Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Kathleen McGowan part deux

Kathleen, because you have put so much of your life (20 years!) into your book The Expected One, have you ever needed to hold back a little and say “I’m giving too much” and guard yourself more, or did you put everything into this story?

Oh honey, hindsight is 20/20 on this one. If I could do it all over again, I would have held back a whole lot more. I’m an Aries, and way too honest for my own good. I should have protected myself far more than I did, and I certainly will in the future. That said, I am proud of how honest this book is, because I think it makes the characters and the storytelling that much more real and relatable. But I had no idea how high the personal toll would be.

While reading the book I can really see your personality coming out of the pages, which I think adds a lot to the story, but also makes me wonder: How much of your novel is history and how much is fiction? Is there a point in the book where the lines get blurred?

Bluuuuurrrrrr. No, seriously, the book is fiction but many of Maureen’s experiences are almost verbatim my own. So while she is not me (I’m less disciplined, unfortunately) some of her motivations and most of her adventures were inspired by my own life.

OMG, really? I was wondering about the “ring scene” in Egypt and, er, the gorgeous Mr. Saunière. *wink* So, did you really meet HIM? LOL :P You should send him my way. Sexy, rich and Scottish: what more could a girl ask for?!

I read somewhere that you started this book as a work on non-fiction. Why did you change your mind in the process?

In 1997, I wrote my first non-fiction book proposal and people in the publishing business laughed at me, and that is not an exaggeration. “No one is going to publish a book about Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene! Are you crazy?” Then they went on to tell me that you couldn’t write such a book unless you had a whole string of initials after your name, and/or a prestigious university behind you. Well, I am proud of being the anti-academic, I relish in the fact that most of my research wasn’t done in libraries, so that wasn’t going to happen unless I could trade my frequent flier miles in for a Phd...

So I set out to write it as fiction. First, it was a screenplay (somewhere about the year 2000 or so) but I was also told that no studio would ever touch the subject matter, and it was shelved. Finally, I went back to it as a novel. And of course, the great poetic irony of fiction is that it gives you so much more freedom to be honest than non-fiction ever can. Best decision of my career, that fiction thing.

In the book you say that it took years to accept the revelation that Mary was married to John the Baptist before she married Jesus? Do you have documents that back this information? What makes you believe in its veracity?

Let’s just say that I learned this information in a similar way as Tammy and Maureen learn it. There are no documents to back it up and they would have been long since destroyed if there were—as Derek says in the book “NO ONE wants this information!” Because no one benefits by it being true. It is hugely inconvenient for all sides.

Although I believe that the peculiar wedding at Cana in the NT is, in fact, an account of that marriage. There is also an interesting medieval document that has been interpreted to imply that Magdalene was married to John (it’s in Susan Haskin’s classic work, Mary Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor).

But for me, the ultimate proof can in how this theory plugged so many holes in the story and explained many things, most specifically the identity of John the Beloved disciple, whom Jesus loved so much. I believe that Jesus loved John the Beloved above the others—and that this John is most often portrayed as a youth (spoiler warning)—because he was Jesus’ foster son, the child he adopted when he married Mary Magdalene. The son of John the Baptist.

I write more about this in upcoming volumes. Stay tuned.

I’m really excited about this series! In the mean time, tell us a bit about The Expected One.

TEO tells two separate but parallel stories, one of a modern heroine and one of an ancient heroine. I wrote the modern story to unfold as a classic Joseph Campbell-esque hero’s journey. Like the protagonists of The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars and Alice in Wonderland, our hero(ine) is a normal person who finds herself thrust into a magical world populated by extraordinary characters and circumstances, and ultimately finds herself following a series of tests, ordeals and spiritual/emotional awakenings.

We are all the hero and we are all on that same journey to find ourselves and our place in the world, which is why that type of storytelling is universal.

In contrast, I tell the story of Mary Magdalene and her life with Jesus, which is anything but normal: it is epic and enormous from the outset, it forces us to look at everything we believe. It is the greatest story never told—a timeless love story of faith and commitment.

