My writing at present is almost all centred upon a paper which I am preparing to deliver at the annual conference of the Internation Cultic Studies Assoiation in Manchester this summer. It’s on the topic of “remote control” – about the ways in which high-control groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses which micro-manage the lives of their adherents, often continuing to manipulate the lives of many who defect from these movements, even long after they have apparently broken free.
For me s a novelist this an area which is ripe for treatment in fiction. Indeed, it was at the heart of my second novel, Leaving Gilead, as Susan Ridley slowly built a new life for herself following her upbringing in the fictional but distinctly JW-like cult, the Fellowship of Gilead.
Once again I return to fiction to portray the fortunes and the pathways which some characters follow on the way to freedom. I had, at first, thought this present fictional enterprise would result in a short novella to sit alongside a portfolio of papers on authoritarian religions. But, like so much in the world of fiction, my characters seem to have taken on a lives of their own and they demand a proper, fuller treatment rather than the short piece I had envisaged.
Vic Scanlon, far more intelligent and astute than his parents or former associates among the Jws ever appreciated, has a sinister tale to tell of a disturbing finding when he and a friend went secretly rummaging around an elder’s junkroom. The secret could have remained hidden had it not been for Vic’s mentor, Lorrie, who came upon someone else with a strange story to tell.
Where is this tale going? We shall have to wait and see…