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Today, we have an opportunity to talk to Patrick W. Andersen. Patrick has written the book, Acts of the Women. First, let me thank you for joining me. I appreciate you giving me your links and I want to share those with our readers.
That is great. I see more and more authors joining TilkTok. Seems like a growing platform. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to start writing?
When I was 25 and working a decent union job in a cannery in my native Southern California, I realized this job was not going to help me realize my dream of becoming a writer. Fortunately, I was not married or otherwise committed, so I quit my job and moved to San Francisco to earn a degree in journalism. I became editor of a newspaper in Chinatown and established a successful career as a writer. I left the paper and went into a larger, more corporate environment, and earned my master’s degree in public administration. After retiring as a communications manager for a large organization with about 6,000 employees, I was finally able to return to my first love, writing fiction. My wife and I continue to live in San Francisco.
Where do you get your inspiration, information, and ideas for books?
In many years of news writing, I learned the best way to attract and keep readers’ attention was to always look for conflict or disagreement, and then offer both sides a chance to make their best case so readers could decide what to accept and what to reject. In writing fiction, I am sometimes drawn to a story idea by the same motive. If a large number of people have accepted a premise as “fact” just because that’s what they’ve always been told to believe, then I get a nagging notion in the back of my head that someone ought to challenge that assumption.
I always try to glide over the obvious responses on any story, and instead look for something—probably idea six or seven—that will make a reader sit up and say, “Wow—I hadn’t ever thought of it that way.”
For instance, I became a Christian more than 45 years ago
and have studied many aspects of the faith. So, after some random guy started
arguing with me that Jesus was an only child—despite very clear texts in the Bible
that say he had brothers and sisters—I did a deep dive into researching the
topic. My debut novel, Second Born, was the result of that study.
Can you give an example?
Can you give an example?
And over the years I got tired of all the talk about what the so-called “Church Fathers” had done to establish the traditions that billions upon billions of people have since accepted as fact. What about the Church Mothers? You don’t give birth to much of anything if you don’t get the mothers involved. So that question led me to write my newest novel, Acts of the Women. When someone asks for my “elevator speech” to describe the plot, I just say that the men gave speeches and wrote history books about their own noble deeds, but the women did most of the work.
Clever. It sounds like you listen a lot but also aren't afraid to think independently. What is the best advice you have ever been given as a writer?
My first English professor in my freshman year of college was teaching us how to write essays, because that would be a key element to our success in school and, in many cases, our careers after graduation. He told us that when we received an assignment to write an essay about a topic, to stop and write down the first ten ideas that occurred to us about how to handle that topic. Then cross out the first five on the list, because everyone else in class has thought of the same ideas. Keep in mind that the primary audience is a tired professor grading papers late at night, and she’s sick of seeing the same thing over and over again with only slightly different wording from one student to the next. Ideas six and seven on your list will be more original and probably still be close enough to the topic to make it interesting, to make that tired professor sit up and take notice. By the time you get to idea number eight, you’re probably stretching the connection to the original topic pretty thin. And ideas nine and ten will be so far off track that the professor will give up trying to make sense of it. So, I always try to glide over the obvious responses on any story, and instead look for something—probably idea six or seven—that will make a reader sit up and say, “Wow—I hadn’t ever thought of it that way.”
If I’ve coined a phrase that becomes
part of the lexicon,
then that’s success.
Do you write full-time or around another job? How do you schedule your time to write?
Before I retired, my full-time job was writing, plus managing and editing the other writers I worked with, and managing the office procedures necessary to allow us all to do our work. Since retirement, my writing schedule is much more lax. When the word gets around that you are retiring, well-meaning friends who assume you will be bored start “volunteering” you to serve on the boards of nonprofits and to publish their newsletters. I’ve found myself serving on more than a dozen boards and volunteer committees, so the time set aside for writing is much more limited than I’d like.
Too funny. I was asked to be on a board for a writer's guild last year. Some days I am thankful and others I wonder what I agreed to! It sometimes pulls me away from the things about writing I enjoy. What is your favorite part about writing?
I like that I get to use my craft to inform, entertain, or persuade readers. In the past four decades I have needed to be able to do all three of those. Once I know what my objective is and who comprises the audience for any particular story or assignment, then I am able to decide my approach, my methods, my style, my vocabulary, and the rhythm with which I will put all these elements into play. I’ll take input from others, but I’m all alone and in charge at the keyboard when it’s time to write it. Too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the dish. Just tell me what I’m supposed to do, and then give me the space to do it.
What does literary success look like to you?
Some people define success by the size of a paycheck. Others see success as the fame that comes with having your name out there. But in my experience, most readers don’t really pay much attention to who the writer is. So, I measure success by whether readers accept and act on what they have read in any story I have written. If I’ve coined a phrase that becomes part of the lexicon, then that’s success. If I’ve introduced a new interpretation of a long-accepted “fact,” and that interpretation becomes a topic of public discussion or debate, then I’ve succeeded, and it doesn’t matter so much whether the people debating the issue are attributing it to Patrick Andersen. If I’ve moved the discussion forward, then I’ve done my job.
Please tell us about your current release.
The title of the novel, Acts of the Women, is a take-off from the New Testament book, Acts of the Apostles. If that latter book was your only source of information, you’d come away thinking that a roomful of illiterate or semi-literate men led by Peter decided one fine day in Jerusalem, Hey—let’s start a religion that will replace Judaism and the Greek and Roman gods of our time and make us all famous. And in the second half of the book, another man named Paul—much more literate, this one—says, Hey, you’re right, but I’m more right than you are so I’ll take your new religion and make it even grander. Then the rest of the story consists of each man saying my religion’s bigger than your religion. Oh yeah? Well, my religion lasts longer and is more satisfying—everybody says so. Oh yeah? Well my religion… And on and on and on.
