Q&A: The Swords of Silence

Did the kind of miracles described in the story really happen?

“Miracles” happen all the time – both then and now. I will let my readers decide what is real in the realm of miracles… 

Did the character Father Joaquim Martinez exist in real life?

No, Father Joaquim Martinez is a fictional character, but in many ways represents the very real and heroic Jesuit priests who actually sacrificed their lives to bring Christianity and a degree of light to Japan during these dark times.

Other secondary Jesuit characters in The Swords of Silence were real however. For example, on June 20, 1626, an execution of Christian priests took place. These were all real heroic clergy, including Bishop Francisco Pacheco from Portugal, Balthasar de Torres from Spain, Iwan Baptist from Italy, along with multiple other real people.

Are the characters in the story real?

At a minimum, all of the primary “villains” in the regime were very real people. These include Shogun Iemitsu, his father Hidetada, Daimyo (“Warlord”) Matsukura Shigemasa, Governor Mizuno Kawachi, Deputy-Lieutenant Heizo Suetsugu Masanao and so on. It took me a long time to do thorough historical research on these people in order to understand their motives. As history has shown, all of these individuals were very wicked and evil men.

What is fact versus fiction in the story?

The entire Christian massacre is a very real fact and a dark side of Japanese history. The political context and cultural climate were also real along with multiple dates, characters and events throughout the story.

Was the torture and violence in 17th Century Japan really as bad as the story makes it seem?

The torture and violence described in the novel is probably on the timid side relative to what actually occurred during these times.

As a writer, I struggled with what to include in the novel versus leaving out. On the one hand, I wanted the story to be authentic and include all the blood and hardship that was pervasive during this era. On the other hand, I didn’t want to overwhelm or put off my readers with too much violence, so my writing on the topic was somewhat of a balancing act.

How much research did you do and how long did it take you to write The Swords of Silence?

All told, I’ve been working on this project for 17 years. It took me a long time to do all the necessary historical research, at least 10 years, before I felt comfortable enough to write a novel about it.

Did you have any objectives in writing The Swords of Silence?

The first objective I had was historical revelation. Not too many people are aware of this dark period of history and I thought this novel would be a great way to build awareness. The second, less tangible, objective I had was faith and empowerment based. These were tough times for a lot of people and I’m a firm believer that a strong degree of faith can empower people to do great things.