Interview With the Author
What made you want to write Loose Ends?
Photography and writing are the two principal means I use to express my sense of wonder and adoration: I use both to connect to what I’m experiencing, to search for greater intimacy and understanding. Whether an alpine wildflower, a comet, or a toddler running along a beach—I want to reach out and touch them somehow. I approach passages from the New Testament in the same way, with a sense of wonder and delight and a wish to get down on my knees and have a closer look. That’s why I write in general, and certainly my reason for writing Loose Ends.
I was well into compiling my collection of stories before I learned of the Jewish midrash tradition, which includes many stories like mine, concentrating, in the case of the Jewish writers, on stories from the Old Testament. Midrash literally means “to seek”, and in Loose Ends, I suppose I’m seeking to better know some rather famous biblical passages. Not know them in a theological sense—clearly, I’m no theologian—but to populate these stories with real flesh-and-blood characters, so I can more deeply identify with them, and try to follow in their footsteps.
Is there one story that stands out as your favorite in the collection?
I suppose I have a particular affection for stories where the central characters are situated outside their familiar milieu—when they’re interacting with Romans, for example as in the story Roman Thunder, or in the two stories which center around Herod the Great and his family, or where the toddler Jesus flies a kite with a young Egyptian. The clash of culture and values makes irresistible fodder for any writer.
Did you feel any trepidation about characterizing the apostles or Jesus?
I did. I tried my best never to put words into the mouth of Jesus that weren’t scriptural, but I didn’t always succeed. I had a lot more leeway with the apostles, of course, and most of what they say in my story comes from my imagination. It was a lot of fun imagining conversations between Jesus’s disciples. I largely portrayed them as being confused and uncertain. Had I been among the group, I know I would have been confused and uncertain. Mark’s gospel seems to portray them in a similar way.
What are you hoping readers will take away from reading these stories?
I have no special expectations beyond hoping the characters depicted in these stories will seem like real people who—despite their legendary status—were very much like you and me in their hopes, and fears, and limitations. As in real life, the characters of the New Testament have much more grey in them than black and white. I hope readers might begin to regard the New Testament passages as living, robust stories, that one can squeeze and re-shape, and sometimes toss about playfully like a brightly colored beach ball—always with due reverence, of course.
Some of your stories are written from unusual points of view. What prompted you to do that?
For fun, as much as anything. But in a more serious vein, for me, at least, it helps establish the universal character of Christ—that even a donkey had a special relationship with Jesus. Even a stone. There is no part of nature or humanity not affected by his presence.