besides the blog, he is active on Twitter and Instagram where you can see pictures from his missionary travels around the world.

Now before Richard explains this novel's origin, here is what The Awakened is about:

Everyone dies once. But what if a chosen few were raised from the dead?

Two thousand years ago Jesus resurrected his friend, Lazarus, who founded a secret organization: SOAR. Since then Jesus has added to the resurrected—The Awakened—to aid Lazarus in SOAR's battle against Satan's slaves, the UnVeilers. The threat is escalating. The UnVeilers have stepped up their attacks on mankind through a charming leader and a devastating series of bombings in Dubai and Tel Aviv.

But the invasion doesn't stop with international terrorism. The UnVeilers are searching for a secret that Jesus embedded in Lazarus’ journal that not even Lazarus knows—and it will determine the fate of mankind. After a failed cyber-attack against SOAR's computers, Lazarus and his team of experts must find the secret before the UnVeilers do. What clue is he overlooking that could turn the tide of this ageless conflict?

The souls fighting with Lazarus are weary, but the war against evil is far from won. Can Lazarus and his team set aside their longing for heaven and put a stop to these satanic attacks before it's too late?

Richard gives the following account of how The Awakened came about: 

Novels begin as an idea in the authors mind. An idea that won’t go away. An idea that pops up at the most awkward times. An idea as relentless as it is captivating. If it is truly The Idea for your next novel, eventually you will sit down and start writing. The question is where does that idea come from? What happened that made it suddenly appear and become so persistent?

Though many writers would hope there is a general answer to that question waiting to be discovered, I fear that it doesn’t exist. Of course, we must acknowledge that Jesus is the ultimate source of these creative ideas, but all that answer does is tweak the question to: What did Jesus use to birth it in your mind? And…we’re back to square one.

While the answer may elude us in the beginning, as the writing comes to an end, most authors have some concept of the force behind The Idea. But, in the case of my new book, The Awakened, I didn’t have to wait until I finished it to know where The Idea came from. I knew from the very beginning that The Idea grew out of an obscene threat to my life and that of my friends.

I was scheduled to lead a team of five to the Philippines to minister at remote villages in the jungles of Mindanao. It was something I’d done once a year for almost ten years. In all that time we never encountered any serious problems but this time was different. Just before we were scheduled to fly out, Pastor Ronald, our point man in the area, texted me to say that the pastor, Pastor Danial, in one of the villages we were planning to visit had been kidnapped by ISIS but had escaped and he and his family were safe. Pastor Ronald was hiding them in his church in the Davao slums.

My first thought after a “thank you, Lord,” was if ISIS had waited a few days my whole team would have been at that church. We all would have been kidnapped. I had a big “thank you, Lord,” at that realization. We had dodged a serious bullet. 

Later that day I met with my team in the USA to fill them in on the latest twist. I told them that Bonnie and I were going but if any of them felt uncomfortable then they could stay home. As I suspected every one still wanted to go. And go we did knowing we were covered in prayer.

When we arrived the situation got even more serious. Ronald reported that ISIS had Pastor Danial’s cell phone containing contact information for all of us and notes about our visit. ISIS knew when and where to find us. Not only that he warned us that the ISIS commander had called him several times demanding Pastor Danial be returned or he would hunt us down and, in typical ISIS fashion, behead us all.

Once again, in light of this new threat, we had a decision to make: stay or leave. We all decided to stay but to be cautious. So we change our schedule and the places we were to visit. During the week we continued to get threatening phone calls and text messages but we ignored them and went on with our work. There was a certain amount of tension every time we went to a new church or visited a new family. The question on everyone’s mind, but never voiced was “would this be the village, the church, the family where ISIS would finally find us?” But, we usually settled down and were able to do what God asked of us without fear. The week ended and my team flew home with nothing more than a strange story to tell. 

When I got home, I started to think about the evil we had encountered. The ISIS commander knew nothing about me and my team yet he spent the week plotting our death. I take that back, he knew one thing about us – we were Christian and that was enough to fuel his murderous rage. And what had we done to set this off? We distributed Bibles, brought food and, sometimes medical supplies to remote villages. We preached the Gospel. We never hurt anyone. Yet someone wanted to kill us for doing precisely those things. It was pure evil that had repeatedly called us during that week.

