1. The description for A Pius Man says that it slips in history in between the gunshots. Care to elaborate?
I’m a nerd – a history and philosophy nerd, amongst others. I’ve got degrees in both of them because I thought both of them were fun. And since this is a mystery at the Vatican, it has to be seeped in both. There is no other place on the planet where a city is practically drowning in history and philosophy practically.
2. So, why A Pius Man?
Because I’m not only a nerd, I’m an angry nerd. (Laughs.) Seriously, A Pius Man was a graduate paper gone wild. I had been studying Pope Pius XII, the Pope of World War II, sometimes known as “Hitler’s Pope,” reading books and articles and even scanning microfiche. And I came across some things that most fiction – and even some history books – had completely and utterly missed.
After that, I decided that it was time for some “revisionist history.” If the truth can be a revision.
3. Are you shooting for the Da Vinci Code?
Actually, I’m shooting for the anti-Da Vinci Code – not only is my book using real history, A Pius Man is actually entertaining. At no point will my characters spend 100 pages just getting out of an art museum like the Louvre.
Also, unlike Dan Brown’s conspiracy, my characters don’t have to run all over Europe.
I’m not shooting for Dan Brown, more like shooting at Dan Brown.
4. So you’d say being Catholic helped you with writing this book
Hell yes. It gave me a starting point—a perspective and a body of knowledge other people don’t have. I’ve come to realize just how many people outside of Catholicism – and sometimes within Catholicism – have no idea what the Church preaches, or believes, or even how the logic works. Ask anyone on the street, nine times out of ten you might get a vague mention of “the rhythm method,” and being against contraception, but if you asked them why, I can only imagine what sort of half-assed answer you’d get. The proper answer should include a phrase called natural law. If you don’t know about natural law, you should probably pick up A Pius Man.
5. What other books do you have in the works?
Well, I’ve got two other novels. One is a science fiction novel called Codename: Winterborn, and the other is a murder mystery, set at a science fiction convention called It Was Only On Stun! With Codename: Winterborn, it’s one part revenge novel, part romance, and one part political dissertation – trust me, that is such a long, long story. With It Was Only On Stun! … well, I was just having fun. Oh, and did I mention that A Pius Man was book 1 of a trilogy? A Pius Legacy will be coming out in fall, and A Pius Stand will be sometime in 2014.
So, yes, I’ve got a few things on my plate.
6. What’s on your reading list?
I have a “to read” stack that takes over my life, actually. James Rollins, and JD Robb, and John Ringo, and David Weber – though I’m behind on buying the latest Ringo, actually. I’m not even sure what’s there anymore. I’m currently reading The Scarlet and the Black, which was made into a movie with Gregory Peck, though I grew up with the movie. I’ve got so, so many books, I’m just trying to keep up with them.
7. Some writers outline. Some writers make stories up as they go along. Some even get bored when they figure out who the killer is. How does your writing process work?
A Pius Man was actually the first novel I had to outline. There were so many directions, with so many clues, coming from so many directions, I had to keep track of it. Of course, the original novel was broken up into a trilogy, so that tells you how complex it turned out to be. Thankfully, none of the books end in To Be Continued. I learned well from Terry Goodkind – he had an entire series that would have a nice, solid ending, and the next book would take place the next morning. A Pius Man comes to a definitive conclusion … and then there’s the morning after.
8. Who else has tried this sort of story before?
Do you want to count Daniel Silva? He did something around World War II and the Catholic church called The Confessor, but in his case, I know what books he researched – because I used them too. And there were points where his “facts” directly contradicted events that both sides of the Pius-argument actually agree on.
So, the answer is “sort of.” But most go for the sensational aspect. Dan Brown, for example, got so many things wrong it’s laughable – like making an evil Cardinal from Opus Dei the bad guy, though Opus Dei is 98% laymen.
If you asked me if anyone has ever tried to do this sort of story grounded in any reality, I’d have to say no.
9. What is most difficult in writing a story like this?
For me, the biggest challenge was keeping out just how many facts there is to stick into a story like this. As a history nerd, I originally had pages upon pages of historical exposition and conversations. So I had to do a lot of cutting … and some drafts had cut out far, far too much. And, then, you have to balance out blathering on about history and philosophy, and then the gunplay.
10. What, if anything, surprised you while working on A Pius Man?
I didn’t expect it to turn into a trilogy. I figured I’d have a good, solid novel, and move on. Then there was one character who wouldn’t die, and he kept extending the plot. And then there was a small war by book three. So that was fun.
11. Do you have any advice to blog readers who are thinking about writing their own novels?
Finish the bloody book. Everytime someone asks me for advice about writing a book, I ask if they’ve written a word. They almost never have.
12. Last chance: What do you think is the one thing we should remember about A Pius Man?
That you have a fun time, and maybe even learn something along the way.
Thanks, Declan! I gotta' say I think his character, Sean Ryan, is good for a couple more books. Cool action hero! But, frankly, that goes for most of the folks in his book. At one point a character refers to the gathering of spies, agents, spooks, what have you, as the "Justice League." Forget that nonsense. They're the friggin' international Marvel "Avengers." If ever there was a movie in the making, it's here!
Grab it now.