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!
Labels: author interview