Controversy always creates crowds and today’s author is no exception. Please welcome Lois Drake, author of the novel ISSA-The Greatest Story Never Told. Read more about this “unconventional Christian” novel and how Lois researched and wrote it. Then, leave a comment or question for Lois and be entered in a drawing to win a copy of ISSA for your own library!
LOIS DRAKE has worked for more than twenty years in the fields of marketing and advertising. Born and raised in southern California, she has traveled widely and taught elementary school children in Alaska and Finland. She became fascinated with Jesus’ early years after reading of his journey to the East in The Lost Years of Jesus by Elizabeth Clare Prophet. She is especially intrigued by the possible intersection of Jesus’ travels in India and the mysterious Kushan race.
Ms. Drake is a lover of Tibet and its ancient culture. Together with her husband she has made numerous trips to Tibet. They founded Friendship Homes and Schools, a nonprofit organization that began by assisting orphans in Tibet and remote parts of China.
Ms. Drake, a gifted storyteller who loves to write adult and children’s stories with a spiritual message, makes her home in Prescott, Arizona.
Interview by Mary Jo Campbell
- Thank you for joining us today, Lois. Can you tell us about your writing background: when did you realize you wanted to be a writer? Any formal training/classes?
I love this question because it causes me to reflect on my childhood and the fact that as soon as I learned to read engaging children’s books at the library like “Raggedy Ann” or the story of monarch butterflies, I knew I wanted to be an “Author,” which was a big word for a first-grader. Like many children, before I could read I made up tales to go with the pictures in my books. Now I realize that what we want to do as children plays a role in our lives if only we follow our dreams. But life has a way of diverting us with many other necessities.
About training, I took a creative writing class in college, which was a long time ago! I wish I had copies of some of those dramatic attempts. I can still see my professor, Dr. Azarmi, clenching a pipe in his teeth and admonishing us to bring life into our assignments. I can hardly remember anything I wrote as a teen except for a poem I read as the poet-laureate of Agoura High School in California. I asked my listeners to take time in their hands and walk with me.
After teaching for several years, I ended up working in the field of medical advertising. My job required quite a bit of writing and editing, though not fiction. I wrote brochures (such as descriptions of ophthalmic conditions) or technical copy (like catalog descriptions for surgical equipment). However, through the discipline of working with clients who had a message to convey, I learned to set aside my biases and tune in to their priorities in order to communicate. I also read a lot of fiction and non-fiction, which is a great form of training.
As you can see from my novel, ISSA, I believe we bring some of our skills from past lives—and I propose that Jesus believed and taught reincarnation evidenced by clues remaining in the Bible and the lost Buddhist manuscript referenced in my book. I don’t know who I may have been—which is not important—but I probably enjoyed writing. The process is almost like a meditation for me.
- In your novel, ISSA – The Greatest Story Never Told, we discover that Jesus knew he was not unique regarding his potential to be the Christ. As he finds and studies with teachers in Tibet, he also finds deeper understanding of the true nature and origins of man. What inspired this book’s provocative idea?
Two thousand years of controversy inspired retelling the story of the meaning of Jesus’ life. Even the first direct disciples began to argue about what Jesus meant: whether he was the only Son of God or did he mean that we are all sons and daughters of God? And, that it is our higher-self, our Christ-consciousness or Buddha-consciousness that is part of the universal Son/Daughter.
Two thousand years ago there were perhaps more people who believed that we all carry divinity within. These early Christians taught that we found God by developing our inner knowing—gnosis—from the Greek. These people are now referred to as Gnostics and they left manuscripts—other gospels that were not included in the Bible and were suppressed in the centuries following Jesus’ life when orthodoxy was being established.
In addition to this, a turning point for me was when I found a book, The Lost Years of Jesus, by Elizabeth Clare Prophet. In it she publishes and comments upon the translation of a mysterious Buddhist text, which told of Jesus (who was called Issa) traveling as a teenager in India and the Himalayas where he studied and taught. The implications are that Eastern wisdom, including the notion of the seed of divinity within each one, was something Jesus carried to the West.
- This is would be an intriguing non-fiction book topic, however, you’ve written ISSA as a novel. Can you describe your research and writing process for this book?
My collaborator, Fred Peck, undertook the bulk of the research on the Kushan civilization. He conferred with scholars at major universities and pored over academic papers. The royal characters in ISSA are historical figures though no one knows a great deal about their personal lives other than what can be pieced together through the mists of time and archeology.
I focused on the Buddhist text that describes where Jesus went in India and what he did there. I also used the Bible as a great source for understanding Jesus and his mission and how he might have responded to various situations. Years of study of the major world religions led me to see the inner mystical unity between them.
My travels in Tibet and India were also important as well as my friendships with people of diverse faiths.
- ISSA is most likely taking some controversy from conventional Christians. Can you tell us how this book has been received? How do you handle the “skeptics?”
You’re right! The idea of Jesus traveling in India and asking us all to be like him does create controversy. But controversy is a good thing helping us go deeper and explore the foundations of our beliefs.
Far and away the people I talk to or who invite me on their radio programs are inspired and delighted by the book. I’ve had people thank me for writing it, which is gratifying though I am not the “doer.” That credit goes to my maker.
But the “skeptics” can be adamant and in some interviews we’ve simply had to “agree to disagree,” respecting one another’s opinions. My advice is for people to pray and ask Jesus to share with them the true inner meaning of his path. I’m sure each person will receive an answer about whether or not the message of ISSA is true.
- I’m intrigued by your travels to Tibet. Are you planning any other novels inspired from the Tibetan culture?
As I continue penning the series about Issa, we’ll be visiting the Himalayas again and the culture of the area. The second book will chronicle his adventures and teachings on the way back to Galilee, not only as he descends from the mountains but also as he journeys across the lands of the ancient Zoroastrian religion. It is awesome to imagine Jesus as a young adult in these foreign cultures bringing his wisdom to a weary world.
I’m calling upon my memories in Tibet for major parts of this draft as well as my recent travels in India. I feel like we’re all on a quest to know the real Jesus. Also, I think we are eager to find the common mystical threads that bring the world together rather than the differences that seem to create so much friction and violence today.
- You’ve taught elementary children in the States and abroad. What tips can you offer teachers trying to share the love of creative writing with their students?
I enjoy working with children of all ages. I think encouraging creativity begins with honoring the divine potential of each one and encouraging positive self-esteem.
One of the things I did with elementary children was to ask them to tell me a story, which I would write in big print. The child would draw the pictures on each page to go with the story they just told. And, because it was their story, they could also tell it back—that is read it to someone else—even if they were just beginning to learn words. It gave them a sense of accomplishment. And I still remember the poetry and creativity of some of their work such as writing about a mountain that cried or a princess who was rescued from a terrible monster.
I hope that ISSA carries this message for our youth: that each one is precious and has an important mission to prepare for and fulfill in this lifetime.
- Please share your plans for future writing and promotion projects!
There are many projects on the drawing board (or should I say on the laptop?), but first and foremost is to continue the Issa series. The Buddhist text says that certain angry priests tried to kill him on the way back home! So it’s quite an adventure.
I’d also like to write the account in fiction form of why certain gospels were left out of the Bible how the “lost teachings of Jesus” would influence the world today.
On a different track, I’m currently working on a fantasy adventure for youth about a savior on a far-off world, and there are always children’s stories bubbling up that I hope to publish one day.
In the meantime, I’ve really enjoyed answering your sensitive and thought-provoking questions. Thank you!
Learn more about Lois Drake and her books at her website