Foresters (my original working title for Leaving Gilead) came about in a very different way from Bunderlin. Whereas Bunderlin was the story of an outrageous character – and wouldn't flow until he had become real and could show me where the story was going – the plot of Foresters, the first version of it, came to me ready-made. It was a story, repeated many times over, of a young woman abused and suppressed by her family and an authoritarian religion.
I'd spent some years working on Counting the Days to Armageddon and the spin-off articles and lectures. And all the time I was hearing the sometimes depressing, sometimes inspiring accounts of people who had broken free and made a new life for themselves at huge cost. In part, it was my own story –but only in part I should add. I had no more desire to write religious history, much less doctrine. But I had to tell the story of those wonderful people I knew about who had survived.
The result was No Balm in Gilead, my first novel. I was rather pleased with it. It was good, but not quite right. After finishing Bunderlin I started work on Foresters but I still had it in mind that I would one day rewrite Gilead. And then, I don't know where it came from – a moment of inspiration – I realised that the big sub-plot to Foresters was my earlier novel. So Tom Westwood is now a very different character from the Tom who drove the story of Gilead. But Susan Ridley, his girl-friend from years before is still the same Susan I fell in love with whilst writing Gilead. And Alan Ridley, her brother is still the nasty, devious, abusive and deeply religious git that he was all along. But Melanie, his daughter, is going to make sure that he gets his comeuppance.