As I was developing the ideas and characters that would go into THE MAN CLOTHED IN LINEN, I read in the Book of Luke, "...Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means."
And this is what I thought: Here is a woman who is the wife of Herod Antipas' right hand man, his administrator (steward perhaps is a better word than household manager), and Herod Antipas is the tetrarch (or 'prince') of Galilee and Peraea, which are fairly small entities...and when the wife of an important man in a small community leaves home and joins the entourage of another man--in this case, we're talking about Jesus--a stir is made. This is a LARGE action in a smallish, talkative place, especially when Joanna has brought money with her, and is offering it to Jesus, and Jesus himself is the successor to John the Baptist, whom Herod Antipas has killed.
Ergo, Joanna is a bold, brave, committed soul, a special woman in a place where women don't take precedence, and her husband, Chuza, the steward, must have been quite irked and embarrassed before his prince. I imagined this and then asked myself, Okay, where and when did Chuza and Joanna meet, and how did they marry, and what kind of marriage was it, and how could it have led, some many years later, to Joanna simply walking out of Herod Antipas' palace and following the no one who was Jesus at the time?
These are the kinds of thoughts and questions that led me to develop a large, sympathetic role for Joanna in THE MAN CLOTHED IN LINEN.
Her decision must have been difficult, and it must have caused a stir, leaving at least some kind of echo that lingered for decades until whoever wrote Luke wrote his gospel and included her.
Perhaps she also cleansed Jesus' body after his death. Perhaps she justifiably is classified as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church. But initially she was a woman who took hard decisions on her own, and that's what drew me to her.
THE MAN CLOTHED IN LINEN is about the great royalty and the not-great royalty. Joanna, in this novel, claims the right to be the queen of her own life. She is not "great" in any traditional sense, but in the flow of the novel, and in her actual life, of course, she is an equal to Cleopatra or the Empress Livia, wife of Augustus.
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