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One Word at a Time, Sweet Jesus by Anna Kittrell

The Commandment is my “one word at a time, sweet Jesus” book. I didn’t realize it when the story began to surface in my mind five years ago. I didn’t realize it as I began to outline and sketch out my characters. I didn’t even realize it in the middle, when my world shattered, and vital pieces of life were forever lost. Nor did I realize it at the end, when the last word was written. It wasn’t until much later—lately, in fact, that I came to recognize this book for the miracle it truly is. Not miraculous in and of itself, of course. After all, it’s just a fictional story built by my limited imagination. But the fact it was ever finished is a miracle. And a testament to God’s divine provision.

It was October, 2014. The idea for The Commandment was swimming around in my head when my husband and I decided to take a road trip from Oklahoma to Nevada to visit his parents. I love my in-laws, and love for my husband to be trapped in a car with me for hours, so I was rearing to go. On the road, I spent my time gazing from the passenger window, soaking up the surroundings. I was especially entranced by the lonesome beauty of the desert hills. In my story notes I wrote: blond jagged earth; haze on the peaks; pinks, sandy beige and rose; cactus plants; green bleached to yellow; cracks and valleys, sculptures without faces; her soul, dry and thirsty as the scrub on the hills. The terrain was so magnificent, even my scattered description notes sounded like poetry. By the time we reached our destination, I knew the book would be set in Nevada.

During our wonderful visit, more images began to form. An isolated medical laboratory could easily be nestled behind the Nevada hills. And those dangerously beautiful cactus…I wonder what their nectar is like? Wouldn’t it be amazing if it had a numbing quality to it, in order to create a brain-dulling serum in my story? I googled it and, lo and behold, it does! And what about a hot air balloon festival in the desert? Beautiful, vibrant colors dotting the extra-blue sky as far as the eye can see. What better place to set a main character’s abduction than in a hot air balloon? A riveting scene that just might go on record as the world’s first slow-motion kidnapping. I had heard the Nevada desert described as barren and desolate, but to me those endless hills and valleys were rich and bountiful, fertile with story ideas.

The vacation ended and we came back home to Oklahoma. The next week, my daughter-in-law and nine-month-old grandson moved in with us. I was thrilled to have them and immediately adjusted my writing schedule to accommodate having extra people in the house. I began rising at 5:00 a.m. to write—and they began coming downstairs at 5:00 a.m. to visit with me. And because nothing compares to holding a grandchild, not even authoring a book, writing would just have to wait. For ten months, I had the thrill and privilege of spending time with my little grandson every day. In that span of time, he grew and learned so much. His mother and I grew close, developing a special mother-daughter relationship filled with heart-to-heart talks, grocery shopping, shared meals, and lots of laughter. She started calling me, “Mom.” I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

In August 2015, they moved out. And though I knew I would continue to see them daily—I cried. And then I started writing again. I began writing every morning before work, and writing some more on my lunch hour. I loved my characters and the story, and was happy about how well the book was coming along. I had already told my editor about it, and she seemed excited. I couldn’t wait to submit it. At this rate, it would be finished soon.

And then, on December 30, 2015, the book—and my life—stopped cold. At ten thirty that night, my little grandson and I had gone to pick up my daughter-in-law from work, and were told she never showed up. I drove to her house and banged on the door, but she didn’t answer. From outside her home, I called my husband, who came and discovered her lifeless body inside. Our daughter-in-law, the girl who called me “Mom,” the mother of our only grandchild, had taken her own life.

We loved her as if she were our own daughter and were devastated. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and with the exception of the obituary, eulogy, and funeral poem, I certainly couldn’t write. Life would never be the same. Days passed, and I had to return to work. My son and I developed a routine of dropping off and picking up my grandson. And, after three months had gone by, I dragged myself back to the keyboard. In another three months, the book was finished.

I share this story as an encouragement to others who are dealing with personal tragedy. Put one foot in front of the other, even if that’s all you can do right now. And pay attention to God’s provisions. The gifts He has provided—those things that you love to do way down in your soul. Gifts of distraction. Gifts of diversion. Activities that allow your mind to reset and recharge. Maybe it’s gardening. Maybe it’s sewing. Maybe it’s painting, playing a musical instrument, or singing. Or something much less artistic than that. Maybe it’s rolling change, cleaning house, or waxing the car. I have a friend who picks up rocks when life gets to be too much.

