Guest Blog: MY ANGEL HATES YOU – COUNTER CULTURAL THEMES IN THE NEVER PRAYER by Aaron Michael Ritchey

I have a very special guest with me today talking about a “No-No” topic — Religion. Please welcome Author of The Never Prayer, my friend, and fellow philosopher, Aaron Michael Ritchey!

Aaron, thank you for being here today and for talking about such a fun, stimulating subject!

 

Thank you, Kary Rader for letting me crash your blog like a Cadillac Escalade into a prison wall.  Hopefully there won’t be too many bricks to clean up.

Ms. Rader suggested I write about how our cultural beliefs affected the writing of my debut novel, The Never Prayer.  Yeah, heady stuff, but how awesome is that?

In some ways, my book is completely aligned with our cultural beliefs.  I truly believe that America’s primary religion is romantic love, and in that way, The Never Prayer is a romance.  My heroine finds healing and redemption through a love affair with an angel.  Yet the story doesn’t start out lovey dovey, not at all.  And that’s where I get all counter cultural, yo.

I wanted to play with some of the stereotypes of angels and demons, and so at the beginning of the book it’s not clear who is the demon and who is the angel.  Demons are all about hell and heat and torture, right?  Not my demon.  And angels are about love, acceptance and goodness, yeah?  Again, my angel doesn’t play by the rules.

In your traditional American story, the angels are good, the demons are bad, and it’s heaven versus hell.  I did NOT want to write a story that was so easy, so both my demon and my angel are broken, and my heroine is caught in the middle, also broken.

Ah, I love my little book.  It’s a treatise on service, a very Christian idea, because in the end, hell is selfish.  Caught up in our little drama, it’s so easy to torture ourselves with what we want and what we don’t have.  And yet, my book also has existential atheist themes – if life is meaningless, we have to create our own meaning, and if heaven is empty, we must be the angels.

My angel wants to fix the world, and at the beginning, he hates my heroine because she is so human and imperfect, but as he grows and changes, he realizes that being human is hard and that life is messy, but we can find joy in the mess.  Our struggle gives life meaning, and if God is anywhere, God is in the struggles that defines our lives.

As for my demon, he is all appetite, another one of America’s religions.  What is Thanksgiving if not a celebration of our appetites?  We hunger, so thank God we have turkey to stuff ourselves with.  Dude, the turkey gets stuffed, and then we eat the stuffed turkey to stuff ourselves.  My mind just exploded.

I can be pretty judgmental of American culture, but I love being an American because we Americans are a hopeful people, but there is one area where we go astray.  We think we can kill the demons in our lives and be perfectly good and happy.  Look at our stories. There is evil, we kill the evil, and we all live happily ever after.

I don’t think it works like that.

I don’t think we can kill our demons.  I think we have to do something harder—I think we have to live with them.  There’s an old story about an Indian chief who had two wolves tattooed on his chest—one was a wolf of darkness and evil, and the other, a wolf of goodness and light.  When asked about his ink, the wise old chief explained that the wolves are fighting over his heart.  Which one wins?  The one he feeds.

So my heroine does find healing and redemption through romantic love, but she also makes it through to the end because she learns to starve the demons around her while embracing hope.  Because I think it’s a universal truth that what we focus on grows and flowers, and what we ignore diminishes.  If you want peace, quit fighting.  And trying not to fight?  Well, that can be a struggle.

So that’s my book, part Christianity, part atheism.  Part light, part dark, but there is joy.  As long as we remember to starve the demons and feed the angels.

 

The Fury of Heaven The Desires of Hell — The Never Prayer

A Broken Girl Shattered by the death of her parents, Lena knows she is not handling her sorrow well – keeping to herself, running drugs, risking her little brother.  But she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her disintegrating family together.

Two Lost Souls Lurking on the edges of the afterlife, Chael and Johnny Beels have spent centuries manipulating events, one pushing for good, the other sowing chaos.  Now these two desperate souls have taken human form to play a dangerous game of hope and despair with Lena trapped in the middle.

The Ultimate Sacrifice Lena must maneuver the shadowy realm between angel and demon, love and lust, good and evil, until she finds the courage to see the truth and make the ultimate sacrifice.

When do we struggle to change the world? When do we let go and embrace life’s broken beauty?

