At an archeological dig site in Istanbul, a discovery is made that is poised to rock Christendom to its very foundation—an 800-year old letter which makes the astonishing claim the cross of Jesus still exists, and has been safely hidden away.
This explosive news is kept quiet at the behest of Vladimir Zarco, a Ukrainian billionaire whose illegal business activities are threatened by the document’s discovery. He hastily convenes a team of experts in an effort to discredit the manuscript’s authenticity, but when their analysis points to it as being genuine, a bomb destroys the research center. Zarco shuts the project down, and orders the surviving researchers to leave. Two of the linguists, Drs. Mallory Windom and Colton Foster, have other ideas. Once bitter enemies, they decide to hunt for the cross on their own, even though sinister forces seem bent on stopping them at all costs.
Mallory and Colton follow a trail of clues described in the letter, eventually leading them to Israel, where they find themselves battling against time, hired mercenaries, and each other. Despite the obstacles thrown at them, Mallory and Colton press on to an ancient Jewish town where the Cross has allegedly been hidden. They soon discover, however, the fiercest battle is not from without, but from within, testing their beliefs, their ethics, and their growing love for one another.
I had a chance to ask Mike a few questions:
1) Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
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 what would it be like if it somehow still existed, and what would happen if it were found in our time. And thus the story was born.
2) How does one co-author a novel?
The process Brandon and I have set up for ourselves is quite easy. We first come up with an idea for the story, the characters, their backgrounds, etc. Once the major details have been agreed upon, one of us writes the first chapter, let’s say it’s me. I then send it to Brandon so he can critique it. He then sends the chapter back to me filled with all his comments, to which I critique his critiques. Once we’re both happy with the chapter then he works on chapter 2. And the whole process repeats itself until we’ve finished the entire novel.
Though Brandon and I have developed a good working relationship, we also know co-authoring a story is not for everyone. The creative process is very personal, and some people have a hard time receiving negative feedback from someone else. But that is what needs to happen if they are to have any chance of finishing their novel.
For us, there have been the inevitable disagreements along the away, such as deciding on the structure of a particular scene, the way a sentence should be written, or the kinds of personality traits we want for a character in the novel. In the end, the overall vision for the story is what mattered, to make it as exciting as we possibly could. That always trumped the other’s feelings about the way a scene should be written or what to leave in or cut out of the story. Usually, when one of us shared our reasons for why a certain part needed to be a certain way, especially when he felt pretty strongly about it, the other would usually defer to him, and then we would move on. In the end, the story always ends up being that much stronger because we both embrace the collaborative effort.
3) What do you want your readers to get out of the book?
The cross is a very powerful symbol that has represented the church for 2,000 years. People have many different views of what the cross means to them. In our story we have one person who sees the cross as the instrument by which the sins of mankind were forgiven so we can have a relationship with God, another sees it as the means of healing his wife who is dying of cancer, another sees it as a threat and wants it destroyed, and another who sees the cross as her ticket to fame and fortune. I think people generally view the cross in roughly the same way. In the end, Brandon and I focus on the simplicity of the cross, and the message it represents—that God came down in the form of a man, lived a sinless life, and through His death and resurrection on the cross, made salvation available to all mankind. It’s not the actual cross that did this, but what Jesus did on it.
4) Which character is your favorite, and why?
If I have to choose one, I would say Mallory Windom. Her journey in the story is the longest for all the characters. 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 have 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.
5) If Jesus' cross were ever found, what kind of impact do you think it would have on people?
That is an interesting question indeed. If Jesus’ cross somehow survived, and we could somehow verify its authenticity, it would be a momentous discovery indeed, perhaps eclipsing the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The problem for us will be what happens after that. Where would the cross go? Who would be the caretaker of it? The Catholic Church? The Orthodox Church? A neutral entity? Would it go to Rome, Jerusalem, or some other place? It is an artifact that many people would claim as its own, and I’m afraid it would divide people more than it would unite them.
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.
Mike Lynch's first book, Dublin, came out in 2007, followed by When the Sky Fell, American Midnight, The Crystal Portal, and After the Cross. He has also published numerous short stories in various magazines. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.
The book can be purchased at:
Ellechor Publishing: http://www.ellechorpublishing.com/ellechor-bookstore.cfm