Interview with Debut Fiction Author, Marcus Brotherton
Tell us about your writing background up to this point. What prompted you to begin writing fiction?
I started out my writing career as a newspaper reporter, then gradually switched to books. I’ve been been writing and editing nonfiction books for the past 15 years. FEAST FOR THIEVES is my first novel.
When it came to writing fiction, I knew that the possibilities for storytelling are endless. So I wrote my novel because the road beckoned. I wanted to drive down the highway of unlimited creativity. I wanted to head toward a wide open horizon.
What inspired the plot for this book?
You start with a character who’s broken, lost, and wounded. He’s also well intentioned, full of fun, and wants to do the right thing, but circumstances and his own lousy choices have worn him down.
We’re like this, so many of us. And I wanted to write a book that was inspired by the story of us. It becomes a larger story then, a story of ashes to beauty, of heartbreak to hope.
Are any pieces of this story pulled from real life?
FEAST FOR THIEVES is about an elite incorrigible paratrooper named Rowdy Slater who comes home from World War II to a small town in Texas. He 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. So Rowdy chooses the pulpit.
The idea of a former elite incorrigible soldier becoming a minister 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 Sisk 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, and 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—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?
What makes your characters interesting?
You can look around at your own life and you know them all, or at least versions of them.
The characters are placed in 1946, a year after the war concludes, and their lives revolve around finding triumph after they’ve navigated a time of difficulty. There’s opportunity to be had, but there’s also the leftovers of difficult times holding them back.
The book itself is sort of a neo-Western crime thriller with lots of action, poignancy, and humor. Until you read the book, it’s hard to fully describe. One reviewer described it as a cross between Band of Brothers and True Grit. Another described it as a cross between Fried Green Tomatoes and Shawshank Redemption.
The hard-hitting action contains currents of love. Reverend Rowdy would be hard-pressed to admit it, but he’s falling for Bobbie Barker, the church’s willowy missionary. She’s smart and funny and has a penchant for quoting horrible poetry. Rowdy needs to stick close to her, because she’ll turn out to be exactly what he needs in the end.
What are some themes readers will find in this novel?
Theme-wise, it’s a book about second chances. We all need a second chance at something.
Complete this sentence:Readers who like _____ will love my book.
Fill in the blank with “the truth.”
People will sometimes say they don’t read fiction because they want to read only “the truth,” and they insist fiction is untruth because it’s made up. But there’s huge truth in fiction too. It comes imbedded in the narrative.
Since the truth in fiction comes wrapped around a story that captivates your attention, sometimes the truth will be presented so powerfully that it impacts you more strongly than if you’d read the same truth in a nonfiction book.
FEAST FOR THIEVES is filled with car chases, gun fights, parachuting scenes, and kidnappings. You won’t fall asleep or be disappointed by a lack of action.
It’s also got a poignant side to it with layers of meaning. The story makes you think and feel and contemplate life. You could read it once, set it aside for a year and then read it again, and glean more truth.
Are you a full-time writer?
Yes. Mainly I’m a collaborative writer, although I do a book of my own every other year or so. With collaborative writing, I help take people’s stories and turn them into books. I’ve worked with Louie Giglio, Ravi Zacharias, the elite WWII paratroopers known as the Band of Brothers, and many others.
Other than writing how do you like to spend your time?
My wife and I have three children. Two are school age, and one’s a toddler. So our days are filled with kids, kids, and kids.
What are your top 3 books of all time?
Ah, there’s so many it’s hard to narrow it down. I’ve copied out long portions of Hemingway books, just to have the feel of his words pass through my mind and fingers. The Old Man and the Sea is brilliant. I love C.S. Lewis’ novel, Til We have Faces. Almost everything Cormac McCarthy writes is fantastic.
Where and how can readers connect with you?
Come connect at: www.marcusbrotherton.com