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The Begotten
Lisa T. Bergren
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The Betrayed
Lisa T. Bergren
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INTRODUCTION

The year is 1339, the height of the Inquisition. A secret half a millennium old is on the brink of being exposed. Centuries before, the Church compiled the letters written by St. Paul with other texts to form the foundation of the Christian canon. But what the world doesn't know is that Paul wrote another letter-a letter speaking of men and women who, though begotten of men, possess mysterious spiritual gifts. Now, the time has come for the Gifted to gather. The beautiful healer; the wise priest; the slave with the gift of prophecy; the knight with faith enough to leave the Church-as their talents grow more powerful, so do those who wish to destroy them. Now, they must race against time to find the rest of the Gifted ones, and to decipher the prophecy that foretold of their coming. For only by combining their powers will they vanquish those determined to destroy them, and uncover the secret of the letter that will determine the fate of the Church...and the world.

 

ABOUT LISA T. BERGREN

Lisa Tawn Bergren is the award-winning, bestselling author of Refuge, God Gave Us You, and The Captain's Bride. She is president and co-founder of Good Books & Company, which sells Christian books and gifts via home shows.

 

 

A CONVERSATION WITH LISA T. BERGREN

Q. What inspired you to write this series?

A. wo quotes are ruling my mind and heart these days: C.S. Lewis said, “The value of myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by the veil of familiarity”; John Eldredge wrote, “The story of your life is a long and brutal assault by the one who knows what you could be and fears it.” If we could tear away “the veil of familiarity,” truly understand that our lives—regardless of where we are, what our roles are at the moment—have eternal impact, and that the enemy is doing all he can to discover it, it would radically change our world.

I’ve always loved the epic saga—stories and characters that you can invest yourself in, learn from, experience. In watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on film, I wanted to go after something similar in feel. Classic good vs. evil, heroes and villains, the whole kit and caboodle. When Publishers Weekly said, “Disregard Da Vinci Code comparisons and think Lord of the Rings, but without Hobbits and the allegorical trappings,” I took it as a huge pat on the back.

Q. Were you inspired by The Da Vinci Code too?

A. I loved the pacing of that book—the mysteries and turns. It was the first novel in many years that I read in under 24 hours. But I objected to the conclusions of the author, things I found objectionable to my faith. So…yes and no.

Q. Is it hard to keep a cast of characters straight?

A. It’s definitely a challenge. But I love the plot twists that so many characters and personalities allow me to write. You have Daria, who has taken over this series (and I didn’t see that coming!), what with her highly desirable gift of healing, and the handfasting all gone wrong. Gianni stole my heart with the conflict in his own; Hasani, tall and strong and silent, I find fascinating. Piero is the perfect “wise man” for my cast, a classic fictional archetype, and Tessa surprised me by showing up as a child. And Vito…I’m always drawn to the funny sidekicks that break the tension in movies. That’s why he’s in the mix.

Q. What is with the handfasting? Were Daria and Marco married or not?

A. Research always turns over fabulous elements for any fiction writer. I learned that in that time, particularly among nobles, couples could have a Church-sanctioned “handfasting,” basically a dry run at marriage, with the distinct goal of becoming pregnant. If things went well, they went through with a betrothal and the sacrament of marriage. For Daria and Marco, both so desperate for an heir, since they are the last in each of their families, it was vital. It’s a tragic element that I think adds depth to the series—to have loved, and yet not been able to continue on together, simply because of the practical needs of the times. A romance novel would have made them choose to stay together, regardless; an epic trilogy allows us to see what happens to them both when a different choice must be made.

Q. In this era, were women really as educated as Daria? Allowed to run businesses?

A. Very few. But there are historical references. So there was historical justification to write her that way, especially as the sole heir of the d’Angelo fortune.

Q. What about medical advancements of the time?

A. It was pretty archaic. They were all about the bodily “humours” and somewhat mystical means of healing. But they were also pretty extraordinary in their use of natural materials—herbs, roots, etc.—to treat ailments. Still, I read an account of an entire leg being transplanted about the time of our series. It didn’t work out, but that they even tried is amazing!

