In her book, “Slave to Grace,” Joyce Fox writes on the book of Philemon, giving a “novel” interest to the letter from Paul in the New Testament. The subtitle, “Freedom comes in unexpected ways,” points to the main character Onesimus, a slave. He looks for freedom by running and finds freedom only after he stops, explained Fox.
The book is built on Paul’s letter with the theme: betrayal and bitterness/forgiveness and freedom. A paraphrase of the letter introduces the story, which, in the first chapter, regresses back three years when Onesimus (name meaning “useful) was bought by Philemon and became part of a Christian household.
And he also found himself drawn into something strange for him. These people worshipped God and talked about a man called Jesus. They even had gatherings with singing, praying and preaching. Everyone was included, even him. Onesimus was content with his lot.
But a situation erupted and Onesimus found him under question. To him, the only thing to do was run. So his journey began which eventually led to the imprisoned Apostle Paul.
Fox gives a realistic twist to Onesimus’ story, staying true to the biblical saga. How it ends is entirely in God’s plans and fulfills the phrase “Freedom comes in unexpected ways.”
Every character in the book who is not named in the Bible, Fox says, is named after a martyr of the Christian faith.
Fox said as she was reading the Bible, she came across the letter to Philemon and it just “dinged my dinger.” Thinking about Onesimus, she asked the questions: “Who was he?” “How did he become a slave?” “Was he born into it?” Why did he run away?” “How did he get from Greece to Rome?” “What were his adventures along the way?” “How did he meet up with Paul?” “What happened to him when he went back to Philemon?”
So, she said, “I started writing it.” But the computer crashed and “I lost it all.” Fox was so discouraged, she said, that for three years, she didn’t touch it. “But God said to get back to it” and after that, it came together, taking nine months to complete.
Her favorite passage is on Page 93 where the ship Onesimus is on sails into a storm — “Whenever there is a storm, it’s the season for storms, boy,” the captain said.
“It’s not my book,” Fox said, “but the words came easily.” She said she comes from a landlocked area and had never sailed — been in a rowboat twice — but “the terminology suddenly was on the paper. When the writing was finished, she had a seafarer friend check and there was only one minor error.
Fox is from the Midwest — lived in many places — and calls herself a “Yankee.” She and her beloved ministerial husband, Art, lived in Tennessee from 1993 to 2000 — “I love the people in Tennessee” — and in Cleveland since November 2012. They married when she was only 17 and will celebrate 45 years in July.
She said she had always wanted to be a creative writer and wrote her first mystery at age 8. Knowing that breaking into the creative writing field would be difficult, Fox decided to take a course in journalism to get into the writing profession and earned her degree in mass communication/journalism in 1996.
The “Yankee” has worked for several newspapers — Arkansas, Michigan and Illinois with the first in Tennessee — the Grundy County Herald at Tracy City.
After working more recently at a radio station, Fox found herself retired in the summer of 2012. But she wanted to stay active and knowing that seeking new employment would be difficult at her age, decided to contact the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland about online courses and costs.
Fox received an email the next day congratulating her on being the recipient of a $2,500 scholarship. She started her online classes. “I hated online,” she said. “I like to interact with the teacher.
They rented a truck and so off to “beautiful Tennessee,” with her husband, who is on disability. After catching a Greyhound bus back to get her car, she was ready for school when the semester started. She is pursuing licensure in clinical mental health.
“Just being in Tennessee,” she said, “is worth it. I’m going to school and getting my book published.” She is already working on the sequel, “Grace Upon Grace,” which will be released within the year.
The 230-page book, “Slave to Grace,” is available from Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Amazon, Kindle and Smashwords. Fox can be reached at 309-252-1636 for more information.