Bookpleasures.com is excited to have as our guest today, Marcus Brotherton.
Marcus is a journalist and professional writer known internationally for his books and literary collaborations with high-profile public figures, humanitarians, inspirational leaders, and military personnel.
He has authored or coauthored more than 25 nonfiction books which have included We Who Are Alive and Remain, a New York Times bestseller, A Company of Heroes, which ranked No. 1 in the country among World War II/Western Front books, and the widely-acclaimed Shifty’s War.
He’s just released his debut novel, Feast For Thieves.
Norm: Good day Marcus and thanks for participating in our interview. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what keeps you going?
Marcus: I grew up in a world of books and ideas. High school is when I really pictured myself becoming a writer someday. That’s when I started writing short stories for fun.
In college, I was editor of the student newspaper, and I wrote various essays, articles, and short stories all through graduate school and into my first job, which was as a youth director at a church. I enjoyed that job immensely and had the heart for it, but it wasn’t meant to be the long-term direction for me. So I switched directions at age 31 and became a newspaper reporter in Southwest Washington.
I was married by then and had a child to support and a mortgage to pay, and my newspaper job wasn’t cutting it financially, so I needed to moonlight to pay the bills. A former professor of mine worked in the book industry, and he sent me a few books to edit. One thing led to another, and over time that led to a career as a writer and editor in books, which I’m full time in today.
What keeps me going today is an innate sense of relentlessness. I can’t not write.
Norm: What do you want your work to do? Amuse people? Provoke thinking?
Marcus: A good novel must be entertaining. Yet a book can be more than sheer entertainment. A good novel can prompt us to think and feel and act and see the world in new ways.
I’d wanted for many years to write a book that had a strong redemptive element in it, sort of like Les Miserables by Victor Hugo or Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. That’s what I shot for with Feast for Thieves.
Norm: Is your work improvisational or do you have a set plan?
Marcus: I outline extensively, but there’s always room to step away from the plan. Sometimes you don’t know what a character will do or say until you actually see him moving on the page. A character will shout at you to change directions, and you need to let him do it.
Norm: What has been the best part about being published?
Marcus: The best part is the unexpectedness of where your book will go and what it can do. I received an email just this morning from a woman who sent Feast For Thieves to a friend of hers in prison in Texas. She sends him a lot of books, and when he’s done with them he passes them along to the prison library.
The woman wrote to say that her friend always gives her an unvarnished report of what he thinks about a book, and he certainly doesn’t like everything she sends his way. But he really enjoyed Feast For Thieves, and I think it gave him some hope of a better life.
The big theme of my novel is that every man can change for the better, so it was very satisfying to read that email.
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing, and do you have a specific writing style?
Marcus: I’ve worked as a minister before in a small town setting. And as a journalist, I’ve interviewed a ton of WWII veterans. Everybody always says “write what you know.” This book brought together both worlds in a natural fit.
Stylistically, I strive to write simply yet powerfully. There’s action on every page, and the story itself is infused with movement, drama, power, color, poignancy, even exaggeration.
I want to write like music makes you feel.
Norm: Could you tell our audience a little about the plot of your debut novel, Feast for Thieves.
Marcus: It’s about an elite incorrigible paratrooper named Rowdy Slater who comes home from World War II to a small town in Texas. Rowdy robs a bank out of economic necessity, then turns his life around. The town sheriff knows Rowdy’s dark secret and forces him to make a deal: survive a full year as the town’s new preacher or go to jail for a long, long time.
Norm: Are the characters in your book based on people you know or have encountered or are they strictly fictional?
Marcus: The main character Rowdy Slater was inspired by a real life soldier featured in the Band of Brothers named Wayne “Skinny” Sisk.
Skinny Sisk was a skilled paratrooper in real life, yet he was generally thought of as the most incorrigible man in the company. Apparently he was always getting in bar fights, drinking too much, visiting brothels while on leave, that type of stuff. After the war, Skinny came home, turned his life around, and eventually became a small town preacher. He died in 1999 in West Virginia.
Everything about Rowdy Slater’s life has been fictionalized, including the company he fought with. None of the specifics of Skinny’s life were used in this novel. Yet that one big story idea sat in my mind a long time while I was planning this novel, and that’s where this story starts—with that juxtaposition in mind. An elite incorrigible paratrooper becomes a minister.
I asked myself, here’s a man used to solving problems with a rifle or his fists … What sort of wild-hearted minister might such a man make?
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing your book and did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Marcus: This was probably the hardest book I’ve ever written. When I first tried my hand at writing fiction years ago, I was already an established writer and newspaper journalist. I figured that since I was a pretty good writer already, all I needed to do was sit down at the keyboard, and the next Moby Dick would flow out of me. Boy, was I wrong.
I’ve actually written three and a half other novels before this one that needed to be thrown away. All of those throwaway books had strengths, but none of them were good enough to be published. Fiction writing is an extremely competitive field, and these other books all proved to be learning experiences for me.
Writing a few throwaway books first is pretty typical in novel writing. There’s a unique set of rules that every author needs to learn before he can succeed. It’s a very steep climb to break in and succeed.
Norm: Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Marcus: I love hearing from readers. Everything has been positive so far about Feast For Thieves. Readers talk about staying up all night to finish it. Some have already read it twice. They see nuances in the writing that perhaps aren’t obvious the first time through.
What’s been fun to see is just how global a book becomes today. The novel’s been out for only about 3 weeks, and already I’ve heard from readers from all over the United States and Canada, as well as France, Holland, the U.K. and, most surprisingly to me, Japan and Guatemala.
Norm: What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
Marcus: I always try to be both realistic and encouraging at the same time.
Reality says it’s a steep climb to break into the publishing world. It’s a highly competitive industry.
The encouraging part is that it definitely can be done. People publish books all the time. You have skills and creativity. Why not you?
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
Marcus: MY BLOG.
The book is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble, or ask for it at a bookstore near you.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Marcus: Feast For Thieves points people to a world full of mystery and wonder. It’s about going on a journey of discovery, finding purpose in life, and seeing how we all want a place of belonging.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
Follow Here To Purchase Feast for Thieves: A Rowdy Slater Novel