In a recent Mercury Writers’ Guild Zoom meeting, author Lois Drake was interviewed by Summit University’s Patrick Rogers. The topic was writing fictional stories or novels about the teachings. This issue of Tips & Techniques shares the transcript of this enlightening interview (edited for clarity). We hope you will enjoy it and that it will inspire many of our readers to try the fiction approach to write about the teachings!
Patrick: Hello everybody. We would like to welcome our special guest today, Rev. Lois Drake. Lois is a long-time Keeper of the Flame, a former TSL president, a regional minister, and a well-traveled Summit University instructor, including trips to India. Lois is also a published author. Today we hope she can share some of her own writing journey with us, including the creation of her 2009 novel, Issa: The Greatest Story Never Told.
Patrick: Lois, welcome!
Lois: Thank you, Patrick. I am so honored to be here with all of you. It’s good to see you!
Patrick: Lois, you chose fiction as your vehicle to write about the lost years of Jesus. Tell us why.
Lois: Well, in a way it was the need of the hour. But also, I appreciate storytelling because many people don’t grasp the whole concept of the teachings without it being wrapped in a story. Just as Jesus taught in parables, many people and especially young people can only understand these esoteric concepts if they come in the form of a story. So that’s why I decided to reach out a little bit and try fiction.
Patrick: Storytelling obviously is a huge vehicle for communicating the Word. What core idea or ideas related to the teachings of the ascended masters did you hope to get across with your story? Did you have a core theme?
Lois: I sure did, and it’s a theme I love to convey whenever I possibly can. It’s the theme that God is in you, that we have a God Presence, and that we are meant to be the Christ and the Buddha. We’re meant to do it! In fact, in the process of doing this book a friend of mine, who is a consultant for writers, read the book. And I said to him, “What’s the core concept?” And he said to me, “It’s that we have to do it.” So that is really what I wanted to convey—the understanding that Jesus’s message is that we have to do it. We have to become the Christ. We have to attune with our own God-self. God lives within us.
Patrick: Thanks, Lois. What about your own writing studies? What kinds of writing training have you had, including your own self-directed research into writing?
Lois: Well, it’s been an interesting path. This is so wonderful that I have this opportunity to reflect on my own background in life as a writer. I can remember first learning to read. And you know you go into the library as a little elementary school student, and you pull out some books, and you look at ones with all those pictures, and you learn to read. And somehow a teacher must have said, “Well, the author of this book…” And even at that young age I remember thinking, I want to be an author.
And then you grow up and you have to work and do all these other things that you do. And you forget about that original dream to a certain extent. But that was the beginning. And then in high school I think I might have been the poet laureate. When I graduated, I had a poem that was in the graduation program, so that was for me a big thing.
Then I became an elementary school teacher. So I used my creative writing with the children to make up stories, to teach lessons. And even when I lived in Finland, I taught English to Finnish kindergarten children by telling them stories and making up lessons and making up songs.
Then I switched careers and worked in advertising for many years. That’s when I really became heavily involved in the writing and editing of a pharmaceutical magazine and editing advertising copy where you have to have a certain amount of creativity. I also learned about technical medical writing.
So, it’s been a process, a long road of different kinds of writing training. And reading, of course–when you find something that you love to read, you want to emulate it.
Patrick: That’s great. The best writers are usually voracious readers, so step one in writing training is reading quality writing, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. So please tell us a bit about your research process prior to writing Issa.
Lois: There was quite a process. There was a [Summit Lighthouse] staff member at that time, Fred Peck. He came across some historical work about a civilization that lived near Iran and northern China called the Kushans. And we kind of saw this thread of thinking about the lost people of Sanat Kumara, and where did these Kushans come from, and why did they have clothing that was like Europeans, and why were they so different from the people that were in that area.
And we started to weave this research together of the lost years of Jesus and this lost empire of people, of the Kushans, who were very critical in spreading Buddhism in later generations after Jesus’s time: his research and then my research of the lost years of Jesus, the lost teachings of Jesus, the Bible, any other things that I could find about the years of Galilee, of Jesus, and what things were like in those days. And it helped us to weave a story comparing two different kinds of kingdoms: the kingdom that Jesus came to share and to teach people about, the kingdom of heaven, and an earthly kingdom that was just in its nascent beginning, was just starting to be formed.
And the organization at that time, the Summit Lighthouse, was really hoping to have an author who could go out and speak about their book. And so they asked me to please make this story based on the lost years of Jesus and then promote it. And so that’s what I did. And the research was quite time consuming, not only before the book was written but after the book was written because we had to do extensive fact checking to make sure that things were both theologically correct and correct in terms of what would really have been around in those days.
Patrick: It’s interesting that you mention fact checking even though it’s fiction. So you’re trying to be authentic and true to the teachings also?
