Truth and The Serpent explores an alternate creation story that follows the serpent from the Garden of Eden. What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in this story?
Once I decided to write this story, I immediately determined that I wanted it to be different in some way. If it’s the same old thing then why write it at all. Honestly, I didn’t know if that was even possible, as these stories have been overdone so many times.
The major theme of the story is true versus untrue or consistent versus inconsistent, unlike every other story you hear of about religion. Where God/ religion is all fake and the explanation is aliens, monkeys, and sun worship. Or its all real, and Jesus is coming back tomorrow at 4:30 pm, pack a bag!
The issue with stories dealing with religion is that they are usually examined through the scope of morality. But morality is not a constant, which changes with culture and time. So, as I was developing the Serpent character I searched to find something to argue other than morality, which is based on perception, and not facts. I decided that even though there were may inconsistencies in these stories there was information within them, that was consistent or true for everyone.
Then I realized that that was a good discussion to have, and one that I had never heard of with these stories. Thus the Serpent would argue consistent information, and the Man of the Present, would represent our everyday biased understanding of these stories. The discussion and theme soon changed from morality, to the impact that these stories have had on culture and society. This is why the Serpent does not debate the existence of God, or Heaven or Hell, because it’s irrelevant. As culture and society deem which acts are “wrong” and which acts are “forgivable.” Once I removed that from the narrative, I could then be honest with the Serpent Character.
I felt that there were a lot of great twists and turns throughout the novel. Did you plan this before writing the novel, or did the twists present themselves to you as you writing?
No, there was no way I could have planned that the story would unfold and then end the way it did. I had an idea for each chapter, but once I got in there they became something more. The original story was a page and a half, and was literally just rewriting the Garden of Eden story form the Serpent’s point of view. It came out well, and then I thought to myself, what would it look like if I continued…
To me most of it was not a twist, but merely a change of perspective. One thing to note, is that every time we are told these stories, we subconsciously put ourselves on the side of the “good narrative” or the “victim/ saved narrative.” By doing so we only see certain things. For example, while writing the chapter “The Earth” which covers Noah/ the flood. Once the flood came I instantly put the Serpent inside the Ark, because that’s just what our minds do. I came up with a scenario that the Serpent was camouflaged hiding in the haystacks, which I’m glad I didn’t go with. But then it hit me, why does the serpent have to be inside? The Serpent is a reptile, there are sea snakes, Sea Serpents of legend even… what would happen if I put the Serpent outside.
I did, and then everything opened up. My mind began to explore this world in a way I had never done before. I soon found that the Serpent was the perfect vehicle to do this with, as putting him outside would not affect our opinion of him, while the same couldn’t be done with the human characters. It was difficult to navigate these stories from this perspective, but once I separated my ego from the subject, I was able to write the story.
I felt that the biblical aspects in this novel were expertly used. What kind of research did you do for this story?
One I read the bible for myself. Second, I removed my ego from the equation. Writing this book was not about me, it is at its core a talking animal story that takes place in the what if universe. That is, in itself, about as fictitiously fantastical fake as you can get. However, once I started reading for myself, I quickly saw how inconsistent the biblical stories were. Then on top of that, there is the commercial understanding that we have been taught and sold.
One thing to note, is that Christianity does not own these stories, and they exist in many other cultures and beliefs. For that matter this could very well be Muslim Fiction, Jewish Fiction, or Zoroastrian fiction. We live in a western world, so that is our first thought, but these stories have existed long before there ever was a Christian church. Additionally, this story is not about religion, it is a story of humanity as seen through the eyes of the Serpent character.
