Q&A with the author

What motivated you to write this novel?

The more I’ve learned about the Mid-East conflict, and the longer it’s gone on, the more I’ve wanted to do something about it, to try to help resolve it. I mean, c’mon, the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in 1979 should have been the end, or at least the beginning of the end, of the conflict between all Muslims and Israel. Thirty-three years ago! You’d think they would’ve worked something out by now. But it’s gotten worse over that time, with suicide bombers and the unauthorized settlements on Palestinian land. And Egypt now considering pulling out of the treaty with Israel. Seeing how effective one novelist was in encouraging the public to question Christ’s divine nature, I thought a novel may reach more people and get them to consider a controversial idea more easily than a non-fiction book can. I think if the opinions of people in the U.S. were turned from such complete support for Israel because of the supposed covenant God made with Israel giving them the land forever, then Israel, without their giant battle-mech standing behind them, would be forced, on their own against the whole Muslim world, to make the concessions they should have made years ago.

What books or authors have influenced your life and writing?

John Updike is my favorite writer. I describe his writing style as luminous. His writing has had a strong influence on what I consider good writing. His novel Roger’s Version was also influential in my setting my faith aside in my early 30s. Which is ironic because Updike himself continued to believe in God. Not the evangelical God, but God in some form, and I don’t think he intended for the reader to stop believing. That wasn’t the purpose of the book. But he created a professor character, Kriegman, who gave such a lucid argument for evolution over creation that I couldn’t dismiss it. And he had an evangelical student character go through a crisis of faith in the story. So the book leaned heavily toward atheism, although he didn’t.
     The most influential book for me was Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Such lucid arguments for not relying on faith to explain the universe. I’m surprised I didn’t drop my faith before I’d finished reading the book, but I continued believing the biblical record as inerrantly inspired for seven more years. I took my time thinking it all through.

Do you see writing as a career?

It would be great to be able to live on the earnings from one’s books. But writing is great as a side interest too. The quality of a writer’s book shouldn’t be measured in the number of copies sold. It should be measured in the quality of the writing, in the depth of the thinking that brought it into being. Do I call myself a writer? Yeah, along with everything else: composer, artist, Web designer. Even digital sculptor, if you want to include the 3D models I’ve built. I would love to add quantum physicist, geneticist and architect to the list, but there isn’t enough time, so I just list those as side interests.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? What do you do to get past it?

If I had deadlines to meet, I probably would call it writer’s block when I couldn’t think of what to write next but I had to complete a project. As it is, if I don’t have anything to write, I don’t sit and stare at a blank screen. I don’t keep a daily wordcount or aim for so many words per day. Usually the next scene will just present itself and I’ll return to writing. It doesn’t bother me if a couple of months go by before I have something to add to a project. I've finished enough projects now to know that I’ll be able to finish the current project too, and I don’t stress about it. So I don’t really have any advice for those who do suffer from writer’s block. Except to say that writing mostly comes from the subconscious, so you should probably just let your subconscious work in the background while your conscious mind does something else. I know about the inspiration/perspiration thing, and it’s true too; you can’t just wait for inspiration all the time or nothing gets written. But balancing the two works for me. Ideas generally do just present themselves at the odd moment when I’m focusing on something else.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Getting started on the subplot set in the 7th century BCE. That was 2,600 years ago, and I thought how on earth can I write about people from that long ago? I started the first scene with trepidation and kept it really simple: two men of the working class, standing beside an ox cart, at the edge of a trash pit, late at night. I kept the first two historical scenes short but was able to get more into visualizing what was happening with the third scene when I had the character cross the Hinnom Valley, walk up through the southern city to the Temple, cross the courtyard and go up to the scribes’ workroom. An artist’s conception that I’d found on the Web of what Jerusalem may have looked like in that era was a big help. By the time I got to the scene in the scribes’ workroom, I felt more comfortable with having the characters interact. I kept in mind that, in evolutionary terms, 2,600 years was not that long ago and we would have found the way people looked and acted then very familiar. And people then didn’t know they were in the distant past; they thought they were living in the present, like we do. The way they talked and acted felt current to them, the way it does to us. To convey that feeling to the reader I thought the characters should talk in what we would consider an ordinary way, because they felt they were talking in an ordinary way. It seemed that having them talk with stilted speech in order for it to sound ancient and foreign to us wouldn’t have accurately reflected the characters’ experience, because their speech didn’t sound ancient to them. I did think it would be better to avoid really current idioms because they might seem strange and comic, but I’m sure they had their own equivalents of "No way!" and "Awesome, dude."

What projects are you working on now?

I have another novel completed, Secreta Corporis, and will be putting the final polish on that and converting it to an ebook soon. When I wrote this novel, it ballooned out to 169,000 words, which is way too long, especially for a debut novel. Breaking it up into two novels made more sense, and I can say that I’ve now completed three novels, including my script book, Tinselfish. I haven’t settled on a topic for my fourth yet. Occasionally I’ll encounter something that I think might be compelling enough, but I’ve been too focused on finishing and converting this book to really give it much thought. I will be starting on it soon, though, because I like the process of writing. I miss it when I’m not.

The hillside at Ramat Rachel
Read the first chapter (PDF)
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Book cover
The novel’s premise is disturbingly plausible.
Available versions of The Talpiot Find by John Evan Garvey
Barnes & Noble
Rollover images at top of screen to see character bios

Occupation: Grad student in archaeology

Residence: Los Angeles, USA

Ethnicity: French-American

Religion: Agnostic Atheism (cultural Christian)

Interests: Cosmology, big dogs, Wikipedia, roller coasters, the beach
cell phone

Occupation: Co-director of the Talpiot dig, one of Marc’s archaeology professors

Residence: Los Angeles, USA

Ethnicity: Jewish-American

Religion: Secular Judaism

Interests: Scuba diving, backpacking, Gregorian chant, American politics
cell phone

Occupation: Co-director of the Talpiot dig, archaeology professor

Residence: London, England

Ethnicity: Jordanian-English

Religion: Islam (lapsed)

Interests: American movies, English politics, French cuisine, Jordanian pastry
cell phone

Occupation: Undergrad student in archaeology

Residence: Jerusalem, Israel

Ethnicity: Israeli

Religion: Traditional Judaism

Interests: American television, Israeli crime novels, conspiracy theories, online chess, texting
cell phone
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