A Discussion of my First Novel, Realms of Glory
There is life after death, but Heaven is no paradise.
I developed that elevator pitch sitting at a bar with my brother, Erik. With strangers, it’s wise to avoid subjects like religion and politics. When Erik and I get together, both are regular discussion topics.
My brother insulted the traditional vision of the Christian afterlife. Floating on a cloud and singing hymns for eternity? He found the idea boring and wanted no part of it. I proposed a Heaven that was imperfect-perhaps even dangerous. As an author and screenwriter, he thought any book on the topic was a waste of time. Erik might have thought that the Christian afterlife was tedious, but he also believed that the general public would like to imagine Heaven as a place of peace. Who would want to buy a book about war and discord in eternity? And even if they did, how could people ‘die’ when they were already dead?
We argued. Since I’m trying to sell this completed novel, five years after that bar discussion, I hope I’m right.
Regardless of religious belief (or lack thereof), people would like to imagine there’s life after death. How many folks have friends and family members whose lives were cut short by tragedy? Novels often take us where reality can’t. My novel illustrates the extra chapters of life stories that were truncated by death.
It is a coming of age story that occurs after the protagonists have died.
The afterlife is not a boring church service. It is an adventure where we can interact with family, friends, historical figures, and strangers while exploring a new and dangerous world. The bar stool argument with Erik gave me the pitch for my novel, now I needed a plot.
Three teenagers arrive in Heaven, but instead of paradise, they find a land teetering on the brink of revolution.
If that doesn’t have high market appeal, I don’t know what does.
As I began writing my novel, I realized that I couldn’t make it explicitly Christian. An omnipotent, all-powerful God would destroy any force that rebelled. Boring. What about an omniscient, all-knowing God who knew rebellion was coming, let it happen anyway, and destroyed it with omnipotent power? Also boring, along with sadistic. Neither was a book people would want to read.
Therefore, my afterlife was based on Christian tropes, but more like Olympus. Heaven’s king is powerful, but has the capacity to lose. Without the chance of defeat, there’s no dramatic conflict. To keep the story from reading like a Homeric epic, it’s told from the perspective of teenagers.
Writing this novel kept me sane during my doctoral research at the University of Pittsburgh. It was my creative outlet after hours of policy analysis and dry, academic research. I finished the novel before I finished my dissertation. While I frustrated my advisor occasionally with my creative pursuits, I believe that crafting this book ultimately improved my academic writing as well. I hope she’ll buy a copy.
If you are still interested in reading this novel, and don’t think I’m crazy, this post continues with a brief preview of the book. Without spoilers, of course!
Devon Newcastle, Madison Camrose, and Patrick Varberg are three teenagers from Pittsburgh on their way to the mall to pick up tuxedos for their senior prom. They perish in a car crash. They arrive in Heaven, but instead of the promised paradise, they find a tumultuous land teetering on the brink of revolution. Heaven is more like Olympus than the Christian gospels, with technology beyond their wildest dreams. But behind the perfect façade, a dark plot is brewing, one that threatens to plunge the realms of Heaven & Earth into the fire of war.
No one can remember the last two months of life. The teens enter separately and meet new friends when they arrive in Eden, Heaven’s capital. While solving the mysteries of their deaths, they find each other.
The teens take different paths in their exploration of Heaven. Devon, a football star on Earth, joins Heaven’s Realm Defense Force, striving for the prestigious title of 1st Corporal. Madison enrolls at university, while Patrick experiences his first heartbreak and struggles to find himself.
Madison and Eva, her university roommate, are recruited by Deborah and Matthew, high-ranking officers in the Realm Police Agency. The girls work to unravel the plot to overthrow Olen, Heaven’s king. They soon discover that the conspiracy reaches the king’s inner circle. Madison, Eva, Deborah, and Matthew work feverishly to stop the scheme before it’s too late.
Following an embarrassing defeat at the beginning of his training, Devon redeems himself commanding troops during an important exercise, impresses his superiors, and is invited to the Academy. While learning from legendary instructors like Saladin and Joshua Chamberlain, Devon meets Stephanie, one of his rivals for the position of 1st Corporal. Stephanie is a ‘lifer’, someone whose entire existence has been in Heaven. Because she died as an infant, she has no memory of Earth. Lifers are a notoriously entitled and arrogant lot, and normally don’t associate with anyone with nostalgia for what they see as a fallen planet.
A mysterious leader is recruiting humans and angels assigned to serve Heaven’s residents. Many are frustrated with Olen’s near-universal salvation policy, and the message of purging Heaven of miscreants and hedonists resonates with the rebels.
Devon, Madison, and Patrick discover there is life after death. But a fate worse than death awaits them all if the forces of darkness turn their newly-won Heaven into a Hell beyond their worst nightmares.
The cover and back cover of the book have been approved. As soon as the print copy of the novel is cleared, we’ll set a release date and begin promotion of the book. Information will be posted on my author Facebook page (Rudolph W. Lurz), along with my Twitter page (@RudolphLurz). Once we have an exact launch time, I’ll let you all know where you can buy the book in person or online. The present estimate for release is late July/early August, 2017.
I might be crazy, but writing keeps me sane. Completing this book has been one of the major achievements of my lifetime, and I feel blessed to have friends and family members who have supported me along every stage of this journey.
I hope you enjoyed this discussion of the book and its origins, and I look forward to sharing more as we inch closer to the release date. Feel free to contact me on Facebook or Twitter if you’d like to learn more!