Wednesday, July 18, 2012




How an Atheist Fell in Love with the Russian Orthodoxy

I grew up among True Believers—not in Russian Orthodoxy, but in Pentacostal/Evangelical Protestantism. I went to church two to three times a week, went to weekly Bible studies, attended every summer camp and weekend retreat I could—including Baptist Vacation Bible School and even a few healing services, revivals, and “crusades,” and spoke in tongues—all before I was eight years old. I spent my middle school years at a Christian school, and later joined and toured with the youth choir. I even applied to Oral Roberts University while I was in high school. (Thankfully, they turned me down.)

But through all of that, I had a huge problem: I was a Doubting Thomas. I had questions, and the answers I was given weren’t satisfying. I couldn’t accept a lot of the doctrine. Consequently, I felt like a Very Bad Christian and spent a lot of time praying that God would make me a good one. It never took.

As I reached adulthood, I had to examine why I was still clinging to a faith I didn’t truly believe in, and when I realized the only answer was “fear,” I had to let it go once and for all. Fear is not a good reason to believe in anything.

I later explored paganism, which I still have a strong attachment to because of its ritual and its focus on nature and feminism, even though I can’t say I’m a true believer in any kind of deity. For the most part, I have been throughout my life and remain an atheist—or at best, an agnostic.

So why did I write a series about angels and demons? Maybe it’s because they always fascinated me as a mythology when taken out of the context of religious belief. All those wings (did you know Cherubim have two sets, and Seraphim have three?), beings of fire and light, warrior angels and rebels—and so many different orders. I wanted to have fun with a subject that had been one of somberness and seriousness throughout my childhood, and yes, of fear.

I made Heaven the setting of my fantasy world, because it seemed the natural place for angels to live, and I figured the demons ought to live there too. Of course, the demons are relegated to the slums. But my angel heroine, Anazakia, finds the Demon District far more interesting than the pristine celestial world in which she’s raised.

I had a lot of fun writing the world of The Fallen Queen and making up my own heavenly rules, unrestrained by religion. Then along came Book Two, and before I knew it, an important secondary character had emerged who was a True Believer: an Orthodox monk. I began to research the religion to make sure I was representing Brother Kirill properly; I wanted him to be a fully realized character whose actions came from a place of unquestionable faith and honesty.

I had already fallen in love with the buildings of the Russian Orthodox church while visiting St. Petersburg and Novgorod in Northern Russia—their simple beauty is awe-inspiring—but as I researched the traditions and the beliefs, I found myself moved by how intricately intertwined the religion is with the history of the country, how important it was in the fabric of daily life in imperial Russia, and how it has given believers hope in some of the darkest of times. Of course, that can be said of many religious beliefs, but there’s something about a church in which you enter and stand—no sitting in pews, no kneeling—and where you recite the liturgy with a priest standing with you, or take your prayers to the icon of the saint you wish to petition, that seems very personal and comforting in its simplicity.

I have to admit, I was envious when I stood in an Orthodox cathedral for the first time, wishing I could be part of it. I even bought a beautiful headscarf to wear since women must cover their heads inside the church. As a staunch feminist, I felt I ought to be offended, but instead I felt oddly honored, part of something special, and awestruck by the experience of being allowed to enter in the midst of their worship as nothing more than a tourist, so long as I was respectful of their space and their beliefs.

I’ve tried to remain respectful in writing this series, to do the beauty of the Russian Orthodoxy justice (admittedly, as I see it—a tourist, from the outside looking in), despite the fact that I’m writing about a world in which there is no God in Heaven, and despite the fact that as much as I envy the pure faith of true believers, I know in my heart I will never be one.

My character Kirill was problematic, as I had to take him through a journey in which all of his beliefs are shaken to the core. But despite the cruelty I subject poor Kirill to, I admire him immensely and hope I’ve done him justice. And through Kirill, I’ve fallen under the spell of Russia and the Orthodoxy just a little bit more.

Have you ever had an experience where something you didn’t personally believe in still affected you deeply? Tell me about it in the comments to enter to win an ebook of The Fallen Queen or The Midnight Court. (Note that The Midnight Court will be available only after release day, currently scheduled for August 14.)

About the book:
Against the pristine ice of Heaven, spilled blood and a demon’s fire will spark celestial war.

The exiled heir to the throne of Heaven, Grand Duchess Anazakia and her demon companions, Belphagor and Vasily, have made a comfortable home in the Russian city of Arkhangel’sk, but their domestic bliss is short lived. When their daughter Ola is taken as a pawn in Heaven’s demon revolution, the delicate fabric of their unorthodox family is torn apart—threatening to separate Belphagor and Vasily for good.

Anazakia is prepared to move Heaven and Earth to get her daughter back from Queen Aeval, risen in Elysium from the ashes of temporary defeat. But Aeval isn’t the only one seeking Ola’s strange power.

To conquer the forces amassing against them, Anazakia is prophesied to spill the blood of one close to her heart, while Vasily’s fire will prove more potent than anyone suspected. In the battle for supremacy over Heaven’s empire, loyalties will be tested and secrets will be revealed, but love will reign supernal.

Pre-order The Midnight Court, available August 14, at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BAM | The Book Depository | Books On Board | IndieBound | Powell’s Books.

About the author:
Jane Kindred began writing fantasy at age 12 in the wayback of a Plymouth Fury—which, as far as she recalls, never killed anyone…who didn’t have it coming. She spent her formative years ruining her eyes reading romance novels in the Tucson sun and watching Star Trek marathons in the dark. Although she was repeatedly urged to learn a marketable skill, she received a B.A. in Creative Writing anyway from the University of Arizona.

She now writes to the sound of San Francisco foghorns while two cats slowly but surely edge her off the side of the bed.

You can find Jane on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and on her website.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more about the Russian Orthodox Church. I've visited St. Petersburg three times and was wowed by the churches there. I was lucky enough to attend an Orthodox service in Moscow on a school trip in 1989, just when the Soviets had relaxed the rules and people were comfortable attending publicly. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I've added both of your books to my TBR list.

  2. I cannot wait to read The Midnight Court.I enjoyed The Fallen Queen so much. One of the best books I've read in a long time.