In order to come to terms with this, I felt like I had to write about it but not the event itself because something in what I encountered transcended my discomfort during the trip. I had to come to an understanding of the broader concept. I had to write about the global clash between good and evil. I had to understand what could lead to such evil and how to best respond to it. After some thought, the plot for The Awakened began to take shape. Ideas flooded my mind. I eventually came up with The Idea: what if Lazarus never died a second time and today he was battling the kind of evil that had crossed my path. I took that idea and ran with it. 

In the process of writing The Awakened, I saw two major forces at work: (1) demonic forces influencing man to hate through lies and (2) God’s people working to counter those lies with truth. As I started to write I began to see God’s forces not hating the men who fell under the influence of demons but loving them and attacking the underlying lies. In the process, my feelings about the ISIS commander changed. I expressed them in the words of one of my major characters as she looked at a captured terrorist. “Shiri had seen men like him before, men full of hate, men who had long ago lost any sense of the value of life, men caught up in a continuous cycle of revenge. What she didn’t see was her enemy. 

He’s not my enemy, but he might know where my enemy is. 

The ISIS commander was never my enemy and by ignoring him and going on to minister in the villages I was attacking my real enemy. 

An excerpt that conveys the theme of the novel: 

“Ah…yes. And to be clear.” Matthew stood and started to count down on the fingers of his left hand. “You want me to solve a murder, stop a terrorist leader, and recover what would be the greatest archaeological find in history before a secret that could change the course of the end times gets out. And start all that today.”

“Our job is not to rid the world of evil; it’s to fill the world with good.”

Richard can be found at the following social media platforms: 

To preorder The Awakened, click on the icon link below: 

Readers and reviews are an author's best asset, so I encourage any reader who reads in the genres of Christian inspirational, fantasy, speculative, supernatural, action and adventure, thrillers and suspense to consider reading The Awakened and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Interview with Novelist, Julie Helms and her debut novel, Gods They Had Never Known

Today I am interviewing debut novelist, Julie Helms, author of Gods They Had Never Known, just released. I volunteered to review her novel when she asked about a Facebook Author's group about the publishing process.

I am fascinated by the topic of fallen angels and their offspring, the Nephilim mentioned in Genesis 6: 1-4, and the physical and spiritual implications and evidence throughout history leading to their re-emergence before Jesus' return.

Being very impressed with this novel with its adherence to the Biblical account of this topic and the spiritual warnings from God concerning fallen angels and Nephilim, I wanted the backstory to Helms' novel so I offered to interview her about it.

What follows is a detailed and comprehensive account of Helms' journey to becoming a published author and how she crafted this novel relating to this controversial topic and what the Bible says about it.

So sit back and let Julie Helms expound on these two topics.

Julie, thanks for stopping by to discuss your novel and the topic of fallen angels, the Nephilim and God's judgement of them. How about you start by telling us 
a little about yourself.

Thanks, Peter, I was very excited to discuss the backstory of my novel when you offered to interview me! 

I am a married mother to two grown daughters, living in Pennsylvania. I own a homeschool curriculum store which serves our local homeschool community with educational supplies and curricula. I am also a free-lance editor and writer. My husband and I live on a small farm where we raise Corriedale and Cormo sheep (imported from Australia!) for their superior wool. We also have goats and chickens.

Authors tend to use one of two methods to develop a novel, plotting it out (plotter), or as it came to you (pantser, that you write by the seat of your pants). Which one did you use or was it a bit of both?

Definitely a bit of both. I plotted a very general outline—I knew where I wanted to end up, but the story in between revealed itself to me along the way, through many unexpected twists and turns.

What obstacles did you encounter while developing this novel? How did you overcome these?

Probably the biggest issue was making time to write. I’m not a spontaneous person, so I really needed to schedule the time in order to actually do it.

How has being an author impacted your relationship with Jesus Christ?

I needed to do a ton of biblical research to make sure I stayed true to the Word, so that kept me in my Bible a lot! I also had many discussions with God about what He wanted from me through the whole process. There were discouraging moments (writer’s block, insecurities…), but I always felt his call to persevere.

Do you have a favourite genre?

For pleasure reading, I turn to historical fiction or crime drama. When I’m in a more scholarly mood, I’ll read nonfiction on Bible doctrines, especially anything to do with the supernatural in the Bible.

What have you learnt about becoming an author?

It is a whole lot harder than I anticipated! Some authors produce several books per year—I can’t even fathom the brain power that must take. I wrestled with my novel every step of the way. It was awesome seeing the work come to life before my eyes, but it did so slowly.

