This post has been far more difficult to write than I expected. After several false starts, I am beginning anew with this simple question in my mind:
“What is Stronghold?”
I could write a lengthy essay answering that, but I thought perhaps a list might be better. So, here it goes:
- Stronghold is my story but also could be anyone’s story.
- Stronghold is a novel but also an embellishment of a real experience.
- Stronghold is a book driven by concepts and reflection but also an adventure propelled by action and suspense.
- Stronghold is a book about pornography but not really.
Maybe I should have gone with the essay write-up instead.
I feel like I’ve written much but told you nothing—other than "it’s complicated. I could just provide the “elevator pitch”, the one that I give folks who ask, “what is your novel about?”
A man in the midst of temptation processes his motivations in hopes of overcoming his desire to sin, but he does this by picturing his soul as a world of fantasy full of angels, demons, and battles. It’s a big adventure story framed by an intimate experience.
Sounds like I am hitting a bunch of quadrants, right? But then comes the follow-up question: “What’s tempting him?”
Now things get complicated. Do I just say “stuff”? Do I say “pornography” out loud? Do I use the word “addiction”? Do I indict myself and say that it’s my issue as much as it is a fictional character’s? These are tough choices, ones that I have really had to engage on the fly in numerous conversations—some have embarrassed me more than others.
But the strangest thing has been happening, especially in the last month or so. Persons of various walks and beliefs have mentioned an interest in the book, perhaps not for themselves but for their nephew or son or brother. And what’s fascinating is that they’ve responded with an interest matched to my level of vulnerability.
To those who have received the vague and nebulous answer, “it’s a fictional story about a character”--which in some audiences is a wholly appropriate answer—their response has been a generic, “oh that’s neat.” But for those with whom my relationship is more personal, to whom I can say “and the story is kind of based on my own experience”, the reception is often, “you know, my friend or relative might find that useful” or “that sounds like it could be really great.” Maybe they see the mortified look on my face and are just being nice, or maybe it’s something else. Something more.
I come back to this a lot, but I think it’s true. I think they see love. They see a person willing to really put himself out there in hopes that his story may inform and encourage those who read it. That’s not an easy thing to do. I think that in many ways, their seeing my heart allows them to look past my sin. Funny how people do that, huh?
So what is Stronghold, really? Stronghold is another self-published book out of millions to be released this year, and inasmuch as it’s a work of fantasy, it’s a window into my soul.
That’s kind of a terrifying thought…but maybe that’s why it’ll work (whatever that means).