First-time authors Ryan Mix and J.T. Payne held nothing back from their initial endeavor into Christian fiction with the new book, The Academy, releasing from Rossling Publishers and distributed by Ingram.  Abortion, drugs, suicide, evolution, and death are just a few of the concepts the main character encounters at a fictitious Christian school.  The Academy has a suspense element that both Mix and Payne wanted to create to keep readers on their toes.  They admit to intentionally making “75% of the book anti-Christian,” but they had a good reason for doing so.

“We tried to take a bold new approach,” says Mix.  “We wanted to build tension for Christians reading the book by flipping stereotypes and clichés on their heads so readers cannot assume anything and are forced to question what is coming next. But we also wanted to offer a storyline that might draw in non-Christians as well.  Jesus taught in parables all the time in order to get people to think about spiritual things.”

The Academy tells the story of a student who, after accidently uncovering many dark, hypocritical practices at his Christian high school, begins to question Christianity itself, while struggling to survive the perilous aftermath of his discovery.  “We set out to do something that we have not seen in other Christian fiction books,” explains Mix. “We intentionally make the faith look bad so readers must justify why they believe it.”

Mix is from Billings, Montana and Payne is from Nashville, Tennessee, and they have been friends since sixth grade. They wrote the book over a three year time span, using Facebook and Google Drive as their main communication tools.  Both admit to being new to the writing process, but knew they had a good story to tell.  Payne admits his writing talents used to have a darker side.

“I never shared this with Ryan,” says Payne, “but I wrote quite a bit as a child, until I was 13. I wrote about murder, mysteries and dark, twisted tales. Until one night, my parents left to pick up my sister from a youth rally. Shortly after they left, I heard two gunshots up the street. (We did not live in the best of neighborhoods.) Somehow, I got into my mind that my parents had been murdered. An hour later, my family had still not returned home. I ran to my room and destroyed all of my writings, throwing them into the fireplace and setting them ablaze. I made a promise to God that night that if I ever wrote a story again, it would be about Him. My parents returned home minutes later, delayed by a flat tire. This is the first story I have written since that night.”

Due to their backgrounds as students in Christian schools, Mix and Payne have already been asked by their peers if the story is true.

“The story was inspired by, but not based on, our time attending a Christian high school and Christian college,” says Payne.  “We grew tired of hearing the rumors and statements that Christians don’t live in the real world and that we held on to faith instead of facts. We also wanted to combat several Christian stereotypes, sadly based in reality. We face these head on by contrasting them in the story with examples of people who portray the correct examples of Christianity.”

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