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Author Interview: Julian Doyle

Author Interview: Julian Doyle

Today is my stop on the The Monumental Secret of the Crucifixion blog tour and I am pleased to welcome Julian Doyle on to the blog with a quick interview! He’s come up with some interesting answers!


What is your favourite thing about writing books?
I am a film-maker and I also get most of my fiction from films. So I read and write non-fiction and it is the research that gets me most excited especially when I discover something new. It is then my desire to share the latest discovery that fires me into writing.
Sometimes it is a factual discovery but other times it is something else like understanding the motives of an historical character. For example I was reading a book on Wagner and suddenly realised I understood Wagner because the way he functioned was a lot like my brother. I could see exactly where he was coming from. And as a fan of Nietzsche I could then see why they became friends and why they fell out so spectacularly.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
My favourite character in my book, ‘The Monumental Secret’ is Jesus. You may think that sounds weird but during my research I came across some interesting documents that shone a light on the real charismatic Jew called Yeshua. Take for example this letter from Clement of Alexandria.
‘”As for Mark, when Peter was martyred, Mark went to Alexandria, bringing both his knowledge and the things he remembered hearing from Peter. He arranged a more spiritual gospel for the use of those being perfected. He did not write out the hierophantic instruction of the Lord, but added other deeds to the ones he had already written. Then, he added certain sayings, the interpretation of which he knew would initiate the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of the truth which has been hidden seven times.’
A hierophant is someone who initiates people into higher levels of occult knowledge.
And in the Gnostic Gospels Jesus teaches, “The kingdom of God is within you.” And self-knowledge is knowledge of God. Instead of coming to save us from sin, he comes as a guide who opens access to spiritual understanding. I think this makes Jesus a much more interesting person.
Another telling piece of information we find in the story of Lazarus that was cut from Mark’s Gospel. (Lazarus now only appears in John) The following was between verses 34 and 35 of Mark 10:
“And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near Jesus rolled away the stone from the door. And going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God. ”
So Jesus is again initiating Lazarus into occult knowledge and he shows anger at the disciples for rebuking Mary, presumably because she left the house where she should be sitting shiva as is the custom of the Jews.
Luckily the youth appears again in our present day Mark, using the same Greek word neaniskos for him, reinforcing the fact that this Lazarus story was once in Mark.
‘A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.’ (Mark 14:51)
I should point out that wearing linen is part of the ritual. According to Jewish customs leather and wool are unclean and cannot be worn by anyone entering the Holy of Holies. It is even worn in Masonic initiation where the novitiate undresses and puts on a sort of linen pyjama. And then being hoodwinked and slipshod he is led in.
Incidentally, in initiating into the 3rd Degree of Freemasonry there is a death and resurrection ceremony where the novitiate, in the dark, is laid down on a shroud dead and then the brothers hinge him up whispering the magic word
resurrecting him to become a Master Mason.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
What I drink depends on the weather. In winter I tend to drink more coffee while in summer it is tea. And often, if I have been at work all day, and feeling a little isolated, in the evening I will take my laptop to the pub, to at least have some people round me. There again in summer it will generally be lager but in winter, wine.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Yes leaning over ruining my back. Often when I get up I cant stand up straight. Writing is dreadful for your posture as is editing. Our Union says editors should stand up every 20 minutes and do a bit of exercise. But once I get involved, time flies and I get up bent over.

How do you research books?
I grab all the books and writings on the subject and read avidly. I think a look at any of the back pages of the books I studied will show you more than I can say. This is for my research into the play I wrote, ‘Twilight of the Gods’ about the tumultuous relationship between Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche.

This is Nietzsche’s autobiography, ‘Ecce Homo’ (behold the man) Pilate’s words when the flagellated Christ was brought before the rabble. You see, as I read I mark interesting statements or events. So once I start writing and perhaps I write Wagner accusing Nietzsche of being rude, I look at the books and find here – 14 Rudeness (top right) and insert it into the writing to make Nietzsche reply, “Rudeness should not be undervalued, it is the most humane form of contradiction.”

Or alternatively there is a statement where Nietzsche ‘attacks’ Wagner, -17 Attack (top right) – and I wind the conversation round to it. “My friend you are applauded by a culture that confuses the artful with the rich and the late with the great.” The part in italics is his written words.

The next stage is to find a dramatic way to tell a story about philosophy? So I placed the play in the Turin Lunatic Asylum where Nietzsche was taken after his collapse. And there the ghost of Wagner – who was dead by that time – visits him.

We put the play on in Edinburgh and the official Review wrote ‘How anyone could write such an intelligent, seem-less script analyzing the complex ideas of the composer Richard Wagner and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is beyond me. “ But the thing is, it is beyond me too – I have shown you the mechanism but I still don’t quite know how it all came together, it just seemed to happen. Performing it was both scary and exciting as it has music section that synch with the dialogue. The ending was tremendous as it used the 2001 theme that Straus wrote for Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Sprake Zarathustra” while Nietzsche goes mad on stage. As most of the play takes place in the Turin Lunatic asylum, we were able to film it cheaply. An American Philosophy magazine wrote glowingly saying it was ‘Masterful’ and now it is used in US Universities as a teaching aid. –