Q. How involved was your research?

A. Pretty in-depth. When you conceive a novel, it seems like it will be easy. You go off of what you know, have read, have seen—the romantic stuff in the catalog of memory. But then you begin reading, you pick up a massive two-volume encyclopedia of Medieval Italian history, you discover discrepancies between the historians, and that the Gifted’s society is even significantly different from the Renaissance era a hundred years later. It’s really getting to know a world from scratch. The trick in writing a historical supernatural thriller is that you have to weave in enough history to give the reader a sense of the times, but you can’t be too absorbed in the detail, because it will detract from the pacing. For instance, I elected not to get into the fact that at the time, each area of Italy spoke a different language, or a significantly different dialect. It was really Dante who unified the languages. So, in honor of the genre, you pick and choose what you use.

Q. Where did Abramo Amidei come from?

A. Not a whole lot more inspiration than Classic Villain here—charming, handsome, but evil to the core. I did quite a bit of research about the cults of the time, dark magic and all that, and his troop emerges from that.

Q. Some of your scenes are remarkably sensual.

A. Yes. There’s historical evidence that groups who practiced the dark arts often gave themselves over in orgies, bestiality, really an “anything goes/anything you feel like” mentality. There were black cats on the altar, child sacrifices…many horrors. My goal was to hint at it, without bringing it on stage too much. But we need to see how depraved this group is to truly recognize how good and righteous (although imperfect) our Gifted are—to contrast the light against the dark. Abramo Amidei is bent on owning people any which way he can get them—via money, sex, power. And he’s very good at bringing people in on all three fronts until he meets up with the Gifted. He goes after Daria as a “queen upon his altar,” because he’s seen she’s willing to walk away from her money and power in Siena in order to pursue the call on her life. This is his last hope in his pursuit to turn her, bewitch her, own her. And he attempts to do so mentally, spiritually, and physically—all fronts.

Q. How does that relate to us today?

A. Any good historical fiction has contemporary application. I believe the devil still uses any force that drives us—money, sex, power, whatever7mdash;to own us. We must always be aware of how to use any gifts God has given us to reflect the light, not darkness. To do what is right and honorable and true. To be one of the good guys (or girls!).

Q. Talk to us about your views of the Catholic Church.

A. My views of the medieval Catholic Church would be widely corroborated by contemporary Catholics. Internally, things were going poorly for the Church at the time, with major corruption that only escalated as decades passed (that which Martin Luther really objected to a couple of centuries later—and led to the birth of the Protestant Church). We’ll see more “bad guy Catholics” in the next book, as well as many “good guy Catholics,” because the Church is the major force in book 3 and I want it to be clear that not all were off the path. Catholicism, of course, was the only Church of the time—so I fervently hope I am not seen as Catholic-bashing; I know many faithful Catholics who are doing Christ’s good work in the world! Jesus took issue with the clerics in power during his time; we’ve seen powerful non-denominational preachers fall in our day—again, it’s something we always have to keep an eye on. The devil will always be preying upon those in power, regardless of their religious affiliation.

Q. What happens next for our Gifted?

A. They’re heading to Avignon to take on the Church, about to discover the full extent of their call and how they might fulfill prophecy, and they’re still pursued by forces of evil. There will be a big, climactic ending. You’ll have to read book 3 to find out if Amidei is a part of that or not!

Q. Did you get to go to France on research?

A. The South of France, briefly, yes. And a third trip to Italy. I’m reading The Birth of Venus right now—fabulous book, fabulous detail, fabulous writing—and because it’s set in Florence, it just makes me want to go back again. I’m totally in love with Italy and very concerned that no other country will ever measure up when I explore it, (which I hope to do anyway!)

