She's an award-winning Big Apple columnist in a newspaper with over 1 million readers daily. Media critic and co-host of NY1's "What A Week," Linda Stasi, has also been a guest on The O'Reilly Factor, The Today Show, Good Morning America, The View, Chris Matthews, CBS Morning Show,Good Day New York, to mention a few.
In her new book, The Sixth Station (Jan. 22), Stasi reveals a riveting and provocative read, full of twists and turns, passion and conspiracies, while tackling a host of hot and timely topics, such as terrorism, Christianity, good vs. evil. Blending science and religion, Stasi's debut novel weaves an intricate tale and intriguing plot line, leaving readers with some thought-provoking questions, none more compelling than the question that remains at the heart of the story: "What if Jesus was cloned, and lived among us today?" Would the modern Jesus go through the same tribulations and conditions as the original?"
I recently spoke to the award-winning journalist about ancient relics, her unexpected journey while researching the book, and What Would Jesus Do?
Q: The Sixth Station is quite a departure from your job as media critic for The NY Post. What gave you the idea to write this book?
A: The idea struck me like a blow to the head when I was traveling through Turkey and was taken to the House of the Virgin near Ephesus. As we drove the 1500 miles through the country, I kept getting inspiration, and I knew I had to get to the bottom of it all. I didn't have any idea that it would take me where it did or take me as long to research it as it did. Weird that a book like this would come to an agnostic or more specifically, an atheist like me.
Q: The research for this book appears to be quite extensive, seemingly taking on a life of its own. How long did it take you to research the book and how much of the book is based on historical data?
A: It took six years through five countries, three continents. I drove through three alone, traveled through one with an exorcist from the Vatican, hiked a nearly 5,000 foot mountain in France -- twice -- and had my friend, Father Jacobs at the Vatican comb through the Vatican library. When he died, his final wish was for me to sneak into his apartment in Rome, and "steal" his laptop and other valuable information before Vatican officials got to it. If you think that was easy, then try sneaking a laptop which had a lock built into the front with a key through customs. I boxed up maybe ten boxes of his papers as well and shipped them to an address in the United States.
Q: So is there really a relic that exists in a monastery deep in the mountains of Italy that may contain the DNA of Jesus?
A: I believe that it does. It's called il Volto Santo and is the true Veil of Veronica, which is celebrated as part of the Stations of the Cross in almost every Catholic Church in the world. The thing I discovered is, however, that there never was a saint -- or a woman-- named Veronica. That is a story made up by the Church. The image most likely however, appeared on the cloth wrapped around the face of Jesus -- as was the Jewish custom back then -- as he was laid in the tomb. The Shroud of Turin was then wrapped around the cloth and the body. Thus the images.
Q: The main character in The Sixth Station is a Manhattan-based reporter who works for a large metropolitan newspaper. I know the story is fictitious, but how much of the story is based on your experience working as a reporter?
A: You can't write honestly about a newsroom or a reporter without having been one. That's why so many TV shows and movies get it wrong. A tabloid newsroom is a rough and tumble place. Not a place for sissies. The story is fiction, but the background and the relic are real.
Q: Not to be a downer, but the world is turmoil; war, recession, poverty, terrorism, global warming. So what would Jesus do?
A: More importantly, the question should be, if Jesus were alive today, what would we do? Would it be execution once again?
Q: What do you say to cynics or to those whose feathers may have been ruffled with the controversial subject matter you tackle in The Sixth Station?
A: For one thing I prove that Saint Veronica, who is celebrated in The Sixth Station of the Cross, and for whom the fourth and most important pillar of the entire Vatican is dedicated, is a total fiction story. She never existed -- but the story was made up because the Church wouldn't have allowed the most important relic in all of Christendom to be placed in the hands of a woman they denigrated --Mary Magdalen. Did I mean to upend a 2,000 year old belief?
No. As a reporter did I have a choice? No--not once I found out the truth I didn't.