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From The Book

Mary Magdalene, Superstar

Kathleen McGowan’s story has the kind of conclusion that most writers can only dream of. After more than two decades spent researching and writing her trilogy, The Magdalene Line, McGowan began the process of searching for an agent. Although there was interest, no publishing deal was forthcoming, and she ultimately decided to self-publish the first volume of the trilogy, The Expected One, in March of 2004.

The book attracted attention almost immediately. It ended up in the hands of a major literary agent, leading McGowan to a major, million-dollar book deal with Simon & Schuster. Foreign rights have now been sold in 23 languages, and the U.S. release is scheduled for July 2006. Meanwhile, the original, self-published version of her book goes for $100 on eBay.

Many novels focusing on their authors’ vision of Mary Magdalene have been published in the last twenty years. McGowan’s looks like it could become the best known and most widely read—in part because of her talent as a writer, in part because of her own personal story, and in part owing to this particular moment in our culture when people all over the world and of many faiths and academic circles have taken a new interest in this historic character about whom we know so little but imagine so much. For McGowan, who in her spare time is developing film and TV versions of her book and personal story, all of the new-found attention is just icing on the cake. Her relationship with Mary Magdalene, which began when she was 10 years old, is not about fame and fortune. It’s about courage, endurance, faith—and bringing a sense of grace, balance, and truth to the world. Her books, she feels, are, in the end, her contribution to this pursuit.

I blame Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice. They started it.

When I was ten years old, my hip and progressive mother packed my older brothers and me into the Ford Falcon station wagon and headed off to see the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar in our local movie theater. It was love at first sight for all of us. We stopped at the record store on the way home and bought the vinyl version of the soundtrack – a pricey double album that was a little out of our family budget at the time, but the three of us begged for it until Mom relented.

That summer, we literally wore the grooves out of those records as we played them on our portable stereo. We acted out the entire drama from start to finish as we sang along with the soundtrack and danced around the patio. This ritual occurred literally every day for at least a month. The boys split up the lead roles and fought over who would play Jesus and Judas, but because I was the only girl and there was a solitary female character, that role was mine exclusively. We called it The Summer of Superstar, and I spent every day of July in my tenth year re-enacting Mary Magdalene’s devotion to Jesus while wrapped in my mother’s red poncho. To this day, I do a wicked impersonation of Yvonne Elliman singing I Don’t Know How to Love Him.

At that young age, I could never have guessed just what kind of mental and spiritual groundwork had been formed in my consciousness during that Summer of Superstar.

Cut to my late teens as I evolved from fledgling journalism student into idealistic writer and activist. I moved to Europe and immersed myself in the tumultuous politics of Northern Ireland throughout the 1980’s. It was during this period that I developed an increasingly skeptical perspective on recorded, and therefore accepted, history. As an eyewitness to dramatic and often violent events, I realized that in every single circumstance the reported version bore virtually no resemblance to what had transpired before my eyes. The recounting of these occurrences in the media was often entirely unrecognizable to me; these documented versions were written through layers of political, social and personal bias. My youthful idealism was crushed as I realized that the “truth” was lost forever.

Or was it?

I began to feel an overwhelming obligation to question history. With all that I discovered, I realized that I was now on the razor’s edge of a potentially radical perspective – that I essentially didn’t trust anything that had been written down as historical evidence!

So where did that leave me? I was a historian who no longer trusted history, a journalist who believed there were no credible sources available to me in libraries or on microfiche. Where was I going to find the answers I sought?

* * *

To find the answers to these questions posed by the best-selling author Kathleen McGowan, please see Chapter 8, page 283 of the book .