How did you get the inspiration for your novels?
Growing up Roman Catholic, I was exposed to the gospels at an early age. They shaped my beliefs about Jesus Christ, so much so that I’ve often wondered what the first Christians thought about Jesus before any gospels were written -- and what sparked later Christians to enshrine their views about his nature into the Nicene Creed. After wading through many books and articles on these subjects, some of them rather dry exegeses, it occurred to me that the average person with similar interests might be turned off by such writing. I decided to try to package my own thoughts into novels, into entertaining stories, to keep the reader’s interest.
Do you consider the books to be scholarly works?
In some respects, yes; they were thoroughly researched (historical plausibility was important to me) and treat a number of theological issues at what I hope is a somewhat sophisticated level. The theological content is not diminished by being embedded in a story; after all, stories are how Jesus delivered much of his own message! But as an account of how the earliest gospel came to be written and how the Nicene Creed got adopted, they are fiction – mostly plausible fiction, but fiction nonetheless.
How did your training as a lawyer help?
Lawyers are trained to present logical arguments (hopefully!), but the style of legal writing is totally different from writing a novel. Where I think my trial experience may have helped was in laying out the story in a natural fashion, progressing to the ultimate conclusion (closing argument), humanizing the protagonist (my client) – and especially in abandoning preconceived notions, placing myself "in the moment" to view the story as would a newcomer (the jury) without any exposure to two thousand years of religious evolution and commentary. I go through a similar focusing process when preparing for a trial.
Did the novels turn out the way you originally planned?
For the most part, yes. There are always some revisions driven by research midstream, but my central plots stayed unchanged, particularly the character development of the protagonists (Mark in The Cloak and the Parchments, Athanasius in Heresy). That’s something that doesn’t always happen in the courtroom!
Any more stories on the drawing board?
I've got a rough outline of another novel, one that will be a natural extension of the Christological theme of my first two books. We'll see where it takes me next!