Stories on the edge of familiarity

The Real Story Behind “The Illuminated Heart”

Every once in a while, I experience an emotional meltdown (what some might refer to as “a spiritual awakening”). Occasionally, I even blog about it. In March I had a meltdown during the weekend of a conference I was volunteering at, and it led to the final piece of the puzzle I needed in order to begin writing The Illuminated Heart… the piece that I’ve been mentioning the least, incidentally.

Today’s emotional meltdown involved my Indiegogo campaign.

It also occurred in the kitchen while talking with my mother.

This is the first time an emotional meltdown of mine of this kind occurred as a part of a conversation with my mom, which led to a rather interesting and novel conversation. We talked about how I’ve been feeling stressed/discouraged lately with the fact that I haven’t reached my goal yet, that said goal hasn’t even been halfway reached, and that it felt like getting a hundred rejection letters all at once. And other things that weren’t all about me.

Integrity

At the end of the conversation, my mom brought up the word “integrity”. She didn’t really know why she was bringing it up, only that she felt in her heart that she needed to talk about it with me right then in connection to that topic. As she was describing what she referred to with that word, she said something along the lines of:

“Doing what you say you’ll do.”

And

“Being who you say you are.”

The first is obviously a part of the definition of integrity, and the obvious way it’d connect with my situation has to do with me writing the story I said I’d write, and delivering the perks I’ve promised to those who help with funding. The second statement, though, put a whole new perspective on both.

In my efforts to let people know about this campaign and why it’s a good idea to fund it, I’ve been trying a lot of different markety things for the first time. I’ve focused on the surface, glitzy stuff, like the story being a retelling of a Norwegian fairy tale, just set in Iceland, with Viking zombies, etc. While that stuff can be good at getting people’s attention, I’ve been focusing on it to the neglect of the heart of what I’m trying to do with this story.

Putting Aside Cheap Tricks

I’ve been using strategies instead of telling you the real deal.

In other words, I’ve been doing exactly the opposite of my ideal in writing, which is to be completely honest. For which, I apologize. And I want to tell you why I really think my story is awesome and worth funding.

I couldn’t do this when I first made the Indiegogo campaign, because I hadn’t written much of the story yet, so what’s on that page is completely honest about what I could tell you then. As is the video. Where I’ve fallen down is, rather than telling you more as the story has progressed, I’ve been trying to get your attention through colourful, empty lights.

Enough of that. Here is what “The Illuminated Heart” is about:

Dagný’s only brother, Kaj, is dead. He died of illness before his life had really begun, and Dagný blames God for it.

About a week after his death, Kaj comes back as a draugur, a creature intent on the ruin of those it had known in life. With his unholy power, he kills their crops, causes their animals to go insane, and brings them to the brink of starvation. Every single member of Dagný’s village, convinced that her family has brought this curse upon themselves through sin, leaves them alone to die.

Then, one day, a polar bear arrives at their door with a proposition:

“Give me your youngest daughter, and I will make you wealthy.”

The adventure that follows thrusts Dagný into a world where the supernatural intrudes on the natural as a matter of course, where she must act without any assurance of safety, and where she must decide whether to throw away all she’s believed or finally trust in it for the first time.

Christian Fiction?

I’ve considered calling this novella Christian fiction, considering how integral Christianity and God are to the central theme, but I’ve decided it doesn’t fit the genre for three reasons:

  1. I’m not trying to make this theologically perfect. None of the characters fully understand how God works or who he is (just like in real life, if I may point out) and, while God is present, talking and doing things in the story, that doesn’t mean that he explains all his everythings. He just does them until someone is willing to listen to an explanation, which may not even happen.
  2. Like all of my stories, I want people to draw their own conclusions about the truths of the world and people portrayed. This means that, while I make it possible for people to understand my intention with the story, I leave many things more ambiguous than many people are comfortable with, especially in Christian fiction.
  3. The fantasy and horror elements of this story would be extremely problematic for many Christians, especially with the last four chapters where Dagný goes to a place that I can’t reveal without giving you major, major spoilers that you’d probably hate me for if I did. This element is really the biggest part of my reasoning. Right now, it may not seem like it but, when you read the ending, you’ll understand why.

You may call The Illuminated Heart Christian fiction if you think the genre appropriately describes the story. I’m totally ok with that. I’m just not going to. Unless someone presents me a good argument for its appropriateness. :)

The Real Illuminated Heart

Now, as to that March emotional meltdown I mentioned earlier:

The internal problems that Dagný faces (and which drive the entire story) closely mirror the belief that I had for just over half my life that, when I needed him most, God would abandon me.

This comes from the depression I went through in Alabama, during which I’d call out to God to speak to me, to hug me, to do something to help me. And, as far as I was concerned, he did nothing but listen and be silently immovable. Until my meltdown, I knew that these moments had fundamentally altered my relationship with, well, everything, but I didn’t know why or how.

But, on the last day of that conference, I finally discovered the truth of what had happened all those years ago and how God had really been responding. I finally found out how to be free.

Dagný goes through something extremely similar. Everything that happens to her and in her in the first chapter is the reason for the entire story, by the end of which she will discover what God was really doing in the first chapter when she screamed to him out in the hills of Iceland and a polar bear started to chase her home.

If this is a journey you want to read to the end, please contribute to the Indiegogo campaign.

I promise you won’t regret it.

The Illuminated Heart Indiegogo campaign.

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