John J. Berger released his third novel “To See God” through Black Rose Writing Publishing on March 16.
The Silver Spring resident has also authored “The Flight of the Veil” (2020) and “The Music Stalker” (2021).
Berger said his biggest love is family and loves teaching, primarily with 18- to 22-year-olds who he said are our future.
He places a high stock in teaching young writers “to think critically and to be able to figure out their own answers to complicated questions through their research and writing.”
Berger, his wife Laurie and their dog Whiskey, live a few houses away from his daughter’s family and his two grandchildren. He enjoys playing piano and baseball; he’s attended many adult baseball camps at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla.
The book is available at www.amazon.com.
How long have you been
writing, and how did you
I’ve been writing creatively since grammar school, starting my first effort at novel writing at age 15. But I began to focus on creative writing much more in 2009 at the age of 58 as I contemplated retiring from the practice of law and beginning a second career as a teacher and writer.
What inspires you to write?
I think human beings have wanted to create and tells stories ever since our ancestors drew pictures of animals on the inside of cave walls. So, my desire to write is part of my being human. Beyond that, writing fiction is a way of exploring possibilities, creating “what if” worlds and “what if” characters — putting the latter into the former — and then seeing what happens. Thus, it’s a way of entertaining and educating myself. But when writing for others, which is what I’ve done in publishing now three novels, starting with “The Flight of the Veil,” one must believe that the story one tells is compelling. It’s the desire to write a compelling story — a story that captures the readers’ imagination — that is the primary inspiration for what I do.
Do you consider writing to
be a career?
It can be a career, although in my case it’s a second career. Nonetheless, had I not been an excellent writer, my legal career could not have worked out as well as it did. So writing can be the bedrock of any number of careers.
What kind of writing
process do you use?
When I start out, I have only a vague idea of the journey my characters and I will take. I create situations — problems, really — for my characters and keep those problems piling up, with no assurance that anything will be resolved. But I keep writing, then, to find out what will happen. If the situation and the conflicts it creates end up boring me, then I will rip up those chapters, but I will keep working on and playing out those situations that continue to interest me. All that is the first draft. After the first draft — as a former mentor of mine emphasized — everything is for the reader. That means revising to make sure the story stays interesting and fresh for the reader, striving for clarity, avoiding repetitions.
Who are some of your
I’ve never stopped rereading the novels of John Fowles, a now-deceased English novelist, who wrote, among other titles, “The Magus” and “The French Lieutenant’s Woman.” I would characterize his novels as psychological suspense stories, and I hope that characterization applies equally to my novels. Another novelist of whom I am very fond is Charles Frazier, who wrote “Cold Mountain.” I have learned much from that novel, particularly how alternating points of view from characters far removed from each other — but heading toward a reunion — can be a powerful narrative structure.
What are you working
There may well be a fourth novel in this series, tentatively named “Forgiveness.” I’ve also started thinking of going back to the characters of a short story collection I published 10 years ago — “Dear Grandpa and Other Stories” — and seeing whether there’s a novel waiting to be written for them. In all honesty, however, my teaching duties at American University — I teach one writing class a semester — do slow down my creative work. Thus, whether “Forgiveness” or any other novel begins to take shape is a question that will most likely have to be addressed this coming summer.
Please include a brief
description of your book
Sister Theodora, a devout Greek Orthodox nun who was born Jewish and saved from the Holocaust by the Virgin Mary, has a vision from God telling her that her Black seven-year-old grandnephew in America is the Second Coming of Jesus. She must travel to America, convinced she has a Divine mission to help young Jackie Covo — being raised in an Orthodox Jewish family — recognize who he really is.
Please include an excerpt
from the book
“Sister Theodora’s words, uttered in little more than a whisper, lingered on the cool air as she looked out across the vineyards sloping down the hillside toward the dark purple mountains. It answered the question posed by Abbess Fevronia, who was gently holding Theodora’s arm, trying to steady herself after what was becoming an ever more difficult climb from the monastery’s church to its winery. As she tried to put away the slight twinge of pain in her chest, Fevronia followed Theodora’s gaze. Theodora had spoken with the conviction she would imminently see Jesus Himself, that He was waiting that very minute to reveal Himself again to humanity in the forests of northern Greece. But of course Fevronia could see nothing more than what she usually saw: the healthy grape vines carrying their burden of newly formed grapes, the fruit that brought the Holy Monastery of St. Vlassios most of its revenue.
“And do you see God now?” asked Fevronia, straining to keep doubt from her voice.
Fevronia turned to see that Theodora, looking across the vineyards again, was crying. “What is it, my precious daughter in Christ?”
Theodora stood unsteadily as she swiped at tears with the sleeve of her black cassock. She pointed at the distant hills; the dark purple had now brightened to vibrant indigo as the sun climbed.
• • •
“There are the bones. I’ve seen them. Oh dear Lord Jesus Christ. Forgive me, a sinner. It is I who killed them.”
With that, Theodora collapsed.