The Search for Enlightenment

I possess many of the personality traits of a nerd, but few of the technological skills, which is why it’s only now, three years after I set up my author website, that I’ve discovered my own website statistics. Web statistics tell you how many people have visited your website, which pages they prefer, what they’re looking for, how they found you in the first place and lots of other interesting bits of information. My favourite set of data is the list of key words that my website visitors type into Google and other internet search engines.

Not surprisingly, the most common search words are various spellings of my name and the titles of my books. Most people are looking for information about my second novel, A Brief History of Montmaray, although I was tickled to find several people searching for ‘the island of Montmaray’, ‘Montmaray island’ and ‘Montmaray near the Atlantic Ocean’. (I like to think they’re planning a holiday in the Bay of Biscay and are hoping to drop in at Montmaray.)

There are also quite a few visitors wanting information about my first novel, The Rage of Sheep. Judging by the number of requests for ‘chapter summaries’, ‘quotes’ and ‘spark notes’, I’m guessing these visitors are high school students who are being forced to study the book in class. (My heart went out to one who plaintively asked, ‘What is the rage of the sheep about?’) I’d really like to help, but I think teachers would get suspicious if thirty of their students handed in identical character analyses and chapter summaries, all copied from my website. (However, if you think there is some other information that would be useful to include on my website, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail, and I’ll do my best.) There are also lots of teenage writers searching for writing competitions and writing workshops, and fortunately, I do have some relevant links for them.

Then the list of key words gets more entertaining. There are people with an extremely vague interest in history, who search for ‘historical people’, ‘famous history people’ and ‘historical people with a picture’. Some are more specific, looking for ‘historical people who were known for their gratitude’, ‘lying historical figures who failed’ and ‘historical person whose son left and died and had a secret wife’. Sadly, these searchers are unlikely to find enlightenment at my website, although sometimes I come very, very close to providing an answer. I can only imagine the frustration of the person searching for ‘the handwriting of Anne Boleyn’, only to discover my website provides a link to a handwriting sample from not Anne, but her daughter, Elizabeth. Happily, I was able to help those who were interested in ‘the Duchess of Kent’s popularity as fashion leader in the 1930s’, wanted to see ‘pictures of Princess Elizabeth and Margaret as children’, and wondered about ‘fascism in British aristocracy’. However, the person looking for information on ‘sheep hormonal rage’ was doomed to disappointment.

Finally, there are those who ask the really big, important questions. ‘What would Jesus do in the schoolyard?’ ‘Was Boy George sexy in the 80s?’ And then, the most difficult of all to answer: ‘When does Book 3 of the Montmaray Journals come out?’

4 thoughts on “The Search for Enlightenment”

  1. Hello,
    I’m sorry if this isn’t the best place to leave a question or comment, but I’m not sure where else to leave it. I have read your Montmaray books (and enjoyed them very much!) and I’ve heard about The Rage of Sheep as well, and something that stood out to me was how all of your books seem to deal with the issue of God- especially the last Montmaray book, in which Veronica, Daniel, Sophie and Rupert all seem to give their opinions. I was wondering, what do you actually believe? I didn’t really feel comfortable asking what religion you are because that’s kind of limited and constricted, but I would be very interested to know what your thoughts are. 🙂

    1. Hi, Kira. Thanks for your interesting question! It is probably too complex to answer in a single blog comment, but I was brought up in an evangelical Christian family, became an agnostic when I started studying science at university, and am now an atheist (and probably, a secular humanist). In the final Montmaray book, both Rupert and Veronica’s opinions are reflections of my own thoughts about religion. However, The Rage of Sheep is probably the novel that best explores my ideas about religion – the main character, Hester, is quite similar to the way I was as a teenager.

      And my next book will have bits about religion in it, too! I find it impossible to ignore religion in my writing, because it’s such a significant part of how the world works (even though I don’t personally believe in any kind of divine being). Not sure if all that answers your question! What do you believe?

  2. Haha wow! Thankyou so much for replying so quickly! I didn’t even really expect a reply so that’s pretty cool 🙂
    That’s very interesting, I thought you must have a background in some sort of religion/beliefs just because your characters were coming up with a lot of questions that I know I’ve found myself asking before. If I may ask, why did you change from Christianity (sorry, I’m assuming that you kind of went along with your family’s beliefs) to being agnostic, to being an atheist? As in, what exactly made you decide that there isn’t a God?
    I personally have been brought up in a Christian family and have been going to church for a while now. I believe in God as creator and sustainer of the world, and I believe in Jesus as our saviour. I guess I know that I have had a lot of questions and doubts about God in my life but I believe that he exists and that I have seen him acting in the world today. However I’m sure that growing up in a Christian family you’ve heard all this kind of thing before, so I’m not going to keep going on about it!
    Sorry for all the questions! But I have one last question, and I promise it will be the last (well at least for this time…), and that is, what do you believe will happen after death?
    Just to make it clear, I’m not just asking you all these questions because I think that I have answers or anything like that, I’m honestly curious and interested 🙂

    1. You ask very thoughtful questions, Kira! Again, it’s difficult to answer in a blog comment, but I became an agnostic at university because I was studying science and learning to critically evaluate texts, and I found it difficult to keep believing in the Bible as The Truth when it was full of inconsistencies and historical errors. The more I thought about Christian beliefs, the less sense they made. I also witnessed church leaders behaving in ways I thought were cruel and hypocritical and wrong. As for death – well, I think it’s the end of life. I don’t think there’s heaven or hell or reincarnation. I don’t need the threat of punishment in the afterlife to make me want to behave ethically now, and knowing I have one, finite life really makes me value each minute of being alive.

      If you’re interested in finding out more about how atheists think, I highly recommend Richard Dawkin’s book, The God Delusion. (He comes across as humourless and sour in interviews, but his book is actually very readable and thoughtful and entertaining! It probably helps to know a bit about science to understand some of the early chapters, though.) And I think you’d find The Rage of Sheep quite interesting, too!

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