My latest book (The Empress's Lover)is, in a sense, about that. It is escapist, of course – surely all fiction is to some degree? – and it’s set in a fantasy world. A place that does not exist, has never existed. Somewhere ‘unreal’.
This world is dominated by the mighty Eskarine Empire. And the Empire is itself dominated by the First Order; people whose gifts of strength, long life and empathy set them apart from normal human beings. This is causing increasing resentment especially as the gifts seem to be failing in their power. There’s a whiff of revolution in the air.
Yet the Empress Anatarna still rules with a firm hand. A formidable woman, even by the standards of the First Order. As the story starts she has been on the throne for seventy eight years and is at the height of her strength and beauty. But a chance meeting with a young man of the Second Order, the Friar Thylan an’Darsio leads to a new experience for both of them.
They fall in love, and that love opens up entirely new levels of reality.
No spoilers here, but as the story progresses, Anatarna discovers that much she had thought was real is a lie, and the love she has discovered is the truest reality of all.
This book isn’t an allegory, but in some ways it reflects my beliefs as a Christian. It is sometimes hard, in this world, to distinguish truth from lies, and many might question if there is such a thing as ‘reality’ at all. But as a Christian I believe that there are levels of reality beyond our perception, and at the heart of all reality is love.
One of the great ‘mysteries’ of the Christian faith is the Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three in one. A difficult doctrine to understand, but I think it’s best approached by seeing it as the perfect relationship. A union of total love. And to me this is an awesome concept! At the centre of creation, the very baseline of all reality, there is neither a pantheon of bickering deities, nor a single monolithic being, but a relationship. A family, a community. Love.
And we are invited to share in it.
In the story, through love, the Empress finds a way to save her Empire. In the Bible, we are offered, in Christ, a love that will save us.
I came across this quote today:
‘Only with your heart can you see clearly. The most important things are invisible to the eye.’ (Antoine de Saint- Exupéry, ‘The Little Prince’)
Love offers perceptions on a different level to our reason, and opens doors to new realties. The ultimate reality is the eternal love of God: not a reality to escape from but a reality to escape to.
'The Empress's Lover' is available now for Kindle or Kindle Apps. Find it at Amazon.co.uk or at Amazon.com
AND FROM 1st - 5th of February, it's FREE to download!