For me, that gift is writing. In that aspect, The Commandment is a miracle. A testament to how God’s gifts give life purpose and bring healing to the broken.  The loss is still there, and forever will be. But so is God’s love and concern, and personalized provision.

So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them? Ecclesiastes 3:22 (NIV)

One word at a time, sweet Jesus.

More about the Author, Anna Kittrell:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim. She has nine books in publication, including her new Christian futuristic thriller, The Commandment.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—stories she used to sell on the playground for a dime, written on notebook paper. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Author Points of Contact:

As an author and in speaking with many authors, we love to have readers contact us on social media. If you want to learn more about Anna Kittrell and her awesome writing, be sure to visit the following: Anna’s website, appropriately entitled Anna Kittrell, her Facebook Author’s pageThe Commandment Facebook pageAmazon Author Central, and Anna invites you to e-mail her. You can also take a look at Anna’s wonderful book trailer for The Commandment.

More about The Commandment:

Ten years ago, Briar’s body rejected a government mandated vaccine known as SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism), formulated to erase God from the mind. Briar was seven years old. She’s been on house arrest ever since.

Now, just weeks from becoming a legal adult, Briar remains non-responsive to her mandatory SAP injections. Along with her rapidly approaching eighteenth birthday looms a grim reality: by order of the Commandment, adulthood means institutionalization for those resistant to SAP.

In a matter of days, Briar will become a permanent resident of the ARC—a facility shrouded in dark rumors of torture, experimentation, and death. Her only alternative is to accept a last minute ultimatum to become a laboratory test subject for a new God-dissolving serum.
With a decade of solitude behind her and a lifetime of confinement before her—what does she have to lose? Except maybe her soul.

The Commandment is available for pre-release this week, not only from Anna’s publisher, Pelican Book Group, it can also be purchased from other fine book retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Anna’s newest novel will release this Friday, August 24.

If you missed Inner Source’s Monday interview of Anna’s heroine, Briar Lee, you can read it here, and also be sure to check out our Wednesday interview with Anna here

Today is the official release date for The CommandmentBe sure to get your copy!

Meet Anna Kittrell, Author of The Commandment

Today’s guest on Inner Source is a phenomenal author of young adult fiction, Anna Marie Kittrell. I have followed Anna’s career because her books have always struck a chord with me. Her stories transcend generations, and that’s what a good story does, no matter the genre. Her novel, The Commandment, is a unique perspective for all generations and actually had me asking a very important question of myself: what do you do when “God is not an option”?

Anna, I’d love to hear a little about you. Where are you from? What do you do when you’re not writing?

Hi Fay! It’s always a pleasure to be on Inner Source.

I reside in my hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where twenty-nine years ago I married my high school sweetheart, Tim. We’ve since raised both of our children, renovated a home, and are now helping to raise our four-year-old grandson here in Anadarko. This month I began my eighteenth year as secretary of Anadarko Middle School, the greatest, busiest—and most days, craziest—place on earth this side of Disney World.

Fortunately, I’m not a person who believes a writer must pen words every single day to be considered a “real” author. Because I work fulltime and daily care for my grandson, most of my writing is done in snatches of time before work, on my lunch break, or on the occasional weekend. In other words, I write when I can and I don’t when I can’t. The seasonal and holiday breaks from school are extremely beneficial to my writing process. Although few and far between, my favorite writing days are those when I spend hours at a time in front of the keyboard.

As I noted, The Commandment is a very different kind of story, and the message of the story is one that will cause the reader to pause and think about where our nation—where the world—is going in its desire to pretend that God does not exist. Anna, what made you think of this concept?

Several years ago, when the premise for The Commandment began to surface, the story seemed to be some type of reverse-amnesia tale. I kept picturing a girl in a hospital bed, coming out of anesthesia. A doctor asked the girl if she “still remembered,” to which she replied, “yes.” This made her mother cry hysterically. Why, I wondered, did the girl’s mother not want her to remember? And what did the girl’s mother so desperately want her to forget? Only when I began to outline, did the story start to take shape. As it turns out, the book takes place thirty-five years in the future, and is the story of a girl who faces elimination on her eighteenth birthday because her body rejects a mandatory, God-erasing vaccine. As far as what exactly made me think of this particular concept, I can only speculate. Maybe the idea was sparked by the stories my great-grandmother shared with me as a child about the future hardships believers would endure. Perhaps the persecution of believers right here at home no longer seems so far-fetched as it did back then.