Then, once I got started I didn’t limit myself to the bible. As you will note I make references to spirituality, mythology, history, science, and math. I researched and looked up everything, not just say Noah’s Ark the tale, but what Noah’s name meant. I looked up what causes a flood, what happens to flood waters, how does it impact species and topsoil and later plant growth. I viewed the events not as only divine wrath, but in natural real terms. i.e. the animals going to the Ark, is explained as animals changing their migrations. Then I asked, what could cause a change in animal migrations and so on. I then added these definitions to the biblical story, which then added new depth and meaning. I would say that I had about 100 pages of printed notes for each chapter. I looked up everything trying to find something tangible and meaningful beyond the everyday wrath, salvation, and lightshow.
Once I did that, the stories came alive and were now three dimensional, taking on new meanings that I didn’t see coming. But none of that would have been possible if I didn’t research meticulously. Most of all, I didn’t just ask questions, I sought out rational answers as if, I was actually having this epic discussion. So, in a way, it was me asking the questions that I never got an answer to, and using the “absurd Serpent in the what if universe” as a platform to have this discussion, which somehow worked.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
Next is Serpent book 2. It will be the Serpent and another human character who live during the time of Jesus. The Serpent will be his obnoxiously colorful self, adding sarcastic commentary to the events as they unfold. It has a title, but I’m not releasing it until I finish writing it. I have notes started and have started planning out the chapters, but I have not begun writing the dialogue and narrative. Hopefully, I will start officially on it January 2018.
What do we really know of creation, myth, and belief? There was a Man, a Woman, a Garden, and of course… a Serpent. Yet, what we have come to know as temptation, and mortal sin are only one side of the story. You see, three sinned, and three were punished, but only two were expelled from the Garden, but afterwards…what happened to the Serpent?
A present day man finds himself eye to eye with the infamous Serpent of curse and ruin. The Serpent who characteristically makes the man an offer to learn not just what happened, but why.
A tale unlike any other, where the fall of man is not weighed on a scale of good or evil, but in truth and lies. The Serpent whose intellect, sarcasm, and wit cultivates over time as he appraises the history of man and religious lore. The Serpent who is also on a journey of self-discovery to learn the meaning of that ill-fated encounter and the purpose of his own life.
Come to know the unsung story of one who lived through creation, survived the great deluge, witnessed a mass exodus, and the rise and fall of exalted kings of men. Could such a tale, as told by a forked tongue, be the end of lies, and the beginning… of the truth.
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Jesus and Magdalene follows the story of Jesus and his return to modern day Earth where he meets Magdalene who is an activist fighting for a better world. This is an intriguing setup to a novel and a unique perspective of a religious story. Why was this novel important for you to write and what was your inspiration?
Religion has played an important role in my cultural development. I was christened, I went to catechism classes, I was confirmed and I went to mass until the age of fourteen. I wanted to create something truly original, involving contemporary problems, politics, the existence of God and human nature using facts, humor, and irony. For example, the relation between Christiany and Ecology or why there are so many racial conflicts. Jesus and Magdalene don’t give answers, but present questions. Why there is so much violence? Why there is so much stupidity? Are we really so much different from other animals? My novels satirize modern society and use irony and humor to provoke reflection and controversy.
Jesus and Magdalene are biblical figures, but in your story they’re striving to make a better world as regular people. How did you handle the balance between biblical and fictional characters to make them feel real and relatable?
For me, Jesus is the most important figure in History. Jesus was the first to say that all men are equal and to question the dogmas of the temple rulers. He also saved a woman from being stoned, according to the tradition. He was a much greater revolutionary than Castro or Che Guevara. Even those who don’t believe they are influenced by Jesus’ teachings. Freedom and Equality – those are the basis of all western society. In my novel I try to describe the challenges Jesus would face if He would visit us again, 2000 years later. But,although he limits himself to accompanying Magdalene attempting only to pacify those on bad terms, even then Jesus is unable to escape the fury of mankind.
What kind of research, if any, did you do to keep the story accurate?
I read the Bible and I search for biblical studies and interpretations.
Is there a pivotal moment in the story that you feel best defines your characters?
