Thursday, April 24, 2014

Beauty in Ruins talks to David Marlett about Fortunate Son (INTERVIEW)

Good morning. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to David Marlett, who has stopped by today to talk about his debut novel, Fortunate Son - a novel of the greatest trial in Irish history.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, David. For those who haven`t yet had a chance to give Fortunate Son a read, please tell us a little about yourself.

David Marlett is an author, attorney, artist, and historian who grew up in a storytelling Texas family. He attended Texas Tech University where he earned multiple degrees in finance, economics and accounting. Subsequently, he earned his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law. He is currently a PhD student focusing on New Media Story Design at The University of Texas (Dallas), where he is also a Research Fellow in the school of Arts & Technology.

David has created and written stories and screenplays since childhood, and is particularly interested in richly textured history and the drama behind major courtroom battles, such as in his first novel, FORTUNATE SON. His second novel, AMERICAN RED, another historical courtroom drama, is due to be published in late 2014.

He is a serial entrepreneur focused primarily on the arts. (He once owned eight bookstores across the United States.) David currently speaks and lectures at conferences and universities on transmedia, storytelling, entrepreneurship in the arts, and crowdfunding. He has been a featured contributor to MovieMaker magazine, Digital Book World, and many other publications.

He has developed and sold a number of film scripts and has directed/ acted in many regional theatrical performances. David is also a photo artist whose work has appeared in several galleries across the United States, and can be also seen at www.MarlettPhotoArt.com. He lives outside Dallas, Texas, and has four children.

Q: The journey from `aspiring` to `accomplished` can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?

I've been writing stories since I first started writing. Some of my first were when I was 5 or 6. I wrote my own adventures for Stewart Little, after having falling in love with the original book. I filled a journal with further adventures for the mouse.

Holding your own hardcover, published book is exhilarating. It was a long time coming. It was only topped by reading the many positive reviews, especially those in which I can tell the reader connected with the story at a level that was beyond the plot, narrative and characters. That was the true first-time high' in this process.

Q: In terms of writing, what is it that comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?

I do a lot of research and know the characters and basic flow of the whole story before I start, so the key moments of action and propelling dialogue are the easiest (and most fun). The more difficult places are the middling grounds.... where backstory must come in, perspectives laid, and historical consequence related. It is a challenge to do those parts accurately and fully, yet keep the reader fully engaged.

Q: Historical fiction can be a tricky subject, especially if you’re trying to be true to the era. How much research went into Fortunate Son, and were there any instances where you felt tempted to tweak or adjust the history to fit the flow of the story?

Years of research, off and on. Two trips through the locations in Ireland, England and Scotland (one for a few months), and two research journeys around the American Colonies locations.

As for tweaking or adjusting history to fit the flow of the story..... I think that is part of the secret sauce that should never be revealed. But sure, there were many things that were not entirely known, and some characters needed to be combined into a single character at key places.

What was frustrating was that all of the 'unbelievable' key points in the plot actually happened as written (as best we know)... and yet they are the places that would seem contrived if one doesn't know better. I wanted to write in the margin of every book, "No, really, this actually happened!"

Q: It seems as if historical fiction has experienced something of a resurgence over the past decade, after all but disappearing from the mass-market for so long. What was it that drew you to the genre?

I am an historian by interest and study, and am especially fascinated with the stories that seem to have been lost to time. Plus, there is arguably no more accurate 'time travel' beyond the first audio recordings and photographs, than a trial transcript. They can be fascinating windows into cadence, word choice, customs....a very 'you are there' feel....right in the cockpit of the drama, transcribed word for word (or so was the intent). Thus, being an attorney who has litigated his share of cases, a writer with a love for dialogue and controversial characters, and an historian, this genre which I created, Historical Trial Novels, seems an ideal fit for me.

Q: What was it about the real story that provided the initial spark for you? Was there an event or a character who intrigued you, or were you just interested in the story behind the story, so to speak?

The primary trial in FORTUNATE SON established our modern-day 'attorney-client privilege'. Thus it was referenced briefly in the prologue of a course book on ethics which I read in my first semester of law school. I was intrigued. After finding and reading the entire 1743 trial transcript, I was hooked. I was determined to write the novel. Of course, readers of the book will see that much of the extraordinary story was not revealed in open court during the great trial. Thus the bulk of the adventure relayed in FORTUNATE SON came over the course of subsequent years that I researched James Annesley.

Q: Combining historical fiction and a legal thriller is certainly a unique approach. As an attorney and a historical, what was the driving force for you in writing Fortunate Son, and what inspired you to bring the two passions together?

Perhaps I answered this above, but I'll take another stab at it: Courtrooms have always been a font of human drama.... from the Ancient Greek stories to modern novelists and television series. Thus, with a love of true dialogue and actual events, the combination seems a powerful mixture. The key is to find those trials that have extraordinary stories leading up to them and during them. I don't think most people want to read a novel that is primarily set in the courtroom as that can grow dull quickly. Thus the fun for me is bringing the context and characters to life and letting the trial carry itself.

Q: Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn`t originally anticipated, even when dealing with factual events. Were there any twists or turns your own writing that surprised you, or really challenged your desire to remain true to history?

I love the characters for whom little is known, but who are pivotal to the story. With them I get to roam, invent, create, and weave. Most of the story itself is known, so I don't let those free-agent characters take us very far afield, but I am surprised at how they can breathe life into the scenes in ways I didn't anticipate until they walk into the room.

Q: It’s a tough question, especially if you’re wary of putting faces before your readers, but if Fortunate Son were being adapted for the screen, and you had total control over the production, who would you cast for the leading roles?

