Paul Wreyford is an author who wrote the book "What Happened After Mr Jones Died" which is a humorous novel about the not-quite afterlife. This is the information about the book from the publisher;
"Mr Jones didn’t have a good Christmas. He died.
Not to worry – he’s a Christian, so he’s going to heaven… isn’t he?
Mr Gilmore, his guardian angel, thinks so…but Demon Dumas doesn’t.
The matter is referred to a celestial court, where a jury of twelve dead men and women must decide whether there is enough evidence to prove that Mr Jones is a Christian.
What follows is the most astonishing case in the history of the afterlife."
I had an opportunity to chat with Paul Wreyford about the book and the ideas and characters.
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I am a newspaper journalist by profession and have spent some 30 years in the industry, as a reporter, sub-editor and editor on a variety of newspapers and magazines. I have also been a Christian for that amount of time. I am married with two children. After being made redundant and 'sending' my wife out to work a few years ago, I became 'house husband' and found I had a bit more time to write books in between doing the school run. I started writing non-fiction books a long time ago, but had always planned to write a novel. I just thought it was now or never.
So you write non-fiction, tell me a little bit about that...
I have had seven local history books published. These were written in various parts of the country - wherever my career took me. I love history and am a curious person, so always made a point of finding out about a place when I moved to it. As I also love writing, I just thought I would try to make a little bit of money at the same time. As a journalist, writing engaging non-fiction comes naturally to me and takes little effort. Of course, some might say that as a journalist, I should also be good at writing fantasy!
“What Happened After Mr Jones Died” is your first novel, how did that come about?
As I said, I have always wanted to write a novel. The idea for What Happened After Mr Jones Died came from a drama sketch I wrote many years ago for my church, where I ran the drama group. The sketch consisted of five people sitting in a 'waiting room' contemplating where they were going to be spending eternity, eg Heaven or Hell. I always thought I could turn the idea into a novel and - even though that sketch just became a small part of What Happened After Mr Jones Died - I suppose it was the spark. It has taken me a long time to complete the novel. I've put it down and gone back to it over the years, so I can't say how long it has taken to write, but it's certainly been a long time in the making.
So you deal early on with the idea of death, the main character dies. Was that a hard bit to write without being too morbid or too light?
I think we all have a different idea about death. Of course, no one likes it, but we British are famous for cracking jokes in adversity. It's just our sense of humour. Death is often portrayed humorously in books and on screen, and I just wanted to set the tone for the rest of my book - to tell the reader that even though there is a challenging and serious message, it is wrapped up in a fantastical and light-hearted tale. I wanted the reader to laugh along the way. By making Death a fun character, I'm making it quite clear that this is a fantasy novel and that you shouldn't take it too seriously - apart from the main message, of course. In fact, I think Death is one of my favourite characters in the book. Like him, I share a love of good literature and love an inspirational quotation.
Your angels and indeed the presiding archangel seem to be a little forgetful and comedic figures, was that deliberate?
Yes, I deliberately made the angels a little bit comedic. I wanted them to be warm-hearted and 'human'. I didn't want them to be aloof or mysterious. After all, the Bible itself tells us that angels are just like us in that they were created to worship and serve God. Mr Gilmore is a little bit bumbling, but he is trustworthy and kind, the sort of person you would want on your side. There is no doubt that the angels are the goodies.
The demon Dumas is a character who seems to know more about God’s plan than the angels or even Gordon, why is this?
In contrast, I made Demon Dumas appear to be more intelligent and sophisticated than Mr Gilmore. However, he isn't as nice. He is cunning and devious - just like Satan. As Christians, we probably underestimate Satan. You only have to read the Bible to see just how clever he is. He finds our weaknesses and uses them to lure us away from our purpose of serving God. Yes, Dumas has done his homework, because he is determined to win Mr Jones and every Christian for his master.
Gordon is perhaps your normal kind of guy, is this book a wake-up call to Christians, is there a serious point to the story?
Gordon (Mr Jones) is just an ordinary Christian. He could be me or you. That was the point. I wanted him to be just an average guy. All Christians probably realise that they fail God daily. We don't pray enough, we don't read our Bibles enough, etc. The main message of the book is that we are saved by God's grace - there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. However, that doesn't mean we don't have a job to do. We are still meant to serve God here on Earth. Some Christians don't even really have a relationship with Jesus - they go to church on a Sunday morning and that's it for the rest of the week. In other words, like Mr Jones, there is not a lot of evidence to show that they are Christians. But there should be. People should see that Christians have a real relationship with Jesus in that they are actively serving him. Yes, we are saved by grace, but we still need to serve - to put others before ourselves. Our good deeds will not get us to Heaven, but God still wants us to do them.
The book is aimed at all Christians. I hope it will challenge the reader to do better in all aspects of their Christian life. However, I do think it will also make the non-Christian think as well. It's a good book to give to a non-Christian because it shows them what being a Christian involves. I don't think some non-Christians understand Christians, or they think that they are somehow perfect, but this shows them what it's all about. A non-Christian may not wish to pick up a Bible, but they may be more inclined to read a fantastical tale that will hopefully make them laugh, but make them think as well.