The next novel to turn into an e-book is Pontiff. Those of you with the collected works of moi displayed proudly on your bookshelf will search them in vain for Pontiff. (Maybe I’ll talk about that some time.), so buying the e-book is the only way to get your hands on the thing. Like most of my stuff, it’s, like, a pulse-pounding thriller with twists and turns galore, plus some philosophical nattering on the margins. Also, it has the best ending I ever wrote.
Maybe the second best.
Those of you who have been paying attention may have noticed a little, er, skepticism about religion popping up here and there. So what’s up with writing a novel called Pontiff? It’s another instance of writing about what you don’t know, I think. I don’t have a religious bone in my body, but I find the psychology of religious belief fascinating, and writing fiction gives me a chance to imagine what it would be like to devote yourself to that belief.
There are all kinds of religious characters in Pontiff. The title character, for example, is the first African pope, tortured for his faith in some unnamed African dictatorship and suddenly finding himself a compromise choice for the papacy. That’s an imaginative stretch. But the real imaginative stretch was the protagonist, Father Joe Hurley, who grew up in the Boston suburbs and left behind a job on Wall Street because he couldn’t shake the idea that he had a vocation. Who does that anymore? Well, some people clearly do. Why? Well, let’s write a novel and find out. And, of course, as novels are supposed to do, we set up some interesting challenges to Hurley’s beliefs and his vocation (most prominently, a beautiful Boston policewoman) and see how he reacts.
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Hah! What you said — when I was writing (endlessly, futilely) on my chainmail-and-castle novel, Adruan’s Wizard, ltmya*, I also had a deeply religious character who fascinated me simply because he was so unlike me, and it was so rewarding to sort of trail after him and see where he took me. Whether or not you’re religious, you can’t deny the power of the religious impulse, whether expressed in Renaissance Art (or bloody Crusades) or emotionally evocative Christmas carols (yes, that’s partly because of the childhood memories, but still: enormous creative force poured into religious song. Of course, there’s also Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Or is that Rudolph? hmmm…
*lo, these many years ago!