In your novel, the “Agathi” as a part of our brain is very important. Would you explain that for us without giving too much of the story away?

In The Commandment, it has been discovered that there is a specific area of the brain that houses Christian-related information. This fictional area of the brain is called the “Agathi.” The name is plural, because there are two matching areas or “God Zones,” one located in each of the temporal lobes. Main character Briar Lee’s brain is resistant to SAP, a serum formulated to numb the Agathi and block all God-related thought and emotion. Because of Briar’s resistance to SAP, her Agathi are alive and well, and in fact glow with color whenever she thinks on the things of God.

Interestingly, while doing story-related research, I learned that there was actually a research tool invented to investigate the brain’s role in religious experiences called the “God Helmet” (originally known as the Koren Helmet, after its inventor, Stanley Koren.) Apparently, some people have had “visions of God” while participating in experiments with the helmet. The helmet applies complex magnetic signals to the head of the wearer, exposing them to a very weak magnetic field near the temporal lobes.

Your character, Briar, despite the life she had been forced to live is very dynamic and hopeful. Is she based upon someone you know?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Briar is based on me, but I would say her doubts and fears, in many ways, resemble my own. I would like to think that in a time of adversity such as Briar’s, I would be unwaveringly strong and faithful. However, I believe the bouts with fear and confusion Briar experiences would be closer to my own reactions. She wavers when choosing between what is right and what is easy. She is frustrated, and half-wishes the SAP would have done its job and numbed her Agathi, so that she wouldn’t have to face the torment that lies ahead. She is afraid of what will happen if her God Zones light up—and more afraid of what will happen if they don’t. Contrary to being based on a particular person, I think Briar’s dynamic and hopeful nature is derivative of the faith we have as Christians. Sometimes strong, sometimes weak, but always there. Always constant. And as long as we hold to Christ, there’s always hope.

As I said, I follow your career closely. What comes next on Anna Kittrell’s wonderful journey of writing?

I always say my writing style is as eclectic (a nice word for mismatched) as my wardrobe. My collective work is a mixed bag of genres that include Christian futuristic romance, Christian YA, romantic suspense, poetry, short stories, and my new obsession—screenwriting. Over the past two years, I’ve penned four feature length screenplays in assorted genres, and have absolutely fallen in love with the process. In a screenplay, the writing is sparse and succinct, and the word count is much less than a novel. At this point in my life, screenwriting just makes sense. That’s not to say I’m stepping away from novel writing forever—just for a season. A genre-spanning dream of mine is to see The Commandment on the silver screen.

I’ll be following your career as I have for years. And,yes, The Commandment would be a great adaptation for a movie, a story to make the audience truly think about the cost of the loss of our ability to worship God as He intends for us all to do.

More about the Author, Anna Kittrell:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim. She has nine books in publication, including her new Christian futuristic thriller, The Commandment.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—stories she used to sell on the playground for a dime, written on notebook paper. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Author Points of Contact:

As an author and in speaking with many authors, we love to have readers contact us on social media. If you want to learn more about Anna Kittrell and her awesome writing, be sure to visit the following: Anna’s website, appropriately entitled Anna Kittrell, her Facebook Author’s page, The Commandment Facebook page, Amazon Author Central, and Anna invites you to e-mail her. You can also take a look at Anna’s wonderful book trailer for The Commandment.

More about The Commandment:

Ten years ago, Briar’s body rejected a government mandated vaccine known as SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism), formulated to erase God from the mind. Briar was seven years old. She’s been on house arrest ever since.

Now, just weeks from becoming a legal adult, Briar remains non-responsive to her mandatory SAP injections. Along with her rapidly approaching eighteenth birthday looms a grim reality: by order of the Commandment, adulthood means institutionalization for those resistant to SAP.

