Hi Jack, thanks for coming to answer a few questions. First off, I think many of my readers (and even myself), don’t know anything about Mormonism. What books would you recommend as an introduction to the religion?
Although a portion mainly deals with the FLDS, or the fundamentalist, polygamist branch of the religion, the other half of Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven does look fairly accurately at the founding of the religion under Joseph Smith. His book was, in fact, what first inspired me to research the religion further.
I noticed that your book included a lot of detail about the history of Mormonism. Was it very difficult to do the research? (As difficult as Chenault?) How did you make sure that you included accurate information.
From sources as varied as The Book of Mormon, to several first or second hand historical accounts of both the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the death of Joseph Smith, to a number of other books examining the religion, to reams of information available on the internet, I tried to find several corroborating sources, rather than just resorting to widespread myths and rumors about the religion.
A lot of the novel is about the truth of Mormonism. Would you say that the information in your novel is fair and accurate? Or did you use any creative license to make the plot more interesting?
Well, if you read the reviews from the several Mormons who have read it--and even more criticisms from those who didn't--you might think that the information was not fair and accurate. However, everything having to do with LDS beliefs or historical points I would deem 99.9% accurate. I, in fact, made a point of not taking any creative license with those areas for the very reason that I didn't want to be accused of playing fast and loose with the facts. Most of the criticism there has been so far, I would point out, has to do with their perception of how Mormons have been portrayed in the novel, and nothing to do with the accuracy of their history or beliefs, which I take a small amount of pride in.
Ok, I suppose that’s enough about religion. After reading your novel, I wondered: Do you think that society has become too politically correct? For example, if you say something negative about a religion, you’re a bigot (unless it’s Christianity, then you’re a critical thinker).
I would agree to a certain extent that society has become too politically correct, but I think in this case, kind of like Dan Brown's two books, or even Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, it comes down to a perceived attack by a group that finds their religion the subject of a piece of fiction, and since everything maybe is not flattering, they take it simply as an attack, and, in turn, attack back--in this case by saying a number disparaging things about me and the book, more it seems in an attempt to get people not to read it. I do know that the allegation that all Mormons in the book are portrayed as either "miscreants" or "stupid idiots" as one person put it, really doesn't hold any water. The funny thing, though, was that this same person said in the very next sentence that the book had a very interesting premise.
And following from this line, do you think that there’s space for reasoned criticism in today’s society?
For reasoned criticism there is, and should be all the space in the world. Unfortunately, what you mainly seem to see these days, whether it's an over-reaction to a political cartoon or a bad Youtube film, or disingenuous political spin that some loyal party members eventually not only accept, but swallow as Gospel, to the attacks on my book, are for the most part, purely knee-jerk emotional reactions, often by frustrated people whom it would seem would rather not think things through too clearly for whatever reasons.
That should be enough difficult questions ;) Can you please introduce yourself to the readers? Imaginary Bonus Points if you do it twitter‐style!
To tell you the truth, I barely know what Twitter is. So I would just say I'm a new novelist, with quite a bit of life experience in having dealt with people from all walks of life, that I've tried to interject into my novels to hopefully give it a little more authenticity, especially when it comes to characterization and dialogue.
What teasers can you give us about the two future novels featuring Michael Chenault?
Jeff Sharlet's The Family would be the first clue, and the second clue may have to do with an article I read a few years back about a white North Carolinan and his two sons who had converted to Islam, trained in Pakistan, and were in the process of creating their own terrorist cell.
And what are the names of your dogs?
For their own protection, my dogs have requested that I just use their pen names, "Cheech" and "Chong."
Thanks for answering all these questions!
You're welcome. And thank you for coming up with such good questions after reading the book. Although I have to admit you've probably asked the toughest questions I've had so far.