The other thing that I am excited about is that my research led me to uncover the inspiring and emotional stories of other figures in this great epic combination of lives that played out in the first century. My work has become focused on two primary things: Defending history’s marginalized and misunderstood women, and uncovering the lives of those who have been all but eradicated. For example, the Gospels mention “Pilate’s Wife” ever-so-briefly, but I discovered in my digging a heroic (if tormented) woman of monumental importance in the last days of Jesus’ life. The legend of Claudia Procula is a stunning addition to the power of Holy Week, and bringing it to the masses in western Christianity who have never heard of her (she is a saint in Eastern Orthodox beliefs) was a great honor and joy for me.

And it’s not just women. It was also important for me to show Judas and Peter in a different light than that in which they have been portrayed.

There will be three books in the Magdalene Line series; what will the other two books be about?

Currently, there are two more definitively, but I am pretty certain that there will be a fourth. Book Two, which I am writing now (thus the flight to Paris to verify a few facts) deals with the concept of The Book of Love, the idea that there was once a gospel written by Jesus himself—his own teachings in his own writing. How exciting is that concept? And if such a thing could have ever existed, why has no one ever heard of it? Or is that the point?

Again, the most important answer we can give when skeptics say annoying (and ignorant) things like “there is no proof” is this: Of course there’s no proof! A million people were wiped out in a crusade in 13th century France to ensure that there would never be proof. I wrote my book precisely because there was no proof. Or because there is, it just doesn’t fit the narrow, sterile, academic definition of proof that has caused us to eradicate women from history in the first place.

Can we expect a movie version of The Expected One soon? If so, could you pretty please demand that no male character wear a mullet? I’m still in therapy after Tom Hank’s “do” in The Da Vinci Code!

I’ll see to it that there is a “no bad 80’s hair for any of our characters” clause in my contract. I’m sure the world will be a better place for it.

To answer your first question... stay tuned. That’s all I can say at the moment.

I’ll hold you to that! LOL No denim skirts over leggings either, please!

Do you stop by The Book Bitches blog often, and if not, WHY aren’t you?

Well, now that I know what a cool, smart, fun and enlightening place it is, you can bet that I’ll stop by regularly and send my friends here as well. This place rocks!

Why, thank you. :) You’re not so bad yourself. :P

If you were never allowed to shave, wax, etc, either your legs or arm pits, which one would you give up?

Death before dishonor.

What’s your favorite thing to spread Nutella on?

I know that this risky admission may get me banned from all EU countries, but I don’t like Nutella!!

*Gasp* YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING! OMG. Go on, someone take Mrs. McGowan’s pulse—she cannot be alive! Never heard of such a thing! Seriously, not liking Nutella???

Anyway, one question you would like to ask your fans and The Book Bitches readers.

If Mary Magdalene’s story has changed you or influenced you, tell me how, and then tell me what would make you really want to read the next book? What questions do you feel have not been answered?

Really, this was soooo much fun. Sorry I was so long winded, but what do you expect? I’m a writer!



15 comment(s):

Blogger Petra said...

Hmmmmm. To be honest this is all very intriguing and I guess another side of looking at Christ. But I'm one of those people who need proof because without it I find it hard to believe it's true. Anyway, the possibility of Jesus having a child with Mary Magdalene is a good story.

9/26/2006 10:53:00 PM  

Blogger Danielle De Barbarac said...

Just a curious questioin: Why would anyone hide the fact that Jesus is married? Would that make him less of a divine being if he was?

9/26/2006 11:05:00 PM  

Blogger Vanessa said...

Great interview BBs. About Ms. McGowan's claims, I can't say since who knows really, right? For all I know I'm also a descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. :P

About the question, the idea of Mary being married to John the Baptist is new to me. I'd like to know more about this side of the story and its possible history.

9/26/2006 11:46:00 PM  

Blogger Lorelei said...

I have a question for Ms. McGowan. Since Maureen was based from her(?) does she see herself as "the expected one"? Thanks BBs.

9/26/2006 11:50:00 PM  

Blogger Isabella said...

I'm sure there are a lot of people who will compare or compares The Expected One with The Da Vinci Code. What does Ms. McMcGowan feels about this?

