We are excited to introduce to you to Patrick D. Bell, winner of the fiction category of the Word Alive Press 2018 Free Publishing Contest, for his book In His Majesty’s Secret Service .
Patrick is a graduate of Wheaton College Graduate School (MA, Intercultural Studies, 1995) and Regent University School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship (MBA, International Business, 2007).
In 1987, Patrick made a decision to join International Teams and deliver Bibles, Christian literature, food, clothing, and medicine to Romania and other Eastern European countries. After six months of training, he joined a team in Austria which served as his base from March 1988 to February 1990. He was able to make fifty trips throughout Communist Eastern Europe, including to Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Poland, and Hungary.
Patrick began research for his novel, In His Majesty’s Secret Service, in January 1987 when he attended classes at the Slavic Gospel Association under Anita Dyneka and Romanian theologian Joseph Ton. On each trip to Romania, he researched the background details for his novel, often using a cassette recorder to document his thoughts and conversations with believers. Throughout his two years, he was fortunate to deliver tons of books and relief supplies to the believers in Romania, only days after the Romanian Revolution in December 1989. Regarding his time in Romania through the revolution, Patrick said, “You know you’re in the thick of it when you hear gunfire in the streets and there are bullet holes in the window and blood on the carpet.”
Patrick met his wife, Holly, while smuggling Bibles and they married in 1990. They now have three children, all “made in Japan” where they served for more than twelve years.
Patrick’s heart is for the persecuted church. His goal is that this novel will again stir the hearts of Christians to support their brothers and sisters around the world who are persecuted for their faith.
Q & A
Q: Why did you choose to smuggle Bibles?
A: When my friend told me he was going to smuggle Bibles into Communist Eastern Europe, I thought he was crazy. But over time God got a hold of my heart and I turned over my life completely to Him. Then I started supporting my friend. Someone quite famous (Jesus) once said, “Where your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be.” And before I knew it, I had joined my friend on a two-year team.
Q: How did you actually smuggle them in?
A: We were sworn not to tell, so I can’t say. But imagine a team of border guards searching your vehicle for four hours, taking apart every screw they can find. And someone else watching your eyes to see when you get nervous. And being grilled by the guards the entire time. But these guards were helpless because God wouldn’t let them find what He wanted to keep hidden. It was exhilarating and a real boost to my faith.
Q: What did you experience of the Romanian Revolution?
A: I was in the country two days before Ceausescu was executed on Christmas Day 1989, and two days after. There was still gunfire in the streets, bullet holes in our hotel windows, and blood on the carpets. The real thrill was going through the same border after the revolution and meeting the same guard as we had the week before, but this time with an open load of gifts for Romanian believers. He welcomed us and thanked us for coming. I said, “You searched me for four hours last week. Why?” He said, “We had to. The secret police were watching to make sure we did our job right.”
It was also an honour to meet with believers and give them Bibles and to hear the stories of how they were persecuted for many years and even tortured, but now they could experience freedom.
Q: How much of the book is real?
A: I researched the book extensively as I wrote it. I recorded a lot of conversations teammates and believers in Romania. My goal was that any Romanian who read the book would acknowledge it as authentic. So the conversations you read in the book are authentic, the street names and locations are authentic, and the descriptions are authentic, but I’ve written it in a fictional context to make it even more compelling.
Q: We’ve heard that your book sat on a shelf for twenty-five years. Tell us about that.
A: After I finished the book in 1990, I tried to get it published for three years. I’d send four-hundred-page manuscripts to publishers but I didn’t have any success. So my wife and I moved on with our lives, went to Japan as Tentmakers and stayed for twelve years, moved to Nairobi, Kenya, then to the U.S., and finally back to Canada. It was last April that my wife suggested that I scan my last remaining manuscript so I wouldn’t lose it. Then she found the Word Alive Press annual contest, so I entered it and won their prize for best Christian fiction.
The lesson here is that God has a season for everything. It is tremendously encouraging for me to see this book finally come to light and to realize that I have a certain talent to write that I’ve underestimated for the past quarter-century.
Q: How can Christians get involved in helping the persecuted church today?
A: I became a Connector for Open Doors Canada, the same organization that was started by Brother Andrew, the author of God’s Smuggler
. You can contact them at opendoorsca.org
and see how you can get involved. They’ll plug you into the right place. At the very least, you can get the names of people who are currently being persecuted around the world, and you can pray for, write to, and encourage them.
Q: What are you working on next?
A: My next novel will continue to feature the persecuted church, but this time we’re going after al Shabaab in East Africa. We’re going to expose the atrocities they perpetrate against our brothers and sisters there.
Q: Where can we find your book?
A: Ask for it in Christian bookstores. If they don’t have it in stock, or if you prefer an autographed copy, you can get it from my website, patrickbooks.com
Q: How would you describe your writing style?
A: When I have a chunk of time to write, I see the story unfold in my head and I just let my fingers fly over the keyboard. My stories are plot-driven, so I have things to accomplish in each chapter. My goal is to start the book with a bang and leave the reader hanging at the end of each chapter. When I’ve finished writing a few pages, I’m usually quite pleased with what I’ve done. Then I let it sit for a few days and I go back to it and I realize how much work has to be done on it. I’m not exactly a sesquipedalian, but I try and find more descriptive ways to tell my story or to weave in subplots and unexpected twists.
Q: Do you have any advice for new writers?
A: I was inspired by the words of Mark Victor Hansen, who co-authored Chicken Soup for the Soul
. His advice was “Just get it done.” Don’t procrastinate. Don’t think about perfection. You can come back later and edit.
Secondly, get a great editor. Don’t rely on friends or family who say they can edit. Get a professional. I was blessed to have Sara Davison be the editor for In His Majesty’s Secret Service
. She has secret superhuman powers and takes a good book and turns it into a great one.