Now, as a married man who has been forced to learn the proper order of the genders in the running of the universe, I know quite well that it wasn’t a dozen illiterate men who created the Christian church and made it grow so phenomenally that it became dominant in the empire in just a few hundred years. Even if women were considered “property” under the laws of that time, the women were running things just as they always have. They will flatter their men to make the guys think they’re in charge, but the women will manipulate events behind the scenes to make sure things run smoothly. So shall it be written. So shall it be done.
Can you read / provide us with a small exert? (optional – under 200 words)
Okay, this occurs early in the book, so I’m not giving away too much. The scene is when the woman we’ve always called Mary Magdalene has come to the “upper room,” where Jesus’ brothers are mourning his execution by the Romans three days earlier. She’s just told them that Jesus is still alive; they don’t believe her, but she has stared them down and forced them to accept what she says. Now she has gone downstairs:
I found Rachel in the kitchen, fussing over a large cake of bread she had just pulled out of the oven. She poked a small knife into the middle and examined inside to see if the dough was cooked all the way through. Apparently satisfied with what she found, she set the knife down and turned to me.
“I was sorry to hear of your family’s loss,” she said with a slight bow of her head. “The Rabbi Gamaliel was so sad when he told me. I’m sure the Rabbi James must be grievin’ terribly, it bein’ his brother and all.”
I clutched her forearms in greeting the way the men did, and locked eyes with her. “Rachel, he’s alive. I saw him this morning. I need you to gather some women that you can trust to help me take care of him.”
Rachel’s eyes widened in a mixture of shock, disbelief and wild joy. “Alive? But we heard the Romans killed him. They said the King is dead.”
“No, they failed to kill him, or at least they can’t keep him dead. But we have to hide him and care for him or else he may die. He’s badly wounded. And then we have to smuggle him away.”
She looked off vacantly for a moment as if consulting a list that hung in the air before her, then snapped back into focus. “I know some people who can help. We’ll go to them.” Then she looked at my belly. “You look like your baby’s gonna pop out any minute. Why don’t you rest here while I go take care o’ things?”
I tilted my head as if I were looking at a teenager who had just uttered a mouthful of nonsense. “Rachel, we are women. Who do you think actually gets things done in this world — the men?”
|Buy it HERE|
Love this. I am a Bible reader in my own life and journey. This is a refreshing way to enliven well known story.
Love this. I am a Bible reader in my own life and journey. This is a refreshing way to enliven well known story.What exciting story are you working on next?
A murder mystery, set in a different century, a different culture, a different mindset. It’s requiring a lot of research.
Research is always my kryptonite. What is your writer’s kryptonite?
Kryptonite? That makes it sound like there’s just one thing that prevents me from writing. There’s social media, computer video games, volunteer projects like the weekly church newsletter and taking minutes for nonprofit board meetings. Every time I declare to myself that I’m going to spend several hours on my writing project, one or more of the other voices in my head shout out a dozen other reasons why I should do something else first. Sometimes I have to call all my personalities into a conference so we can discuss and vote on our priorities for the day.
The writing part is probably the easiest. Trying to find an agent is like climbing a steep hill of loose sand. After giving up on finding an agent, finding a publisher who is willing to accept queries from an agent-less writer is like deep-sea diving without the air tank. And then promoting your work so some people will actually get the opportunity to read it—well, if you haven’t already lost all hope, then you soon will.
Are you involved in any writer groups?
I guess I’m listed as a member of a dozen groups loosely held together by social media. But a group of three of us started meeting every month about seven years ago. We called ourselves Coffee House Eccentrics & Writers (CHEW), and we met at a coffee house a few miles from Stanford University. When the pandemic hit, we started meeting on Zoom, which was really easier because we were each driving 40 to 50 miles to get to the coffee house. Each of us has completed two novels. One member, Victorian Kazarian, has published both of hers in what she’s calling the Silicon Valley Murder series. The other member, Pamela Chartrand, did not publish her first novel because she wanted to look at it again after thinking about other things for a year or so. But her second novel The Herbarium, is due for publication this spring.
One more time, where can someone go to purchase your book?
Add your links here again
Acts of Women begins grounded in one of the most known and well read stories in history: the death of Jesus. But here there is a twist early in the dialogue: “Many lives are at stake here, so I’m going to need people with common sense. I’m going to talk to the women.” Or as Priscilla gathers a group of women at one point: “We are here today because it is up to us women to bring order to the empire.”
The story cleverly builds upon the text of Scripture around the voices of the women. Some names are well known to readers of the Bible account while others may be less familiar. It does well to honor the original text while cultivating a new perspective with such gems as: “Well, let’s not just stand around like a bunch of men. It’s time to get to work.” Or “Rachel here has one of the most important jobs of all…. She has to keep control over all of you men.”
There is also a great deal of fun interactions with the ancient world if you are a fan of history (I particularly liked Thomas’ at the library of Alexandria). The author has certainly done some research as shown by knowledge of Priscilla. It was fun to finally hear from Lazarus (who at one point declares the works in mysterious ways perhaps tongue in cheek) since he never speaks in the Bible after his resurrection.
Overall, it offers a fresh way to see a known journey and some of the road through the New testament (book of Acts in particular). There is enough invention to keep it fresh and enough from the text to keep it familiar. This may be the hardest challenge the author faced approaching a sacred story and I think did it well.
I was given a copy for review. The opinions are my own.