It is my pleasure to welcome Lisa Samson back for another visit! I've asked her some in-depth questions about her latest novel, The Passion of Mary-Margaret. This was a very dark book in many ways, and I'm certain it will stir up controversy on some levels. I hope this candid interview will shed light on the story God laid upon Lisa's heart to share with her readers.
Please, welcome Lisa Samson to my Window!
1. I was raised in the South, and my life has been touched by prejudice. When Mary Margaret comes to
Could you tell your readers how/why you chose to deal with these views in such a dramatic way? How did God work these issues out in your life?
I met a religious sister before writing this book who taught down South during the late fifties, so she met with the suspicion and the scorn you might imagine in an area with so few Catholics. The comment by one of Mary-Margaret's students that she had horns under her veil is a true story told to me by Sr. Iris-Anne! Why did I deal with it so dramatically? Because racism and prejudice damage people as much as the hitting of fists and the taking away of possessions. I was coming at it from a religious persecution angle, however, not so much a racial angle. Except for Morpheus, who, as you noted above was persecuted for his race and his religion, hoping to give Mary-Margaret the vision that it could be worse for her!
2. In the Author’s Notes you state very clearly what the story is NOT about. What was your primary purpose – in your own heart and mind – behind the telling of this story in this particular way? (especially as it relates to the aspect of the Catholic faith)
Well, in my note I explained this was not a retelling of Hosea who was asked to marry a prostitute. (I believe somebody's already done that one!) Although, this is the same set-up, it is actually a metaphorical exploration of the incarnation. Mary-Margaret, with her purity and mission both bound up together (as is only acheivable in the character of a religious sister), was the Christ figure, and Jude, with his carnality, is humankind. The lengths she goes to save him pales in comparison to what Christ did for us, but of course, any metaphor where humanity represents the Divine is tricky. But the big question of the story remains the same, "What does it truly mean to lay down your life for someone, as Jesus did? What does it mean to allow Christ to incarnate himself in us every day?"
3. There is one character – Gerald – who makes an ephemeral appearance in the book, but he is described in such a powerful way I have to ask about him. On page 82 you state: “Gerald found hope close to home. It was never right around the corner or coming next year. Those kind of people can be annoying to the one born with a furnace for a belly and no vents whereby to dispel the heat.”
Don’t you think we all aught to be a little more like Gerald? Recognizing the hope of Christ all about us regardless of our circumstances? (I’m afraid we tend to nurse the fire in our bellies instead!)
I guess it depends on what area the fire is burning! Regarding our hope in Christ, I would agree. But if the fire is blazing to do righteousness and be the caretakers of God's mercy and justice here in the Kingdom, or draw into ever closer communion with Christ, I say, burn baby burn!
4. Jude was by far the most controversial character. On page 54 Mary Margaret says, “I loved…that I was his sacred secret and he was my hidden carnality.” Little did she know! Where on earth was the character of Jude birthed in your heart and mind and what purpose do you think he ultimately serves in this story?
Well, he's the lost lamb, as we all are. Jude is all of us--only without the blindness to our sins and the hypocrisy we exhibit when we compare who is worse than whom. He's the person in desperate need of redemption and healing. Hopefully he's a mirror on one hand, showing us our own failings, and an encouragement on the other in that God's arm is never shortened that it cannot save.
For me, he proved a harsh look in the mirror at some of my own hasty judgments of others – among other things!
Exactly! I can be just as judgmental as anybody myself! It's just the markings on the yardstick change as the years go on. Whereby, as a young woman, I used to judge people on more of the outward appearance and ideological issuesl, I now judge on whether or not they do anything for anybody other than themselves and their personal circle of friends and family, or if their faith has found it's way down their neck and into their heart. That's no good either! I often wonder why humans fall into that mode so easily? All I know is, I serve a merciful and loving Creator, and I need to be like him. But it's a struggle for me and it's not natural. It's my second thought to be charitable. (I hope one day it'll come naturally as my first reaction, but I'm not holding my breath!)
5. The one statement in the entire story that I simply could not put in context was on page 223. You state simply, “Jude was Jesus.” Can you explain that?
In Matthew 25, the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus talks about the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the lonely, the imprisoned, and he says, "If you've done something for these least of these, you've done it to me." In this, we see that serving those who are downtrodden, suffering, poor, lonely, is serving Christ himself. Jude was who Mary-Margaret was called to serve. Jude was sick and lonely and imprisoned by his past. Jude was Jesus.
6. What on earth comes next for you? We just said goodbye to Hollywood Nobody in your young adult books, and The Passion of Mary Margaret doesn’t seem like it is the beginning of a series….what are you working on now?
I just finished up a book called The Resurrection in May about a reclusive woman with severe PTSD who becomes pen pals with a Christian man on death row. They're both in prisons of their own making but which one needs the other more? It's an unlikely love story. Also, I just finished up a non-fiction book with my daughter Ty entitled, "Love Mercy: a Mother and Daughter's Journey to
7. What words of encouragement or admonition would you like to leave with your readers as it relates to The Passion of Mary Margaret?
I hate admonishing people as me, Lisa Samson. I let my characters do that sort of thing! Encouragement? The more we give of ourselves, the closer we get to Jesus. So let's be radical about it, extravagant even. That old saying, "We can't outgive God," is spot on.