How did you come up with the title? Tongues of Angels is from a beautiful, beloved quote from the Bible that says, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” It says that no matter how beautifully I speak, if I don’t have love in my life or in my heart, I am just making noise. This quote sums up the theme of the novel, in essence: These priests are just going through the motions and cannot be truly spiritual (e.g. they are just making noise) if they don’t have love in their hearts or in their lives. “Love” could also mean being content or spiritually satisfied – but in many cases, even companionship is denied. So the church is being led by people without love in their hearts. It is only noise.
Can you tell us about your main character? Rob Souza is a young American Catholic priest who has been in the job for six years and suddenly finds himself questioning his calling. He wants to be a priest, but more and more, he feels like something is missing. It’s his crisis, not of faith, but in the institution of celibacy for priests. He’s lonely, and wishes he could have companionship, a wife, kids. And since this is utterly against everything he’s ever known, it’s a terrible ache and a dangerous place for him to linger. Church politics and gossip are his worst enemies – or is he his own worst enemy?
Why did you choose to write this particular book? My ex-husband was a Catholic priest before we married; he chose to leave the church, and over 15 years, we frequently had his friends over for dinner, BBQ and parties. They talked about their daily lives as priests: their worries, woes, triumphs, intense schedules, and so much gossip. I wanted to capture the flavor of that, and I did so in several scenes. I also wanted to tell the story of how a heterosexual priest has to choose marriage or the church. For the gay priests, this issue just didn’t seem as difficult, in my experience.
How did you develop your plot and characters? I truly began with simple dialogue. Suddenly all these priests were speaking in my head and I had to let them talk. The things they said were the catty, vicious, naughty, hilarious, innuendo-laden gossip that I heard at my own dining room table. So sassy! Each priest in Tongues of Angels is based on several real priests I know (so are the nuns). They are more archetypal in the novel, but if you know a lot of priests, you probably know one of these guys.
What was the hardest part about writing this book? I didn’t want it to be The Thorn Birds, which is just deliciously gratuitous priest-sex. I wanted to show spiritual longing, and how close to sexual longing it can be. Desire for oneness with G*d, for example, can be as deeply affecting as falling in love with someone. We’re discouraged from thinking of sex and spirituality together – it’s “sinful”! But Carl Jung said he’d never seen a sexual problem that was not also a religious problem, and vice versa. Those spiritual/sexual/ecstatic impulses come from the same part of the brain. So it’s no wonder they collide. And, oh, what calamity ensues!
What genre are you most comfortable writing? I do best in literary fiction vs. genre fiction. I am originally a poet, and I can’t help but think poetically. However, I’m also a journalist by trade, so I’m able to write nonfiction comprehensibly and easily; that’s where I’ve won all my awards. Creative nonfic is probably the best place for me, but I have these stories to tell. So I wander and dabble.
A Catholic priest with questions. A penitent woman with a secret past. A jealous friend. The fourth in this lover’s knot? God.
Father Rob Souza faces the forbidden desire of his own heart when Jessica, victim of a brutal assault, comes for counseling. Rob’s best friend, Lawrence, is a priest with an artistic temperament and trials of his own. A Greek chorus of gossiping priests, and church politics riddled with suspicion and battling for souls, force Lawrence, Rob and Jessica to make choices they didn’t intend.
Tongues of Angels offers a peek behind the curtain of the priesthood, offering a funny, poignant look at Catholic angst and ambiguity. Based on a true story, Tongues of Angels is a canny, warm and surprisingly spiritual novel for our time. Now back in print for the 10th Anniversary Edition, through Indie-Visible Ink.
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Genre - Contemporary Romance
Rating – PG13
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