You write well. Have you always found this to be an easy feat? Some authors engage in a writing course before they write their first novel. What have done in this regard? Would you encourage other budding authors to do so?

Well, funny story here. In high school, an English teacher sent a progress report home to my parents. In part, it said, “Julie can’t write, and she’ll never be able to.” He was probably correct in that, at that time, I could not. The following year, a different teacher worked with me so that I felt at least competent at a basic level. But I had already internalized the message: don’t bother trying to write—you will fail.

In college, I had two different English professors (required classes, not voluntary) call me out during class for having done an outstanding job on a writing assignment. I remember the second one was a pass/fail assignment to write a Greek comedy. The prof said there was one paper that he couldn’t just give a pass to, he had to give it an A. Then he had me stand up. I felt completely embarrassed in front of my peers in that lecture hall, and I was angry at the professor because I somehow thought he was mocking me. I knew ‘I couldn’t write and would never be able to.’ I threw away the paper and never returned to that class. The vice president of the university called me into her office one day and asked me why I wasn’t majoring in writing. Apparently, she hadn’t gotten the memo either!

After I graduated (with my biology degree), I wrote nothing for 20 years. And that is a lesson on how powerful words can be, especially to a young person.

Around age 40, I discovered I was good with editing. That was safe because it wasn’t writing. I quickly gained jobs as a free-lance editor, most notably on the marketing materials for CreateSpace. But I started to feel a little niggling in the back of my mind that I wished I could write. My first attempts were on online content sites with a pseudonym, mostly nonfiction. And the articles started selling! Once I began writing, I just fell in love. I wanted to write a novel.

My biggest hurdle then has been overcoming this constant mantra somewhere in the back of mind that I can’t write.

Before starting the novel, I took two online writing courses in fiction from Gotham University. I actually started this novel in the second class. I do recommend writing courses for aspiring writers. There is a lot that goes into the process—some of it is intuitive, some not so much.

One thing I learned is that you tend to write in the same style you like to read. The Gotham teacher identified this in me immediately. She asked if I liked 19th c. authors. Hawthorne and Poe are my absolute favorites. I just love how they use words. I read their works out loud just because of how they use the language—it is magical to me. I discovered Jane Austen much later, but same deal. But my teacher pointed out that I can’t write that way in the modern world—way too wordy. Well, you can, but no one will read it. So writing classes are a good thing.

(As a post-script here, while reviewing my answers to this interview it finally came back to me what the topic was for that first college paper I wrote. I haven’t thought of this for 30 years now. It was a compare and contrast of the God of the Bible with the gods in The Odyssey—apparently I have been fascinated with the topic much longer than I realized!)

What are you reading now?

Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom 

Now that your novel is published, what’s next, is there another project in the works?

There is the potential for a prequel or sequel to Gods. This is just in the thought stage at this point.

Did any specific author(s) motivate you to begin writing?

I am an avid reader, so this is hard to narrow down. I do remember reading CS Lewis’ The Great Divorce and thinking, “this…I want to do this!”

Now let’s discuss your novel!

So that our readers will know what we are talking about here is the description of the novel: 

They will enhance your lives, expand your fortunes,
better your health, destroy your soul.

The Guardians look down from their mountaintop to the valley of men below—and they desire the women they see. Abandoning their rightful home, they commence their plan to infiltrate mankind amicably but with disastrous consequences.

Haven, a young man of strong faith, lives in the pleasant valley that is now under invasion. A blind prophet has been warning the people for years, but Haven seems to be the only one listening. The Guardians, who look like men--but are not-- exchange forbidden knowledge for the use of the mortal women. The people love the new technologies and how they improve their lives, turning a blind eye to the monstrosities that are born of these unions. As violence and depravity increase in the valley, Haven desperately tries to warn the people—and the woman he loves—that judgement is coming, putting himself in the crosshairs of both the Guardians and their malevolent offspring.

In this epic retelling of 1 Enoch: Book of the Watchers and Genesis 6:1-4, experience the plunge into chaos when the divine order of creation is violated, leading to idolatry, corruption, and the threat of extermination.

How long did it take you to write Gods They Had Never Known?

Two and a half years. I started it in my Gotham writing class, so there was a lot of learning along the way. I hope a future one will go much more quickly!

You have classified this novel in the following genres:

·Genre: Speculative Fiction,
·Sub-genre: Mythopoeia, where you state:  

[a writer uses a well-established mythology (in my case biblical theology) and places it in a fictional setting to bring the ancient teachings to the modern reader. CS Lewis and Tolkien are the best-known examples of this.]

