Please welcome my special guest, Jack L. Brody, author of the latest suspense thriller, The Moroni Deception. I had the opportunity to read it and you can find my review here in Blogcritics. In this interview, Brody talks about the history behind the book and how difficult it was to dwell in Mormon controversy, among other things.
About the author:
Jack Brody is a writer, ex-military, and an avid traveler. After his Army stint and then deciding to pass on law school, he went to film school, wrote screenplays, and held a number of jobs which ran from everything to working for a newspaper for one day, to film production, to then going into real estate (with at least five other jobs along the way). He’s fascinated by history, politics, and architecture, all of which play a part in his novels (yes, he already has two more in the works).
When not writing, Brody can often be found hiking with his two faithful dogs, occasionally breaking out the old BMW bike for a ride though the mountains, or playing volleyball or bar trivia with his friends. He divides his time between his home in the Southern Appalachians and wherever his passport will take him. After reading Jon Krakauer’s bestselling Under the Banner of Heaven, he was inspired to undertake a full year of research in preparation for the novel. Taking what he’d learned, along with a bit of imagination, the result was the conspiracy thriller, The Moroni Deception. Go to www.themoronideception.com for more information about the novel and to read the first chapters for free.
The Moroni Deception is your first novel. What made you decide to sit down and write it?
I’d written screenplays for a number of years, and had made several half-hearted attempts at a novel before, but not only was it was so different, but it was so much harder I found than writing a screenplay, so I had tended to give up pretty easily. The thing I ran into with screenplays, however, was the old Catch-22, that to sell a screenplay you have to have an agent, and to get an agent you have to have sold a screenplay. I won’t go into a lot of details–for possible future legal actions which I may still take, but in my attempt to navigate around this agent obstacle, I sent my very best screenplay directly to two different director/producers. Both wound up–although it’s not yet been proven in court– “borrowing” very large and significant portions of this screenplay, and went on to make two different movies where I got to see a lot of my work up on the big screen, but without a penny in compensation.
The second film even went on to make over $100 million, which was sadly ironic, because I had always jokingly referred to that script as my “$100 million dollar screenplay.” Those episodes really kind of took the wind out of my sails, and so I thought I the next time, maybe I need to to write a novel, and that hopefully it would be easier to find an agent, who could then represent my 5 other screenplays. My first, well, I hate to call it an inspiration, but what spurred me on, believe it or not, was an episode of South Park–“All About Mormons.” Like a lot of people, I had never really given the religion much thought and had always just kind of thought of it as one of the lesser know Protestant branches of Christianity. After having my interest sparked, I then went on to read Jon Krakauer’s Under The Banner of Heaven. With all the sordid history, and some, what I found to be, rather odd beliefs and practices, I knew, there was a lot of potential there for a novel.
I found the history behind the story fascinating. Is the prophecy mentioned in the novel true?
I did, well, I won’t say “tons,” but literally, pounds of research, from all the books I went through, notes that I took, and reams that I printed off from my internet research. While I had some idea in the beginning of what my story would be–which at the time, started out having to do with a rogue FBI agent who was investigating the murder of his Mormon girlfriend who had broken away from one of the LDS’s radical fundamentalist offshoots. As you can see after reading it, it’s changed quite a bit from that. I then probably took close to a year of doing nothing but researching and taking notes, mostly of what seemed like fascinating items to further explore and perhaps later work into the story. As far as “The White Horse Prophecy” goes, I wish I could take credit, but Joseph Smith supposedly first came up with that in the 1840’s. There’s actually a pretty good Wikipedia entry on the prophecy that gives a basic explanation. Mr. Romney has mostly dodged the question when asked about it, but I think back when he was running the first time, he said something along the lines that he considered the Prophecy to be a matter of “speculation and discussion by church members” and “not official church doctrine.”
The novel deals with a negative aspect of religion, especially the Mormon religion. Was it difficult to deal with this aspect of the novel while working on it?
Definitely, because I never wanted to turn it into a screed against the religion, and I tried to say some positive things that I could find whenever appropriate in the story. I did, though, want to work in as many true beliefs and historical facts as I could and let the reader make up his or her own mind. Like Michael Chenault, the main character, as well as the writers of our Constitution, I firmly believe that everybody has the right to believe in, and practice their religion in whatever way they see fit. But on the other hand, if say, Tom Cruise, a well-known practicing Scientologist, was to run for President, I would have to take his religion and beliefs into account before I went into the voting booth.
How long did it take you to write it?
