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Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Blog Tour Excerpt & Giveaway - The Brothers' Keepers by Matthew Peters

The Brothers’ Keepers
Author: Matthew Peters
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing

Book Description: 
Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus’ purported spouse, Mary Magdalene. But what about Jesus’ siblings? What role did they play in early Christianity?

Contemporary Jesuit and renowned religious historian Nicholas Branson is about to find out…and the answer will shake the foundations of the Judeo-Christian world.

It all starts with the murder of a United States Senator in a confessional, and the discovery of a strange religious document among his possessions. At the urging of his FBI friend, Branson joins the investigation. His effort to uncover the truth behind the murder draws him into the search for an eight-hundred-year-old treasure and into a web of ecclesiastical and political intrigue.

Accompanied by a beautiful, sharp-tongued research librarian, Jessica Jones, Branson follows a trail of clues, from the peaks of the awe inspiring French Pyrenees to the caves of war-torn Afghanistan. Along the way, shadowy powerful forces trail the pair, determined to keep safe a secret buried for centuries.

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Author Interview

1. Tell a little about yourself. What you do when you’re not writing? What are your aspirations for the future?
Let’s see. I’m 45, single, but with a steady girlfriend. I used to teach college, mostly Political Science courses, and some classes in Sociology and Business.
When I’m not writing, I’m reading and/or thinking about writing. Words and stories are constantly on my brain.
My aspirations, now and in the future, are to continue to write, both genre and literary fiction, and to increase awareness of dual diagnosis.
The term dual diagnosed generally describes a person who has a mood disorder (e.g., depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder), and some form of chemical dependency (e.g., alcoholism, and/or addiction to cocaine, heroin or prescription medication).
Approximately 6 out of 100 Americans have a dual diagnosis.
It is also estimated that 29% of those who suffer emotional/mental disorders have abused substances and that 53% of substance abusers have had a psychiatric problem.
Having a dual diagnosis differs, in terms of recovery, in that it is not just about refraining from alcohol, or taking anti-depressants. It is a synergistic condition where one illness exacerbates the other. 
Famous individuals among the dual diagnosed include Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, Sigmund Freud, and Robin Williams. I, myself, am dual diagnosed with major depressive disorder and alcoholism. 
My other novel, CONVERSATIONS AMONG RUINS, features a protagonist who is dual diagnosed. 
I seek to raise awareness of this condition so people are not embarrassed or ashamed to talk about having a mental illness and/or chemical dependency. Both are treatable disorders, and there is help available. Please see my website for more information: 
2. When and why did you start writing? 
I started writing fiction in 2006. Prior to that, I’d actually read very little fiction. So for the past decade I’ve sort of been playing catch-up. I started writing because I had an insatiable need to write. However, it wasn’t until 2009/2010 that I was able to write full-time.
3. Have any particular novels or writers influenced your writing?
I’ve been influenced by several writers. I’d love to write with the philosophical and psychological depth of Dostoevsky, the spirituality of Hesse, the soul of James Baldwin, the clarity of Hemingway, the plotting of Richard Wright, and the lyricism of William Styron. I know that’s a long answer, but it’s difficult for me to narrow it down. 
4. Give us some backstory behind The Brothers’ Keepers. Where and when did you write it?
Though the characters visit many different locations/countries in the book, I wrote the entire thing in North Carolina. I wasn’t able to visit any of the places, so I did a vast amount of research using books, articles, dissertations, Google Earth, Street View, and YouTube. It’s really amazing the amount and quality of information that’s available if you seek it out. I wrote THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS from 2012 through 2013. It was published in October of 2014 by MuseItUp Publishing.

5. What was your favourite part of writing The Brothers’ Keepers?
My favorite part of writing THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS was doing all the research. I had to acquaint myself with a lot of early Church history and to reestablish familiarity with parts of the Bible. I loved reading all the history and scholarly research relevant to the book. Developing the plot and the structure of the story was something that really appealed to me. My other favorite part was when the story started to come together in the writing, after about two or three drafts. It is very exciting to see a story take shape. I love that part of the process.

6. What does your writing schedule look like?
That really depends on what part of the process I’m working on. My process breaks down into three major components: 1) research; 2) writing; and 3) revising. The Branson books are research-intensive. I spend more time researching and developing the plot than I do writing them. When I’m researching, I do it for about ten to twelve hours a day, at least five days a week. This can take several months. When I have basically finished researching and am to the point of writing, I write from about 4:00 AM up until mid-morning. I never write new material after noon. Once I’ve completed a draft, I revise until I have a manuscript ready for the eyes of my beta readers. All this time, I will have submitted chapters to my writing group, which meets once a month. They are an incredibly talented, supportive group of colleagues who have become friends in the time we’ve worked together. This whole process, from beginning to end, can take a year or more.
7. Which fictional character would you like to take to dinner and why?
I would have to say Jessica Jones, the female protagonist in THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS. She is smart, beautiful, and very witty. Besides, truth be told, I sort of wrote her character with Scarlett Johansson in mind…so there’s that.

8. Besides your lead, do you have a favourite character in the story?
Well, besides the male and female leads, I would have to say that I had a lot of fun writing the character of the cardinal known as Dottrina..) I can’t say too much because I want to avoid spoilers, but sometimes writing the villain can be just as rewarding as writing the hero.

