AUTHOR: Brandon Barr & Mike Lynch
BOOK TITLE: After the Cross
PUBLISHER: Ellechor Publishing
Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?
Happy to. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my wife and two children. She worked in restaurants for many years as a chef, but now teaches cooking in high school. My two children are also in high school. One aspires to be an English teacher, and the other, something in the computer field. I have written off and on for most of my life, but didn't start seriously writing until about 8 years ago. I actually don't stick to one genre of writing, which I know is a big no-no for writers, but I cannot help myself. I've written stories that are based in science fiction, fantasy, historical, adventure, and romance. I'm your proverbial Jack of all trades, but master of none.
Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.
I have a passion for history, and regularly watch the History Channel on cable. Several years ago there was a documentary about Helena, the mother of Constantine. He was the Roman emperor who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. When Helena converted to Christianity, she had a desire to visit those places she read about in the Bible, and decided to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem around 327 A.D. While she was there she allegedly found what she considered to be the cross of Jesus. It was kept in Jerusalem until it was captured in battle in 1187 A.D. by the Muslim general, Saladin. Nothing is said about the cross after that. Watching that documentary got me thinking about the cross, and how people might respond if they discovered it had survived to our time. And thus the story was born.
What got you interested in writing, and what inspired you to write your first book?
I think writers are born that way. I know that's true in my case since I had little interest in books or reading growing up. My interest was more in the area of movies and television. Since I'm a visual learner, that would make a lot of sense. As someone who enjoys stories, I found myself writing short stories for my own enjoyment. I never had any intention of getting them published, but I believe we are all born with God-given gifts, given to us for the benefit of others. Shortly after high school, I suddenly had the idea I could write a novel. That was truly a surprise for me, given my background, but thought I would give it a shot. It was a science fiction story based upon the premise 1000 alien ships were presently headed toward Earth for the sole purpose of destroying it, and we had little chance of stopping them. With that simple idea, I spent the next several months fleshing it out. As you can imagine, it was pretty bad, and worked on it off and on for the next 28 years, honing down the story until it was in publishable shape. My perseverance paid off, and I eventually found a publisher for When the Sky Fell in 2009.
Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?
I generally have a big idea for a story, and then figure out how to make it come to life by creating the proper characters and plot points. In the case of After the Cross, I asked myself the question, "What would happen if the Cross of Jesus were discovered today?" I would need archeologists, so that created a need for Colton Foster and Mallory Windom. Every story also needs villains that will work contrary to the heroes--enter Victor Petrichenko and Vladimir Zarco. I then developed their backgrounds, psychologies, along with the plot points, tone, and mood of the story. Once I've laid out all the parts, I then put them together into the form of a five or six page outline. It establishes the structure I want to create for the book, but it also gives me a lot of room to fill in the gaps as I go. For me, writing is an interactive process, and the way I have drawn up my characters and story elements often change as I get deeper into the story. Having a general outline gives me the freedom to do that.
What comes first: the plot or the characters?
I would say the plot comes first, followed by the characters.
Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
Since we are focused on After the Cross, I will scale my answer down to the characters in this book. For the one I like the most, I would say Mallory Windom. Of all the characters, her journey is the most comprehensive. She is a deeply wounded person who has had a tough life, and keeps everyone at arm’s length as a result. Mallory is in the hunt for the cross because of the opportunities it will afford her. She’s in it for the money and fame. As the story unfolds, she finds herself slowly discovering the true message of the cross, and recognizes many of the mistakes she has made in her life, and what they've cost her. At the end of the story, without giving away the big climax, she must decide between her past and her future, and whether or not she will open her heart to everything God has for her.
The character I pity the most is Victor Petrichenko. He would be the tragic character in this story. His wife is dying of cancer, and when he finds out the cross of Jesus may still exist, does everything within his power to retrieve it. He believes miraculous powers are attached to the cross, and it could heal his wife. Because he's an unscrupulous man, he will stop at nothing to get it. As is often the case for men of power who sacrifice everything to acquire what they want through any means necessary, the price he pays is a big one.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
It is important to remember I co-authored After the Cross with Brandon. That means the two of us had to agree on everything contained in all 273 pages of the book, or we would have never finished it. As far as the most difficult part of the story itself to write, that came at the very end. This is when all four major characters are brought together for the first time. They have been involved in the hunt for the cross, but for very different reasons. One of the characters wants to destroy it (if the cross is found), the other wants it to heal his wife, while Colton, the main character, recognizes the cross for what it is, and is committed to seeing it handled with respect and reverence (again, if the cross is found), while Mallory, a treasure hunter that has no problem selling her archeological skills to the highest bidder, sees it as her ticket to fame and fortune. The problem for us was making sure the resolution for each character's search ended appropriately, but in a way that was satisfying for the reader. Since they all want different things for different reasons, that proved difficult. In the end, we believe we hit upon the right ending. Most of our readers seem to think so, anyway.
Did your book require a lot of research? How long does it take to write a book for you?
I was actually a history major in college, so I've studied a lot about the past over the years. I already had a general understanding about what linguists and archeologists do, but knew more was needed. I went to some websites that gave me some really good information that worked its way into the book. It's hard to say how much time this took me overall. As Brandon and I wrote the story, if we needed some historical information required for a particular scene, we usually checked out several historically-based websites, found the names and places we wanted, and inserted it into a piece of dialogue or described what a character saw. For example, at the beginning of the story there is a scene between Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas. As the two of them talk, Caiaphas looks about the room and sees some Roman swords. Rather than just say "sword," we used the word "gladius," which is what they were called 2,000 years ago. It's details like that which make the story that much more real for the reader. Though it varies from book to book, but it takes us about 6-9 months to write it, and then another 3 to edit it before it is sent to our agent.
