The Lily Cafe is thrilled to welcome author John-Patrick Bayle, here to talk a bit about his Christian historical fiction novel The Order.
Title: The Order
Author: John-Patrick Bayle
Publication date: December 31, 2021
Publisher: Lancelin Publishing
Genre: Mystery, Adventure, Religious
1513 AD — Europe
An ancient origin. A secret society. A long anticipated birth has come to pass. The news spreads in a hushed wave throughout the world. It has begun. Armies move while nations sleep, and one of human history’s greatest movements teeters on the edge of collapse.
The Order is a gripping tale of deception, secrecy, cruelty, and a man whose faith stands firm in the face of it all.
Set in 16th century Europe, the story centers around a young man (Jan Vander Leuk) who believes he has had his life’s course clearly set as he enters an abbey, only to find that, even within the shelter of a monastic community, he is not safe from evil. He quickly becomes aware that the spiritual battlegrounds of the outside world have spilled over into the Church, and have twisted even the holiest of brotherhoods. Upon having his idyllic dreams shattered, the bright, but naïve, young novice is sent on a journey that takes him from fugitive to prisoner and back again. Eventually Jan’s journeys lead him into the Holy Roman Empire, to the city of Wittenberg, where he encounters a man who will reveal to him his true connection to a movement that has spanned centuries, and has secretly penetrated every level of the governments and religious hierarchies throughout all Christendom.
Welcome, and thank you so much for being here here to chat a little about The Order!
To start, what made you want to write The Order? What drew you to the story?
I have always had an intense love of history, so any story or quote from history grabs my attention quite easily. One evening I was reading a biography of a certain historical figure who happens to appear in my book, and there was a portion of his life that was murky at best. There are a lot of questions about how he came to the place in his life where his actions thrust him into the spotlight of history. There are many theories, but the true story is lost to us. There is a gray area, and I thought, “What if it happened like this?”. That is when the story just began to write itself. This person’s life is well known, but that question regarding why he began to think the way he did opened the door to a fiction writer’s most inviting question. “What if…”.
That’s fascinating! Since The Order is historical fiction, I imagine it must have required a great deal of research. What was it like doing the research? How much of it made it into the story?
It did require a great deal of research, which I loved. I enjoy the research as much as I do the writing, though for entirely different reasons. The research gives my characters a purpose. It gives them a reason to exist on the page. Once they get onto the page, however, that purpose has to manifest itself into thoughts and actions that matter, and this comes from inside me. So I love to gain influences from outside, but the outgrowth of those influences are where the real excitement is. It’s an action/reaction event. My characters are fictitious, so they don’t have the families and friends, and enemies, and teachers, and other people in their lives that create challenges, offer opportunities, and shape their character. Research becomes the story of their lives before the reader meets them. Research is my way of getting the backstory.
I can’t really say how much of my research made it into the story exactly. As actual text – probably not much. It makes it into the story as speech, mannerisms, and character. The research helps to provide the reasons why the characters are who they are, so in that regard I suppose you could say almost all of it finds its way into the story to some degree.
I love that you said the research helps give your characters a reason to exist. It certainly makes characters so much more believable when there’s a background to them! Is there a message in The Order? What do you hope readers will take away from it?
There is. There’s a message in every story, isn’t there. The message of The Order is going to be a bit different for each reader because we’re not all robots acting off of the same software. We all have different needs, and we’ll all latch on to different stories within the story. I suppose if I had to narrow it down to a universal theme it would probably be truth. Truth is true, even if its bigger than we able to conceive of. Truth is true, even if our own ignorance (not stupidity) does not allow us to see it just yet. Truth is true, even if it does not appear to serve our purposes – and that’s important because truth does not bend to purpose, purpose must respond to truth and then decide if it will bend or not. Truth is not a tyrant. It requires a response, but it does not require that we agree with it. Our response can be to reject it and live a constructed truth that is not real, but only perception, or it can conform and live within the truth and thrive within the power of something that is bigger than ourselves. Some say that perception is reality, but that’s not exactly accurate. Perception is our narrow view of a very broad reality, but if I perceive gravity to be a myth, this can create some real challenges for me when I try and put my perception to the test. Reality – truth cannot be only personal or it loses its power to unite and to connect. The Order highlights the age-old human struggle to know what is true, and then to react to the truth when we find it. No one has to accept the truth. The truth is often extremely uncomfortable. The truth within us – our real fears, prejudices, insecurities; these are true whether we deal with them or not. These are true whether we accept them or not. We can live outside of those truths and never escape the nagging weight upon our souls, or we can confront them and live free in the knowledge of our own imperfection and vulnerability. The choice of our reaction to truth is very personal, but truth is the overarching reality that exposes who we are personally. So, yes, truth is what the characters in this book are in search of, and it is what they must confront and react to. I suppose my hope would be that this story will entertain, because it is, after all, a work of fiction, and not a metaphysical treatise, but I also hope that it will generate some deep thoughts about what it means to get what we want, or to not get what we want, and to recognize that truth is above both scenarios. I hope this because we will all fail to get what we want sometimes, and that can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be devastating. There is truth within the disappointment that can bear fruit eventually – if we choose to react to the truth and not reject it because of our pain.
It’s certainly true that readers come away from a book with different thoughts and ideas, but I love the idea that The Order is focused on truth and the reader has the opportunity to figure that out for themselves. How would you best describe The Order?
Mystery/Adventure. It’s a mystery that flows into an adventure. There is a knowledge that is out in the world, and the main character is swept up into the stream of that knowledge, but is excluded from it. There are forces impacting him, but he cannot find out why. It reminds me a bit of a late-medieval Bourne Identity. Everyone seems to know what’s happening except the main character. He is just at the effect of it.
Sounds exciting! What was your favorite part of writing The Order? What was the hardest part?
