Sunday, February 6, 2011

Q&A with Joanna Penn, author of Pentecost, a thriller novel

Joanna Penn

Tell us a bit about your book.

Pentecost is an action/adventure thriller around religious and psychological themes. Kind of Dan Brown meets Lara Croft!

The premise is that after Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead, the Apostles took stones from the empty tomb to wear as a symbol of their Brotherhood. At Pentecost, the fire of the Holy Spirit empowered the stones and the Apostles performed miracles throughout the Empire. After they died the stones were handed down to Keepers who protected them and kept the secret. But now the stones have been rediscovered and the Keepers are being murdered in order to use the power for evil. Oxford University psychologist Morgan Sierra is forced into the search when her sister and niece are held hostage. She is joined by Jake Timber from the mysterious ARKANE, a British government agency specializing in paranormal and religious experience. From ancient Christian sites in Spain, Italy and Israel to the far reaches of Iran and Tunisia, Morgan and Jake must track down the stones through the myths of the early church in a race against time before a new Pentecost is summoned, this time powered by the fire of evil.

I have a Masters in Theology and also a post graduate diploma in psychology so I wanted to merge my academic interests with a fast-paced, action-movie style thriller. It’s the type of book I enjoy reading myself and was so much fun to write!

You’re working directly with Lightning Source, so have you, in essence, created your own publishing company so you are the publisher on record? Why did you decide to publish that way instead of using a POD service such as Createspace?

There is a wide spectrum of what self-publishing represents these days ranging from assisted services to doing it all yourself. Independent (indie) publishing is essentially running a small business as a publisher and is being used by a growing number of authors to publish ebooks and also print books through print-on-demand services. and offer a range of services for the author who wants to self-publish but may need some extra help. Essentially you can publish simply or buy a package to help you through the process. is a print on demand service for publishers where you load your files and that’s about it! There’s no hand-holding so it is more for those people who have been through the process a few times. Because there are no frills, books can also be offered more cheaply which is one of the reasons I chose it. My company, The Creative Penn is therefore the publisher of Pentecost although I certainly haven’t written off a book deal one day. I just feel that self-publishing, selling well and providing evidence of a market is a better way for my DIY personality than submitting to agents and getting rejected. I’d rather have people reading my book and I’ll get on with the next one!

What research did you do for Pentecost? Have you traveled to all of those places?

I’ve always been a keen traveller and so wanted to weave my experiences into the book. My trip to Venice and Rome last year inspired the scenes at the Vatican and St Mark’s Basilica and I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Jerusalem so that was also from my life. I’m from Oxford so the British scenes were easy to write. The climax of the book occurs at the Biosphere in Arizona where I visited nearly 10 years ago and the memory came back vividly as I wrote those final scenes. I haven’t been to Iran, Tunisia or Santiago de Compostela in Spain so those were mainly written with the help of and online resources. Flickr has all kinds of photos people have posted from their trips so they provide all the extra detail, for example, the souk in Tabriz was written from actual photos. The cathedral at Santiago de Compostela has an excellent website including floor-plans and detail of the carvings and reliquary for St James’s bones. That research provided a unique escape route for Jake that I couldn’t have made up otherwise. So basically, it was a combination of my own knowledge and research online. I loved the process and exotic locations will definitely be a hallmark of future books. I shall also be planning holidays around potential story-lines!

Where can people find the book?

Pentecost is available now at in print and ebook formats.
You can also download free chapters at

Thanks for having me!

Joanna Penn is an author and blogger at : Adventures in Writing, Publishing and Book Marketing. Connect on Twitter @thecreativepenn


  1. Thanks so much for having me Tina!

  2. Great interview! Joanna has been a blessing to me as a writer. Her website shares priceless knowledge on the book industry.


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