If I could condense all the time I spent, doing both the research and the writing, it would probably be about two and a half years. However, and unfortunately for me, that’s not the way things work, especially when we’re not only living out our lives, but trying to put bread on the table with our day job. So the true time it took stretched out to almost five and a half years. I started it more than a year prior to the election of 2008, which is how I remember.
Are you a disciplined writer?
In that, unlike most people, I wrote and completed a novel, yes. But when compared to other writers, definitely not. When I read about how a guy like Dan Brown gets up every morning at 4:30 or some ridiculous hour, does an hour of exercise, and then sits down to write for four to five straight hours, or 10-15 full pages, I’m both impressed and amazed. My writing time has always generally been limited by how much energy–both physical and creative–that I had left at the end of a working day. I often found myself not beginning my writing until 11 at night, and then writing until 1 or sometimes 2 AM. And that, again, was not every night. I also for about a year, had a very real case of “writer’s block” where no matter what I did or how hard I tried, I couldn’t get anything substantial down on the page. I even went to a hypnotist, which didn’t do a lot, and I almost gave up. Also during this time period, I had to deal with a heart attack at a relatively early age, which came completely out of the blue, and then after that, the year and a half long battle a best friend of mine had to endure in his losing fight with cancer.
Did you plot in advance? If yes, tell us about your plotting process.
Well, as I mentioned earlier, I started out with a completely different story. I don’t even quite remember where along the way my protagonist turned into an investigative journalist, other than that I thought I wanted to create a character who solved his problems more with his brains than with what he was packing, which seemed to be so often the case with a lot of adventure/thriller protagonists I was reading at the time. With The Moroni Deception, which I think is fairly intricately plotted, a lot of the little details that I think made it that much better, came out along the way. I, of course had a general plot outline in my head, and then down on paper. And then when something else would pop into my head, I would see first if it worked, second, if it actually made the story better, and then if it would work into the overall conspiracy. The lead conspirators/villains I didn’t settle on until probably two thirds of the way through that I was working on the book. But when I finally did settle on this person or persons who shall remain nameless, that’s when I then went back and made little subtle changes starting from the beginning.
What reaction do you think or hope your story will have on the general reader? Do you think it’ll create a controversy the way The DaVinci Code did?
Well, the reaction I’ve gotten so far from just about every reader I’ve spoken with, or heard from either by email or through their reviews, is that The Moroni Deception is a fast, fun, very topical read, especially with the current election going on. I guess I should mention that in addition to exploring the strange but true history of the LDS (Mormon) Church, the protagonist, Michael Chenault, is investigating the background of a candidate running for President, who is a Mormon Senator from Utah, who it appears will say or do just about anything to get elected. Comparisons have obviously been drawn to Gov. Romney, and I’ve even had the timing of the release questioned. But I really did just finally finish writing in mid July, and I’m pretty sure I had no idea five and a half years ago that Mr. Romney would be in the position to be our next President come this November. As far as controversy, I can imagine some old school LDS members maybe not being too happy with some of what is revealed, but I’m not making any of it up–like the White Horse Prophecy, or the secret brotherhood of vigilant assassins known as the Danites, and some of their beliefs, like for instance, how any man can become a god and one day live on his own planet.
Where is your book available?
With a brief bit of explanation, because it took me so long to finish the book, I realized that if I went the traditional route of trying to find an agent, and then a publisher, and then have the publisher finally release the book, it could take up to another two to three years. I thought the timing was right, with the current election and all the interest there has been in the Mormon religion over the last several years, as well as the fact that electronically delivered books appear to be the wave of the future, to just release it initially for Kindles and Nooks and the like. And then, who knows, hopefully, maybe a publisher might want to step in and release it in hardcopy if there appeared to be enough interest. So with that said, right now The Moroni Deception is available from Amazon for Kindles, at Barnes & Noble for their Nook, at the iBookstore for Ipad, as well as for Kobo, Copia, and soon supposedly for the Sony reader, as well at Gardners Books, Baker & Taylor, and e-BookPie.
Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
I guess just that if you’re a fan of thrillers like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or The Da Vinci Code, or you’re one of those readers who likes to learn a little something along the way as you’re being entertained, then I think you’re really going enjoy my book. As there is some sex, and quite a bit of violence, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and despite the fact that most 12-year-olds probably know more about life than I did when I was 20, I still wouldn’t recommend it for anybody under 17. Also, I wanted to thank you for the great questions.
Thank you for the great interview, Jack, and best of luck with your book!