The Battle of Book Writing

Two historical battles made famous by literature took place on October 25: the Battle of Agincourt that served as the crescendo to Shakespeare’s Henry V and the Battle of Balaclava enshrined in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

Two battles. Two disparate outcomes. One maxim: always do what you know you ought, even if it could all be for nought.

Coincidentally—or perhaps more justly attributed to the poetic touch of another Author—the battles of Agincourt and Balaclava were not the only thing birthed on 10/25. So was I. At least per my parents and my birth certificate.

While I’m grateful to say I have not been called to duty to put my life on the line in a physical battle, for Christ-following believers, there’s no evading God’s call of duty where He puts us. In the sense of that loosely used metaphor, one ongoing battle in my life has been the task of writing a novel and now adapting it to an audio format that I intend to release as a 22-episode podcast.

The idea for my novel traces back to ten years ago when I had an odd dream that I entered a building teeming with every person I had ever met.I was already interested in storytelling and filmmaking at the time, so that dream stuck with me as an interesting concept to explore. As time went on, I began working on the earliest versions of a novel that I tentatively titled “1025 Memory Lane.” While some elements of the earliest renditions stuck (like the address of the building, a mysterious old man, and the overall tone), the bulk of the story changed with time.

As I worked my way through a program in college reading everything from Plato to Nietzsche, I was compelled to tell a story in response to that ages-long conversation on philosophy—compelled to the point that I’d say it was a calling. Writing the novel was not just something I wanted to do; it was something I felt I had to do. God placed it on my heart to make use of the education He blessed me with. 

There’s not a particular moment I can pinpoint when everything fell into place, but the pieces started coming together during the summer of 2018 as I read C.S. Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy in preparation for the senior-year capstone project in my program. The project in that class eventually led to the publication of A Compass for Deep Heaven. The ideas I explored in my chapter of that book foreshadowed the ideas in my novel.

The third book in Lewis’s trilogy, That Hideous Strength, was his fictional retelling of the ideas he communicated in The Abolition of Man. Likewise, my novel would become a fictional take on many of Lewis’s beliefs which I happen to share. It was such an influence that I don’t try to hide it in the name of my book’s narrator (who I will voice in the podcast with a little audio manipulation) or the title that has stuck with it the most: The Testimony of Calvin Lewis.

In that title, the astute observer will also catch a subtle reference to another major influence on my book, Augustine’s Confessions. While the novel does contain a congressional testimony, the narrator’s retelling of the events he saw is his own testimony of Truth.

Standing on the shoulders of Lewis and Augustine, and even more foundationally on Scripture, The Testimony strives to be a repudiation of the broken tenet of our present culture that morality is what we make it. Rather, objective right and wrong exists, we know it whether we want to admit it or not, and the fact of a Moral Law points to a source of that Moral Law.

But of course, despite the worldviews my characters will spew in an occasional monologue, The Testimony is still a story and not a philosophy book. I’m a fan of Christopher Nolan, always enjoy a good spy flick, and my budding career revolves around politics. So how could I write a story that does not incorporate a government conspiracy, take a trek across the country, and play with the fabric of time? There is action and intrigue, and there are mysteries left for you to figure out. But there is also conflict and suffering and death and restlessness. No story will resonate without that, for—to plagiarize Augustine—all human hearts are restless until they find rest in God.

Like one of Henry’s soldiers on the eve of St. Crispin’s Day or one of the six hundred in Crimea, I’m not sure what lies ahead in the (again, much less life-demanding) battle I face. The chances of a successful first novel, however you care to define that, are about as good as the odds of the British in either battle. Agincourt was a miracle, Balaclava a disaster. But the soldiers were faithful in both.

So I’ll press on with the work that I’m now knee-deep in.

Deo Volente.