The following is an interview with Joseph Gioconda regarding the recent release of the novel, The Pope’s Butcher. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Gioconda about the creative process of bringing this story to life, how the story may connect with readers, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your book! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the story’s premise?
Joseph Gioconda: Thank you!
The premise is that a young, orphaned Catholic seminarian is studying to become a priest in Rome named Sebastian Alberti in 1487. Sebastian discovers the awful truth about the Grand Inquisitor Heinrich Institoris when he is asked by the Inquisition to conduct field research into witchcraft.
Until now, Institoris has escaped notice as perhaps the most prolific serial killer in human history. Most recent estimates put the death toll of his Inquisition at 60,000 to 100,000, although some authors prefer much higher numbers, perhaps reaching into the millions.
But the story is ultimately about true love, redemption, and salvation, as Sebastian discovers that the truth about religion and his Church isn’t always what it seems.
BD: Given that the story focuses on real-life historical events and figures from the 15th century, what can you tell us about your research into the characters and time period in preparation for the project?
GC: I started by studying original source material from 1487 that had been translated into English from Latin and German. The English translations were from the 1920’s, and they were very poor. Fortunately, in 2009 a professor did a much better job translating the source materials.
Then, I traveled to each one of the locations in the book. It took me years to complete this part. I went to Ireland, England, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, and other countries. I photographed and recorded each location and took copious notes. I also collected and read about two dozen books about the subjects of the book. Finally, I even hired medieval studies graduate students as researchers to comb through newly discovered documents. While it was a great experience, I don’t think I will ever research a topic quite this extensively for a book again, I am afraid.
BD: How would you describe your creative process in bringing this story to life, and what (or who) were some of your creative influences in terms of the characters and tone?
GC: I tried to read letters and other everyday documents that were written in the 15th Century, to try to get a sense of the tone of writing and speaking in that era. Second, I read and reread Frances and Joseph Gies’ book titled Life in a Medieval City, Castle and Village. They are solid gold if you want to truly get a mental picture of what life was really like back then. I also found Umberto Eco’s book, The Name of the Rose, to be inspiring from a creative standpoint.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that the story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
GC: At its core, this true story illustrates how far we’ve come, and far we still need to go, to address violence against women–particularly, with respect to institutionalized violence. Institoris was able to get away with murder quite literally by cloaking it in the guise of religion. I felt a close connection to the many souls whose lives were cut short by these madmen. I think we often think of history as written in books only. But these were real people—mothers, sisters, daughters—who were relentlessly tortured and slaughtered. Their stories should be told.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
GC: Yes! I have a book called Salem’s Ropes coming out right before Halloween this year. It is also based on the true story of the Haunted Ropes Mansion in Salem, Massachusetts. The mansion is 300 years old and has truly experienced some tragic events throughout its history. The caretakers of the Mansion swear that it is truly haunted. So, my story follows a family that buys it in faces a slow descent into madness as they discover the true source of the home’s curse.
I am also working on a book that should come out sometime in early 2022 about a century of real serial killers in New Orleans who did some pretty bizarre things along the way.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about The Pope’s Butcher?
GC: They can get a Kindle copy of The Pope’s Butcher through Kindle Unlimited on Amazon, or purchase an eBook or paperback through Amazon. Paperbacks are also available on Barnes and Noble. The website ThePopesButcher.com also has additional information. And if they like it, please leave a positive review on Amazon!