Editor’s Note: This month in the Patheos Book Club, we’re featuring the new book Jehoshua: Signs and Wonders. Here, author Garrett Glass reveals the surprising inspiration behind the project.
My 30th wedding anniversary was approaching in 2012. What special thing do you get a spouse who has been by your side for such a long period of time, and whom you’ve loved for longer than that? Whatever it was, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to find it at Costco or Target, and something expensive lacked the personal touch for such an important milestone. My thoughts turned to a book. My wife Mimi loves books. She owns several thousand of them, is one of our local library’s best customers, and supplements her print collection with audio books and books on Kindle.
But whatever book I gave her had to be something really different and special. As I kept thinking about the idea, it occurred to me that maybe I could get her an absolutely unique book. A book I would write and dedicate to her! Now all I had to do was write the book.
I had never written a book before. I had written truckloads of corporate memos over a 25 year career as a banker, but this was hardly suitable experience for writing a novel. I knew it was going to be a novel because there was always a particular novel I wanted to write but had never gotten the courage to begin. I suppose the saying that everyone has a book inside of them is true, because mine had been lingering for nearly 40 years, once I first learned of the historical Jesus movement. From the 1970s through the ’90s, there was an explosion of scholarly books and articles investigating what Jesus must have been like as an historical figure. Having been raised as a Catholic, the revelations that came out of all this research were life-changing for me. I was deeply disappointed to discover that the resurrection of Jesus did not occur, nor was there a Virgin Birth, Ascension into Heaven, or any of the other miracles that form the core theology of Christianity.
Indeed, my faith was crushed … but perhaps it was a form of therapy to wonder as time went by what it must be like to have this extremely fascinating tale of historical Jesus written out as a novel. All of the expected Biblical characters would be included of course (Peter, Paul, Mary Magdalene, etc.), but there would be an equal number of fictional characters and circumstances. Over the years I worked out certain scenes and dialogue in my mind, but these morceaux just sat there, germinating, until finally the urge to produce something meaningful for our wedding anniversary gave me the impetus to get started.
All of this had to be done in secret. I told no one I was writing a book. I had no interest in approaching a publisher, because some part of their audience might be offended by a novel of early Christianity which was told without the miracles. I was determined to tell the tale of early Christianity through the first 50 years, ending with the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. I had a year to do it. With the deadline of our anniversary date looming in front of me, I wrote during the day and into the night. “What are you writing, Sweetie?” my wife would ask. “I’m just blogging,” I’d reply, which was a plausible lie since I had been submitting financial and economic articles to blogs for nearly 10 years.
The day of our anniversary finally arrived, and I had just finished the last chapter the week before. We were celebrating at a restaurant, and waiting for our salads to arrive when I presented her with a nicely-wrapped package containing a massive Word document. “What’s this?” she said when she opened it. She was honestly puzzled. “Je-Ho-Shu-A? Is this a novel that someone sent you? Why did they put your name on the front?”
Only then did she notice the inscription on the book, dedicating it her, and the truth dawned. Tears ensued, on both sides, mine in part due to the relief of finally being able to talk about what I had been working on for over a year.
There was still a year ahead of me of editing, rewriting, and going through the self-publishing process. But here is the best part of the story. Of the books Mimi had collected over the years, there was a small library devoted to the Roman Empire, early Christianity, and the Bible. I had known this all along, but it hadn’t really occurred to me that I had the perfect editor and researcher in Mimi. We now work as a team on the ensuing books in the Jehoshua series. It’s the best sort of team, because after 30 years of marriage, we’ve gotten to the stage where we can often anticipate what the other person needs or is going to say.
One thing I’ve learned is that the act of writing a book is a lonely and self-absorbing task. But the act of developing a book – the characters, the plot, the setting – can be intensively collaborative if you have the right partner. That was my unexpected gift on our anniversary – a reminder that marriage is a partnership, and that sometimes, if you’re lucky, you and your partner can embark on a whole new adventure that is incomparably better than anything money can buy.
Read an excerpt from Jehoshua: Signs and Wonders at the Patheos Book Club here!
Garrett Glass is the author of the Jehoshua series of historical fiction books, covering the development of early Christianity, beginning with the death of Jehoshua (Jesus Christ) and incorporating both historical and fictional characters and circumstances. Learn more at his website: jehoshuathebook.com