You might find it hard to believe that a book dealing with issues such as sex trafficking could have much in common with a 15th century saint, but in this guest piece author Michael Grothaus explains how Joan of Arc inspired his character Epiphany Jones.
The Correlations Between Joan of Arc and Epiphany Jones
If you’ve already read some reviews of EPIPHANY JONES you’ll know my novel deals with many topics and themes: sex trafficking, our society’s addiction to sex and celebrity, isolation in an age of mass media. But another theme the book explores is one of reason versus faith.
It’s a theme that plays out among the two main characters. Jerry Dresden is psychologically wounded addict who has long ago lost any faith he had due to multiple tragedies in his life. Then there’s Epiphany, for whom the book is named after. She quite literally believes she hears voices from God and that God himself is helping her achieve her goals, as twisted as some of her means may be.
When creating the character of Epiphany, I wanted to create this force of nature—someone who has experienced the worst horrors, yet could get back up and fight for what she believes in. So it was only natural that one of my main models for Epiphany was Joan of Arc. For the record, I was raised Catholic and until my early 30s believed in some kind of god. But despite being an atheist now, I’ve remained enthralled by Joan of Arc.
Joan of Arc is, in my opinion, the most fascinating person who has ever lived. And she’s so fascinating because everything we know about her—excluding whether or not she actually heard the voice of God—is indisputable fact. And we know these facts about her because there were two major, well-documented trials surrounding her which were very public, and for both of which extremely detailed records were kept. The first trial was in 1431 when, after she had saved France, the French gave her over to a French-English faction who charged her with heresy and burnt her alive. She was 19. The second trial occurred 25 years after her death and found her innocent of all prior charges.
And the facts from these trials are indisputable: at the age of 17, Joan—a poor, uneducated French farm girl who couldn’t read or write–rallied the broken and beaten armies of France—a country broke, decimated by years of war with the English, and on the verge of collapse—and with zero military training, inspired those armies to rise up again and personally led them on the battlefield, and in just two years reclaimed her country from the hands of the English. Even in the 21st century I don’t know a 17 year-old of either sex who could do that. Hell, I don’t know a 17 year-old who can get out of bed on the weekend before noon. And this was almost 600 years ago when peasant girls were, at best, expected to work on the farm, have babies, and do whatever their husband told them.
In her first trial when asked how she could possibly accomplish everything she did, her answer was simple: because God was telling her what to do. Whether or not you believe that isn’t important. What’s most amazing about her character is that after she literally saved her country—something the strongest generals in France’s army were unable to do—she did not ask for riches or a noble title or a plot of land as a reward. She simply asked to be allowed to go back to her family’s farm and help her mom with the livestock. This is what qualifies Joan as a quester: a type of person who has one singular goal—and once that is accomplished they need nothing else.
And ever since reading Joan’s story, I wanted to write a story about a quester. But my quester, Epiphany, is a messed up Joan of Arc. She’s a fallen saint who sees the end justifying the means. And more importantly than that, she’s a balance to Jerry’s lack of faith—his disillusionment with everything he was taught as a kid. Epiphany is so certain in what she does because, as Jerry finds out, she says God talks to her. Jerry, on the other hand, who has experience with mental illness and who he himself sees people who don’t exist, doesn’t believe her. Who is right? That’s something only a very careful reader will be able to piece together. But even for those that can’t, it doesn’t matter to the characters in the story, because by the end of EPIPHANY JONES the argument of reason versus faith will be settled for them once and for all.
Epiphany Jones was published by Orenda Books in paperback and as an e-book on 16th May. You can order a copy here: Epiphany Jones
From the back of the book
Jerry has a traumatic past that leaves him subject to psychotic hallucinations and depressive episodes. When he stands accused of stealing a priceless Van Gogh painting, he goes underground, where he develops an unwilling relationship with a woman who believes that the voices she hears are from God. Involuntarily entangled in the illicit world of sex-trafficking amongst the Hollywood elite, and on a mission to find redemption for a haunting series of events from the past, Jerry is thrust into a genuinely shocking and outrageously funny quest to uncover the truth and atone for historical sins.
A complex, page-turning psychological thriller, riddled with twists and turns, Epiphany Jones is also a superb dark comedy with a powerful emotional core. You’ll laugh when you know you shouldn’t, be moved when you least expect it and, most importantly, never look at Hollywood, celebrity or sex in the same way again. This is an extraordinary debut from a fresh, exceptional new talent.
About the author
Michael Grothaus is a novelist and journalist who spent years researching sex trafficking, using his experiences as a springboard for his debut novel Epiphany Jones. Born in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1977, he spent his twenties in Chicago where he earned his degree in filmmaking and worked for institutions including The Art Institute of Chicago, Twentieth Century Fox, and Apple. As a journalist he regularly writes about creativity, tech, subcultures, sex and pornography, the effects of mass media on our psyches, and just plain mysterious stuff for publications including Fast Company, VICE, The Guardian, Engadget, and more. He’s also done immersion journalism at geopolitical events including the Hong Kong protests against Beijing in 2014. His writing is read by millions of people each month. Michael lives in London.