In a matter of days, Briar will become a permanent resident of the ARC—a facility shrouded in dark rumors of torture, experimentation, and death. Her only alternative is to accept a last minute ultimatum to become a laboratory test subject for a new God-dissolving serum.
With a decade of solitude behind her and a lifetime of confinement before her—what does she have to lose? Except maybe her soul.

The Commandment is available for pre-release this week, not only from Anna’s publisher, Pelican Book Group, it can also be purchased from other fine book retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Anna’s newest novel will release this Friday, August 24.

If you missed Inner Source’s Monday interview of Anna’s heroine, Briar Lee, you can read it here, and on Friday (the release date for The Commandment), Anna shares a heartfelt blog about her journey in writing the story.

Meet Briar Grace Lee from Anna Kittrell’s The Commandment

Today’s guest on Inner Source is Briar Grace Lee from Anna Marie Kittrell’s latest novel, The Commandment.

Briar, it’s good to have you here today. Tell us a little about your life. Where are you from? What is life like in the time in which you live? What difficulties do you face?

Thank you for having me, I’m honored to be a guest on Inner Source. Your site is such a wonderful and informative resource for believers. However, just weeks ago, you would not have been allowed to host me on your blog without being harshly interrogated and likely, arrested. Although drastic changes have taken place in the U.S. since the fall of the OLG, in the back of my mind those old fears still linger. In fact, at this very moment, I find myself wondering how long it will take for this interview to be flagged and reported to authorities. Until recently, Operation Level Ground ran surveillance on every email, video stream, blog, social media site, text message, phone call, and all other means of electronic communication to ensure nothing Christian-oriented slipped past. The severity to which you would have been punished by sharing my story disturbs me even now, though the threat of Christian persecution no longer exists.

As you earlier stated, my name is Briar Grace Lee. The year is 2050, and I am currently eighteen years old. I am an only child, born and raised in Greenfield, Oklahoma. My middle name, Grace, is in honor of my grandmother, with whom I was extremely close. She lived with my family up until the time of her death, when I was seven. She died just three days before she was scheduled, by order of the Commandment, to receive the government-mandated vaccine known as SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism) an injection formulated to erase God from the mind. I’m convinced she asked God to take her before that day arrived.

Immediately following the death of Granna Grace, I was placed under house arrest and ordered to wear an ankle monitor (or, shackle, as I preferred to call it) because my body rejected the SAP vaccine. Every six months from the age of seven to seventeen, I was forced to undergo another vaccination. My body resisted the serum each and every time. A few weeks before turning eighteen, my mother and I were informed that because of my body’s continual resistance to SAP, I would be institutionalized on my birthday. I would become a permanent resident of the ARC (Alternative Research Center), a facility shrouded in dark rumors of torture, experimentation, and death. My only alternative was to accept a last minute ultimatum to become a laboratory test subject for a new God-dissolving serum. And that’s where my real story begins.

Your story is a compelling one, a warning to those of us who live in a world where God’s Truth is being seen as the enemy, where God’s people are called self-righteous and our values are degraded. Your grandmother was a strong influence on your life, so I’m not going to ask what you would do. I’d like to know what your granny, who lived in this time, would tell us to do in order to prepare or to resist what would be coming our way.

In order to prepare for or resist against what is coming our way, Granna Grace would have first and foremost encouraged believers to read the Bible. Having spent her life in God’s word, she knew the day was quickly approaching when the Bible would be stripped from our hands and banned from our eyes. What she didn’t know, until shortly before her death, was that God’s sovereign word would also be erased from the minds of most of our country’s population. Nonetheless, Granna Grace had prepared me for this occurrence not only by teaching me to memorize scripture, but by sewing a miniature Bible into the small stuffed animal that hangs on my keychain. Who knows whether you have come here for such a time as this? This verse from Esther, chapter four, was one of Granna Grace’s favorites. I will always believe that my body’s resistance to SAP is a direct result of my grandmother’s prayers. She believed God places us where we are for a reason—and that all of our attributes are vital to His purpose. There are no accidents.

The one aspect of the story that I noted was that despite the world’s dislike for Christians, there were those who still believed in God. Yet there were individuals who had been a part of what your world required of them so that God would, in the world’s misdirected belief, cease to exist, but they were good and kind. In your world, what did that mean to you?

