We are excited to announce that our next novel release will be Mark Carver's, Nikolai the Penitent. Mark's latest book dives into a bit of history surrounding the Black Death, flagellation, and does not hold back when it comes to exposing religious rituals versus grace.
THE PRICE OF SALVATION MUST BE PAID IN BLOOD.
The Black Death ravages 14th century Europe. Kingdoms crumble, cities fall, family members abandon one another. God has forsaken His children, and now chaos reigns.
A young man who has lost everything is swept up in the turmoil and finds his calling in the Brotherhood of the Cross - groups of pious men who viciously whip themselves as they parade through the streets of sinful cities, hoping their sacrifice will atone for the iniquities of the people. As the scars grow on Nikolai's back, he purges himself of lust, fear, and doubt, but the price he pays will threaten his very soul.
Nikolai the Penitent will be available July 26. Digital pre-orders will be available soon.
We sat down with Mark and asked him a bit about his book, his writing habits, and how Nikolai the Penitent is pushing the boundaries of Christian fiction.
What exactly is Nikolai the Penitent about?
Nikolai the Penitent takes place in medieval Germany during the Black Death plague in the 14th century. It was hell on earth, with entire cities and villages laid to waste. Everyone was gripped by despair and many were driven to insanity and superstition. A group called the Flagellants became quite popular - wandering groups of men and women who would flog themselves to atone for sins. This story follows a young man who loses everything and joins one of these wandering groups out of desperation. By abusing his body, he hopes to purges himself of his sins, but he only finds more horrors. It is a story of the struggle for redemption and the constant war against the guilt that all of us carry.
Is Nikolai part of a series, and if so, where does it fit within the series?
No, it is a standalone book.
Where did the inspiration for Nikolai come from?
A few years ago, I downloaded a 19th century book called The Black Death and the Dancing Mania by J.F.C. Hecker from Project Gutenberg. I don't know why; perhaps I was in a morbid state of mind at the moment. It was a fascinating read, and when I came to the part about the Flagellants and the crazy things they did and how their movement morphed into anything but sacred, I knew I had to write a story about these people.
How do you think your book pushes the boundaries of what is usually allowed in Christian fiction?
It is graphically violent and contains very disturbing imagery of the effects of the plague. I actually felt physically nauseous at times when I was writing it because I had to imagine what I was putting into words. I did a lot of research before jumping into this project so what I describe is what was actually happening, according to historical documents. There is also some sexual content which ended up becoming a regular occurrence among the Flagellants when they came to town, much like rock stars and their groupies. I know that many Christian readers may find this content unsavory but I felt it was necessary while I was writing to include these elements. There is a lot of ugliness in this book but it serves to highlight the holiness of God's redemptive grace.
What made you want to become an author?
I've been writing since I was in elementary school, but I've only made a serious push into the world of books in the last five years. I had so many stories welling up inside of me, I just had to get them out.
What are your typical writing habits?
I usually write for an hour every night or every other night. It's a slower pace than I'd like, but with a job and three kids, there is little time in the day for writing.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
First and foremost is to write the best book you can. Don't think about getting a cool cover or building a website or laying out a marketing strategy until you have a product that you can be proud of. If it sells, great. If it doesn't, at least you created something you can admire.
What are some other books you have written/published.
I have five self-published titles (The Age of Apollyon, Black Sun, Scorn, Indelible, and Cyn) and one book with The Crossover Alliance (Beast). I have also written numerous short stories.
What are some projects you have coming up in the future?
I am working on a book right now called Balor in which the worlds of Mississippi hoodoo and mixed martial arts fighting collide. It should be ready for release early next year.
MARK CARVER spent more than eight years in China before returning to the USA with his wife and two children. Besides writing, Mark is passionate about art, tattoos, heavy metal, Gothic literature, and medieval architecture.
He lives with his family in Atlanta, GA.