Lois: Yes. Issa is considered historical fiction. And my hat’s off to our Karen Gordon who did a lot of the fact checking along with me after the book was written. Because if you write historical fiction, and you have something in there that’s not historically accurate—even what they would eat in those times, or when did Buddhism come to Tibet—somebody could really not only be thrown off spiritually but could be turned off to the whole idea of the book. So, I really felt a keen amount of responsibility, and still do, in writing any kind of fiction, but particularly in writing about Jesus and the lost years. I was so grateful to have The Lost Years of Jesus by Mother to be able to work off of that.
Patrick: What about the editing process, Lois? Tell us a little bit about that. Was it a grind or a joy, or both?
Lois: Great question. Well, dear prospective authors, or published authors, that is quite an initiation to go through. So get ready to surrender everything. The first editor that the book went to was brutal. And that was so excellent. I mean he would make jokes out of some of the things that I had put in the book, and rightly so because some of my writing was just off. I hadn’t carefully edited it myself. I learned a lot about it [editing] myself after this. It was hard at first and then I improved a lot.
Then I got another editor who was much gentler and kinder. And we worked well together. But it took a lot after that to clean up the language, to make sure that the chapters weren’t too convoluted and could be followed. It’s a process. The book went through three or four types of editing. The writing was the fastest part. The editing may have taken another couple of years.
So, it is something to be prepared for, especially spiritually and egotistically. Because one cannot believe that they own their own book. It’s not your book; it’s not your novel; it’s not your anything. It’s God’s. So as far as I’m concerned anything that would make God’s work less of me and more of what it needed to be, the better. That’s not always easy to do.
Patrick: Yes, the surrender process, surrendering your pet phrases or even pet chapters that go out the window, that’s really something. Tell us, Lois, what kinds of spiritual challenges you had in bringing out this book and how you dealt with them?
Lois: Well, every one of us is different. But the biggest challenge for me, I think, would be fear. Because you are baring your soul. You’re putting your creation out there for everybody to not like it. And there are plenty of people who don’t want to hear a different narrative about Jesus, or who don’t want to hear the teachings of the ascended masters. They don’t want to hear anything that’s different from their orthodox theology, whatever that might be.
So fear is subtle. You don’t necessarily think, “Oh gee, I’m so afraid that something’s going to happen.” What happens instead is you feel a weight on you in the morning perhaps. You have to be ready with your armor of Archangel Michael and make your calls for your work and ask for the disc of light. You have to ask for all that protection no matter what you’re writing or where you’re going to put it out. You have to be prepared for the energy that comes to you after you do put something out.
People might even have idolatry of you. They might flatter you, say that they love your books so much. Or they might really hate it. So, I’ve had both. And it might not be the grand success that you hoped it would be. But again, even if your book touches one person and helps them find a key, that could mean the ascension of one person, and that could mean the saving of a planet.
One has to be prepared for being able to graciously receive people who don’t think you did the right thing, who don’t think you wrote this the right way, or love it so much that they’ll thank you forever. We have to maintain that inner balance through everything we’ve learned through these beautiful teachings.
Patrick: That’s a wonderful and comprehensive answer, thank you. This is a bit of a different approach, but as you know, writing a novel, or writing a non-fiction book for that matter, is less than half the work. A writer also needs to learn how to sell his or her book to readers, how to go to market with it. Tell us what you learned about that process, having gone through it.
Lois: That’s a very, very important question. If you think that your book will sell itself, that anyone else is going to sell your book or blog or whatever it is, think again. I have learned that if you want to sell your writing you have to be the one to sell it. In today’s world you must develop a following. I have not really done that, but one needs to be able to use social media, use all different kinds of online platforms to get followers who are interested in your ideas. So, we all have to learn to be a little bit savvy in those areas, so that’s an area that I really am looking to learn more and do more with as soon as it’s feasible.
Patrick: I’m so excited to hear that, Lois. That’s what I’m deeply involved in right now: building a following, a mailing list, and promoting my books on all different platforms. I hope we as writers can learn from each other in this area. I can tell you what I’ve been doing, and you can tell me what you’ve been doing, and we can accelerate our learning of the marketing aspect of writing with each other’s help. So last question, Lois: what would you say were the key lessons you learned from writing and marketing Issa?
Lois: You know, I really encourage you all just to go for it. Because there is a great need to find ways to talk about the teachings so that people can understand them. We have many books, and we have many ways of explaining the teachings academically—to explain the Chart of the Presence, to explain who the masters are, or to go and find research about reincarnation and these types of things.
But helping people to identify or to internalize those teachings, and change the consciousness of a planet, we must have all those things I just described. We can’t do it without those very well-presented explanations of the basics of the teachings.
But we also need the examples of people who have applied the teachings, who can tell their life story, or tell the story of someone else, or tell a fictional story that explains all these things, so that people can soak it up and apply it in their lives if they’re unable to get it any other way. So go for it. At the same time let’s all help each other on how to put it out there where people can find it and how that works.
So, lots to learn and that’s the big picture from my world.
Patrick: That’s fantastic. Thank you, Lois.
Lois: My pleasure.