If Jesus' cross were found today, what kind of impact do you think it would have on people?
That’s an interesting question. If the cross of Jesus somehow survived, and we could verify its authenticity, it would be a momentous discovery indeed, perhaps eclipsing the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The problem for us is what happens after that? Where would the cross go? Who would be the caretaker of it? The Catholic Church? The Orthodox Church? A Protestant church? A neutral entity? Would it go to Rome, Jerusalem, or some other place? It is an artifact so many people would claim as its own, I’m afraid it would divide us more than it would unite us.
On a personal level, I think it would drive many people closer to God. Can you imagine what it would be like to actually see, and perhaps touch, the actual cross Jesus sacrificed himself on so that man would be reconciled back to God? It would be a powerful moment indeed. Of course, I believe many others would contest the authenticity of the cross, or the purpose it served. And so in the end, it comes down to what each person believes the purpose the cross served, and its place in their lives.
What are some of the challenges in your writing process?
Describe your writing space.
I like to write on my computer, never by long hand. My ideas come much easier for me that way. I also like to write with as few peripheral distractions as possible--no noise or anything else that takes me away from the story. That means I like my writing space clean and organized. When everything is in its place, I can then immerse myself in the story and let it unfold before my eyes.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I still enjoy watching movies and TV shows. I also spend most of my free time with my family.
What books or authors have influenced your writing?
I'm asked that question a lot. I guess it comes with the territory. Since I wasn't much of a reader growing up, I don't really have many writing heroes. I do, however, respect the stories told by Rod Serling, especially the ones he did for The Twilight Zone. I like how he took ordinary people and put them in extraordinary situations. A lot of what I write follows the same model.
What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?
I believe there will always be books, the kind we have today, made of paper, glue and covers. There's something about holding a book in your hands and turning the pages. I also recognize that we now live in the computer age, and that has had a profound effect on publishing. Nooks, Kindles and other such devices are here to stay, and have already become the dominate means by which books are purchased and read. I believe this trend will continue into the foreseeable future. Amazon and other online "bookstores" have also given hopeful authors the opportunity to publish their works without the need of going through an agent or publisher. While this has given voice to a lot of amazing writers who have had little luck getting their work published the traditional way, it has also unleashed the floodgates of books and novels that weren't published for a reason. There will always be a vast reserve of wonderful stories out there for people to read, but it may take a bit more work wading through the bad stuff to find it.
What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for
My first books, Dublin, came out in 2007, followed by When the Sky Fell, American Midnight, The Crystal Portal, and After the Cross. My next novel, Love's Second Chance, will come out in 2013. I also recently finished a sequel to my first novel, entitled, After the Sky Fell, which I sent to the publisher a few months back. He hasn't said yet when it will be released.
What is your marketing plan?
Like any hopeful author, I tell everyone who will listen to me about my books. That has meant attending conventions, book signings, sending e-mails to friends and family, not to mention getting to know people with similar interests on websites, and doing radio interviews. It takes a lot of work getting the word out about your books, much more than I expected, so I appreciate the opportunity you've given me to share my stories with your audience.
What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
You have to know your characters, who they are and where they've come from. If your reader can't connect with them, they almost always never enjoy the story. Characters are everything. When they go on their journey, your reader goes with them. They cry when the character cries, and cheer when the character succeeds. Making any character into a real person is no easy task, which is why I often draw upon people I know, myself included. I like to give them idiosyncrasies, such as ticks or manners of speech. It's those little things that make them unique. No one can relate to a perfect person, so they also need a flaw or two. Look at Superman. He can do everything, except when it came to Kryptonite. That was his weakness. Your characters need to have theirs, but in a way that is relevant to the story. In the end, if you as the author believe everything about your characters, your readers will as well.
Where can people learn more about you and your work?
The best place to check out the books and short stories I've written and the places you can purchase them is my website: www.mikelynchbooks.com
Colton Foster was once hailed as a renowned expert in Latin, Hebrew and Greek, but when a shadowy antiquities dealer outwits him with master forgeries from Solomon’s Temple, his reputation is destroyed. Years later, his career and self respect still in pieces, his life takes a turn when an 800-year old letter is discovered in Istanbul, Turkey that claims the cross of Jesus still exists, and has been safely hidden away. The job of translating the letter is his for the taking, and with it a chance to redeem himself.
Mallory Windom is smart, beautiful, and skilled at getting what she wants. A linguistic prodigy with a dark history, she’s learned to trust no one, a skill that works to her advantage in the black market antiquities trade where she regularly sells her expert talents to the highest bidder. When she’s asked to join the same research team as Colton, she sees it as a ticket to the legitimacy she craves, and eagerly accepts.
As Colton and Mallory hunt for Christianity’s most prized relic, mysterious forces seem bent on stopping them at every turn. In a race against time and hired mercenaries, Colton and Mallory’s search leads them to an ancient town in Israel. But they soon discover the quest for the cross is not only from without, but from within, testing their beliefs, their ethics, and their growing love for one another.