The NYC Daily Post interviewed Keith H. Adkins, author of “The Forming of the Diamond: A Jim Caldwell Story: Book 1” to learn more about his path from draft to publication. His recently published book is a retelling of the life of Jesus, set in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1881. In his interview, Keith H. Adkins explains the motivations and challenges he faced from research to bookshelf. His book is available here.
Q: In a few sentences, how would you describe your book?
The life of Jesus, drawn from the four gospels, looking through the lens of the American Old West. The struggle for survival and the interactions between the characters also offers a fascinating glimpse into the life and conflicts of the first century.
Q: What led you to write and ultimately publish your book?
It started from a dream. I woke up, and very unusually, remembered it. The dream was to set the life of Jesus in Phoenix, Arizona, in the year 1881. I decided to offer the old story in a fresh new way through the character of Jim Caldwell.
Q: What challenges, if any, did you face throughout the process of writing your book?
The dream initially turned into “The Secret of the Diamond: A Jim Caldwell Story: Book 2.” It was about the last days of Jesus, which I call the diamond of the Gospel.
Before I finished that book, I realized it needed to be a trilogy. The book this interview is about is “The Forming of the Diamond: A Jim Caldwell Story: Book 1,” which is the prequel to “The Secret of the Diamond,” and it draws stories from the Gospels.
I’m currently writing the sequel: “The Value of the Diamond: A Jim Caldwell Story: Book 3.” That one is about the resurrection, the book of Acts, and the Letters of Paul. Jumping back and forth in the trilogy was often confusing, but the inspiration came from the Star Wars model of the original story, followed by the prequel then the sequel.
Q: How would you classify your book’s genre(s)?
Religious Historical Fiction
Christian Historical Fiction
Q: Can you walk us through your thought process in selecting the material for your book?
I set it into four acts with two scenes in each act. The first scene in each act is designed to breathe new life into the Sermon on the Mount, which is a challenging piece in any century. The second scene in each act draws stories from the four gospels, focusing of the Gospel of Mark.
Q: Is there an excerpt from your book that you can share with readers?
The following excerpt is my redo of the Mount of Transfiguration in Mark 9:2-8.
Jim called the gang together after breakfast and announced that he was heading back to the hole in the rock. Matt said “Great, I loved that place!” to which Jim explained that it was a spiritual journey he felt God was calling him to make. They all nodded with appreciation until Jim continued, “And I’m taking Pedro, Jimbo, and Johnny with me.” This didn’t sit well with the others and the disappointment was palpable. Andrés spoke up and said, “I don’t understand. Yer taking Jimbo and Johnny, who are brothers, but yer taking my brother Pedro and not me?” Kate offered that she thought she understood: “Here’s where prejudice against women begins for this group.” Others started to talk, but Jim interrupted with “Ya just gonna have ta trust me. I truly believe this is what God wants.” As they headed outside to get on their horses, someone rather mumbled “then maybe God’s the one with the prejudice problem.” When Jim shot a look back at them, all he saw was their backs as they walkedaway.
“That wasn’t easy,” Jim said to the three, as he headed to the next big step in doing whatever it was God was calling him to do. The other three nodded in agreement, while they were secretly being happy about being treated special. They walked up to the hole in the rock with a bit of a lilt in their step. The four of them were delighted to find nobody around, so they settled into their little piece of paradise. Jim asked them to spend some time in silent prayer, then the most amazing thing happened. Jim’s hair slowly turned white, right in front of their eyes. Jimbo was about to say something when the dead cowboy Kit Carson appeared by Jim. Another dead person also materialized, but they didn’t know who it was. The apparition noticed their attitude, and rather angrily said “I’m Texas Jack Omohundro.”
“Okay” said Pedro, “but I still don’t know who ya are.”
“Well ya might not know me, but I was pretty famous before I died last year of pneumonia.”
Pedro inquired, “So that’s what made ya famous?”
Texas Jack was really losing patience at this point and said, “No, course not! I was a good friend of Buffalo Bill Cody!”
“So that’s what made you famous? Pedro asked tauntingly.
Nearly in a rage, Texas Jack said “Youngster, I married the most famous ballerina in the world!!”
Pedro’s anger was piquing too, so he lunged at the apparition. Jimbo and Johnny held him back, but Pedro said “Let me go. I think I can take him.”
Finally, Johnny spoke up, “At least, Pedro, have some respect for the dead.”
This seemed to settle everyone down, so Jim said
“Why do we have the pleasure of meetin’ ya?”
Kit Carson took over and said, “We got some news for ya.Can we have some privacy?”
Pedro said, “We ain’t got no secrets, so go ahead.”
Kit looked at Jim and Jim said, “That’s fine. We’re a group now.”
Kit replied “Okay, but its bad news.”
Jimbo said, “I ain’t had much of anything else in my life, so I’m ready.”
Kit offered to Jim, “Ya ain’t gonna live much longer.”
“That’s all ya got?” inquired Pedro. “I don’t know ‘bout you, but I’ve heard everybody dies sooner or later.”
Texas Jack said, “Yah, but Jim’s gonna die sooner than later.”
What, if anything, didn’t make it into your final draft?
For the stories part of the book, I mostly used the Gospel of Mark, with a smattering of stories from Matthew, Luke, and John. I had to leave out a lot of stories, but chose the ones that spoke to me. Generally, it was because I’ve been to those sites in Israel.
Q: Do you have a favorite chapter or part of your book? Do you view any particular chapter(s) as difficult to write?
I really enjoyed writing the preface. It was so important to set the stage with the Russian Invasion, and Jim Caldwell starting to get followers. A few quick stories show their good intentions, but “Jim was gathering some good people to join him in doing good deeds, while others started a plot to work against him” (p. 6). Each chapter flowed, one after the other, with surprising ease.
Q: Who is your book’s ideal reader?
Someone who is disgruntled with the Bible. I’ve heard many complain that the Bible is too full of war and bloodshed. Welcome to today. Hopefully, my book blends the past into the present by placing the stories in a new setting, and finding some humor along the way.
Q: Do you have anyone you would like to acknowledge?
My wife read it over many times, made the maps to introduce each act, and encouraged me to let the story be less patriarchal. D. James Benton is a lay person who’s written 55 books available on Amazon, and he wrote an executive review for me. Also, Rev. William Schwein is a retired pastor who served large churches, is well thought of, and wrote a wonderful executive review on my Amazon page.
Q: What types of books do you enjoy reading? What’s on your to-read list now?
I enjoy travelogues. Bill Bryson is my favorite author in that genre. I wrote to him and asked if he would write a review of one of my travelogues, and he actually wrote back. It was a kind and apologetic no, saying he no longer has the time or temperament to write reviews. My to-read list is Bill Bryson’s “The Road to Little Dribbling.”
Q: What three words would you use to describe yourself?
Humorous. Trustworthy. Retired (yay).
Q: Where can readers purchase your book?
Amazon. I ran a two-day ad to give the ebook away for free, and had 197 takers.
Search Keith H. Adkins in Amazon and it will take you to all 11 of my books.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Keith H. Adkins
Edited by: Steven London