The Soul Guardian's Handbook

Back when I started writing DEVINE INTERVENTION, the novel formerly known as 10 COMMANDMENTS FOR THE DEAD, and even more formerly known by the working title GUARDIAN DEVIL, I gave a lot of thought to what heaven might look like.

It occurred to me that the angels, or at least some of them, would be bothered by the idea of hell—and especially by the idea of sending dead teenagers there to suffer forever.

They'd have a program, I thought! A rehabilitation program for wayward teens! One run by earnest counselors who might not be entirely competent, but who would have facial hair reminiscent of Gabe Kaplan's from Welcome Back Kotter.

That was maybe more detail than was strictly necessary, but it worked for me.

And the idea worked for the angels, who didn't want to give up their endless frolicking or feel guilty about it. If there were a social program doing all the work for them, they could support it in principle and get on with their own merriment without further angst.

I liked the idea of group counseling sessions with crafts and movies and folding chairs and bad overhead fluorescent lighting. And I knew there would be some sort of handbook they'd pass out to the teens newly admitted to the program, one written in a style most people, but especially teens in need of rehabilitation, would find opaque and detestable. I wanted it to be a book that they'd throw at the wall. Or maybe use to kindle fires.

As I worked on the novel, I wrote a good chunk of the handbook. It's not edited. Nor is it complete. But whenever I wanted to know more about how heaven worked, I dashed off little sections. At the time, I had just released THINGS THAT MAKE US [SIC], my book about grammar and the many funny errors that can pave the way to hellish communication. That book was based on my work with SPOGG, the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, whose blog is written very much in the style of the handbook of SRPNT, the Soul Rehabilitation Program for Nefarious Teens.

And all of that probably explains this section of the handbook:

Part IV: Angelic Record-Keeping

As part of your stay in SRPNT, you are required to keep a daily journal of your activities and any and all interventions performed on behalf of the soul in your care. You will not be graded on these journals; they will, however, be used to inform your overall evaluation. Spelling and grammar count! Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise; he is almost certainly one of the Dark Lord's minions.  Below we list some commonly misspelled words for your reference.

A failure to keep records can be grounds for expulsion from SRPNT into one of the lower levels permanently. Rehab participants should know that we have installed cameras and other recording devices to monitor behavior and progress. Your signature, below, indicates you understand and accept this.


Signed                                                                                    Date


Commonly misspelled words


exercise (the activity that makes you sweaty)

exorcise (refers to the expulsion of demons)




holey (refers to socks, not our exalted and blameless leader)




positive attitude


prayer (not prare)





virginity pledge

I bring all of this up now because my editor just asked at what point in the handbook various things appear. They are readying the novel for typesetting and need to know how the excerpts should be numbered. I so love that attention to detail, one of the many reasons I am happy to be publishing with Arthur Levine and his wonderful team.