I wrote my first novel, Trading Saints for Sinners, at a time when I was at my final crossover into atheism. The novel explores religious ideals and questions them, the way I was questioning them. And some readers have noted that there seems to be some hostility towards Christianity in the novel. They would be right—though, the characters also see the need for some of the actions committed by God, even if they don’t agree with them. Adding to this, yeah, Mephistopheles is a reinstated Angel, and he’s not the least moral character. So, sure, maybe it involved my misgivings about Christianity when I wrote it when I was 23.
So how is Sin’s Requiem similar or different? Well, it’s me, 7 years later, reexamining ideas of religion and atheist after learning much more about both ideas, and more about myself. As a result, the tone of this book is less “God is a dick” and more “Our beliefs are our beliefs, shaped only by ourselves.” Oh, and time travel. There are two characters, an atheist grandson and a catholic grandfather. I wanted them to have to collide—their two ideals to implode in on each other and both of them to wonder, after seeing the same things, if the other one was wrong, or if they were both wrong. What if spirituality and atheism could exist side-by-side? What would that look like? What would that make characters like God?
And the answer…well, that’s part of the process. Some readers might think I’m a god-hating heathen (I get e-mails. It’s fun). Some atheists might think I am betraying them. Some Christians might think I prove the need for God. Some atheists might say I prove the complexity of a non-god. Some might say I am completely full of shit and a terrible writer. And some—and this is generally how I feel—won’t care. It’s a story.
And that’s the bottom line. It’s a story. All the theological mumbo jumbo (best soup ever) is secondary. What I wanted to do in Trading Saints was tell a non-redemption story. A man who doesn’t want to be redeemed, who wants to hate himself, and bigger powers going “enough of this, you’re doing the redemption thing if you want to or not.” For Sin’s Requiem, I want to tell a story of a grandson experiencing the regrets of his grandfather and trying to help him…even at the cost of his own existence.
So why the religious aspects? Because they worked for the stories. Trading Saints is about a liar, and it turns out that Mephistopheles was once the destroyer of lies (I did a whole research paper on it). And I tried telling Sin’s Requiem as a sci-fi story. There is a terrible scene in an old draft where the grandfather uncovers a temporal something-or-other that Hitler was building and something explodes and he’s caught in it and—look, it was bad. It was overdone sci-fi clichés and I hated it. But Sin Eating…now, that seemed like a plausible reason for the grandson to have to go back. And therefore, religion became part of the story.
In fact, the two stories became so thematically similar I started calling them the Catholic Noir Double Feature, and I was even going to use Mephistopheles in Sin’s Requiem to tie them together. I ended up siding against that because of what I said before. It explores religion, but not in the same way. So it wouldn’t be right to use Mephistopheles in this setting. Who I do use is very important, and if my comic series Sons of God is ever produced, readers of these two novels will be greatly rewarded.
The Two Sinners, Caden Conrad and Patrick Calvachio might be in the same world and dealing with the same confusing aspects of Christianity. But they are completely different characters. Caden doesn’t want to be forgiven. Patrick doesn’t think he can be. And how they progress towards redemption is very different too.
I hope you will read to find out. You can pre-order Sin’s Requiem here!