Ulster author claims direct lineage from Mary Magdalene
Sean O'Driscoll in New York
A former Belfast author who believes she is descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene has signed a three-book deal worth nearly two million dollars.
The first book by Kathleen McGowan went on sale in the US yesterday and follows the massive success of Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code, which claims there are living descendants of Christ's relationship with his disciple, the former prostitute Mary Magdalene.
McGowan's claim to be a bloodline descendent of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is likely to prove controversial. The mother-of-three says she drew on her own family connections to write the partly autobiographical novel, which documents the search for a gospel written by Mary Magdalene.
Speaking from Dublin yesterday, Ms McGowan said that she was sick of people comparing her book to The DaVinci Code.
"Of course the books are going to be placed together, but when people are comparing one against the other, it drives me crazy," she said.
McGowan said she was delighted with her new financial success. "After years of selling my shoes on eBay or going on quiz shows, it's reassuring but it's only an advance, the books have to sell," she said.
McGowan worked for years in Belfast and has written extensively on Northern Ireland politics and the arts. She is now living in Los Angeles, where she signed a seven-figure deal with Simon & Schuster. The first book, The Expected One, comes with a marketing budget of more than a quarter of a million pounds and a US print run of 250,000 copies.
McGowan said she decided to write her story in novel form to protect her sources, but said her account is more honest than if it was simply a non-fiction book.
She said she cannot prove a direct lineage from her family to Jesus and Mary Magdalene, but her research had shown traditions within certain families that link them to the "divine union".
"It would be impossible to trace all the way back, but when you research it, you see the story is carried in certain families and it's a very real tradition," she said.
"I'm not saying that I'm the only person on earth descendant from Jesus and I think some of the Press has misrepresented that.
"I'm saying that after 2,000 years, there could be a million descendants. The guy bagging your groceries could be a descendant."
The book controversially claims Mary Magdalene was first married to John The Baptist.
McGowan claims her lineage can be traced to France where the descendants of Mary Magdalene are alleged to have been raised, at least according to the claims in The DaVinci Code. Although a medieval legend claims Mary Magdalene settled in the south of France following Jesus's crucifixion, it is widely discredited by religious scholars.
In her own book, McGowan changes her name to Maureen Pascal and travels the world in search of a hidden set of scrolls.
After working in Belfast, the author later spent five years in Walt Disney Films marketing department and worked as a "script doctor" and film consultant.
On her website, a biography said McGowan had moved to Northern Ireland at the age of 21 to work as a reporter.
"She worked as a staff writer and editor for a number of publications and was ultimately the Editor-in-Chief of The Irish News," it said.
That last claim had Belfast journalists scratching their heads today. A spokesperson for the Irish News in Belfast said: "We can confirm that Kathleen McGowan was never editor of the Irish News nor a senior editor and we have no record of her working as a staff member at the Irish News."
Actually I am now totally confused ... this piece of reporting is so badly written I have lost the plot!