Josh Olds recently had the chance to catch up with bestselling author Robert Liparulo to discuss his newest book The Judgment Stone and try to get him to spill the beans on what new projects he has coming up.
“Whether writing adult thrillers or young adult fiction, Liparulo knows exactly what to deliver his audience. His writing glues the reader to the page, compelling them to turn the pages. Word of warning: Don’t plan on just reading a chapter or two…once you start, you’re in it for the duration.” – Josh Olds, LifeIsStory.com
What’s the general premise of The Judgment Stone?
We revisit Jagger Baird at St. Catherine’s monastery at the base of Mt. Sinai just as it’s attacked by a group of Immortals who call themselves the Clan. They steal a relic that lets them see into the spiritual realm—angel, demons, and even prayers. The use it track down people who are most connected to God so they can kill them. Their motivation is that that hate God and strive to grieve Him. Jagger and his friend Owen have to go after them and get the relic back, but these are some seriously bad dudes, so it’s not a easy task, and Jagger has to deal with all sorts of his own struggles with who he thinks God should be as who God is.
In the book, the actual judgment stone is a piece of the Ten Commandments that gives anyone who touches it a sort of supernatural vision. What did you get the idea for that?
In the first book of The Immortal Files, The 13th Tribe (The Judgment Stone is book two), I introduce the archaeological site for which Jagger is head of security. My research led me to what kind of relics the excavation could find, and pieces of the Ten Commandments seemed obvious. That got me thinking about relics in general, and the legends of the power they possess, God’s power imbued within them. I pondered what power these pieces of the Ten Commandments might hold, and I thought about Moses and how God had revealed so much to him, including Himself. It made sense to me that a relic of the Ten Commandments would reveal something . . . so why not the spiritual realm? Of course, this is fiction and strongly believe in the alchemy of mixing research with imagination.
What sort of research went into the novel?
I started with what the spiritual realm around us: angels and demons, primarily. I study scriptures and spoke to seminary professors and theologians. I wanted a biblical depiction of these spiritual beings, not the Hollywood or “artistic” versions, which are quite different, but I also wanted to reconcile the two: What could explain the differences between, for example, the winged creatures of art and the mostly unwinged angels of the bible? For the high-tech gear, I spoke to military experts to see what sorts of weapons and gear were on the horizon. Then I spoke to the developers, if they were available, and asked, “Where do you see this technology in a few years?” That’s what I wrote about.
Those who touch the judgment stone can see other individuals’ connection to God through prayer. What did you want to say about prayer though this?
I’m fascinated by the human inclination to believe—and trust in—what we can see, and to non believe—or trust in—what we can’t. Christians talk about the “power of prayer,” but do we really believe it can help in dire situations as surely as can weapons or money or whatever physical thing we need? I stove to show prayer as something physical, something worth believing in—a conduit to God’s ears, and he listens and acts on our behalf because of them. We have the ultimate “Bat-Signal,” but many of us fail to use it or believe that it’ll help.
The way you portray spiritual warfare in the book is interesting. It’s still warfare—actions and thrills—but it’s obviously not physical, which I think is a mistake a lot of authors run into. How do you think you managed to avoid that?
I studied Scripture and tried to depict the spiritual battles in the high places that the Bible describes. I do believe that spiritual warfare takes on physical form on earth, but what we see is really merely a reflection of the non-physical battles taking place in the spiritual realm.
Nevaeh has become a favorite character of mine, despite her being one of the “bad guys.” Do you plan on continuing to develop her story throughout the rest of the series?
To some degree, yes. I made a decision about her role in The Judgment Stone that limits my ability to expound on her much further. More than anything, her influence and personality continues to influence the Tribe beyond The Judgment Stone. She’s a strong character who demands to have a voice.
You’ve long written some of the best hi-tech thrillers and fantastic YA fiction, but The Immortal Files has some strong ties to biblical history. Do you find that there’s added pressure there to “get it right” since you’re directly dealing with spiritual concepts?
I do feel the pressure of “getting it right.” Not everything I’m writing about now comes exclusively from my imagination; there’s a firm and well known record of some of the story elements: The Bible. And I’m not addressing spiritual truths in allegorical form—necessarily—which would have been easier, because of the ambiguity inherent in allegory. I’m dealing with facts, so I better get them straight. It’s sort of like writing a biography of a well known person—in this case, God. You can’t make things up that contradict known aspects. You can explore deeper meanings and motivations and implications, but you have to stick to the truth. I’m both excited and intimidated by that.
What do you hope people take away from The Judgment Stone?
Besides readers feeling that they’ve been entertained by an exciting, well told story, that they’ve spent their money and time on something worthwhile, I hope they shut the book with a deeper appreciation of the power of prayer, that they come away viewing prayer as a weapon against the spiritual onslaught of evil we engage in every day. I hope they start to view prayer as something as real and tangible and effective as a shield or a sword.
How many books are planned for The Immortal Files?
Currently, three. I’m just wrapping up the third book, which cuts deeper into the jungle of spiritual warfare and examines the importance of truly trusting in God.
What project are you working on right now and what can you tell us about it?
I’m exploring the possibility of a seventh Dreamhouse Kings book. Of all my stories, that’s the one for which I get the most requests for a sequel. And the King family has stayed with me; they want their story to continue and so do I. But like just about everything in their house, right now, it’s keeping its secrets.
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