9. What is one of the most surprising things you've learned as a writer?
Wow, that’s a very good and difficult question. So much of writing has been an eye-opening experience. I would have to say, though, that the most surprising thing I’ve learned as a writer is how much hard work it takes to write well. Now, I never thought it would be simple, but having written academic papers in college and graduate school, I thought it would be relatively easy to write fiction. Was I ever wrong! Writing fiction is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It takes years to develop the skills and techniques necessary to be an effective writer. And the work is constant. As Lawrence Kasdan said, “Being a writer is a lot like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”

10. Any advice for aspiring authors?
Oh, yes! How much room do I have here? Well, here are some things I wish people had told me early on. In some cases, they actually did:

Read, read, read.  Read the classics and as much good literature as you can get your hands on. Read widely, too, from poetry and plays to science and politics. If you don’t read well, you can’t write well. 
Don’t be a perfectionist. Perfectionism kills. Realize that unlike other professions, say neurosurgery, writers don’t have to get it right the first time. We have the luxury of being able to revise our product as much as we wish. Realize that, and let it free you up in the writing process.
The first draft stinks…but write it anyway. Anne Lamott talks a lot about the shitty first draft. (If you don’t know who Anne Lamott is, check out her book Bird by Bird). Indeed. But that’s okay. Give yourself permission to write lousy first (second and third) drafts. They’ll improve in revisions.
It’s okay not to be in love with writing every second of every day. It’s natural to resent it at times. Don’t stuff these feelings, and don’t be afraid to vent them. Writing is not all sunsets and rainbows. Any writer who is really working will understand your frustration.
Join a writing group. Make sure someone other than your parents or significant other gives you feedback. But also be wary of taking too much constructive criticism from too many people, especially too early in the story writing process—too many writers can spoil the plot (among other things).
Don’t be overly eager to submit to an agent, or a publisher. Before you submit your work , make sure it is free from typos, grammatical, and factual errors. If you can afford it, have a content editor and a copy editor go through your work and polish it until it shines. Don’t submit anything for publication until it represents your absolute, best effort. I think you’ll be surprised how much that will distinguish you from the slush pile. Save all of your perfectionistic tendencies for the final draft. You’ll be glad you did.
Always strive to improve. Constantly hone your craft by taking courses, going to workshops/conferences, and by reading books on writing. Too many times, I’ve seen writers who think they know it all stop learning. These are often the same writers who refuse to get feedback on their work. Don’t fall into this trap. Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” 
Set a modest word count.  Avoid setting unrealizable goals, thereby setting up false expectations. I shoot for 500 words a day on the days I write. That’s two pages a day, ten pages a week (taking weekends—or any other two days—off). This may not sound like a lot, but in a year, I have 480 pages, a good-sized novel.  Slow and steady often wins the race.
I’ll stop there. I hope some of this helps.

About the Author 
Dual diagnosed* from an early age, Matthew Peters dropped out of high school at sixteen. He went on to obtain an A.A., a B.A. from Vassar College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University. He has taught various courses in a variety of disciplines throughout North Carolina. He is committed to increasing the awareness and understanding of the dual diagnosed. In addition to The Brothers’ Keepers, he is the author of Conversations Among Ruins, which features a dual diagnosed protagonist. Currently, he is working on a sequel to The Brothers’ Keepers.

*The term dual diagnosed refers to someone suffering from a mood disorder (e.g., depression) and chemical dependency.

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  1. What is the dream cast for the book if it could be made to a movie?

    1. Hi, Mai,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      That's an excellent question.

      My girlfriend and I have actually talked about this--talked, being a euphemism :-( I'd cast Hugh Jackman as Nicholas Branson. Why? Because she says I have to. No, but Hugh is all right, I guess, and he can sing...sort of. You never know when that talent is going to come in handy for a thriller dealing with international intrigue at the highest level and the fate of the Judeo-Christian world. But hey, I'm not bitter or anything.

      I would choose Scarlett Johansson for the role of Jessica Jones. Her range and versatility make her perfect for the role, as does her prepossessing wit and charm. (And besides, if my girlfriend gets Hugh, then I get Scarlett, because fair is fair).

      We do, however, agree that Alan Rickman should play Dottrina.

      I'm open to suggestions for the other parts. Is there anyone in particular you'd like to see play Nola, Han, Albert, Stato, or any of the other characters?

      I hope you have a terrific day!

      All the best,

  2. I wanted to mention that The Brothers' Keepers is now on sale on Kindle for $2.99 for a limited time only!

    Please use this special link to get the sale price:

    All the best,

  3. I enjoyed the interview.

    1. Thanks for coming by, Rita.

      I hope you have a great day.

      All the best,

  4. Thanks for the sale on the book. I just bought a copy...don't know when I'll pull it to the top of my ever growing TBR heap, but soon, I'm sure. Lots of 5-star reviews....congratulations on that.

    Couple of questions for you:
    1. Did you attempt to sell this book to the 'big house' publishers first?
    2. What character did you find either easier or most fun to write: Hero, Heroine or Villain?

    1. Thanks for stopping by and for purchasing the book, Karen :-) I hope you enjoy it.

      I tried getting an agent, which you need in order to submit to the big houses. Several expressed interest, but ultimately didn't want to take a chance on an unknown.

      When I started submitting directly to the smaller publishers, I had an immediate offer from MuseItUp. I liked their track record and decided to go with them.

      (Evil maniacal laugh) I found the villain most fun to write, followed by the heroine, because she's very funny and snarky.

      Thank you for diligently keeping up with the tour :-)

      All the best,

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by, Nurmawati.


  6. Lot's of great advice, Matt. Imagine if you had gotten that advice and were actually able to internalize it at an early age. I'm not sure I would have been able to.

  7. Thanks so much for dropping by, Ken and Anne.

    I'm not sure I would have been able to internalize it when I was younger either.

    I hope it may benefit some people so they don't have to make the same mistakes I did.

    All the best,

  8. I am always looking for some good mystery books. I have read a lot of pretty rubbish ones, so it would be nice to have something different for a change!