The story behind my 2010 novel, Radiance, is a long one—more than two decades.
First, a quick synopsis of the book. Radiance centers on an out-of-work PR professional living on the moon who is drawn into two extraordinary events: a dark conspiracy led by his former boss, and the search for 10 special individuals by two strangers who are more than they appear. These events ultimately intertwine to decide the fate of humanity—and much more.
Radiance is my first novel, but not my first published book. In the mid-1990s I wrote three novelettes for a publisher serving adult literacy and English As A Second Language programs. (I’ll get around to blogging about those at some point, too.) But the road to Radiance began before any of those.
Radiance has its roots in two short stories I wrote in the early 1990s. “Go Ye” was a piece I pitched to an international church magazine. In the story, two strange men confront a church’s elders, challenging them to do more to serve the poor, the sick and the suffering. The elders are offended and throw the men out, but the pastor follows them outside—just in time to see them fly off in a spaceship. He realizes they are missionaries sent to Earth because so many human Christians have failed to obey Jesus.
The magazine not only rejected the story, but the editor upbraided me for portraying the church in such a negative light. Thirty years later, seeing that many Christians continue to turn their backs on the very people Christ called us to love and minister to, I stand by that portrayal.
Shortly after came another short story, “For The Sake Of Ten.” This one is much closer to what later became Radiance. Based on the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, “Ten” takes place on an asteroid refueling station where an angel comes looking for 10 righteous people—the number needed to save the asteroid from destruction. As in the Bible tale, the quest fails.
“For The Sake Of Ten” is much like Radiance—Canaan, the Cathedral, cyborgs, even the telltale “radiance” all make an appearance. The novel is quite different in other ways, but its strongest beginnings are found here.
I shopped “For The Sake Of Ten” around for a while without success. Rather than give up on it, I started thinking about its potential as a novel. Right after New Year’s Day 1993, I decided to give it a shot. With my first PC—complete with a 100MB hard drive and a copy of WordPerfect software—I began investing long hours in writing the novel, mostly on weekends. My day job had become quite stressful by then (and would continue its high-pressure spiral for the next 18 years, but that’s a tale for another day), so I didn’t have the energy for nighttime work. But that creative outlet was lifesaving on Saturdays and Sundays.
I finished the first draft at the end of March. I kept the short-story title, For The Sake Of Ten, and would hang onto it for over a decade.
I edited and rewrote the draft over and over for months. I also shared it with people I knew would give me honest, critical feedback—both editorially and story-wise. Before year’s end, I had what I thought was a solid novel ready to sell to an eager publisher.
Truth is, that’s when my own quest was just beginning.