ER: Since Speculative Fiction is often interwoven with spirituality, (myths, legends, science, etc.), please describe your personal spiritual path and how it is reflected in your writing.
EP: I grew up as a Southern Baptist and I understand that most of today’s Christians find a joy in the community and the love that is shared at Church, and that the politics of the outside world do not interfere in that as much as some media outlets would want their listeners to believe. A typical church goer is not going to stand up and say they believe the more outlandish stuff that is in the Bible literally; they are going to say it’s about personal love and personal growth and where that meets love of community and ultimately love of the world. For me, having lived in that for so long, I found myself at a kind of crossroads of faith. My mother and I talked about it as she too struggled with the plateau she had reached in her church life. She didn’t need a “pep rally” for Christ, and she didn’t need people ‘rolling in the aisles.’ She also didn’t want the dead traditional church where the little booklet was followed, and no one said anything, and they all got out on time. I felt much the same way. I also chaffed greatly under the increasing politicization of the church and the dumbing down of the church by neo-fundamentalists that wanted their faithful to actually believe the Earth is only 2000 years old and that fossils were placed in the ground by the devil to fool people into ‘demonic temptation’ – as guest speakers in church tried to teach us.
My mother had a long career with the Veterans Administration and Social Security. She aided the least among us every day. They came to her and called her by name – even when they hadn’t met her before – she was Miss Glora. They knew she was there to help. It was her Gift, her calling. She walked it every day. She needed to graduate from the typical Church teachings, to talk with others who felt as she did. My mother and I would sit and talk about the Bible. I had studied it to find out its historicity and what its context was, and I would hesitate to tell her certain things. She would say to me, “You don’t want to tell me because you think I’ll be disillusioned.” I had no come back for that except to say, “Love above all things is the sole concept you have to hang onto.” Since then, especially after her passing, I would have to say that I’m not “a Christian.” That word, in a modern world, is a whip and a sword. I remain deeply spiritual. I remain a seeker. I remain someone that wants to believe in the “out there,” in “the beyond.” I understand what Gifts are. I understand what being given a Word means. I know about the whisper in your ear to go do something before something happens to a loved one is all about. I know what it means to dismiss a Demon. I know what Words of Power are. I understand that Christ commanded four things of his followers, and I understand how few of his followers even know what those commands are let alone do them in this modern, political world. If you had to put me on spectrum of Christians as to where I am, I’m more of a Quaker mindset, where you listen for the divine to come to you in your meditation and piety. I don’t need a “pep rally for Christ.” I don’t need to carry that whip or that sword. Those Four things. Love above all things. That’s where one must start – and it’s the hardest thing one will ever do.
I reflect that in Bully by having him being called not to just speak the Holy Word, but to be the Living, Cleansing Fire that destroys ‘evil.’ How does that compare to Vengeance? How does that compare to the Gray realm of those with no motivation to move on? If you’re taken out of the world of Men and put in a place where you must JUDGE Men, where do you start? What does that mean? What if you’re 11 and gay and the very definition of unworldly and unwise? What does it mean to have love for an abuser? What does it mean to have fear of a loved one who is a fanatic about the love of Christ? What if you just wanted to go to the usual pep rally for Christ and the Angel of the Lord picked you to be the one to deliver the cleansing White Fire to those that deserved it? I don’t even imagine that I begin to address even the smallest part of those questions, but hopefully the reader has a thoughtful moment at some point where they contemplate something more than they might have expected to with this little adventure book.