Today, Norm Goldman
Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our
guest, Avraham Azrieli. Avraham has authored five works of fiction,
his latest being The Mormon Candidate. Others are The
Masada Complex, The Jerusalem Inception, The Jerusalem Assassin
and Christmas for Joshua.
He is a graduate of Columbia Law School and has practiced for two decades before he published his first novel.
Good day Avraham and
thanks for participating in our interview
As I mention above, The Mormon Candidate is your fifth novel. What keeps you going as an author?
The Mormon Candiate is a good example of how my novels come to life. A few years ago, when I was living in Arizona, a friendship with a wonderful Mormon neighbor piqued my curiosity. I read Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven, followed by other available books on the LDS Church.
As often happens, my research inspired a suspenseful plot line. It featured a Mormon presidential candidate and a murder related to secret baptisms for the dead. After a couple of years of writing and editing, the novel was just published – as fate would have it – in the midst of an election that features a Mormon presidential candidate.
To quote Mark Twain, “It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense!”
What do you want your work to do, particularly with The Mormon Candidate- entertain people, provoke thinking? As a follow up, what motivated you to write The Mormon Candidate?
My first urge is to tell a good story that my readers will enjoy. The subjects that ignite passion in me, by definition, are thought-provoking, such as religion, ideology, conflicted love and friendship, etc.
The Mormon Candidate, which I conceived long before Romney was nominated as presidential candidate, nevertheless is very timely as the Mormon Church is one of the most successful religious organizations in America today. Many people work with Mormons or live next door to them, yet know very little about the LDS Church, its history, theology, and temple rituals, which are secret and open only to Saints.
What was the most difficult part of writing The Mormon Candidate?
Novels are populated by fictional characters and describe fictional events, but in every other respect I aspire to give the readers an accurate factual background. The biggest challenge in writing The Mormon Candidate was to create a true and correct "stage set."
While Mormons are forbidden from disclosing to non-Mormons any details of the Temple rituals, and are generally reluctant to discuss the troubled history of the church and its founders, I spent a long time reading books and articles to learn every aspect of the LDS Church. In fact, several Mormons who reviewed the Novel complemented its fairness and accuracy, even in areas that the church keeps secret from the general public. (For interested readers, I included a bibliographical list of primary sources at the end of the novel).
How did you go about creating the character of Ben Teller and Joe Morgan?
I spend a lot of time with my characters in my head before I start writing about them. Ben Teller is a young freelance reporter who sells his news reports to an Internet news service using the most recent digital technology. His curiosity and dedication to uncovering the truth combine to make him someone I really like and identify with.
Joe Morgan, the
presidential candidate, is a successful man who lives in the public
eye as a politician but has dark secrets to hide. The fact that he is
a Mormon adds to the mystery because of the clandestine aspects of
the LDS Church and its leaders, which serves as a perfect background
to his own cover-up efforts.
How much research did
you do concerning The Mormon Candidate?
As I mentioned above, I read dozens of books and many more articles and essays about the LDS Church, in addition to research about journalism, photography, the Marine Corps, the Department of Veterans Affairs, presidential elections, the Gulf War, and so on. One area I needed no research about was motorcycle riding--I ride the same exact motorcycle model as Ben Teller in The Mormon Candidate -- a convenient coincidence, isn't it?
How has been the reaction to The Mormon Candidate particularly in light of the fact that your presidential candidate is a member of the Mormon faith as is the case with Mitt Romney?
The response from readers has been totally positive. Reviewers on Amazon, for example, are very enthusiastic, not only as to the suspenseful story and its relevance to current events, but also as to the fairness in which the novel portrays the Mormon Church and its members.
The subject of posthumous baptisms plays a vital role in The Mormon Candidate. What are your personal thoughts concerning this practice? As a follow up, why do you believe Mitt Romney never replied to Elie Wiesel concerning the subject matter?
This is an intriguing question. My personal views on this Mormon practice are not clear cut -- most religions include rituals and ceremonies that might seem bizarre to others but are meaningful to the practitioners. I do think there are good intentions behind Mormon baptisms for the dead, just as there are good intentions behind the huge missionary operation of the LDS Church, which sends hundreds of thousands of young Mormons all over the world to spread the word of Joseph Smith and his faith.
But baptisms for the dead, which are done on an 'industrial' scale by countless of Mormons serving as proxies for the dead in the Mormon temples, have angered relatives of those 'gentiles' whom the Mormons convert after death. There have been accusations of 'stealing souls' and so on, especially as to over a million baptized Holocaust victims, including relatives of Noble laureate Elie Wiesel. As to Romney's refusal to discuss any aspect of his Mormon faith, this might be part-cause for his general reluctance to disclose much about himself--his tax returns, for example--and his failure to articulate clear policy positions or stick to positions he once supposedly held, hence weakening his once-promising candidacy. In fact, I have addressed this issue in an essay published on my blog.
In fiction as well as in non-fiction, writers very often take liberties with their material to tell a good story or make a point. But how much is too much?
My personal practice is to create the most fascinating fictional characters and involve them passionately in the most suspenseful fictional conflicts. But that's where creative liberties end: the rest of the material should be as accurate and as realistic as possible, not only to enable readers to believe the story, but also to share interesting historical and political facts in an exciting context which rewards readers' craving to learn and expand their horizons. It's a responsibility I take very seriously--provide readers with the terrific joy of a good story while earning their trust.
Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
My WEB PAGE
Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?
I would like to thank you for this interview and express my gratitude to my readers for their interest in my novels.
Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
Follow Here To Read Norm's Review of The Mormon Candidate