I have not heard of mythopoeia as a genre. Is this a name you have created or is it a new emerging genre?

I believe JRR Tolkien coined the term as a genre. I had struggled to figure out exactly what genre my novel was…nothing seemed to really fit. A little bit fantasy, a little bit historical fiction, a little bit of allegory. When I came across the definition of Mythopoeia it seemed it had been defined with my book in mind—a perfect fit!

What is the significance of the title, Gods They Had Never Known?

It is a phrase from the Bible. In Deuteronomy, Moses addresses the Israelites and gives them a rundown of their history. He says,
“They sacrificed to demons that were not God,to gods they had never known,to new gods that had come recently,whom your fathers had never dreaded. (Deuteronomy 32:17 ESV)
The point is that the demons became the focus of worship for the people and that the demons weren’t always there—they had arrived “recently.” This is a major plot point in the novel.

I am also passionate about fallen angels, which includes their sin and its consequences resulting in the Nephilim of Genesis 6: 4 and mentioned in other places in the Bible. What triggered this passion?

My passion for the stories of the Sons of God and the Nephilim came through Bible studies I taught on the subject in my church. I had almost a universal reaction from my students—“Why haven’t I ever heard of this before? It’s right here in my Bible!” That’s when I realized a fictional story incorporating these biblical concepts would be one way to teach people about them. Before this, I was originally made aware of the concepts through the scholarly writings of Michael Heiser.

Mine was when I read Dwellers by Roger Elwood. Not only did it introduce me to the subject of the Nephilim but raised the speculative question, “Could a Nephilim be redeemed by God?

You have outlined in your novel how the answer to this question could not be possible from a spiritual and Biblical point of view and also as part of the nature of God. Roger Elwood provided the same answer as you with this same theology.

This question is an example of a topic that polarises Christians. This same question of redemption has been asked of the fallen angels and the answer is stated in the Bible, and you include this in the novel, yet some Christians fail to see that salvation and redemption are reserved for humans only. I find this a spiritual tragedy and shows a misunderstanding of who God is and His nature/attributes and also of Biblical principles and doctrines. I feel this is due to a lack of effective teaching from Pastors, Elders and the Church in general. What do you think of this?

I have found, on the whole, churches and their leadership absolutely shy away from discussing most of the ‘negative’ supernatural aspects of the Bible. I am blessed to be in a church now, that though they don’t preach this stuff, after reviewing my Bible studies they felt I was within the bounds of orthodoxy and allowed me to present it.

Have you read any other Christian novels that deal with the Nephilim?

I have read Michael Heiser’s The Façade, though that deals more with the alien and government conspiracy take on it. I really enjoyed Jon Saboe’s series The Days of Lamech and The Days of Peleg.

Any from secular authors?

No. Bad theology about angels/Nephilim in fiction drives me crazy. I’ll read secular nonfiction on the topic with a huge grain of salt, but I can’t get into a fictional story.

Why do you consider that secular authors write novels based on fallen angels and Nephilim and deviate from the biblical record concerning these two entities?

I think we as human beings, Christian or not, are fascinated by the supernatural—we are by nature spiritual creatures, so we are going to be drawn to all things spiritual. Unfortunately, Christians are often discouraged from pursuing knowledge on this even though it is right inside our Bible. Secular people have no such problem and will sample from any of the available mythologies to fuel their stories. They have no loyalty to the word of God, so there is no reason for them to adhere strictly to the truth within it.

In some of these novels, they are both romanticised and idolised, yet you have adhered to the biblical and non-biblical accounts of them. Your thoughts?

We’ve done all sorts of things to angels over the centuries—we’ve made them women with long flowing hair, we’ve made them reincarnations of humans who have died, so now we make them rugged handsome men who may have rebelled but they are really good guys underneath so we should be sympathetic (ala Nicolas Cage in the City of Angels). Angelology is a whole industry now. And it is very dangerous. Worshipping or revering angels (fallen or otherwise) is idolatry. I wanted to show the seductiveness of the fallen angels (Guardians, in my story), and the consequences of following a creature who is in rebellion to his Creator.

How did you come up with the character names of the fallen angels and Nephilim?