Yes, there is a pivotal moment in the story that defines not only the characters but also mankind (in my own interpretation). A con man – Professor Kacimba – is going to recognize Jesus, while the others don’t. A swindler sees the son of God when he tried to read his hand, but the rest of people, including this modern Magdalene, only see a normal man. This is supposed to be funny and sad at the same time.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I am writing a novel about Communism, Perestroika and the fall of the Berlin wall. The Staline or Lenine ghost could be one of the characters. I hope to be published in the next year.
Jesus returns to earth and meets activist Magdalene who is fighting for a better world. He find an extremist ecological group, which is plotting to destroy a maize plantation it believes to be genetically modified. Then, he observes the rise up against a tourist development that is to be built in a forest reserve. Finally, he witnesses an armed conflict between blacks and gypsies. However, although he limits himself to accompanying Magdalene attempting only to pacify those on bad terms, even then Jesus is unable to escape the fury of mankind. And only a conman will recognize him. Using humor, Jesus and Magdalene broaches recent phenomena of social and political conflict.
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What would it be like, if more than two-thousand years later Christ walked this earth again? Would he be confused by the spread of technology or would he already know about it from having watched over mankind from above? João Cerqueira tackles this idea and more in his novel Jesus and Magdalene. There is much for Jesus to consider when he returns to the world of man. Such logical concerns as his paternity and the vehicle he decides to use to come back to earth. Scarcely is Jesus walking among men once more then he meets Magdalene. She is the newer version of her biblical-self: wrapped up in an environmental movement with Judas, Mary, Peter, James and others she works towards renewal of the earth. As if it was simply meant to be, Jesus joins her on her mission and we are left to wonder how much of the stories in the bible will play out again.
If there is anything Cerqueira does well in this book, it is describing situations and surroundings. There is an explanation at the beginning of the novel where our author lays out his experience with Christianity and his thoughts on the matter. This is beneficial for those who cherish their faith and may take issue with the idea of a modern-day Jesus Christ. This should come as a comfort to those readers as Cerqueira certainly means no disrespect.
However, while the writing is a plus, it is also a minus. Cerqueira is almost too descriptive or flowery with his language. His metaphors and similes are beautifully written but they cause the story to feel heavy. This, in turn, causes the read to be quite heavy and rely on the intellectual prowess of the reader. While this is not completely a negative for the reader who prefers something a bit more intellectual, for the casual reader this can be a detriment.
The portrayal of technology and the development of character relationships is well played throughout the entirety of the tale. If you have never been an avid reader of the bible or studied any sort of religion while in school, you will not be lost. You can think of Jesus and Magdalene as a tale of two young adults who are trying to make a difference in the world. If you are familiar with these texts, you will find that there is much that overlaps with Cerqueira’s story. It is evident that the man has done his research and is not afraid to use that in his works.
The language that author João Cerqueira uses is beautiful. For a reader looking for something heavier, thought-provoking and requiring footnotes, you cannot go wrong with Jesus and Magdalene.
Pages: 324 | ASIN: B01IS20VQY
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Path of Jen is a political thriller following the harrowing journey of a young Iranian-American girl that’s kidnapped. Some events in the book were chillingly similar to real life events. Did you take any inspiration from real life when developing this book?
Current events certainly inspired my writing, and there was no shortage of material. We experienced the refugee crisis in Syria, the unprecedented growth of ISIS and all of their atrocities, and multiple attacks by radical Islamist across Europe and the US. I feel fortunate that the idea for this book came when it did, although in my heart I truly wish it wasn’t so relevant. This book lays bare a multitude of polarizing issues. On the surface there is the main issue of radical Islam and the very real threat it poses to the entire world. I do not apologize for presenting the truth as I see it on that matter. That alone is enough to inspire some, anger others, and turn off a whole bunch of potential readers. So be it. Underneath the issue of radical Islam lies the unquestionably connected and saddening issue of women’s rights. Horrific injustice is perpetrated against women under Sharia Law every day. That is one of the main reasons I chose to make Jen’s heritage Iranian, and Tehran as her place of abduction. Iran is a country with rich culture and history that only recently leapt backward to a near medieval stance on women’s rights and individual freedoms. Jen’s observations and experiences explore and expose the inconsistent message to young women that a male dominated Muslim culture whispers with a seductive smile.
