Sunday, June 3, 2018

Let Love Bloom: The Keeper's Crown

Interview with Nathan D. Maki about his book, The Keeper’s Crown:

Alexis: Why did you call this book “The Keeper’s Crown”?

Nathan: The book grew from the seed of Acts 28:16, which says that when Paul arrived at Rome as a prisoner he was allowed to live in his own hired house with a soldier who kept him. I told the story of Paul’s later years through the eyes of this “keeper,” named Quintus. He’s in pursuit of a victor’s crown to restore his family’s honor, and of course, Paul was in pursuit of a very different kind of crown.

Alexis: Who are the main characters in this book and what is their significance to the story?

Nathan: The story revolves around two young people, Quintus and Jael, and the way their lives interweave with each other and Paul. Quintus is a Roman soldier; Jael is sister to a Jewish rebel. He’s a pagan; she’s a Jew. The tension between them that leads to an unlikely love story and the way Paul as a Christian impacted their lives combine to drive the book’s action.

Alexis: Would you book classify as historical fiction or Biblical fiction? Explain.

Nathan: I would say both, and here’s why. Much of the book is drawn directly from Scripture, from Paul’s arrest during the Temple riot, through his trials in Judaea, and then his shipwreck on his way to Rome. I also did my best to piece together the rest of his story from his own epistles. But where the Bible leaves off at the end of Acts and where the epistles are silent I have turned to history to fill in the gaps. Emperor Nero features large in the book although he isn’t named specifically in the Bible, and the Great Fire of Rome sets the backdrop for the climax of the book. So it’s an interesting blend of both.

Alexis: Why did you write this book?

Nathan: As a Christian, husband, father, pastor, business owner, and author I was wrestling with the idea of success. What is success in God’s economy? Am I a success by that yardstick? This book grew out of those questions, and by the end of the book, I feel like I had a pretty good understanding of how God defines success. Hopefully, readers will as well!

Alexis: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story? Why?

Nathan: The most challenging aspect was definitely bringing Paul to life. He’s such a huge character and everyone has this idea or image of Paul that they think is sacrosanct. I wanted to do justice to his larger-than-life character while still showing him as a real human being with troubles and struggles and flaws just like us. It took far more research to accurately represent his character than to just make up a character from scratch.

Alexis: Describe the research that you did to write this story. Did you travel? If so, where did you go and what was that experience like?

Nathan: I referenced four different histories of Paul’s life, read all of Acts and the Epistles taking notes extensively, and studied early church historians and Roman historians. I also had the opportunity to go to Rome for a combination 10th anniversary trip/research trip, which was amazing!

Alexis: As a pastor, how does your own faith in God play into your storytelling?

Nathan: Jesus loved to tell stories with meanings woven into their fabric, and I like to do the same. I try not to be preachy, but simply show real men and women of faith reacting to real-world situations. Sometimes they react well, sometimes badly, but either way, we can live that with them, laugh, cry, rejoice, and learn from them.

Alexis: Use words to paint a picture of the setting of this story. What makes this place special to your characters?

Nathan: Much of the story takes place in Jerusalem, a city old when Rome was just a goatherd’s village. The Temple dominated the city from the heights of Mt. Moriah, a jewel of alabaster and gold rising from a setting of ancient, war-scarred walls. The newest, Roman section, with its straight streets, theaters, aqueduct, Hippodrome, tile-roofed estates, emerald gardens, and glittering pools gave the impression that one of Rome’s hills had been carved out and dropped into the middle of Judaea. A stone’s throw away in the common quarter, the humble huts and shops of the Jewish populace cluttered twisting streets and marketplaces pulsed with sound and smells. Over it all, hard against the flank of the Temple, the Fortress of Antonia crouched like a wary watchdog, ever vigilant for any spark of revolt that might catch the ever-dry tinder that was Jerusalem.

Alexis: What role do Christians, Italy, and residents of Rome play in this story?

Nathan: This was a time when Christians were a curiosity in Rome. It was impossible to pigeon-hole them among all the other pagan gods. Many dismissed them as an Eastern sect. Others feared them for their predictions that the world would end in fire and judgment. When the Great Fire ripped through Rome it was all too easy for Nero to turn distrust into destruction.