I wanted to distinguish between the humans and the supernatural beings. The humans got Hebrew names for the most part (except Haven. I wanted to name my own son Haven—it’s a name that goes way back in my family history. But I birthed only daughters. So my lead male got the name!) But the Guardians and Offspring received Aramaic-derived names. Parts of the OT and Enoch are written in Aramaic so I thought it was appropriate. I say ‘Aramaic-derived’ because I am not actually familiar with the language at all. I was using English transliterations to come up with an approximation of Aramaic to use. Most of the names have meanings significant to the character. But my apologies to Aramaic scholars—just pretend I made the names up.

You have given God the name "Shalliyt". This is not a name that you created but is an existing one of Aramaic origin. I investigated this myself and confirmed this and it means:

In the Bible, there are many references to this word where it is used to describe humans as rulers: 

Ezra Ch 4:20, Ch 7: 24, Daniel Ch 2: 10, Ch 15, 5: 29. 

There are a few where it refers to God as ruler: 

Daniel Ch 4: 17, 25, 26, 32, Ch 5: 21, 

so this word is not specifically and only used for God or as an exclusive attribute of His nature.

(Above references and definitions are taken from

Based on the above why did you chose Shalliyt for the name of God?

I didn’t want to use any biblical name for God. My story is a fantasy set in a make-believe world. But I felt like shalliyt embodied the aspects I wanted to convey for my supreme being: ruler, master, the one who holds all authority. It gives a good contrast to the gravity of the Guardians rebellion. Besides, I like the sound of it—Shah-leet!

What attracted me to Gods They Had Never Known is the topic of the Nephilim and fallen angels. I find this fascinating including the controversy that surrounds them in Christian and non-Christian circles. This includes who they really are, did they exist, where is the evidence that they survived the Flood, how will they return in the end days (most likely in our generation or our children's generation) the list goes on and on!).

From how you have described them in your novel, you have obviously borrowed from the Bible and the Book of Enoch (non-Biblical text). This is the same as what I have read elsewhere from Christian fiction and non-fiction. We are on the same page as far as this is concerned. Have you used any other non-Biblical texts?

I have also studied the Book of Jubilees, the Book of Jasher, and the remnants of the Book of the Giants. But I didn’t use anything from those sources. First Enoch: Book of the Watchers was reputable as a source of information during the time of Jesus and is consistent with the biblical account, though it supplies a whole lot more detail than the Bible, and that was enough.

Have you had any negative feedback from Christians on this topic? 

It would not surprise me if you had been called a heretic or threatened to be excommunicated from your denomination! I have read some accounts of this from other readers and authors who have researched like yourself and been treated like this. Just the topic of the Nephilim or fallen angels can be enough to make you tread carefully with other Christians! What has been your experience in relation to this?

I know there is plenty of controversy on this topic. But as I mentioned earlier, the response I got when teaching it to a class of 20-25 women was almost unanimously one of wonder. It made sense to them, things clicked into place. On the other hand, my husband led a similar study for the men in the church. That did not go well. Heretic was one of the names he was called. The leadership supported us though, so no excommunication!

As for my novel, the feedback from Christians has been overwhelmingly positive, so far. The exception would be in the Christian publishing world. I was told by a few that no Christian publisher would touch this due to the controversial nature and themes of sex and violence. Amish romances are all the rage. This is no Amish romance.

John Klein and Adam Spears state in their book, Devils and Demons and the Return of the Nephilim that,

“Devils are fallen angels – teraphim, seraphim, or cherubim. Teraphim, the lowest order of angels, can take human form and interbreed with women. The offspring of a teraphim and a woman is called a nephal (plural: Nephilim). Demons were not created by God; they are the disembodied souls of dead Nephilim. Therefore, devils and demons are not the same thing! And in their present forms, neither one was created by God. They both result from a rebellion among the heavenly host that God never intended…..”

You have depicted this very well in your novel. Did you find these particular definitions of devils and demons widespread in your research? What variations did you find? Have you encountered different interpretation and teaching of what is a demon and devil in Christian circles, church teaching and even sermons? Why do think this is so?

I’m not familiar with using the term devil this broadly. My only knowledge of the devil is Satan. The heavenly host seems to be variously termed in the Bible as angels, sons of God, cherubim, and seraphim. The Book of Enoch calls them watchers (as does Daniel). Fallen angel is not actually a term used in the Bible, though of course, the concept is solid.

An extremely common misconception is that fallen angels are demons. The Bible does not teach this. However, the Bible is vague as to where demons (or evil spirits) came from. This is where the Book of Enoch (and other ancient writings that corroborate the belief) comes in handy. It explicitly explains the nature and source of demons—as the offspring of the union between an angel and a woman, after he dies. So a Nephilim in life and a demon in death.