Jen goes to Tehran on a family trip where she’s kidnapped and transported to Syria. I thought the details of the locations were fairly accurate. What experience do you have with Arab culture?
Many of the places and scenes in the book were taken from my own experiences as a soldier in Iraq. Suicide bombers, IEDs and Extremists were a near every day occurrence, and they instilled a heightened sense of awareness in me that I will never be able to let go of. While in Iraq, I visited the Iraqi monuments to the Iran-Iraq war near the Green Zone in Baghdad. That began my curiosity into Iranian culture and history. When I discovered the Islamic Revolution of 1979, I began reading on the subject of women’s rights. I found that some of the best advocates were women who live in, or have lived in, Iran, and their stories were heartbreaking. To effectively capture the other areas Jen was likely to visit, I turned to my laptop. I spent many hours reading travel blogs, browsing photos, and researching everyday life in Iran and Syria.
I enjoyed Jen’s character, she is intelligent, headstrong, and uses her wits to stay alive. What was your process in creating her character?
The idea for Jen came to me one day while I was quietly remembering one of the medics I served with in OIF2. She was visiting the bazaar inside the Green Zone, in October of 2014, when two suicide bombers blew themselves up, killing and injuring several Americans and Iraqi nationals. I wasn’t with her on that day, but I remember her describing the blood, carnage, and utter chaos. I noticed a subtle change come over her. She would never be the same, I was sure of it. One of the lessons we learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, was that we could never become complacent. As fast a we could devise a new armor or defense, the jihadists would devise a new way to defeat it. What would be more devastating than a suicide bomber? The answer was, combining the violence and terror of a suicide bomber with the madness and fear of a deadly viral outbreak. It’s difficult for a man to write from the perspective of a young woman, and I struggled with it at times. I posed questions to my own teenage daughters when I wasn’t sure if I was on the right track, and I utilized female proof readers. I also drew from my own experiences with women as a firearms instructor, Marine, Soldier, and trainer. I find that women are often quick to pick up the mechanics of firearms manipulation, and I crafted Jen to have that naturally intuitive characteristic. I decided that above all else, I wanted her to have integrity and personal courage, but I also wanted my own girls to think she was a badass.
What is one thing that you think that is misrepresented in the media about Arab culture?
I think westerners are under the misconception that Arab is synonymous with Muslim or Islam/Islamic. For some reason people confuse race, culture, and religion when talking about the middle east in general. There are many races and cultures in the middle east, and although Islam is the dominant religion, there are others including Christianity. That misconception is relatively harmless, though. The real misconception is the one portrayed every single day by the media. There is a very strong message being delivered to the world that Islam is strictly a religion of peace and to question that is wrong. Somehow, it is considered intolerant and unfair to point out the crimes committed against women, gays, and children under Islamic Law, but the same is not true for Christianity. A Christian who doesn’t want to bake a cake is a threat that must be dealt with, but a radical Muslim who kills a nightclub full of Americans because of their sexual orientation is only a problem because he was able to buy a gun.
What is one thing that you hope readers take away from Path of Jen?
I want the reader to know that having a personal relationship with God is not something to be ashamed of. I want them to know that the spirit of America is still alive and strong, and under new leadership we can truly be great again. In one sentence: it’s not what life throws at you that’s important, it’s how you handle it. Believe it or not, those three sentences are connected.
Kidnapped, sold, now running for her life. Jen is an American girl who struggles with her Iranian heritage. At sixteen she is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Follow her journey as she fights for her freedom, stands up for truth, and finds her faith. Filled with action, intrigue, and suspense, Path of Jen will get you fired up and tug at your heart all at once.
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