On October 9 of last year I sat down and began writing a story that I entitled LOVER OF GOD. Usually, when I begin a novel, I have a pretty fair idea of where the story is going to go. At least, I have a vague idea of how it will end, or what the major story arc is, or something. This one, though, this story was elusive. I had a great prologue, which was set much later in the story arc - but I had no idea how I would develop the characters, or what all would take place along the way.
But I set out on the journey anyway. I knew who my main character was - Marcus Quintus Publius, a junior member of the Roman Senate during the reign of Claudius. I envisioned this story as a loose sequel to THE REDEMPTION OF PONTIUS PILATE, my first novel of the New Testament era. It begins about ten years after Pilate's death. I knew that Publius would wind up being an advocate for Paul and the rest of the Christian community caught up in Nero's persecution after the Great Fire of Rome - that's where my prologue began. But how did he wind up in that position? How did he become a Christian sympathizer?
But, as I wrote, Marcus' career came together. A young Roman aristocrat, his family murdered by the mad Caligula, Marcus winds up befriending the Emperor Claudius, who wants to atone for his nephew's horrible crime by helping Marcus rise up the cursus honorum, the chain of offices that all Roman noblemen were expected to occupy in their public career. Marcus, a skilled legal advocate, winds up going on a mission from the Emperor to inspect the provinces which had been sorely neglected during Caligula's reign of terror. In the course of his travels, Marcus meets and befriends the leaders of the early Christian movement, including Peter, John, and Paul of Tarsus. He also meets Paul's companion, a Greek physician named Luke, who is composing an account of the life of Jesus. Eventually, Luke dedicates his Gospel to this powerful Roman who has become a benefactor to the Christian community - albeit addressing him by the nickname Paul has given him, Theophilus - "Lover of God." Once Nero becomes Emperor, however, Marcus is placed in a difficult position, and must choose between his place in Roman society and his love of God.
All told, I am very proud of the way this one came out. It provides the reader with a tour of all Rome's provinces and a fascinating look at an early stage of the church's development, when the Apostles were mostly still alive and preaching the Gospel throughout the Roman world. I also spent a good bit of time developing the characters of Claudius and Nero, two of Rome's most fascinating rulers, relying heavily on the historical sources of the era. The Roman world has always fascinated me, and I think I did full justice to both characters.
As I usually do, I will now wait a month or so and let the story sit. Then I'll start over from the beginning, reading and editing as I go through, until I get it into satisfactory condition. Then I will sent it off to my publisher and hope they like it as much as I do!
Look for my next novel, MATTHEW'S AUTOGRAPH, coming out in December!