Writing Religion, Scene Setting In Amazing Locations And More.

by Joanna Penn

For the launch of Prophecy, I did an interview on GhostWriterDad, a great blog for writers. Here are 2 of the 8 questions. Click here to read the full interview.

This is the Empire of the Dead. Paris Catacombs

1. Your books use aspects of religion as the basis for their stories. How have readers reacted to that?

I am personally fascinated by religion and actually have a Masters degree in Theology so I have studied in depth. It’s been a continued interest of mine and I’ve read and travelled widely to learn more. I find that religious story and myth are already deeply rooted in our society and that resonates with people even if they don’t believe in a specific faith.

From a commercial perspective I think Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code was so popular because it connected with something people already knew about. So I wanted to tap a similar theme, taking religious ideas and using them as the basis for action-adventure thrillers.

Generally, people have taken the religious aspects as entertainment and also some education as I try to use real places and existing objects. Prophecy features the Devil’s Bible which is actually a real medieval book, and Pentecost involves a search for the bones of the Apostles, again based on truth.

I have the greatest respect for believers but at heart, I am writing fiction. Some people think the books aren’t Christian enough but I want to entertain and make you think. No preaching, more action!

3. Your books race through amazing global locations including famous churches and creepy ossuaries. Have you been to all these places and what’s your obsession with scene setting?

Travel is one of my obsessions and I have been to a lot of the places I write about over the last 20 years. Jerusalem in particular is a muse for me and I’ve been there 11 times. It’s woven into both thrillers and will return again. Certainly I’ll be needing another research trip there soon!

In writing my books, I actually start with the idea and then look at places that resonate with the theme. When I was gathering ideas for Prophecy, I went to the Paris catacombs and I knew that bones and ossuaries would be a great atmospheric thread. It turned out that the Devil’s Bible had been kept at the bone church of Sedlec in the middle ages and then I found the mummy crypt of Palermo in Sicily, both awesome locations.

As a reader, I love to learn about new places and descriptions of setting make a difference to the atmosphere of the book. In the writing process, I often plot the book by location rather than by plot on the first pass. One of the important elements for action-adventure is the movement and pacing so fantastic scene locations are critical, and amazingly fun to write!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Andrea December 7, 2013 at 7:44 am

Hi Joanna,

I would love to know what specific books, literature you’d recommend for someone interested in exploring religion, religious mythology, Christian mysteries etc.

Many thanks in advance for your tips & recommendations.
Cheers.

Reply

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