Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"So What's Your Book About, Anyway?"

How on earth am I supposed to answer that question?  Or any author, for that matter - how do you explain something that took months of your life to create in a two-minute conversation, hoping to persuade a curious reader to spend his money on your magnum opus?  I call THE TESTIMONIUM "my baby," because it took me nine months to write.  So how to sum that up?

On my posters, I wrote this little blurb:  "A tale of faith, archeology, romance, and terrorism."  It's accurate - those are the four main story arcs - and I like to think it's just enough to arouse some curiosity about how one story can contain those four elements. But it's still a single line about a 450 page novel!

I thought about subtitling it: "A Novel of the Resurrection."  That's also true - the main question I seek to answer is: "What if Pilate's version of events actually confirmed the New Testament accounts of the empty tomb?"  But that subtitle doesn't really explain much either.

When someone asks me what the story is about, I generally start by saying: "Well, it's a Biblical archeology thriller."  That gives a bit of an idea, and links it to some very popular recent works, like THE DA VINCI CODE, and James Rollins' many enjoyable novels like THE BLOOD GOSPEL that link Biblical and archeological themes with modern day political and philosophical conundrums.

But none of those phrases really explain what my novel, THE TESTIMONIUM, is about.  So let me give you, hopefully, enough details to answer the question I started this entry with - while still leaving you thirsty for the actual story!  Here goes:

THE TESTIMONIUM is about faith.  There are five members of the "Capri Team" - the archeologists called in to excavate a long-sealed chamber on the Isle of Capri. Dr. Joshua Parker is an evangelical Christian and the son of a Baptist minister, but he also has a PhD in Biblical archeology.  He is young, and has a strong goofy side, but also has a very deep and serious faith in Jesus.  The dig's supervisor, Isabella Sforza, is a lapsed Catholic/agnostic, who is too busy trying to make a name for herself in the crowded field of classical archeology to think about matters of faith.  The discoverer of the chamber, Giuseppe Rossini, is a Catholic Christian who doesn't talk much about his faith, but holds it dear.  The expert on ancient papyrus, Duncan MacDonald, is a Catholic priest and the Vatican's official archeological consultant.  The paleobotanist, Dr. Simone Apriceno, is Catholic, like most Italians, but generally keeps her faith to herself.  All five will see their beliefs challenged, and then confirmed, by the remarkable discovery on Capri.

THE TESTIMONIUM is about archeology.  The sealed chamber hidden in the Villa Jovis contains a treasure trove of artifacts from the time of Tiberius Caesar - a sword that once belonged to Julius Caesar himself, the original will of Caesar Augustus, some ancient coins and jewelry, and, most remarkably, the original report filed to Rome by Pontius Pilate about the crucifixion of Jesus and the events that followed.  The excavation, preservation, opening, and translation of the scrolls - and the attendant hubbub over the discovery - is a major part of the story.

THE TESTIMONIUM is about romance.  Josh is still a virgin in his early thirties, hoping to find someone that he can share his life and faith with.  Isabella is a grieving widow, whose husband Marc is five years in his grave.  The attraction between Josh and Isabella is strong and immediate; but he hesitates to give his heart to someone who does not share his love of God, while she is not sure that she can share his faith until a shattering moment at the story's end, when she is forced to make an agonizing decision while staring down the barrel of a gun.

THE TESTIMONIUM is about terrorism.  We all know that most Muslims are peace-loving and harmless people, but we also know that when some of them ascribe to the most radical interpretations of Islam, horrible acts have been done in the name of Allah.  Since I wrote THE TESTIMONIUM, the rise of ISIS has shown the pathological hatred jihadists have for professing Christians, with Iraqi and Syrian children crucified and beheaded for their faith.  Is it so hard to believe that a fanatic who buys into this ideology would want to destroy a discovery that might confirm the most important claim of the Christian faith? 

Throw these elements together, add a couple of militant atheist critics, a media rabid for sensationalism, and a scientific community that is automatically inclined to skepticism, and you can see that the Capri Team has their work cut out for them - to prove that their discovery is authentic, to avoid the attempts on their life, to present their finds to the world, and - perhaps - to find the keys to love and faith along  the way.

That is what my novel, THE TESTIMONIUM, is all about.  Now go out there and buy yourself a copy!!!

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