Clayton native, Rev. Paul Mast, will be at the Clayton Fire Hall this week discussing his new book, "Fatal Absolution," a murder-mystery that combines the lowest levels of church scandal, forbidden romance and murder.
Drawing on his time as a spiritual director for victims of clergy sexual abuse, Mast, a Catholic priest, has woven together a work of fiction that also serves as a modern parable.
Mast has several book signings scheduled over the next month, including two tomorrow at the Clayton Fire Hall as well as two at The Young Bean on Saturday, May 18, but he took time last week to discuss his story, where he finds inspiration and what the next chapter looks like for a newly published author.
Q The book tells the story of a sexual scandal in the fictional town of Islip, New York and the murders of three priests. Did your time as the "spiritual director for victims of clergy sexual abuse" inform the narrative that would become your book? How?
A I spent nearly three years ministering with victims and parents. It was a long, dark night's journey of the soul. It released a heavy cloud of inner sadness and conflict about some sinful and shameful human pieces of DNA in the religious institution I was born into, grew up to own and ultimately committed my life too. The mystery hidden in this experience is that as I guided and directed abuse victims to achieve some inner freedom from their demons and horrible memories by focusing less on the church that hurt them and more on Jesus the Victim who suffered with them, I found myself falling in love with Jesus as Victim myself. That helped me attain a new level of interior freedom where I discovered my own voice to stand with them and hold church leaders accountable. That burst of new inner freedom fueled my imagination to write the novel. It's like it was always there, but the scandal and my ministry with victims set my imagination free and gave it wings to fly.
Q The book's main character is a female detective. What did you have to do to bring her to life?
A I based her on the Hollywood star, Amy Adams. And I hope she plays the part if the novel ever becomes a screenplay. I used her physical features, as well as some of the personality traits she has played in some of her movie characters. She has a natural, healthy, sexual energy to the leading male actors she co-stars with. I tried to capture that appeal in Samantha Bannion. I wanted her to have an equal amount of teasing, latent, feminine sexuality to the lead male character, Timothy Cavanagh. So, as I developed Samantha, I always had a visual image of Amy Adams in mind. For Tim Cavanagh I chose the less high Hollywood profile actor, Eion Bailey. There is a sense of depth and mystery to the characters he plays as in the award winning PBS series, "Band of Brothers."
Page 2 of 2 - Q How does the church feel about your book? Has it been supportive of your writing and publishing?
A If, by church, you mean, 'the people of God,' then the laity and clergy who have read it have expressed praise and approval. If by church you mean 'the hierarchy,' then I am not expecting the same from them.
Q What's next for you? Any new stories brewing?
A The hardcopy of "Fatal Absolution" has been released for three months. I have 19 glowing reviews on Amazon. I also expect it to be reviewed and placed on the bestseller list in USA Today newspaper sometime this summer. If that happens, then sales will skyrocket. There has been some initial discussion with a movie production company about a screenplay but that is only at a contact level at this point. I have a meeting in Los Angeles next month with a key executive followed by a meeting with my publisher the following day in Phoenix. I am trying to keep a healthy perspective so I can stay focused on finishing a second novel, a love story set in the Tidewater area of Norfolk, Virginia. Many readers have asked about a sequel to "Fatal Absolution," and while I'm not ruling it out, it is not on my literary radar screen right now.