I've read and really enjoyed Dan Brown's book. Since the premise of TEO is the same, I'll probably enjoy this one too. Great interview BBs. Certainly very different from the other interviews, and so far, the only one who hates Nutella. LOL :P

9/27/2006 12:18:00 AM  

Blogger Harlot said...

There's something about these kinds of stories that question Christ, His divinity or His Church. It maybe bad for others or even be called heresy, but for some, it can be a good thing. When faced with unpopular theories like Jesus had a child or was married to Mary Magdalene, you seek truth to find answers. You'll probably end up proving what you believe is right, or end up believing in another matter altogether.

It's a sad thing that many people before books like THE DA VINCI CODE, THE EXPECTED ONE, and the likes, don't even know accounts of the four gospels of the Bible. But after reading novels they deem are attacking their faith or Christianity, many started reading about Christ again, history, and even Mary Magdalene, who is still a mystery. WE LEARN MORE, whether because we seek the truth or because we want to defend Christianity. Now that, I think, is a good thing. ;)

9/27/2006 01:01:00 AM  

Blogger Aggie said...

Anything that is true stands up to total scrutiny. Therefore these kinds of stories (fictional) should not be threatening. It is only when they are portrayed as truth, when in an unproven state, that gets people upset. There are so many gullibles out there - they begin to blur the lines between truth and fiction. That is what upsets folks the most.
I'm looking forward to reading yet another one of these "same theme" books. It's a bit like when all our favourite authors went off on a futuristic/time-travel tangent. (We got sick of that real fast when everyone starts to get on the same band-wagon)

9/27/2006 02:36:00 AM  

Blogger C Bradshaw said...

Great interview, Trollop! Harlot, well said. In a country where most people are not going to church or doesn't even believe in God, I think it's great that a novel could push someone to discover more about Christ and his life.

Btw Trollop, I agree with you about denim skirts over leggings. What's up with that? And many celebrities are sporting that look. Eek!

9/27/2006 11:21:00 AM  

Blogger C Bradshaw said...

Aggie, I agree. Also many people get upset when Christ's divinity is being questioned. I don't get it why being married would lessen Jesus Christ's divinity anyway.

Now about Dan Brown, all I can say is I don't agree with his view that Christ's divinity is a doctrine invented by politicians for cultural and political repression. As a Christian, that is contemptible.

9/27/2006 11:28:00 AM  

Blogger Jolie said...

I think Mary Magdalene is one of the most important biblical figures. Lord knows why a pope would declare her a prostitute when there's no proof that she was. Great interview Trollop.

9/27/2006 11:53:00 AM  

Blogger Polly King said...

Theories about theology are being discussed nowadays in a way 30 years ago would have been inconceivable. Unless you're in one of those little groups of faithful, God wasn't "popular" back then. We're experiencing a cultural phenomenon where certain kinds of novels give us the opportunity to share the life of Christ where there is no Jew or Catholic etc, male or female. One can only hope that we would all be witnesses to God's love and grace.

9/27/2006 12:46:00 PM  

Blogger Lollie Rose said...

I have to respectfully disagree with the author that those who look for proof are ignorant. Now I think a book about Christ is all good especially when it will bring people closer to God. But as Aggie pointed out, what's not invited are claims of fictional books, especially those that takes swipes at the Bible, that their subjects are actually based on facts when there are no evidence to back them up. Anyway, we can all speculate and reflect on the matter.

9/27/2006 01:22:00 PM  

Blogger Shoshana said...

Looks like I need to buy this book soon. TEO sounds like a book I would enjoy. Along with that heathen who wrote The Red Tent.

9/28/2006 01:58:00 AM  

Blogger Jordis said...

Shoshana, I loved The Red Tent. :) Anyway, I think this is a very interesting interview, Trollop. Good job!

9/29/2006 05:52:00 AM  

Blogger BJ said...

I read this book already, and my Christian faith is even stronger for reading it! I approached this book from the perspective as a disenfranchised Christian who was not happy with the direction of the Church, not entirely believing my indoctrination, etc. TEO was the book that really cemented my faith again after questioning what I was doing. I'm recommending this book to everyone, because this was a eye-opening experience for me!!


1/27/2008 05:37:00 PM