Latest Title: The Occupied
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishing
Release Date: September 1, 2016
It scared the wits out of me. And in a sense, it was one of those things that ultimately led to my writing my novel, The Occupied.
It happened at that point in my life between my consuming the existentialist works of Jean Paul Sartre and shortly before the publication of William Blatty's novel, The Exorcist, which, by the way, I never read, but saw the movie (which, I suppose, makes me a literary lowbrow).
At the time I was young and thoroughly immersed in my own small search for the meaning of everything. After fancying the life-is-absurd philosophy of Sartre, and his colleagues like Albert Camus, and the German thinkers that included Martin Heidegger, et al., I eventually arrived at a pretty simplistic conclusion. Most of what I was reading, books with heady titles like Being And Nothingness, struck me as a cross between philosophical ultra-complexity and a TV comedy skit. After all, if a writer declares that everything is nothing, and all is meaningless, then wouldn't that also apply to their writings as well? There was a fatal lack of logic that was lurking there.
Enter, stage two: confronting a supernatural reality. I ended up rejecting the nothingness of the existentialists because I had the sense of what C.S. Lewis called, the "numinous." The realization that the physical world was not all there is. I had a buddy named Jim, and together the two of us chased down every ghost story we could find in our hometown. I was so enamored with the supernatural that I was went rogue, so to speak, and unbeknownst to anyone else, I was preparing to jump headlong into the world of the occult. Then, one day, during a particularly jolting experience, something happened that punched me squarely in the face, figuratively that is. But it was impacting enough to have planted a significant memory.
It was so significant that it took forty-nine years for me to finally decide that the time was right to write my novel, The Occupied. Somewhere, buried in that novel, is that incident. But please, don't ask me which one - I'm not telling. Needless to say, when I saw the movie The Exorcist, I just nodded and said to myself, yeah, been there, done that. Not that I had experienced demon possession, of course, or anything close to it. But rather, that I had pierced that veil, ever so slightly, between the physical and the darkly supernatural, and I knew it was real. But that wasn't the end of my personal journey; it was just the beginning. But my spiritual pilgrimage is another story.
Then there is the third phase; the legal one. After college and then law school, I joined a trial law firm that wisely insisted that I take every criminal case that the local court assigned to me. They told me it would be good courtroom practice, and it truly was. That was back in the day just before the creation of Public Defender offices that we have now, with full-time defense attorneys who represent indigent criminal defendants, free of charge. When I was fresh out of law school, judges would simply call up your office and ask you to take the case - sort of - Atticus Finch/To Kill A Mockingbird style - at a very reduced fee rate, obviously. I took every case the local judges threw at me - rapists, drug dealers, burglars, and even a serial killer. The thing was, even though I had first-hand experience with evildoers, I found many of them, while morally responsible, at bottom to be misguided, twisted souls who made a long series of disastrous decisions. They knew they had made the wrong moral choices, but were simply trying to avoid the worst-case scenario in terms of the consequences.
But then, occasionally, there were the other cases. The men whom I truly believe, in retrospect, were serving the demonic underworld, even if they didn't realize it. That provides the grist for the rest of The Occupied, which tells the story of a trial lawyer who experiences the ability to actually see the demonic realm.
After eleven novels, and happily (though quite unexpectedly) getting listed on the New York Times Best Seller list, I finally decided to write The Occupied. Believe me when I say that I spent time in prayer before daring to write it. I am convinced, just as there is a God who guides our destinies and who rules a kingdom of light, there is also an empire of darkness, and that life here on earth hangs in the balance between the two.