Yeah, tough question which I will dodge. There are a few producers and major cable networks looking at FORTUNATE SON currently, so I'll refrain from painting with such a narrow brush. I will say that there are a lot of juicy roles in it for which I could easily see Eddie Redmayne, Liam Neeson, Tom Hardy, Daniel Radcliffe, Henry Cavill, Colin Ferrel, etc. being extraordinary.

Q: When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write primarily to satisfy your own inner muse/critic?

I keep the reader in mind. Years of screenwriting strengthens that muscle. But it is also highly dependent on which part of the story we are in. Sometimes they are right there beside me as we watch the movie version together, and sometimes they are banned from the room.

Q: In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you`ve encountered to -date?

I was perhaps most astounded when one reviewer titled her review with the line "Are ye noble yet?". That is the kingpin to the entire subtext of FORTUNATE SON. It is put in the mouth of a one-chapter character that appears for a brief moment buried deep in the third act. I wrote that with an smile, thinking it was really just something for me, doubtful its full significance would resonate much with readers. So for a reviewer to lock onto it was beyond surprising, it was gratifying beyond measure. In that instant my writing advanced--- I learned to trust readers (and myself), and to be more strategic with those nuggets for those who want to find them.

Q: To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?

Richard Bach's JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL. It impacted me heavily as a teenager and then throughout my adult life. It is required reading for my children. That simple, yet infinitely complex story is masterfully told. It not only serves as a basis for spiritual examination, but for story design itself.

Q: When you`re not writing (or reading, for that matter), what are some of the hobbies and passions that keep you busy?

I love movies.... though I have a tendency to deconstruct them afterwards. I spent years as a script doctor and screenwriter, and love the business. But am happiest with the novels I create.

My avocation is photoart. I have shown in some galleries, and intend to do so again in the next year.
Some of that is at www.MarlettPhotoArt.com

Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there anything about American Red or Captured Run that you can tease readers with?

They are gripping stories that I am excited to share with readers. As for details, I'll leave you with the AMERICAN RED blurb from Amazon where it is available for pre-order:

In his accomplished debut novel, Fortunate Son, David Marlett introduced readers to a fresh take on historical fiction, built around the transcripts of one of the most momentous legal trials in history. Now he returns with a dramatic new story and an equally dramatic trial. In 1907, deadly, one-eyed union boss "Big Bill" Haywood was accused of ordering the successful assassination-by-bombing of the governor of Idaho – the first such assassination in American history. The trial, with Haywood represented by a young Clarence Darrow, was front-page news from coast to coast and across the globe. As it played out, it would present in vivid detail America's doomed thrust toward radical socialism, a "red" revolution that was gaining traction in Russia and other parts of the world. American Red brings the story of the events leading up to this trial – and the trial itself – to dramatic life. It is a sweeping tale of murder, adultery, corruption, mountain Mafia, the Pinkertons, domestic terrorism, government-sanctioned kidnapping, the last gunslingers, mining unions, and perhaps the greatest train race ever. It is both breathless entertainment and an unforgettable portrait of a younger America at the precipice of great change.

Thanks for taking the time to join us, David.

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About the Author

David Marlett is an attorney, artist, and self-trained historian who grew up in a storytelling Texas family. He attended Texas Tech University where he earned multiple degrees in finance, economics and accounting. Subsequently, he earned his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.

David has created and written stories and screenplays since childhood, and is particularly interested in richly textured history and the drama behind major courtroom battles, such as in his first novel, FORTUNATE SON. His second novel, AMERICAN RED, another historical courtroom drama, is due to be published in late 2014.

He is a serial entrepreneur focused primarily on the arts. (He once owned eight bookstores across the United States.) David currently speaks and lectures at conferences and universities on transmedia, storytelling, entrepreneurship in the arts, and crowdfunding. He has been a featured contributor to MovieMaker magazine, Digital Book World, and many other publications.

He has developed and sold a number of film scripts and has directed/ acted in many regional theatrical performances. David is also a photo artist whose work has appeared in several galleries across the United States, and can be also seen at www.MarlettPhotoArt.com. He lives outside Dallas, Texas, and has four children.

http://dmarlett.com


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About the Book

We are extremely pleased to announce the publication of David Marlett’s new historical novel, FORTUNATE SON, coming from The Story Plant on February 25, 2014. Combining elements of a historical odyssey, a courtroom drama, and an epic adventure, FORTUNATE SON is based on the true story of the greatest trial in British history.

-A tale that spans Ireland, England, Scotland, and the American Colonies in the early 1700s
-The story which loosely inspired Robert Louis Stevenson in writing his novel, Kidnapped
-A narrative that involves the iconic Kennedy family, generations before they emigrated from Ireland

Meet James Annesley, son of 18th Century Ireland. Though you may have never heard his name before, his story has already touched you in profound ways. Now, for the first time, novelist David Marlett brings that incredible story to life.


Stretching from the dirty streets of Ireland to the endless possibilities of Colonial America, from drama on the high seas with the Royal Navy to a life-and-death race across England and up the Scottish Highlands, from the prospect of a hangman’s noose to a fate decided in the halls of justice, FORTUNATE SON is a powerful, relentless epic. Here nobility, duels, love, courage, revenge, honor, and treachery among family, friends and ancient enemies abound. And at its center is the most momentous trial in Irish history – the trial of Annesley v. Anglesea from which our modern “attorney/client privilege” was forged, and our concept of a “jury of one`s peers” was put to the test.

Carefully researched, vividly evoked, and lovingly brought to the page, FORTUNATE SON is an unforgettable work of fiction based on fact, one that will resonate deep within you long after you finish it.

1 comment:

  1. Ireland has always had such troubled past....

    ReplyDelete