 

Aaron Michael Ritchey

Aaron Michael Ritchey was born with Colorado thunderstorms in his soul.  He’s sought shelter as a world traveler, an endurance athlete, a story addict, and even gave serious thought to becoming a Roman Catholic priest.  After too brief a time in Paris, he moved back to the American West and lives semi-comfortably with three forces of nature: a little, blonde hurricane, an artistic tornado, and a beautiful, beautiful blizzard.

He is happiest dancing among the extremes, reading Twilight,  Atlas Shrugged , and A Case for God at the same time.  Like a playlist on shuffle: Fatboy Slim to Rammstein to George Strait to Katy Perry.   He loves the ambiguous and the incongruous.  The beauty of reality, as well as the tragedy.  From the basest evils to the most transcendent good.

So writing Young Adult novels is perfect for him because that is a time of extremes and firsts, and who doesn’t love firsts?    First time on our own, first kisses, first heartbreaks, first everything.  It’s an exciting, dramatic time, and that’s exactly what a good story needs, excitement and drama.

www.aaronmritchey.com www.facebook.com/theneverprayer www.twitter.com/aaronmritchey

 

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About Kary Rader

Kary Rader is a stay-at-home mother of three, avid reader and slave to the characters and worlds inside her head. Always creative, she's drawn to stories with fantastical worlds and creatures. With a little bit of magic and divine guidance, there isn't anything that can't be accomplished. And it's the power of words that creates and destroys. Vanquishing evil and injustice while finding eternal love in the process is all in a day's work. And with the help of her critique partners and master cartographer imaginary places come to life. Come join her for an adventure and maybe you too will be claimed by passion and changed by love. Because there is no greater power than the human spirit and anything is possible if you believe. Let the fantasy begin…

Comments

Guest Blog: MY ANGEL HATES YOU – COUNTER CULTURAL THEMES IN THE NEVER PRAYER by Aaron Michael Ritchey — 28 Comments

  1. There are so many comments I want to make. But I’ll start with this — “America’s primary religion is Romantic Love.” Holy cow, Aaron! I’m not in a position to dispute that. Clearly, a strong case can be made that our culture as a majority holds that belief. I myself love “romantic love”, but don’t believe it is the end-all-be-all. I believe true love is sacrifice, which of course, is Christian based–He who is greatest among you, let him be the servant of all. But the flip side to a love that sacrifices is someone to sacrifice for — and our need for a savior. So it is my personal belief that our culture’s mis-guided worship of romantic love is really a plea to fill the empty hole created in us for a Savior. That’s not to say romatic love doesn’t have it’s place; it does. But it’s utter failure in the role we’ve cast it in — the loneliness of our society, the demise of the family unit and the divorce rate should be proof enough that it doesn’t meet the need.

    • Hi Kary, I totally agree. Some of my friends say people walk around with a “God shaped hole” inside themselves, and they try to fill it with a bunch of stuff, but only the Divine can fill it. Not necessarily the Judeo-Christian God, but some sort of Divinity. I’m pretty open-minded, and I say Shiva can do in a pinch. Or Vishnu. I’m easy.

  2. I love the idea of a broken angel. Divinity that equals perfection is a more depressing idea. Life on earth has no hope of being devine if the first qualification is perfection. Divinity is probably more closely related to balance, IMO.

    Liked your page on FB!

    -Alyssa Turner

  3. What a great post! Your book sounds good, Aaron. With the deluge of angels-and-demons stories on the market today, it’s always good to see one that stands apart from the crowd. Yours definitely sounds like it does, and I’m going to check it out. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Very interesting take on things. I have an angel/demon story coming out in the spring. I’ll have to give Aaron’s a read. Sounds great!

  5. Aaron’s statement “If life is meaningless, we have to create our own meaning,” really resonates with me. I teach absurdist plays like Waiting for Godot and No Exit based on existentialism and his statement is how we keep from shooting ourselves when we realize those philosophers are saying there is no purpose to life and we are all just waiting to die. Then you create a purpose, a meaning within yourself. If it means creating a Savior, then He’s done just that. Saved you. I love the movie Signs because it talks so strongly about faith and belief in something greater than ourselves.

