Today I’m happy to host a writer friend of mine, Brad Francis, on my blog. I recently read his new book The Savvy Demon’s Guide to Godly Living, and it made an impact on my life in a way few books ever have. Here’s Brad to talk a little more about the story and what inspired it, then I’ll be back on with my review of the book at the end.
First of all, I want to thank you, Annie, for giving me the opportunity to come to your blog and talk about my new book. The Savvy Demon’s Guide to Godly Living is the longest book I’ve ever written, and in many ways the most challenging, but I’m very pleased with the final product and am glad to put it out into the world.
It all begins with a drunk demon. His name is Melchior and the reason he’s been drinking is that he’s so bored with his day-to-day life. He’s assigned to an entire church full of Christians. They’re active in church activity—attending services and programs, classes and studies—but their impact on their community is nonexistent…which means that Melchior has nothing to do, so he’s bored out of his mind. He ends up visiting the pastor of the church to tell him exactly what he’s doing wrong and inadvertently starts a revival in the process. What happens as the result of that visit comprises the bulk of the book.
Why did I write it? You can probably guess based on the description. I’m concerned about the state of the Church, both in the United States where I live and around the world. Nominalism seems to run rampant anywhere that has a legacy of Christianity. We hear wonderful reports of the way faith is spreading in the Muslim world and in places of intense persecution. I’m certainly not trying to suggest that there is no one passionately following Christ in the US, but the statistics show that: regular churchgoers live nearly identical lives to the rest of the world, rarely (if ever) share their faith, and do not make disciples. That’s what the research indicates. Does anecdotal evidence paint a different picture?
And, I assure you, I am not observing all this from some sort of high horse, scoffing down at good-hearted believers who have gotten off track. A great deal of the temptations and distractions in this book come directly from my personal experiences. I feel the pull of the world. I wish I didn’t. I wish I always lived a life in line with what I know to be true. I wish my life looked more like the godly men and women whom the Holy Spirit develops throughout the course of this book. Maybe that’s one of the differences between fiction and real life. I know that God is working in me, but, alas, the progress is slower than it is for my characters. Of course, maybe they’re much quicker to surrender to His will than I am.
These are some of the issues I was working through personally while writing this book. I’m blessed and excited to see that God has already started to use this novel in the lives of some of its readers, and I hope and pray that He uses this story for His glory.
That, after all, is what it’s all about.
Brad Francis is the author of the Christian fantasy series The Magi Chronicles and the best-selling short story The Book of the Harvest. He is also a published playwright and his short scripts are performed in churches around the United States. Brad lives in Radcliff, Kentucky, with his wife, Shannon, and two daughters, Madison and Sage. He writes to glorify God.
Annie’s Review of The Savvy Demon’s Guide to Godly Living
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Though I expected to enjoy this book (and I certainly wasn’t disappointed), I didn’t anticipate being changed by it.
Brad Francis’s writing style reminds me of a Christian version of Douglas Adams. As I read, I often caught myself laughing out loud at his ridiculous descriptions, witty word usage, or dryly humorous commentary by “the Narrator.” But then I would find myself gulping guiltily as some unapologetically direct, pulling-no-punches remark struck home. Prepare to be both entertained and convicted (and perhaps occasionally moved to tears) in your journey through these pages – not an easy combination to pull off, but Brad Francis does it and does it well!
As much as I enjoyed the read, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend The Savvy Demon’s Guide to Godly Living to all readers. If it had a rating, I think it would be at least PG-13 for drug use, profanity, sex, and violence. (The profanity is almost all blanked out except for the first letter, but it’s obvious what words the characters are saying.) However, very few instances of these are gratuitous, at least in my opinion. Brad Francis certainly doesn’t condone such activities or treat them lightly. The first few chapters, especially, deal with what certain people’s lives are like before they give them over to the Lord’s control, and the author paints a realistic picture of the vices they are involved in. Most of that tapers off early on in the story, however, as the characters begin to change. Still, some of the content near the beginning (and a little that keeps showing up here and there through the rest of the book) could be offensive to some readers, so if you’re sensitive about such things, brace yourself.
Having said that, I really think that reading The Savvy Demon’s Guide to Godly Living would be a worthwhile experience for most Christian adults, especially pastors and those involved in ministry. Not an entirely pleasant experience at times, perhaps, but valuable. It forced me to take a closer look at the practical side of how I live out my relationship with the Lord, and it reminded me that being religious doesn’t equal following Christ. A few nonfiction books I’ve read have had similar (though for the most part less powerful) impacts on my spiritual life, but I don’t recall ever reading a novel that’s managed it anywhere near this effectively. I’m grateful for the ways God has used this book to reshape my outlook and renew my sense of purpose in living for Him.
The only reason I didn’t give The Savvy Demon’s Guide to Godly Living five stars is because, from a storytelling point of view, I felt that it sagged a bit in the middle. The beginning sucked me in right away, and for the first third or so of the story, I could hardly put the book down. The last third was equally gripping, holding my attention right up to the end. But the pace slowed in the middle with what – at least to me – seemed more information than necessary about the characters’ activities and processes of spiritual growth. While everything that took place would certainly have been crucial to the characters’ own lives if they were real people, I felt that some chapters were a tad heavy on details and events that didn’t really add to the story for readers.
Overall, reading The Savvy Demon’s Guide to Godly Living was a moving experience that impacted me far beyond what I had expected. I think it would be almost impossible for anyone who is (or wants to be) serious about their faith not to be changed after reading it. Though I seldom reread books, this is one I will probably pick up again sometime, at the very least so I can look back over all the sections I highlighted and ask myself whether I’m living them out the way God nudged me to at the time. Praise the Lord for the way He can use even a work of fiction to work in us and bring us closer to Himself!