I believe that in this aspect, my future world of The Commandment and your current world are relatively the same. Despite the dislike and disrespect Christians (Unlevels, in my world) sometimes endure in society, believers continue to place their faith in God. Just as those resistant to SAP in my world, the believers in your world feel Christ in their spirits and experience His presence in their souls. How is it possible to deny a part of one’s own being? In The Commandment’s future world, the entire population is injected with a chemical that numbs the area of the brain that houses Christian beliefs. We who remain resistant to the vaccine know that we will endure experimentation and death. Even so, the “God Zones” in our brains light up like Christmas trees every time we think about Jesus. The belief can’t be shrugged away or brainwashed from existence—even if, on a superficial level, we wish it could be. It’s there to stay.

On the other side of the coin, are those who do not believe in Christ, but are still good people. Your world (and mine) is filled with unbelievers who sacrificially give to and provide for their fellow man—oftentimes out-serving those of us who are Christian. Thank God for these people. I can only imagine how much more they would bless and be blessed if influenced by the power of the Holy Spirit that comes through believing in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

In The Commandment, as in today’s society, people have many “good reasons” for not believing in God. Lukas, the medical scientist I’ve been assigned to, leans upon science, the medical field, and his own intelligence as practical proof that God doesn’t exist. It is only through building a relationship with me, a believer, that Lukas is ultimately persuaded to seek a relationship with Christ. Witnessing my faith at work, watching as God directs my life and shapes my future, is a truth he can’t reason away. And just like in your world, when Lukas earnestly seeks Christ, he finds Him, and is able to experience not only the transformation of his own life, but aide in the transformation of countless other lives.

On the other hand, there were individuals who were, for lack of a different way to say it, gnashing their teeth and spitting at the face of God, angry and vengeful. Why do you think that is?

As in your society, many people in The Commandment resented any mention of the existence of God and—more specifically—the existence of sin. In my world, this resentment came from the detestation for being told what to do. Not only did society not want to be held accountable, they did not want accountability to exist. Period. I suspect these sources of resentment in relation to God are not so different in your world.

Briar, you are a strong heroine, but at times you shared with us that you felt weak. Then strength would return. Can you explain why that occurred?

I believe the times when I am strongest and most victorious, are the times I let go of myself and depend fully upon God. The moment I begin questioning my strength and abilities, fear and weakness set in. Acknowledging that God is strongest when I am weakest perplexes my mind. It is for that reason that I leave my mind—God Zones and all other zones—to God.

 More about The Commandment:

Ten years ago, Briar’s body rejected a government mandated vaccine known as SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism), formulated to erase God from the mind. Briar was seven years old. She’s been on house arrest ever since.

Now, just weeks from becoming a legal adult, Briar remains non-responsive to her mandatory SAP injections. Along with her rapidly approaching eighteenth birthday looms a grim reality: by order of the Commandment, adulthood means institutionalization for those resistant to SAP.

In a matter of days, Briar will become a permanent resident of the ARC—a facility shrouded in dark rumors of torture, experimentation, and death. Her only alternative is to accept a last minute ultimatum to become a laboratory test subject for a new God-dissolving serum.
With a decade of solitude behind her and a lifetime of confinement before her—what does she have to lose? Except maybe her soul.

The Commandment is available for pre-release this week, not only from Anna’s publisher, Pelican Book Group, it can also be purchased from other fine book retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Anna’s newest novel will release this Friday, August 24.

About the Author, Anna Kittrell:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim. She has nine books in publication, including her new Christian futuristic thriller, The Commandment.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—stories she used to sell on the playground for a dime, written on notebook paper. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Author Points of Contact:

As an author and in speaking with many authors, we love to have readers contact us on social media. If you want to learn more about Anna Kittrell and her awesome writing, be sure to visit the following: Anna’s website, appropriately entitled Anna Kittrell, her Facebook Author’s pageThe Commandment Facebook page, Amazon Author Central, and Anna invites you to e-mail her. You can also take a look at Anna’s wonderful book trailer for The Commandment.

Be sure to join us here at Inner Source on Wednesday when we discuss Anna’s latest release with her, and on Friday (the release date for The Commandment), Anna shares a heartfelt blog about her journey in writing the story.