Q. What else is in your book stacks?

A. I just finished The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and loved how Edwards wove in the storyline of the degenerating properties of a bad decision and a secret long kept, and I’m looking forward to reading Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, Kathryn Mackel’s The Hidden, Tracy Groot’s Madman, and Tom Morrisey’s In High Places. I always have a pile of books, tempting me to sit back and read rather than sit down at my computer and write!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR THE BEGOTTEN

  1. In this trilogy, characters are gifted with one prominent, spectacular gift—healing, discernment, faith, and wisdom are some of what we’ve seen so far in The Begotten. If you could choose one of those gifts, which would it be and why? Do you believe everyone is spiritually gifted?

  2. Have you ever seen a miracle of healing or experienced it yourself? What do you think about that?

  3. What about speaking in tongues? In this novel, an interloper uses it as a guise to infiltrate the group. St. Paul chastised the Corinthians for flaunting their “gift of tongues,” especially when there was no one present to translate. But there are many who have a true gift, a heavenly language that is used to praise God. Discuss why St. Paul might warn us about this gift and your experience/thoughts on this subject.

  4. There is biblical evidence that St. Paul wrote other letters to the Corinthians. What would you think about a new letter surfacing? Would you be apt to accept it as real? Why or why not?

  5. In the medieval age, the Church was largely shepherded by men influenced by power and prestige. This is not to say that there were not many, many holy men and women involved. But how do you think politics effects the Church today?

  6. Daria is handfasted to Marco for two years and then loses him because she is unable to bear children. Did you identify with her losses in love? Why or why not?

  7. Gianni is torn between two loyalties—to his Church and to the lady and her cause. Have you ever tried to serve two competing masters and felt like it was splitting you in two? Discuss.

  8. The culmination, or “aha moment,” for the author was when Daria was in the marketplace and healing so many—and she realizes her greatest healing ministry is to share with people the love of God…if they could all understand how much Christ loved each of them, that they would find healing on a vital level. What did you think of that scene? (p. 246 and following)

  9. What do you think brought about Vincenzo’s fall to the dark?

  10. Do you think The Evil One is alive and well in our world today? If so, how does he get to us?

  11. Who was your favorite character in the book and why?

  12. Who was your least favorite character in the book and why?

  13. This is an epic quest trilogy a la Lord of the Rings. What do you think will threaten the Gifted? What do you think will preserve them?

  14. What, ultimately, do you think the Gifted are on earth to do?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR THE BETRAYED

  1. Things go from bad to worse for the Gifted in The Betrayed. What was the hardest scene for you to read in this book and why?

  2. Have you ever been in a position where you thought it was as bad as it could be, and then it got worse?

  3. The author attempted to show each character experiencing a measure of betrayal—Vincenzo feels as if Daria has betrayed him and then betrays her in horrific ways; Gianni feels betrayed when Daria’s eye is drawn back to Vincenzo and Marco, even when he warns her; Hasani is betrayed by those who capture him; Basilio and Rune are betrayed by former employers. Have you ever been betrayed? By whom? How did you deal with it?

  4. On p. 293, Abramo Amidei taunts Daria about God’s inaction. What biblical scene did this remind you of? Have you ever wrestled with this question yourself?

  5. Why would God rescue the Gifted in Il Campo of Siena, allowing their escape, but not rescue them here? Why do you think God does not move at times, when he clearly is able?

  6. Have you ever been drawn to, pulled in by evil? In what circumstance? How were you successful (or not) in combating it?

  7. Amidei attempts to break Daria emotionally (using fear and threats to her friends), spiritually (asking questions that are logical and difficult to answer), and physically (whipping). If you were in her shoes, which would have been the most difficult attack to endure and why?

  8. On p. 298, Daria rails against God. Have you ever been furious at God? Told Him about it? Do you think He can handle it?

  9. If The Begotten is largely about healing and love, The Betrayed is largely about perseverance and faith. What is it about persevering through a difficult time or experience that can make us more faithful, stronger? Describe your own experience.

  10. If you could have one of the Gifted’s gifts, which would you ask for, and why? As a reminder, we’ve seen wisdom, faith, healing, visions, discernment, miraculous powers so far.

  11. What are your views about the Church today? Do you attend church? Why or why not? What do you think your neighborhood church would be like today if people like the Gifted were in attendance?