I call my fiction "fantasy adventure stories told in an American accent." The Wilderking Trilogy (The Bark of the Bog Owl, The Secret of the Swamp King, and The Way of the Wilderking) and The Charlatan's Boy are fantasy stories, but they owe more to Twain than to Tolkien. Peopled by boasters, brawlers, bumpkins, con men, cowboys, and swampers, my novels draw deeply from American vernacular storytelling traditions. They harness the humor of that tradition in the service of divine comedy—a worldview in which the sorrows and hurts of this world, as true as they might be, aren’t nearly so true as a vital joy and love that will one day sweep everything before them like a flood.
I love the comic novel in particular because I believe that even low comedy can be a way to get at transcendence. But my non-fiction books--The World According to Narnia, Saint Patrick, and The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O'Connor--center on divine comedy too.
The Bark of the Bog Owl (Book 1 of the Wilderking Trilogy)
Courage and a heart for adventure drive twelve-year-old shepherd boy Aidan Errolson. When the bark of the bog owl echoes from the forest across his father's well-tended pastures, Aidan dreams of wild places still untamed and quests not yet pursued.
Aidan's life changes forever on the day Bayard the Truthspeaker arrives at Longleaf Manor with an astonishing pronouncement: it is Aidan's destiny to be the Wilderking, who will ascend to the throne from Corenwald's wildest places. Only the Wilderking can balance his people's civilizing impulses with the wildness that gives Corenwald its vitality. But not just yet. Many trials and adventures will shape Aidan into the man who can bring the kingdom back to its former glory.
The Secret of the Swamp King (Book 2 of the Wilderking Trilogy)
No one has ever come home from the Feechiefen Swamp. What makes Aidan think he can?
It looks like a fool’s errand. A jealous and vindictive King Darrow sends Aidan Errolson on a seemingly impossible quest into the depths of the Feechiefen Swamp. Darrow thinks he’s sending Corenwald’s young deliverer to certain death. No one, after all, comes back from the Feechiefen. He doesn’t know that Aidan has friends and allies among the feechiefolk, who know him as the hero Pantherbane.
But even the feechiefolk may not be able to deliver Aidan from the enemy who waits in the swamp’s deepest recesses—an enemy who threatens not just Aidan, but all of Corenwald.
The Way of the Wilderking (Book 3 of the Wilderking Trilogy)
In book three of the Wilderking Trilogy, Aidan returns home from three years in Feechiefen Swamp to discover that a party known as the Aidanites has arisen among his fellow Corenwalders. They believe the “Wilderking Chant” makes reference to Aidan, and that he is destined to overthrow Corenwald’s tyrant King Darrow.
Aidan has no intention of leading any such rebellion. But when the kingdom continues to weaken, and the enemy Pyrthens threaten to invade, it’s clear the Aidanites are the only army his people have left. What soon transpires among civilizers, feechiefolk, Corenwalders, and Pyrthens, no reader could predict.
The Charlatan's Boy
As far back as he can remember, the orphan Grady has tramped from village to village in the company of a huckster named Floyd. With his adolescent accomplice, Floyd perpetrates a variety of hoaxes and flimflams on the good citizens of the Corenwald frontier, such as the Ugliest Boy in the World act.
It’s a hard way to make a living, made harder by the memory of fatter times when audiences thronged to see young Grady perform as “The Wild Man of the Feechiefen Swamp.” But what can they do? Nobody believes in feechies anymore.
When Floyd stages an elaborate plot to revive Corenwalders’ belief in the mythical swamp-dwellers known as the feechiefolk, he overshoots the mark. Floyd’s Great Feechie Scare becomes widespread panic. Eager audiences become angry mobs, and in the ensuing chaos, the Charlatan’s Boy discovers the truth that has evaded him all his life—and will change his path forever.
The World According to Narnia: Christian Themes in C.S. Lewis's Beloved Chronicles
from a review in Booklist: Rogers, the author of the Wilderking fantasy series, takes a serious look at C. S. Lewis' Narnia novels, teasing out the Christian theology through close textual analysis of each book in turn. In an engaging style, Rogers simply and swiftly retells each story and highlights where the novels speak to the message of the Gospels. He argues convincingly that imagination combined with faith drives the Narnia chronicles, giving substance to our "yearning for something beyond ourselves." He also notes that it is a delicious irony that Lewis "so carefully constructs a world of metaphor in order to insist that the God of the Bibles is not mere metaphor." With a live-action film version of the novels soon to debut, the land of Narnia will once again be in the spotlight; those needing a travel guide to Lewis' world could do no better than this eminently readable combination of literary criticism and religious scholarship.
The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O'Connor
Flannery O’Connor’s work has been described as “profane, blasphemous, and outrageous.” Her stories are peopled by a sordid caravan of murderers and thieves, prostitutes and bigots whose lives are punctuated by horror and sudden violence. But perhaps the most shocking thing about Flannery O’Connor’s fiction is the fact that it is shaped by a thoroughly Christian vision. If the world she depicts is dark and terrifying, it is also the place where grace makes itself known. Her world—our world—is the stage whereon the divine comedy plays out; the freakishness and violence in O’Connor’s stories, so often mistaken for a kind of misanthropy or even nihilism, turn out to be a call to mercy.
Saint Patrick: A Biography
Patrick was born the son of privilege and position, but he was only a teenager when he was taken from his home in Roman Britain by marauders and sold into slavery in Ireland. Despite his terrible circumstances, young Patrick did not give way to despair. As he worked as a shepherd in the pastures of his new owner, he kindled the faith he’d inherited from his family and eventually escaped to freedom. Then, after returning home, he experienced a dream that changed everything: God wanted him to go back and take the Gospel to the country of his captors.
Patrick heeded the call. Both humble enough to minister to beggars and bold enough to confront kings, Patrick led the Irish through his brave and compassionate service into the Christian faith and baptized thousands. Separating the many myths from the facts, Jonathan Rogers weaves a wonder-filled tale of courage, barbarism, betrayal, and hope in God’s unceasing faithfulness. Countless miracles have been attributed to Saint Patrick, but perhaps one of the simplest and most amazing is that he won the hearts and souls of the same fierce and indomitable people who had enslaved him.