Alexis: Are your characters purely fictional or were these people who actually lived in Bible times? Explain.

Nathan: Quintus and Jael were fictional characters, while Paul was obviously Biblical. Other Biblical characters include Felix, Festus, Luke, Timothy, Demas, Onesimus, and others. That’s what I love about Biblical fiction, that it can bring these characters to life and flesh them out for us to relate to!

Alexis: What is the main conflict in this story for each of your main characters?

Nathan: For Quintus, it’s his quest to win a crown and restore his family’s honor, which is ruined when he ends up chained to Paul. Jael’s main conflict is between her basic goodness and desire to connect with Jehovah and her desire to avenge her father’s death and fulfill her brother’s oath. For Paul, the struggle is more internal, his fear that perhaps his ministry is over now that he is in chains.

Alexis: If you could step into your story and give pastoral advice to each of your main characters, what would you say to help them solve their problems?

Nathan: For Quintus, I would urge him to consider that true success isn’t based on how much wealth or power or prestige we attain, but on whether we do God’s will or not. For Jael, I would point her to examples of forgiveness, and how she too should forgive if she ever wants to be free from her past. And for Paul? I wouldn’t ever dare to offer the Apostle Paul pastoral advice!

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about your book?

Nathan: If readers turn the last page and feel challenged to fight the good fight of faith, finish their course, and keep the faith, I will feel like the hundreds of hours invested in this book was well spent.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Nathan! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Nathan: Thank you very much, Alexis! This has been great! I appreciate you taking the time and space on your blog to talk with me.

Author Bio: 
A life-long love for historical fiction and a passion to create high-intensity, realistic novels from a Christian worldview has propelled Nathan into his writing career. He is the author of the War Within series of novels set in Ancient Rome and most recently The Keeper's Crown, a novel of the Apostle Paul. 

A recent trip to Rome to walk the ancient streets, explore the Catacombs, and stand in the Coliseum plunged Nathan even deeper into the ancient world he brings to life for his readers.

Nathan's novels combine the faith and romance of Francine Rivers's Mark of the Lion trilogy with the action and adventure of Bernard Cornwell or Conn Iggulden.

Nathan lives in Ontario, Canada, with his wife, son, and three very spoiled dogs. He pastors a church and manages his own business in addition to his writing. Sometimes he even sleeps.

Book blurb for The Keeper’s Crown:


As a boy, he dared to fight Nero. Worse, he won.

Stripped of his family, the love of his life, and his self-respect, he sets out on a quest to win a victor's crown, rescue his parents, and restore his family's honor. But his path to glory in the restless province of Judaea is threatened by the corrupt governor Felix, the murderous priest Melechi, and most of all by the rabble-rousing Paul of Tarsus.

When Quintus finds himself in Rome chained to Paul all hope of a crown seems lost, but Paul's example makes him question the true meaning of success. And why does Jael, the mysterious young Jewess who once saved his life, now respond with barely restrained flashes of hate?


The Romans took her father and her brother from her.

Now Jael vows to fight for her father's faith, fulfill her brother's oath, and avenge their deaths. But the further she travels with Paul and Quintus the more she feels torn. Can she follow her heart and still keep her vow?


He turned the world upside down.

Paul never expected to end his ministry in chains, but even still, he is determined to carry the gospel to Rome and the Emperor Nero himself. But what if those who need the gospel most are those closest to him?

As the Great Fire strikes Rome, fanning Nero's persecution of the Christians to a white-hot fury, murderous secrets, impossible choices, and steadfast faith will lead to tragedy and triumph.

Buy The Keeper’s Crown on Amazon

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  1. I would like to see how Nathan brings Paul to life, and how he uses Paul as a Christian to impact their lives. The research sounds fascinating, and it's interesting to see how authors use their imagination about Bible characters.

  2. This sounds like a very good book and i really enjoy historical fiction. Vivian Furbay jtandviv(at) q (dot) com

  3. I love Biblical and Ancient History and this story gives both. I love that it’s based on scripture as far as it possibly can. Paul is a fascinating character and is an encourager in all of his letters. We are studying 2 Corinthians at the moment and it has been great for encouraging us to study a little deeper.
    I love authentic characters whether CHRISTIAN or not, as usually the story leads to them finding out the truth about Jesus.