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Are you ready to head to Rome? Ancient Rome, that is. I am excited to have Nathan Maki visiting today to share his new Biblical fiction novel, The Keeper’s Crown. We know quite a bit about Paul, but what would his day-to-day interactions have truly looked like? Let’s take a quick peek at the back cover, and then we’ll let Nathan tell us more.
Stripped of his family, the love of his life, and his self-respect, he sets out on a quest to win a victor’s crown, rescue his parents, and restore his family’s honor. But his path to glory in the restless province of Judaea is threatened by the corrupt governor Felix, the murderous priest Melechi, and most of all by the rabble-rousing Paul of Tarsus.
When Quintus finds himself in Rome chained to Paul all hope of a crown seems lost, but Paul’s example makes him question the true meaning of success. And why does Jael, the mysterious young Jewess who once saved his life, now respond with barely restrained flashes of hate?
The Romans took her father and her brother from her.
Now Jael vows to fight for her father’s faith, fulfill her brother’s oath, and avenge their deaths. But the further she travels with Paul and Quintus the more she feels torn. Can she follow her heart and still keep her vow?
He turned the world upside down.
Paul never expected to end his ministry in chains, but even still, he is determined to carry the gospel to Rome and the Emperor Nero himself. But what if those who need the gospel most are those closest to him? As the Great Fire strikes Rome, fanning Nero’s persecution of the Christians to a white-hot fury, murderous secrets, impossible choices, and steadfast faith will lead to tragedy and triumph.
Welcome, Nathan! Why did you choose this particular setting, and have you been there?
The Roman world has always fascinated me, and my wife and I did actually get a chance to visit Rome for our tenth wedding anniversary a couple years ago. It was just a spur-of-the-moment fulfillment of a life-long dream. Rome was amazing. Walking streets that the Apostle Paul would have walked and where legions once marched, standing in the Forum where Triumphs would have paraded, threading through the twists and turns of the Catacombs, descending into the underground tunnels and climbing the bleachers of the Coliseum…for someone who’s written so much about Rome it was definitely the trip of a lifetime.
I imagine so! Tell us a little about The Keeper’s Crown. Do you have a favorite character from this story? Why is this character your favorite?
As a guy, I’d have to say that Quintus is my favorite. The Keeper’s Crown is in many ways his “coming-of-age” story, from an ill-fated fight with the future emperor Nero as a boy, to enlisting in Judaea, fighting to regain his family’s honor, and really just struggling to find out who he is and what success really means. When he meets Paul, he wants no part of this rabble-rouser’s Jesus, but Paul’s impact on his life as a kind of father figure is profound. I poured a lot of my own questions and insecurities into Quintus and as he found answers so did I. Godly success is doing God’s will regardless of consequences or results. Hopefully readers will have the same take-away.
At the same time, Jael certainly vies for my affections too. From the time we meet her as a child dealing with tragedy through watching her grow to confident womanhood you can’t help but love her. She’s brave, loyal, spiritual, and fiery. I hope she surprises readers as much as she surprised me!
They both sound very realistic and relatable. Did you have a favorite story/book as a child? Why was it a favorite?
My brother Jon and I used to pile up with Mom and Dad in their bed every night before lights out and they’d read us stories. We read a 10-volume Bible storybook through more times than I can count, always to the “squiggly blue line.” We always begged them to read more. It went something like, Us: “Plleeeease!” Them: “No, boys, you know we don’t read past the line. Now go to bed!” (But sometimes they’d relent and read a bit more.) My favorite volume was the one that dramatized David’s life and exploits.
What an awesome legacy! You mentioned your trip to Rome earlier. If you could live during the time period of your novel, would you? Why or why not?
Honestly, I don’t think many of us would be tough enough to survive during the first century AD!
Take Paul for instance. He walked and sailed almost 20,000 miles as a missionary. He was whipped and stoned and shipwrecked and imprisoned at every turn. Slavery was very much a thing. Plumbing not so much. Food was scarce, fires were common, and once in a while whole cities burned down like in the Great Fire of Rome described in The Keeper’s Crown.
If you were a Christian, things got even better. In Judaea you’d be up against the Jewish establishment, whose favorite punishment was forty lashes save one. Everywhere else you’d be meeting people who either had never heard of Jesus before in their lives or were determined to burn you at the stake or feed you to the lions for worshipping Him instead of their pagan gods. And you didn’t have a Bible in your backpack to pick you up when you were down or give you guidance.
Yet still men like Paul managed to turn their world upside down.
Now, to go back in time and meet Paul and see if I came even close to encapsulating his character? That would be amazing. To tour that world for a while would be awesome. But I’d want a secure exit available at all times back to the here and now.
So true! Life was nothing like what we have today, yet I wonder if just a brief visit wouldn’t do wonders for our appreciation of all that we have been given… Speaking of all that we have, authors are busy people. How do you juggle all of the demands on your time, so that you can maintain your sanity?
Sanity? Who said anything about sanity?
In all seriousness, I only really write during the winter months when I’m only pastoring and my landscaping business is shut down. (In Canada there’s not a lot of landscaping going on December-March, as you can probably imagine.) Even still, the thought of taking the winters off from writing is definitely alluring. But at the same time writing is in my blood. Time will tell.
Thank you for taking the time to visit with us, Nathan, especially now that things are beginning to get busy for you!
Your turn! Would you want to live, or even visit, during Paul’s time?
More about Nathan:
A life-long love for historical fiction and a passion to create high-intensity, realistic novels from a Christian world view has propelled Nathan into his writing career. He is the author of the War Within series of novels set in Ancient Rome, and most recently The Keeper’s Crown, a novel of the Apostle Paul. A recent trip to Rome to walk the ancient streets, explore the Catacombs, and stand in the Coliseum plunged Nathan even deeper into the ancient world he brings to life for his readers. Nathan’s novels combine the faith and romance of Francine Rivers’s Mark of the Lion trilogy with the action and adventure of Bernard Cornwell or Conn Iggulden. Nathan lives in Ontario, Canada, with his wife, son, and three very spoiled dogs. He pastors a church and manages his own business in addition to his writing. Sometimes he even sleeps.
You can connect with Nathan online:
The Keeper’s Crown Giveaway:
Nathan has generously offered to give away a signed paperback or ebook (winner’s choice) of The Keeper’s Crown to a winner in the continental US or Canada. Giveaways are subject to the Giveaway Policy.