If you read every passage in the Bible on demons with this definition in mind, you will see there is no contradiction. You will also notice behavior differences between angels and demons—demons tend to possess people, whereas angels appear to them.

This distinction is the whole point of my title and the Bible verse (Deut 32:17) it was referenced from—demons have recently arrived!

Most churches don’t teach this and people seem very threatened by the configuration laid out in Enoch. I don’t know why. It’s not a ‘salvation issue’ so I don’t know why people find it scary to have their view on it challenged. It was a commonly held belief in the early days of the church but is no longer.

Based on the above, you have thus shown the origin of demon possession and how these disembodied Nephilim spirits masquerade as demigods and deceive people into allowing them access to their bodies.

I can see that some Christians would disagree with you on this issue, including how these spirits also represent the destructive human character traits such as envy, jealousy, lust, anger, fear, (and more) and how through this they manipulate human minds and behaviour to sin, rebel against God (Shalliyt) and even deceive other humans.

However, you showed the power of the name of God in defeating a demonic attack when one such spirit, the spirit of fear, tried to evoke this emotion in the mind of Rachel. Here is the beginning of real spiritual warfare (even though Rachel did not know that is what she was doing at the time!). I am glad you portrayed this as this is one principle of Biblical spiritual warfare that Christians need to be practising when they encounter demonic attacks. It is the only way to be spiritually victorious in this regard. I would suggest that this is one of the take-home messages you wanted to instil in the reader. Would you agree?

Yes. Specifically in the case of sleep-paralysis episodes, which is the modern-day term for the phenomenon Rachel experienced and still occurs today, calling on the name of Jesus stops the episodes immediately. People are being tormented this way and the non-Christian world does not have a solution that works permanently, if at all. The medical field condescends to say it is just a dream. But we who are believers have been raised up with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6) and can call on him for help because “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil 2:10).

To address the first point you made about demonic influence and emotion. I just want to be clear that I don’t believe every time or even most of the time, you experience a negative emotion like fear or anger that there is a demon causing it. My point in the story was that the Afflicted (the demons) fed off of that emotion.

What other take-home messages do you want readers of Gods They Had Never Known to embrace?

I think the biggest message I tried to convey, mostly through Haven and Rachel, is that when God says something, we need to trust him on that, even if we don’t understand it. They both struggled in their own ways, with their own temptations to disbelieve the word of their God. Stepping out on faith, not sight, is really hard to do, especially when everything around you (the world, your friends, etc) says something different than God did.

Writing this novel was that step for me personally. Who did I think I was that I could complete a task like this (remember ‘I can’t write and never will’)? And why on earth would I pick a controversial topic (I’m an introvert and peacemaker—I always go with the flow!) But God has been there every step of the way, continuing to assure me, every time I questioned myself or faltered in my resolve, that this is what he wants me to do. So I wrote this for him, to be used by Him if it is His desire to do so.

When I read the ending, I felt that it could be interpreted as an opening for a sequel as the storyline seems open-ended. Are you considering a sequel?

The story will allow for both a prequel and a sequel, though it is a stand-alone novel. Yes, I would like to possibly do both!

Anything else you would like to say about your novel, this topic or other issues raised in this interview?

I just wanted to mention that in the novel the setting is somewhat allegorical. The valley represents the earth, the surrounding mountains are the heavenly realm, and the outside wilderness is the underworld.

Where can readers find you? 

Any closing comments?

Peter, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to share a little bit about my novel and my passion for the topic of Genesis 6:1-4. Your support for authors, especially new authors, is a huge blessing.

Julie, thank you! I love interviewing authors about their novels. I feel that the more the reader knows about the backstory of the novel, the more they will enjoy reading it and be influenced by it positively. Knowing how an author thinks and how they craft their novels, also adds to the appreciation of the novel and keeps the reader loyal to the genre and the author.

This has been a very enjoyable and insightful interview about your journey to becoming an author and your impressive debut novel. I look forward to having you as my guest in the future with your next novel(s). 

If any reader would like to read an excerpt or buy Gods They Had Never Known, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icon below. 

Readers and reviews are an author's best asset, so I encourage any reader who likes reading in the genres of Christian inspirational, biblical fiction and fantasy, supernatural, spiritual warfare, to consider reading this impressive novel and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).