I love the entire process. It wasn’t really hard at all. I suppose trying to carve out the uninterrupted time to write was the most difficult part.
Yes, definitely, finding the time to write can be very challenging! Which one of your characters is your favorite? Which character was the hardest to write?
My favorite character is Sigurd. He doesn’t play a huge role, but he’s the man I wish I could be. I can’t say much about him, but I found myself wishing I could just sit with this man and talk to him for hours. I didn’t really have difficulty writing any of the characters. Benoit was, perhaps, the most complex, but I can’t really say why without giving away too much.
Thanks for sharing a bit about your novel. Turning to you now, how have you done during the pandemic? Has it inspired any part of your writing?
I have written an academic book during the pandemic. I’m a professor, so part of my time has to be spent in the real world (sometimes begrudgingly), so I’ve taken advantage of the seclusion to work on some of my non-fiction pursuits. I do, however, also have 19 chapters of the prequel for The Order written, so I’m pretty excited about that.
That does sound exciting! Why do you write? What do you love about it?
I write because the stories want out of my head. I’m a storyteller. I was born to tell stories, and I think that if I couldn’t share them on the page I would probably go a bit crazy. I love writing, but it’s not just because it’s what I want to do. I love it because it’s a great release for me. Am I the greatest writer in the world? No, of course not. I do tell entertaining stories, and I write characters who feel real and relatable, and that’s worth something.
What’s your writing routine? How do you plan your stories? How long does it take you to write a novel?
I wish I had a better routine. My life is just crazy enough that the establishment of a consistent routine is almost impossible. I have a few too many irons in the fire, and I have for quite a few years now. I’m working on changing that, but at present I have only eliminated a few obligations. I basically write when I get the chance. I do my best thinking at night. I’m a night owl, so I like it when the house is quiet and I’m alone in my den. That’s when my thoughts flow the best. In the not-too-distant future I am hoping to devote more time to research earlier in the day, and then do my writing in the evening after I’ve had some time to think about what I’ve learned.
My life is fairly crazy, too, so I can absolutely sympathize. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get inspiration from history and from literature. I also get inspiration from nature and from my faith. I guess I get it from my life. I don’t shut off any part of my experiences from offering up a story that might entertain and inspire someone. I’m human, and my experiences are relevant to other humans. If I can live them, and then communicate them within the context of an entertaining series of events, then I’m living my purpose by living my life.
Which author or authors would you compare your novel or your writing to? Are there any authors or books in particular you love?
Sue Harrison, a wonderful best-selling author (The Ivory-Carver trilogy, and the Storyteller trilogy) and an incredibly sweet lady reviewed The Order, and she compared it to Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth. I suppose I would say that it has some elements of Umberto Eco’s, The Name of the Rose, since the main character is a monk. As to my writing, I don’t really know who I could compare it to. Someone once told me that some of my writing reminded them of Bernard Cornwell, but I don’t know how true that is.
I could not possibly list all the books I love. That’s one of my real problems. I’m a bit obsessed with books. I have a huge library, and I devote a great deal of time to books. Tolkien’s books are near the top of my list. I love a good adventure. C.S. Lewis – anything by him. He had the ability to take very difficult ideas and distill them down into accessible chunks. I love that about his writings. His characters are vibrant. I really enjoy his work. I do love the classics. I love Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. These books were ahead of their time. If you just read them without thinking about when they were written, you lose some of the genius in them. The authors had such amazing insights into human nature. They really captured people in their rawest, most human states. The characters are so well written. If we’re talking about more contemporary works, Sue Harrison’s books are amazing. I mentioned her earlier. If you want adventure and the celebration of the human spirit, you should not miss her two trilogies. They touch on a time and place that most of us are extremely unfamiliar with, so it’s like entering a new world. They are truly fabulous. I could go on and on, but for the sake of the reader I won’t.
They sound incredible! For some, taking the leap to publish is a huge one. Was that true of you?
Not really. I’m a writer, and I want people to read what I’ve written, so that narrowed my focus to a very few options. Publishing is a lot different today. Authors are called upon to do a lot more marketing than they used to be, and that’s difficult because we’re writers, not marketers. It means that, if you really love what you do, and intend for your work to be read, you must embrace a new skillset and really lean into it. You don’t have to love it, but you have to embrace it because if you don’t, you’ll be writing for a very, very small audience.
Last question: Is there a question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an author interview and how would you answer it?
Not really. I want to be asked whatever people want to know. I guess if I had to offer up something, I would want people to know how criticism impacts me. A writer offers up a part of his or her soul when they write, so negative criticism is never easy to take, but I believe it is important to accept it. Writing is a craft, but it is also an offering, and offerings must be worthy. They can never be perfect, but they need to have certain elements that make them worthy. I accept criticism, and I appreciate it. There are some critiques, however, that must be rejected. I recently had a review, and it was a positive review in general, but it contained one criticism that showed that the reviewer did not read the book very carefully. If they had, they would have seen their error. Several people reached out to me asking how they could have offered up such a criticism because it was so obviously off base. These types of critiques I have to ignore – even though such comments can hurt my sales if people accept them as true. I can’t control that. So criticism is critical for my growth, but it has to be valid. If it isn’t, then it must be ignored or it could leave me bitter, and then I will struggle to have the courage to make another offering in the future.
Thank you so much! It was wonderful to get to know you and The Order a little better!
About John-Patrick Bayle
J.P. Bayle is an adjunct professor at two universities (one in the U.S. and one in Canada), teaching both history and religious studies. He enjoys traveling, since history is one of his great passions. He enjoys visiting famous places that hold the spirit of the past. Bayle has written extensively for magazines and newspapers throughout his career, and has also published some non-fiction work related to his teaching. He lives in Michigan with his wife and two children.
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