Who am I? That’s a question I’ve been trying to answer as soon as I learned to ask it. I was born into a humble family with no connections. We were rootless in the sense that none of my family had been born in Pennsylvania before. My father was a laborer. We were uneducated, regular people just trying to make it through another day in a rust belt growing daily rustier. I was looking for a place where I belonged.
“Everybody has to have a hometown, Binghamton’s mine.” The words belong to Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone. Since everybody has to have a hometown, I’ll confess that mine is Rouseville, Pennsylvania.
I watched the Twilight Zone and looked for meaning. Eventually I discovered that books could take me to other places and you could get them cheap. I cut my reading teeth on the Bible, but other books had their enticements as well. Other kids thought I was weird. What if the place you belonged was a hell of smokestacks, massive petroleum vats, and unthinking compliance? Rod help me!
Here are the basic facts: I was born in a working class family in Franklin, Pennsylvania (where an episode of The X-Files was set) and grew up as a blue collar laborer. My family moved to the tiny town of Rouseville when I was entering my teens. The background image to this website is a place that no longer exists. Rouseville, as I explain in a book I’m currently working on, was once one of the headquarters of Pennzoil. The petroleum processing plant in this photo was dismantled years ago. The house I lived in, not far away, has been torn down. As was the apartment building I lived in before that, in Franklin. And the house I lived in before that. (I do my best to leave no traces.) I chose this photo because no matter how hard you scrub a blue collar, it just won’t become white. Somewhere between “Those stubborn stains!” and “Out, damned spot!” I suppose.
I attended Grove City College and majored in Religion, intending to be a minister. I declined an invitation to apply to Beta Kappa Nu. For seminary I selected Boston University School of Theology. I applied for transfer to Harvard Divinity School, was accepted, and decided not to make the switch. I don’t always make smart choices, I guess. While at BUSTh I decided to pursue a doctorate overseas, as recommended by the faculty there. “There are going to be lots of teaching jobs in the ’90s!” they said. I’m not the only one to misread situations from time to time!
During a gap year I went to Israel to work on an archaeological dig—Tel Dor, near Haifa—got engaged, moved from Boston, Massachusetts to Ann Arbor, Michigan, got married in Iowa, and moved to Edinburgh, Scotland to begin my doctorate. What a gap! I completed my Ph.D. at Edinburgh University in 1992 and was hired to teach Old Testament at Nashotah House Episcopal Seminary in Wisconsin. My first book, A Reassessment of Asherah, was published in 1993.
While at Nashotah House I wrote my second book, Weathering the Psalms (not published until 2014). I taught for a year at Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. A change of administration led to the loss of my Nashotah House job, and my second book languished patiently while I taught in various part-time capacities at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Rutgers University, and Montclair State University, the latter two after moving to New Jersey (home of the Jersey Devil). I also worked in publishing, starting off as a freelance editor for the Society of Biblical Literature, then as an acquisitions editor at Gorgias Press and Routledge (an Informa company). From there I took on my current position. I work in New York City. My third book, Holy Horror, has just been released by McFarland Books. My fourth book, Nightmares with the Bible, is under contract and is in progress at the moment. Several more are on my hard disc in various states of completion.
Although I didn’t realize it until recently, I’m a late “Monster Boomer.” That partially explains—but doesn’t excuse—these last two books. A lifelong fascination with monsters leads me to blog frequently on the topic (see Sects and Violence for these posts) and eventually begin writing books on related topics.
I began writing with the intention of publishing when I was in middle school. I was co-editor of The Refiner, the official Oil City High School newspaper. A few of my short stories were published in that venue. My senior year I won a state-wide essay contest on the topic of “Americanism.” Also in high school I learned the best writing advice I’ve ever received from the faculty advisor to the creative writing club: “Write every day, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes.” This teacher remains a major source of inspiration to me. His advice has proven sound—slow and steady may not get you an agent, but the books will find a home.
In addition to the publications listed on this website, I continue to write fiction as well. Several of my short stories have been published under a pseudonym. One of them was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I have completed six novels; one is currently being considered for publication. Most of my writing is heavily metaphorical. I like digging.
This website includes my blog, “Sects and Violence in the Ancient World,” as well as information about my books. Every book is a story in itself. They help to define a writer’s life. A full list of my non-fiction publications can be found on my CV, located under the “CV” tab.
Steve A. Wiggins, Ph.D.
committed vegetarian, mostly vegan
Six word bio: Missed the first day of school