We asked him a few questions about his writing, his take on the state of fiction, and what he’s working on next.
1) You’ve written many non-fiction books. What inspired you to write an novel?
When I wrote The Crucified Rabbi and the rest of the Origins of Catholicism series, I was creating a robust defense of Catholicism based on Judaism, the New Testament, Saint Paul, and the prophetic role of Rome in the Old and New Testament. The other books also theological and academic.
However, I have always enjoyed writing fiction. I was just afraid to make it public. After reading Steven Pressfield’s book War of Art and I decided I need to be bold and creative. Sword and Serpent was born.
2) What inspired you to write about St. George and the dragon?
When my oldest son was little I would tell him bedtime stories about knights. At the time, we were recent converts to Catholicism so I began to weave Saints into the stories: Saint George, Saint Christopher, Saint Blaise, Saint Nicholas. This is where the personality of the characters were forged. Later, I sketched out the plot in real Roman history, something that I specialize in.
3) How much of the story is based on ancient sources, and how much did you create yourself? Did you learn anything particularly new or interesting in researching for the book?
All the historical details are accurate. Details of ports, navigation, Roman landscape, towns, even the weapons. I was really happy to learn about how the Roman sword evolved from the gladius. This is an important detail in Sword and Serpent as readers have discovered and will discover in the future books in the series.
4) Do you plan to write more novels? Any hints about what your next novel might be about?
Yes, the second installment of Sword and Serpent is in the works. It will continue with Saint George’s character but also introduce Aikaterina who we know in English as the Egyptian Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
5) Who are your favorite fiction writers? Who would you credit as your influences?
I like Tolkien and there’s some of his influence in Sword and Serpent. I also like Ian Flemming’s short and powerful writing in the James Bond novels. Flemming even has some allusions to James Bond as an English Saint George. Bram Stroker’s Dracula is also one of my favorite works of fiction – and that novel begins on April 23 – the feast of Saint George!
6) What do you think of the state of fiction today?
I think it’s exciting. Fiction is polarizing. Crappy books are being sold by the millions because they are essentially printing porn. Lots of sex and lots of shock. You know, 50 Shades of Grey and all that trash. This shift clears the field and leaves talented story tellers to recraft the art of telling narratives. You can only shock so much. When you run out of vices to exploit, people are going to return to the art of the well-told story.
7) Do you have a philosophy of writing? How do you think about your writing (fiction and non-fiction)?
I have to write in bursts. Sprints. I write every day. But if I need to write a book, I do it fast. I wrote The Catholic Perspective on Paul in one week locked in my office with my loving wife Joy bringing me food. I wrote the original draft of Sword and Serpent in about two months
The more you group the writing process, the better it becomes. For example, I can better remember earlier nuances in the book and use those nuances to make the book grow and flower into something better than I could imagine. I don’t plan the writing process. I plan out the entire structure and then spend hours on the keyboard.
8) You are doing so many things. What other projects are you working on right now?
The New Saint Thomas Institute is where I spend most my time. It has become the world’s largest and most global online Catholic educational institute in the world. We have over 1,500 students in almost 30 nations studying Catholic theology with us through HD video lessons and audio classes. It’s a lot of fun, very rewarding, and lots of work. We are about to open up a new round of enrollment for this Spring and that’s always exciting to bring in new students. People can check it and reserve their own spot over at newsaintthomas.com.
I’m doing a weekly podcast on iTunes called The Taylor Marshall Catholic Show and we just hit 350,000 downloads. And of course, Sword and Serpent Book 2 is in draft mode. It might be titled Gods and Gladiators.