Tuesday, December 16, 2014


4. Who is the audience for this book?

People who identify as spiritual, but not necessarily as religious. Those who are turned off by dogma and doctrine and religious intolerance of any kind. The modern-day mystic or seeker. Those seeking meaning in a world that seems increasingly absurd, materialistic, and meaningless. Those interested in gnosticism, the esoteric, who sense or know there is more to the world, more to the universe, than this physical, material reality. Those who wonder, perhaps even those who seek to evolve human consciousness.

Consequently, as my publisher says, the book straddles many stools but doesn't sit firmly upon any single one. For that, I'm grateful Roundfire Books was willing to take a risk with it. It's part literary, part historical, part spiritual, part Christian, even part New Age if one wishes to think about it that way. That sounds like a mess, but it all came together in a way that makes sense to me, despite certain challenges that presented themselves as I wrote it.

5. What sorts of challenges?

Well, there's always the problem of showing instead of telling. I worry that early chapters in the novel contain way too much telling. Really, it's the result of the narrator (who wasn't yet born when his uncle was born) not being an actual witness to much of the story. But he's relaying stories told by his grandparents and aunts and uncles, so when he's telling a particular tale, he'll often create a scene or try to imagine for us what it must have been like. He's also pretty chatty at times and will digress to talk about a side issue he thinks is important. Really, I was trying, as a writer, to break the narrative up, slow it down, add interest. If you take one of the gospels of the New Testament, of course, it's straight telling. You can blast through any one of them in a matter of hours. This book, I don't think, is the sort of book a person can--or will even want to--read in a single sitting.

Being written in the first person, through the eyes of Joseph, also means a certain one-dimensionality to the book: everything goes through Joseph's filter. We don't get inside the mind of anyone else. For me, that's not really a problem, though. The book is as much about Joseph as it is about his uncle Yeshua and the early Church. For we are all Joseph: people trying to figure out what Jesus' presence on this earth really meant, and means.

And choosing the first person was also how I got around--I hope successfully--the sticky problem of the supernatural, or the miracles. It's tough to make a scene believable for today's reader when you have a character healing someone, or turning water into wine, or raising someone from the dead. Joseph believes it because his father and uncle James saw it. He personally knows Simon Peter and Mary of Magdala, and they, too, saw it all. He'll say when he thinks some detail has been exaggerated, but if you accept Joseph as a reliable narrator, which I mean him to be, then you have to at least be willing to entertain that he's not telling tall tales or is absolutely off his rocker. These are wonders and mysteries. I hope I've written Joseph believably enough that readers are willing to suspend any disbelief.

Heaven knows, the book cooked in my head for years and years before I finally decided to take two semesters off from teaching and write it. It's an ambitious book. As such, there will always be parts I think are flawed or that I wish I could've done better. But I can't quibble with it forever--it was time to let it out into the world. 

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