18 February 2016

Guest Post ~ Hold the Faith: Apostle John Series, by Susan M. B. Preston

Available on Amazon UK, Amazon US

To be a Christian in 1st century Ephesus, under Roman rule, is dangerous. 
The arena awaits, a background threat… one that candidates for baptism are reminded of. The decision might cost them their lives. All it takes is the refusal to burn a pinch of incense and declare that Emperor Domitian is lord and god, and Roman ire declares they are subversive, rebels.

It is 92 AD, and the Apostle John still lives! The sect that the Jewish authorities had hoped would die following the crucifixion of their leader, had not happened.

What had happened was the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple that was (dare I say it) almost like an idol to the Jews of the time. Many of those early followers of the ‘Way’, later to be called ‘Christians’ in a derogatory term, had fled under the persecution from the Jews. With the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, came the Diaspora and Jews joined their fellow Jews in various cities around the Roman Empire.

Using biblical principles I worked out that John, the apostle, would have been married. Working out his age in 92 AD was relatively simple, so calculating the age of any children, and their children was again worked out using the knowledge of when Jewish men married. The daughters were married off far earlier, often soon after puberty, but men had to be mature, settled, and able to support a wife and family.

Thus, although the Apostle John is a key figure in the series of books, he is not the main character. Readers have identified Benjamin, the great-grandson I ‘gave’ John, as the ‘hero’ of the series.
Hold the Faith, the first in the series, is the first in print, although all three are available as eBooks. Book four is ‘resting’ in draft, but starting to urge me to ‘get on with it’. So do a few fans who have followed the family and the brethren through the trials of living in ‘occupied territory’.

I chose Ephesus for the location as most of the evidence pointed that way. There is a friend who would not buy the book because her pet theory (which I did consider) was that John had gone to England. Historically, I could not find enough evidence to support that.

As a child I loved history as a class subject, and as a young person, I devoured books on the Tudors, some of the French ancestry, Scottish history and a long series on the Popes. The Medici and Borgia families fascinated me.

Never would it have occurred to me that I would be writing Christian, historical fiction. I wrote manuals to help my computer classes. But when listening to a detailed Bible study on the gospel of John, I wondered. “Could that be true?” and so started a long trail of research, which does become addictive.

What I found were the people and the times that these folks in the Bible… who had been just stories until then. I found out what it was like living under Roman rule, being hated by Jews, Romans and pagans. They were people. It seems I succeeded in showing that because I have emails and reviews saying that. There is a time to stop a series though, and that will come at the end of book five. Book four is written, book five is thoughts, ideas, promptings. In the meantime book one is now in print – on sale in the US but the ‘official’ Australian launch is in May.

I consulted many versions of the Bible, Josephus (a former Pharisee, and prone to exaggeration by many commentators). Lionel Casson’s ‘Travels in the Ancient World’ was amusing in parts. I subscribe to Biblical Archeological research newsletters and Biblical History newsletters. Suetonius gives insights into the Roman emperors he writes about, as well as various Roman festivals and everything Roman. I have a shelf full of books and hard drives with gigabytes of research – oh, and I recently found another valuable newsletter… Ancient History Encyclopedia.

Susan M. B. Preston

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About the Author

Susan Preston is someone you will usually find at her desk behind her computer, researching and writing her fiction books set in the 1st century AD. Originally from the historic town of Peebles in the Scottish borders, she grew up surrounded by history. Never in her wildest dreams would she have imagined she would write a historical fiction series on early Christianity. It was when a church girls club needed a leader, that Susan stepped forward took on the role, and delved into the stories in the Bible. The ‘leap’ to full-length fiction novels was born from an, “I wonder if that’s true’ moment, and a vast amount of research… which she admits is addictive.  Now there are three books in the Apostle John series, a fourth ‘resting’ in second draft, and a fifth… more than likely. Find out more at susanprestonauthor.com and follow Susan on Twitter @SPrestonPerth

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