In the summer, when the classes die down and students depart University Park for sunnier pastures, professor John Cimbala likes to unwind by writing the occasional novel or two.
“I’m trying to picture that feeling you get where your head gets all hot and you’ve done something horrible,” Cimbala said.
Good times, no?
The simple truth is that writing a work of historical-biblical fiction isn’t all fun and games. Aside from being a mouthful of a genre, the blend of research and sheer imagination required to successfully repurpose, let’s say Abraham Lincoln, to the dramatic requirements of your average page-turner is not unsubstantial.
People who have read the book have told me that you can’t read the last chapter without crying.
Cimbala didn’t have his sights set on Lincoln, though. He went almost directly to Peter the Apostle.
“People who have read the book have told me that you can’t read the last chapter without crying,” Cimbala said.
Again, good times, no?
“I, Peter: My Life in Threes” — available for order on Amazon — attempts to unpack the emotional state of a man whose biblical claim to fame involves denying Christ not once, not twice, but three times.
Getting under his skin involved equal parts empathy and inquiry. Cimbala was adamant about not contradicting any known facts (such as Peter having children) but embellished where he felt it necessary (such as giving Peter’s children names).
“I added a lot of stuff that’s not in the Bible and maybe not in history,” Cimbala said.
I added a lot of stuff that’s not in the Bible and maybe not in history.
A professor of mechanical engineering by trade, Cimbala’s previous writings had been limited to textbooks, where topics like thermodynamics and fluid mechanics reigned supreme.
Historical-biblical fiction, while difficult to say five times fast, provided an outlet for his spiritual side.
The author seems to have a soft spot for men in crisis. Cimbala’s first book, “I, Adam: The Man without a Navel” lets the Bible’s first man essentially spin his own yarn.
“I, Peter” grants its protagonist the same license to narrate in the service of perusing themes like guilt and forgiveness.
“He did something really bad and even though he did that, he was forgiven,” Cimbala said.
That is, quite literally, the moral of the story.