Despite having the desire to write, Dr. John Van Rys always seemed to be in short supply of time and motivation. This all changed during the Christmas season of 2016.
“For a number of years, I’d been whining to my wife that I really wanted to try my hand at fiction,” he says. “She finally said, ‘Why don’t you write a story for me as a Christmas present?’ I took up the challenge and was also able to save a little money.”
That story ended up being included in Moonshine Promises, his collection of short fiction that was released by US publisher Wipf and Stock in July 2021. Each story centres around a man named Evan Mulder and the adventures and misadventures he embarks on with his wife, Mae, on and around their London, Ontario farm. Van Rys drew largely from his own experiences to show how even a calm and satisfying domestic life comes with its share of challenges and mishaps.
“I haven’t had to face many big crises in my life. However, when it came to marriage and family, I realized all sorts of things have happened to us, like deciding to adopt some of our children, buying a fixer-upper farmhouse and the craziness that comes with operating a hobby farm. I saw that there actually was material there, so I just ran with it.”
Inspired by authors like Stuart McLean and Garrison Keillor, Van Rys chose comedy as his preferred genre.
My view of the world is one that’s very much informed by the fact that Jesus was a human being who lived among us.
“The comic vision of life has a truth and value to it that complements a more tragic view,” he explains. “I think it reminds us of our own frailty and foolishness and shows how, in spite of our folly, there’s always the possibility of things turning out and for there to be a happy ending.”
Although he doesn’t categorize the book as explicitly Christian fiction, Van Rys’ faith is still the foundation of his work and imagination.
“My view of the world is one that’s very much informed by the fact that Jesus was a human being who lived among us. This affirms our material lives and allows for that comic vision, the idea that life is characterized by grace and that God will, in the end, bring about salvation and redemption.”