When you live connected to an oxygen machine, little pleasures are great, big surprises are better.
There was a big surprise this year. Keep the Flame was Solo Medalist in the New Apple Book Awards, 2018. It is the fourth book in the Apostle John Series, and I looked back over the years to the writing of the first book.
My husband died when book three in the series was almost finished. When he was in the hospice he told me “hurry up and finish Light of Truth if you want me to read it.” He was as invested in the people in the series as I was.
Such a lot has happened since then. He would be surprised at my life now, having to live my life attached to oxygen machines. I also think he would be pleased at the success those books have achieved. His encouragement spurred me on, then the characters needed their stories finished.
Looking back at the series
The temple that was (dare I say it) almost like an idol to the Jews of the time.
Many of those early followers of the ‘Way’, later to be called ‘Christians’ in a derogatory term, had fled under the persecution from the Jews. With the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, came the Diaspora and many escaping Jews joined their fellow Jews in various cities around the Roman Empire.
The fiction calculations for the book that became a series
Using biblical principles I worked out that John, the apostle, could have been married. (Most people do not believe he was, but I found some interesting opinions on his wife from other websites when researching the book.) I ignored them, and decided on a fictional wife, who had died.
Working out his age in 92 AD was relatively simple, so calculating the age of any children, and their children was again worked out using the knowledge of the age when Jewish men married.
Daughters were married off far earlier, often soon after puberty, but men had to be mature, settled, and able to support a wife and family.
Thus, although the Apostle John is a key figure in the series of books, he is not the main character. Readers have identified Benjamin, the great-grandson I ‘gave’ John, as the ‘hero’ of the series.
The setting of the series
I chose Ephesus for the location as most of the evidence pointed that way.
Someone I knew declined to show any interest in the book because her pet theory (which I did consider) was that John had gone to England.
Historically, I could not find enough evidence to support that, so the setting was Ephesus.
As a child I loved history as a class subject, and as a young person, I devoured books on the Tudors, some of the French ancestry, Scottish history and a long series on the Popes. The Medici and Borgia families fascinated me.
My home town of Peebles, in the Scottish Borders is not only a beautiful town, but one steeped in history… and the birthplace of many famous people.
But that is another story.
The Apostle John Series
Never did it occur to me that I would be writing Christian, historical fiction.
I wrote manuals to help my computer classes. But when listening to a detailed Bible study on the gospel of John, I wondered. “Could that be true?” and so started a long trail of research, which does become addictive.
What I found were the people and culture of the times in which these folks in the Bible lived! People who had been just stories until then. I found out what it was like living under Roman rule, being hated by Jews, Romans and pagans.
They were all people, and they all had trials and challenges.
(Which is why I chose to write from the omniscient view.)
It seems I succeeded in showing their humanity, because I have emails and reviews saying that.
(Although many reviews disappeared in the last Amazon algorithm review purge.)
There is a time to stop a series though, and that has come. A companion series, this time of novellas, completes the stories of the ‘other’ characters. The fourth and final one is ‘waiting in the wings.’
Researching the series
I consulted many versions of the Bible, Josephus (a former Pharisee, and prone to exaggeration according to many commentators). Lionel Casson’s ‘Travels in the Ancient World’ was amusing in parts.
I subscribe to Biblical Archaeological research newsletters and Biblical History newsletters.
Suetonius gives insights into the Roman emperors he writes about, as well as various Roman festivals and everything Roman. I have a shelf full of books and hard drives with gigabytes of research
The Awards my husband never knew about
I look forward to telling him.