It’s always so exciting for me when a friend puts out a new book! It was thrilling when I found out that fellow writer and blogger Raina Nightingale had released a book, and I was eager to learn more about it.
I asked her to write a post telling us about her novel Kingdom of Light and what inspired it. It sounds intriguing! I’m happy she agreed to come on as a guest blogger!
About the Book:
A kingdom of darkness where soldiers guard the people against wicked glowstones that attract nightmare monsters and death…
A young girl, terrified of the darkness and drawn to the light. What if the glowstones provide the only protection against the monsters of the dark? What if everything she has ever been told is a lie?
What if the Kingdom of Light is not confined to the afterlife, but can be found even in this world?
With her friends, Louisa discovers that the real world is unlike anything any of them could have ever imagined, and thousands follow…
When I first conceived the initial idea for Kingdom of Light, it came out of the fact that I was thinking about how Jesus is good. He is the maker and giver of all good things, and when we meet Him and follow His call, we receive His best. I was more than a little annoyed by a cycle of reaction and over-reaction that seems to be going on. I’ve no need to name names, and little business doing so since in most cases I know little more than the names, and my knowledge of this cycle is imparted through some associations I had with some evangelism-oriented groups, but there is an unfortunate situation, where someone claims that if one follows Jesus, then that’s the end of material shortages or difficulties of any sort, and if one has anything that appears to be a disability that, too, will be healed, and so forth, and others are at pains to reject this and make a lot of statements like, “God doesn’t care about whether or not you’re happy; He wants you to be holy,” or, “You can choose pleasure and happiness now, and pain and misery forever after, or you can choose pain and misery now, and have happiness and pleasure forever after,” (I’m pretty sure these quotes are not word-for-word).
I’m not going to write a lot of philosophy or talk a lot about theology or dogma here. There’s a place for that, and I could do so (and even have, in other places and at others times), but there’s a place for other things, and dogmatic statements and philosophical discussions have their weaknesses. I’m a firm believer that there are large areas of human nature that have to learn and understand through other means, and that without context – without reaching these areas of our beings – dogmatic statements can sometimes be worse than useless, and that one of these areas of human nature responds strongly to stories. I’m going to write about stories, and a little about why and how I wrote this story.
I have found stories to be an important part of my thought process. I learn what things mean, I discover what I think, and I understand more often than not through stories. Stories unite the concrete and the abstract. In stories, ideas come alive and are put to the test. In stories, concepts and thoughts are made relateable to more than the intellect – and sometimes even to the intellect – and we are more than creatures of pure intellect and logic. To many of us, intellect and logic is not even our first choice of mode of operation, and there is nothing wrong with that: our Lord has made us all unique persons, capable of interfacing with truth and reality, and relating to Him and to each other, differently.
For me, I really know what I think when I can put it into a story, and I often have to put something into a story before I have even the possibility of communicating it elsewhere. Stories point me to other people’s thoughts and ideas in a way that dry, intellectual communication can’t. The images of a story, the fact that it is story, not one moment, but a development, something in motion, sometimes with more focus on characters, sometimes with more focus on symbolic imagery, are all capable of what other modes of communication fail, and its limitation is often its strength.
A story does not make itself out to be dogma. A story can be “truth, so far as it goes,” – far more than metaphor – but it does not make itself out to be, “the full truth, nothing but the truth, succinctly and accurately characterized,” about anything. A story is a journey, a discovery, an exploration, not a “teaching.” A story is personal. A story provides context, meaning, life. A story is flexible, and its limitations and the ways in which it is vaguer and less clear than other things are one with its ability to convey vision and value that can’t be communicated in something less opaque and more clearly defined. There is a saying that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and to a large degree what is understood by anything – a story, a philosophical essay, a dogmatic statement – is within the eye of the one who sees and the ear of the one who hears.
A story does not bypass that, and it does not pretend that it does – if anything, a story brings that out, and it is easier and more natural for people to know that when they hear a story, what they hear is in part determined by what they are prepared to hear, whether that comes from within their own hearts or from the contexts of their environment. At the same time, a story has an ability to provide depth, to frame and color, to be an environment and context, that these other things do not have. A story has the potential to suggest the value and richness of knowing Jesus, of living in the Light of the World, without falling so readily into the dangers of platitudes which quickly become meaningless and then get tossed to and fro in a storm of reaction and little understanding.
So, I naturally turned to a story to express what I saw, and to hopefully point towards the truth the general discussions I saw were missing and help people to see and articulate what they might really understand, instead of repeating platitudes and doctrinal statements that had become meaningless in their present context. Kingdom of Light was first born with a rather simple image including the setting of the story and the initial journey and discovery of Louisa.
Louisa’s village – and the entire known kingdom – lives in complete darkness, using crude torches for what light they must have, and sleeping and going about their work either in the poor light of the torches or in complete darkness. Everyone is taught that their steadfastness will be rewarded with an eternity in light, but that if anyone keeps one of the rare glow-stones – which provide a brighter and steadier light, without the difficulties of torches and which are to be destroyed upon discovery – will be pursued and chased by monsters and spend eternity in darkness. Louisa is terrified of the darkness, and scared of the torches, and one Warm Time, while doing what gathering she can with her torch, she finds a glow-stone.
That is how Kingdom of Light started. It remained that, but it soon became far more, for how can one write a fantasy about an abstract, generalized ‘experience of goodness’? It will quickly become far more, so Kingdom of Light developed, following the personal journey of Louisa and two others through a variety of mystical experiences wherein they discover the real world – and while they see the same Real World, their experiences of finding, following, and trusting the Light are also very different, even when they are parallel. It soon became very mystical and symbolic, in a similar vein as Phantastes and Lilith by George MacDonald (I don’t know of a genre label for works of that sort, but if I did, I would say that’s the genre of Kingdom of Light).
It was a fascinating experience to write, as usually I have some idea of where a story is going, a sense of the approximate order of the scenes and of how it will end. Kingdom of Light I wrote scene by scene – sometimes even line by line. Beautiful scene by beautiful scene, rich with imagery, every image thick with meaning often deeper than I myself perceived or can say I grasp. The Lady Lily (the lady in pink whom Louisa meets in Ch. 8 “Beautifying Light”) was inspired by a figure in an ancient dream I had as a young child of going to Heaven. Most of the dream is vague and half-forgotten, nothing but a faint lingering sense of the wholesome and indescribable, with only that one image still clear in my memory, and even that image representative of a sense of awesome bliss and other things utterly unnameable that lie beyond my comprehension or memory.
I think the story begins its long, deep dive into the mystical and symbolic about the time of that first meeting. From that point on, though Louisa does not see the fullness of the Real World, she sees everything in the Light. She does not see all of the Light, or all things fully in the Light, and there are times when the Light is very dim, but nothing can ever be the same again. Eventually, even the Darkness is transformed by the Light.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Thank you for having me, Mariella!
About the Author
Raina Nightingale has been writing high fantasy since she could read well enough to write stories with the words she knew (the same time that she started devouring any fiction she could touch). She especially loves dragons, storms, mountains, stars, forests, volcanoes, a whole lot of other things, and characters who make you feel whatever they do. When she’s not learning and exploring either her fantasy worlds or this one, she enjoys playing with visual art, among other things. She will always believe kindness is stronger than hatred.