“Would you talk about becoming an author? Write a blog post on that for me,” is what John asked of me.
“Do you mean why I wrote this book?” I responded.
“Yeah, something like that. People just want to know what is going on in your mind when you write. It is, ugh, pretty unique how you think, you know” he said.
Great backpedal, John. Nice save.
Yes, I have been asked a few times, “Why did you write a book?” as a general question, and “Why did you choose to do a trilogy as your first work?” as a specific one. They have quite different answers, with little in common. Each one requires some background to respond to, so bear with me as I extract it. I need to discuss what impacted me and what I was trying to accomplish with a book that my life up to that point failed to do.
The first point of significance that may seem unrelated is that you also want to write a book. I say that tongue and cheek, but not really. The New York Times published an article that said 81% of people surveyed said they want to write a book one day. As such, my desire was not unique. Fundamentally, we need not be taught that there is something magical about seeing printed literature that is associated with some of the contents of your soul. That combination of name, graphics, color style and title, all attributed to your discipline, pulled on me like the desire for a cold drink on a hot day. I say ‘printed literature’ with all seriousness, as our culture is permeated with low quality and relatively unthoughtful e-writing that does not meet the requirement of literature. After all, one of the most important attributes of true literature is its ability to grow and expand after the author dies. After all, we all checked some boxes when we signed up for social media and realize that when we die, that content doesn’t live on as a book does.
I started my writing career with blogs (like this one!), but once I saw the essence of blogging, I concluded that blogs are a cultural hiccups, soon to be replaced with video and other reduced efforts to express life’s meaning. When WordPress dies, so do my blogs. Paper has a better chance of surviving a hack than some zeros and ones in a cloud somewhere. Paper is independent of power and Internet access, as well. Writing allows our lives to have something that isn’t faceless when we are dead. Lastly, with an expiration date that exceeds our lifespan, literature has a unique value that a face-to-face conversation does not nor cannot have.
Without question, nearly all writers can point back to a specific book or a specific author and say, “that content changed me, for the better.” Sure, I had my authors, but they were impacting based on time and situational specifics. Dostoyevsky rocked my soul when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, as I was experiencing separation from family and suffering from disease; reading his works connected back to my own story. He did a great job at taking an extreme experience and presenting it to the soul. I took that attribute from him and added it to my writing style. Later, when I became a parent of more than one child, I found the depth yet brevity of some stories in National Geographic to give me an escape to other places and times that I could only imagine. Some of those places became entries on my “travel” spreadsheet, that contains all the places I want to go and all the places that I have been. Both types of content inspired me.
Those two examples aside, the Bible has had the greatest impact on me. Whether I view it from the perspective of Pascal who made the choice of believing its contents more of a wager than a statement of faith or taking it from a historical perspective, I find it impressive that a book filled with innumerable tales of great failure and human tragedy can have such a great outcome for us all. The theme throughout the Bible that I identify with is that humanity really screws up, yet on the backside of the screwup is redemption, reconciliation, and life with God. That message you will always see in my works. In a world where everything seems relative and each person doing what they think is right in their own eyes, the message that God defines right and wrong, not humanity, needs to be taught. Concurrently, the message that God saves us from our sins and crimes is equally relevant.
But why did I write The Seeker trilogy as a first piece of printed literature? Great question!
To start, my circumstances played an unprecedented role in both the how and when I got serious about creating content. At 52 years old, I sold my business and was more than ready to rewrite the remainder of my life’s content to the extent I could. A few months after selling, my father died, and that left me with no living parents. My children were all but grown and gone, and I really didn’t have to get up and go to work as I did in the past. I am a teacher at my core, and I still do lots of teaching things (Business consulting, athletic coaching, and adventure travel planning), but my life was no longer a race for accomplishment. I still loved the lifestyle of an endurance athlete, and writing fit nicely into that regimen, without much sacrifice. I had to establish the discipline of creating content every day, but I was inspired a bit by social media. I saw a world where republished content was well received and hypothesized that new content would be even better received. Considering how happy everyone seemed to be celebrating old stuff, I thought certainly that the new would also be embraced. Nope! Critics wanted more of what the media and government where already telling them, and my message of “trust God and what He says” often got thrown out before reaching first base. My story that I needed to tell included multiple generations of individuals, each with their own unique struggle, but not inseparable from what their parents went through. I needed a couple of books to get that story told.
My favorite crowd and perhaps most receptive crowd are the twenty to thirty somethings. They are disenfranchised by their prospects for a great outcome, settling for “pretty good,” instead of great. They have been sold to their entire lives, and they can smell out an insincere message from a mile away. That said, I admire their desire for the truth, to be seen with their own eyes and their own experiences. For once they get it, they will go “all in,” just like the risk takers who came before them. It is for them that I think about when I write.
The contents of the actual story come from my extroversion blended with my intermittent disagreeableness. I also have a history of great leadership experience, sexual abuse, oration without a prompt, and a propensity to get addicted. I wish that weren’t funny. My version of life will always include rich intercultural content, organized by language, culture and profession. We live in a world of diversity, but not with skin color and sex. Our real diversity lies in all the different personality types amongst us.
To my wife’s chagrin, I feel no discomfort when I make an ass out of myself in a public setting. Indeed, that is how I have developed my linguistic skills and confidence when I learn a new language. This combination has made the Jeff Gaura literary stew, sans hot sauce. I love exploring the polar ends of experience while I am at it. You will see conversations and thoughts about serfdom, opulence, altruism, and oppression, all in the same sequence.
I conclude that the struggles of the current generation have more in common with young people from 2000 years ago than they have that are different. The problem is that I don’t know that, as I don’t have anything written by young people from 2000 years ago, so I have to assume that my conclusion is true. My characters’ dialog reflects this claim, as does my choice to focus on what both groups know to be really important (clothing and transportation did not make the list, but food did).
Book 1 has a unique battery of circumstance and sequential relationships that come into existence as the Temple of King Solomon falls. The second book tells of how the children who lived in the “after temple” world made sense of their Hebrew heritage. The “head honcho” from book 1 who didn’t really understand the message of Book 1 ends up being central to book . Book 3 tells of redemption and sacrifice that few understand, for it requires an understanding of John 15:13 that says, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I hope that does not get treated as a spoiler alert.
I already have some thoughts on future works but getting through these first three books should take the better part of a year.