‘Godsent’ writer doesn’t shy away from controversy

Callie Sutton

Special to theadvocate.com

"Godsent" by Richard Burton

In the current movie industry, producers are looking more and more to the written word for inspiration. “Harry Potter,” “The Twilight Saga,” “The Hunger Games” and “Percy Jackson” are only a few of the books that have been turned into movies over the past several years.

Richard Burton has joined the ranks of these illustrious authors with his debut novel, “Godsent.” “Godsent” was released on Oct. 16, 2012, and by the end of the month, Imprint Entertainment, the production company behind the “Twilight” saga, had acquired the movie rights.

As a practicing attorney specializing in corporate law and commercial litigation in Dallas, Burton is not the typical action-thriller novelist. However, creative writing has always been close to his heart, and his experience with the law actually enriched his writing abilities.

“I’ve always loved creative writing,” Burton said. “It’s been a goal of mine to write a novel. As a commercial litigator, I do an awful lot of writing. I do brief writing all the time and reports where you really have to tell a story and weave a story around your client’s facts when you’re applying them to the law. It’s kind of a natural fit between what I do as a lawyer and writing creatively.”

“Godsent,” tells the story of a virgin birth in modern times. Kate Skylar, a 17-year-old virgin, finds herself pregnant although she knows that she has barely even kissed her boyfriend. When the baby is born, it is whisked away to be raised by a couple who have been trained to protect the child. The Catholic Church is in turmoil with one division trying to protect the child, and the other hell bent on executing the child, who they believe to be the Antichrist.

Burton, however, is not a religious fanatic with hopes of degrading the Catholic Church.

“I did grow up Catholic, so my family was all Catholic. My parents are still practicing Catholics,” Burton said. “I think more than the impact on any beliefs or any thoughts I have about the Catholic Church, it really deals with my thoughts about organized religion as a whole. The book deals more with that, not so much isolating just the Catholics. It really relates to any religion that is organized and kind of the malaise that can come over people’s mind or just going through the motions of organized religion without actually thinking about what they are doing day to day.”

“Godsent” was actually inspired by a 2004 national news story of a woman who made a grilled cheese sandwich that miraculously had an image of the Virgin Mary burned into it. The news was that a casino purchased it from eBay for $28,000.

“From the news report about the grilled cheese sandwich, what dawned on me was that hundreds of people flocked to the dining room to see this grilled cheese sandwich, and really believed it was the sign of God that the image of the Virgin Mary was on this sandwich. This got national and maybe even worldwide news attention,” Burton said. “It dawned on me that if people can react that strongly and that emotionally to a grilled cheese sandwich that they thought had the imprint of the Virgin Mary, then what would happen in modern times if people, given our communication system and our ability to travel so freely anywhere in the world, if people actually though the Son of God was on Earth again in modern times.”

Of course, there could be some controversy regarding a novel that depicts the Catholic Church engaging in very immoral acts such as recording conversations in confessionals and murdering baby boys because there is some chance they could be the Antichrist. Burton, though, takes it all in stride.

“The Catholic Church spoke out a lot against ‘The DaVinci Code,’ which just got it more press and more exposure,” he said

In fact, “Godsent” has been compared to Dan Brown’s religiously controversial novel many times.

“The only similarities are they both deal with conspiracy issues within the Catholic Church, and the action-thriller type plot,” Burton explained. “But other than that, there really aren’t many similarities. The plots are different; my whole plot is just unrelated to ‘The DaVinci Code.’”

In most action thrillers, the story is plot-driven and the characters are simply along for the ride. Burton’s story, however, is intricately woven and driven completely by the relatable characters. “Godsent” allows these characters to tell the story rather than the events that occur throughout.

Ethan, the second son, or the Son of Man, as he calls himself in the book, is an infinitely complex character who changes and grows throughout the story. He encompasses both innocence and wisdom, a feat which seems almost impossible to the reader, but which Burton makes completely believable.

“I wanted Ethan to have that delicate balance between innocence and wisdom,” Burton said. “He is a human character who allowed the world to absorb onto him. He was a blank slate rather than a character who had any preconceived ideas about humanity.”

As with most novels that are page-turners to the very end, Burton leaves his readers wanting more. Luckily, he won’t leave them waiting very long. Burton is currently working on the next book in the series, which he believes will be a trilogy. As for whom the next installment will focus, that cannot be revealed, but Burton promises that Ethan will definitely be a part of the story.