Kevin is probably the best beta reader in the world! He and I agree on a lot of aspects of organised religion, so I gave him a spot!
My stories come to me sometimes as waking dreams. I’m watching it, like a movie, rather than composing or directing the action. This one started with a boy and a girl walking down the street holding hands. The girl had long blond hair, fair skin and blue eyes. They gazed longingly at one another. but when the boy leaned in for a kiss, the girl pulled away and said, “Take me somewhere only God can see us.”
I knew right then that the girl was an Evangelical Christian and the daughter of a church pastor. The boy was someone from outside her circle. He didn’t go to church. That was why she was afraid to be seen kissing him in the middle of the street.
I thought, “Maybe this boy doesn’t believe in God at all. If his name was Thomas, he could be Doubting Thomas and the story could be called, The Gospel of Thomas. Wouldn’t that be a great name for a novel!”
Now, I took the reins from my subconscious and started working out the parameters of the story. I quickly settled on the name Adeline for the girl. It seemed both fresh and old fashioned. I drew some obvious contrasts between the pair. Thomas would go to the local public high school, while Adeline would attend a private Christian high school, and adjunct to the large church she attends, and where her father is a pastor. Adeline’s life would be highly scripted, organized around church functions. Meanwhile, Thomas lived with his mother and saw his father only occasionally. He would have a great deal of independence and freedom, yet he would have responsibilities, too, like cooking dinner for his mother each night.
I was drawing from personal experiences. I grew up as an Evangelical Protestant, and much of my family is still attends churches of this type. In high school, I was heavily involved in a big “mega-church” similar to the one that Adeline attends. Likewise, I was born to a single mother. Though my mother remarried when I was still very young, I remember times when it was just the two of us.
Thomas and Adeline are seventeen going on eighteen. This is a time of great discovery, when teens stop accepting what they were told and start figuring out what it is that they believe. I wanted to have some heartfelt, thought-provoking discussions between my two love birds about faith, religion and morality.
In addition to all the talking, I wanted there to be long scenes of physical intimacy between the two. The results have shocked some of my readers, but I was committed to portraying this relationship honestly and with realism. Thomas is the more experienced of the pair. He allows Adeline to set the limits, but then he goes right up to the line she has drawn. Yet, it’s important to understand, Adeline is a willing partner. She is ready and eager for this type of relationship.
Adeline’s family is in the spotlight, held up as models of a perfect family. But, underneath his façade are some dark secrets. Thomas, as he gets to know Adeline better, draws ever closer to these big secrets. I was drawing from personal experience here, too. I knew Good Christian Families that struggled behind closed doors with abuse, adultery and alcoholism. None of this was talked about in the open. It was all glossed over, yet I knew it was there and had seen and experienced its effects. The hypocrisy and false piety of my church grated on me as I grew older, and I eventually pulled away. Looking back, I felt anger and resentment, not at God, but at the church. I didn’t want to be associated with people like that any longer.
If I had written this book in my twenties, it would have been much more angry and bitter. I was in my forties when I started writing The Gospel of Thomas. I portray Adeline, her family and her church community, with harsh realism, but also with compassion and mercy.
The story grew and grew until it was nearly 600 pages long. When I was finished and reading it through, I realized that there was a natural break, a terrifying cliffhanger, right in the middle of the book. I split the story into two volumes, called Revelation and Rapture. I found a partner, GenZ Publishing, to help me publish Revelation. I plan to publish Rapture on my own, sometime next year.