    Sorry, I’ll shut up now. LOL But this was a fantastic post! Great way to wake up in the morning. :)

    • I keep trying existential atheism, but it never sticks. Even if all religions are made-up hocum, there is something inside of me that knows there is “something” else. When asked if he believed in God, Carl Jung said something like, “I don’t believe. I know!”

      A fabulous book on the subject is A CASE FOR GOD, by Karen Armstrong. It’s a readable, yet very well researched book on the the history of atheism. Good stuff.

  6. Very interesting. I like the idea of broken demons and angels that don’t play by the rules. I’m assuming that some people will be pissed off by this turning of an age-old belief on its head, but that’s what great writing is about–making people think (and okay, sometimes making them rant and rave). :) I’ll be picking this one up.

    • Adriana! Yahoo! So far the Christians who’ve read my book really like it because though it’s secular, the central message is very Catholic — being of service to others creates meaning.

  7. You know, because of this post, I’m totally going to read this book. I agree that Americans are a hopeful bunch, and always seek to romanticize their lives, most especially love. Ha, I can sympathize, and that’s entirely why I read romantic fiction to begin with because it’s fills a void in my own everyday life. Most people love “happily ever afters” since you rarely get just that in life. I also agree about not being able to kill your demons. I think you can truly find your own definition of happiness when you accept those demons and learn to live with them. Very cool post. I’m off to add this book to my list now. :)

    • Thanks, Melissa. For all you reading my little book, remember to add a review to Amazon. Every time you add a review to a book, a fairy gets their wings. Or something.

      And yeah, happily ever afters are nice. My book has a bittersweet ending, but most people find it satisfying. My next book definitely has a happily ever after. Being human is hard, and romance does it make it sweet, I gotta say.

  8. Your book sounds awesome–right up my alley, LOL.
    I have many views on life, God, love, angels, demons, why we are here, yadda, yadda.
    One thing I do know is this: life here on Earth is NOT supposed to be perfect–it will NEVER be perfect. The more we try to make it perfect the more crap goes wrong. This is Earth, not Heaven. Heaven–or whatever afterlife home you believe in is THE PLACE we here strive to live one day. Here we are learning, experiencing, making mistakes and hopefully learning from them. I do believe love is the greatest gift we are given, but even love here is not perfect.
    Excellent post!

    • Oh, Brenda, your post took my back to my Jesuit High School experiences. “The Kingdom of God” was always right here, but not yet. In the gospel, there was this idea that the Kingdom of God would come, and life would be perfect, but that the Kingdom starts now, today, right now. Kind of an eastern philosophy sort of thing. We find peace when we stop clinging to our suffering, and the Christian Gospels use different language, but it’s the same idea. Nirvana is coming, but it’s also right now. Thanks for the post!

  9. For all the people who say the world is imperfect, and can never be perfect, I offer this counter-point from the Tao Te Ching.
    Do you want to improve the world?
    I don’t think it can be done.

    The world is sacred.
    It can’t be improved.
    If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
    If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.

    There is a time for being ahead,
    a time for being behind;
    a time for being in motion,
    a time for being at rest;
    a time for being vigorous,
    a time for being exhausted;
    a time for being safe,
    a time for being in danger.

    The Master sees things as they are,
    without trying to control them.
    She lets them go their own way,
    and resides at the center of the circle.

    As for Aaron’s book, I can happily vouch for it. It is a worthy read and a grand adventure!

  10. Wow! This post just sold me on your book, Aaron. *heads over to Amazon now* Love the idea of good and evil not being exactly cut and dry…the gray area is a very interesting place to be, especially in YA. That made me smile that you listen to Katy Perry :) Great post!

  11. Hey Karen! Love Katy Perry! And ThinkBannedThoughts post got me thinking about a story from the wonderful book, WHO DIES, by Stephen Levine.

    The master had a cup he loved, and everyday his sudents would bring him his cup and watch the Master drink from it with such satisfaction.

    Then one day, the cup fell off the table and broke.

    The Master’s students asked if he was upset.

    The Master smiled. I’ve always known the cup would break some day, and everyday I would look at it as it was already broken, but that I had one more moment to drink from it. I would savor that moment. So when the cup finally broke, it was not a surprise to me. For you see, the cup was always broken.

    The world is broken. But let us enjoy it while it lasts. Thanks all for the kind words and support!

  12. Sounds like a great book! I love angels who aren’t all good. Like the movie, Michael? with John Travolta.