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
As I sometimes work on film scripts with a friend who is totally opposite to me, I realized why I work the way I do (which is very left brained) Not exactly a plotter but good at structuring content.
My friend Paul, is very right brained so this produces very different set of strengths and weaknesses and mainly he is a pantser. He just follows a stream of consciousness. But I learnt a lot from Paul, especially how he breathed life into his characters. He would tell me he knew this guy who always did something…. And then he already knew the person he was writing. He also wrote each character using different words. The banker “I’m going to leave this town tomorrow” or the blacksmith “I’m going to quit this town tomorrow.” Part of the secret is that different characters use different vocabulary. Most bad writing has everybody speaking in the same voice – the writers.
I love it when you can get a character who speaks in an exaggerated way. Paul was fabulous at it. I had a scene where I cast the actor but felt my writing was a bit dull. I passed it to Paul and he sent back a wonderful piece. I sent it to the actor, Tom Butcher who rang me immediately. “I cant say all this flowery stuff, I didn’t agree to do this.” I told him to come in and I would go over it with him. We sat down and I played his part, which was a young arrogant well-educated pop group manager. We started but after just a minute he stopped me “I get it now” he said smiling and did it amazingly on the shoot. The set up was this manager, Miles talking to young guy, Bradley who he has been using to follow some ticket touts. Here is some of the dialogue.
MILES – Now what was the figure we agreed on? 250?
BRADLEY – We didn’t exactly say, but 250 will do just fine.
MILES – (Hands over £50 notes) I should count them my maths is appalling.
Would you like a glass of water to celebrate? It’s very good. Been blessed by a Shinto priest.
BRADLEY – No thanks.
MILES – Mmmm. You’re probably right. He was a Californian Shinto priest. Not the same at all. Well then….I think an expensive law-suit is out of the question. I could pay a thousand on a couple of heavies to visit Mr Adams. Break a bone or two. Evacuate their bowls over his soft furnishings. What do you think Bradley? Heavies?
BRADLEY – I… would…
MILES – Right again Bradley. What a remarkably sensitive fellow you are.
You see the actor, Tom was a regular on the cops show, ‘The Bill’ where the dialogue was very simple so he had never been faced with dialogue like this. But boy, once he got it he was great

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
I used to read science fiction that created other worlds that were usually so terrible that there is no way I would choose to live in them. Most other books I read are set historically and again I don’t think I would like to live in any period in the past. I was lucky I was born after the war and schooled after the 1944 education act that meant I could move out of my destined future in a factory to go to University with a grant and move into a job I love.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
I think it is a film character, Suzie Diamond, the girl played by Michel Pfeiffer in the ‘Fabulous Baker Boys’. Smart, talented, sexy and would take no bullshit.

About the book

Throughout the history of Christianity there have been those claiming a monumental secret. Often centered around the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris and associated with French esoteric circles like Debussy who wrote in a review:

“Perhaps it’s to destroy that scandalous legend that Jesus Christ died on the cross.”

But even Canon Alfred Lilley came back from St. Sulpice questioning the crucifixion. There must have been some documentation in the church that convinced these people of something portentous. BUT now searching links between the history of Rome and the latest Biblical research, we finally reveal the extraordinary facts that prove exactly what the monumental secret was and its validity making the revaluation of Christianity, as we knew it, inevitable.

About the Author

JULIAN DOYLE is the editor of ‘Life of Brian’ and is also one of the world’s most versatile filmmakers. He has written and directed his own films, and edited, photographed and created Fx on others. He is most famous for editing the Monty Python Films and shooting the Fxs for Terry Gilliam’s movies ‘TimeBandits and ‘Brazil’, which he also edited.

He has written and directed three feature films. ‘Love Potion’ about a drug rehabilitation centre, described as Hitchcockian. ‘Chemical Wedding’ featuring Simon Callow about the outrageous British occultist, Aleister Crowley and described by one American reviewer as ‘Thoroughly entertaining although at times you wonder if the film makers have not lost all there senses’. He has also directed award winning pop videos such as Kate Bush’s ‘CloudBusting’ featuring Donald Sutherland and Iron Maiden’s ‘Play With Madness’.

He recently wrote and directed the play ‘Twilight of the Gods’ investigating the tumultuous relationship between Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche and described by ‘Philosophy Today’ as ‘Masterful!’ the film version now being used as a teaching aid in US Universities.

Julian was born in London and started life in the slums of Paddington. His Irish father, Bob, was one of the youngest members of the International Brigade that went to fight against Franco’s invasion of democratic Spain. His mother, Lola, was born in Spain of an Asturian miner who died early of silicosis. She was thereafter brought up in a Catholic orphanage in Oviedo.

Julian started his education at St. Saviours, a church primary school. He went on to Haverstock secondary school, one of the first comprehensive schools in England. His first job was as a junior technician to Professor Peter Medawar’s team, which won the Nobel Prize soon after Julian’s arrival. Not that he claims any credit for that. At night school he passed his ‘A’ level exams and took a Zoology degree at London University. After a year at the Institute of Education, he taught biology before going to the London Film School. On leaving he started a film company with other students. Besides film making, Julian is well known for his Master-classes in Film Directing.

Monty Python’s Terry Jones described Julian as a Polymath.

While still at school, Julian had a daughter, Margarita who was brought up in the family. He then had two further children, Jud and Jessie.


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