Friday, December 24, 2010

Jumping trains in Vienna.....

Marty Beaudet's book 'By A Thread' has caused me a lot of thought in the last few weeks. As stated in my review of the book, there are so many directions from which to view the story. The author has many living identities.

I at first imagined Mr. Beaudet, sitting in a crowded Karachi open-market, near a basket of  no-longer-just-ripe dates, taking notes from under too little shade - and under a too-large turban. His notes are in Farsi. He won't admit that is a true imagining - I would have to die to know that... but, his book implies he was there.

I also imagined him sitting in a Viennese café, under a better fitting fedora, but this time, with a goatee and a sherry, taking notes of the same sort in German. Again, he tells me that to see him there would be dangerous to my existence. And, yet again, his book puts him there in my mind.

I'm not so accurately imaginative, to need killing. But this fellow has a secret... and he's blown his cover. 'By A Thread' is an outstanding story, very believably written, by a group of Marty Beaudets.

Each identity has a different point of view, and one, in a simple suit and tie, taught me about Mormon/Muslim beliefs; while another Marty, in a white, nondescript van, taught me about the inner workings of the vast American spook community. To those lessons, comes still another one, from an author who is afraid - a lesson of finding love within desperate confusion.

Damn, I never thought to look for it there.

Now, about the succession to the Presidency, when the sitting fellows are eradicated - new lesson for me - it could be a rough transition; different M. Beaudet. This isn't just a change of clothing. All those varied angles create a smashing work of fiction, about a world shaking political event.  - with religious, romantic elements. Many years in the making, 'By A Thread' must have consumed Marty. It is current, about the world political scene in general, and those changes have a blistering pace to try and keep. Will those changes overtake and ruin the whole thread of your storyline? Mr. Beaudet must have been worried. Most authors might try to reduce the number of elements in the work, to make the whole task easier.

You can't find any confusion in this text, even so intricately woven. Marty has been on target with this book, like a missile, for years. His work, in so many writer's clothing, has honed his skills. A graphics designer, communications consultant and freelance writer, Marty Beaudet has been published in column and newsletter form for years. He's been a features editor for one magazine, a reviews editor for another. Here is the link to his web page, with all those particulars. (I love the music he's attached there.)

Read his novel, and you will quickly recognize a skillful, organized mind behind those words. Here is the link to my review of his excellent book.
Here is a Bookbuzzer link for a preview
Or, you can purchase it here

"Oh, but..." you are asking, "aren't political thrillers dry and boring most of the time?"
I reply, "Yes, because you've been reading the wrong ones."

'By A Thread' is a very personable, character driven work. Some authors, to whom espionage and spy tales seem second nature, have trouble making the characters come to life within the plots. Not so in this book. This author has put his characters into the most colorful threads.
Let's get going with Mr. Beaudet: 

Do Mormons really have such poor decorating taste?
Contrary to common assumptions, I have not been blessed with the gene to make such assessments on my own. I defer to a dear Mormon friend who is an interior designer to the rich and famous, from Las Vegas to Dubai. But yes, that seems to be the case. Perhaps it’s because they’re quick to toss out the gay men in their midst!

Have you lived in the cities that are part of your story’s backdrop? The descriptions are very intimate.
I can only dream of living in Vienna, but I have visited several times. I prefer to see a city on foot, rather than by other means, so that I can get a feel for the ordinary, as well as the extraordinary. I did live in Switzerland as a teenager; there are some similarities between Swiss and Austrian culture, though they are loath to admit it. I’ve been to almost all the locations I describe in By A Thread. Not Guantánamo Bay, but I did spend a year in Puerto Rico.

Explain your expert knowledge of both Mormonism, and the Muslim Quran. Which of those was your upbringing?
Neither. I was raised Catholic! Go figure. I converted to Mormonism at 17, while living in Switzerland. My knowledge of Islam and the Quran is minimal, limited to my own poking around on the Internet.

Which theme, in the book, is the most important for you to express personally; the political, or the spiritual?
If I wanted to express serious opinions about either politics or spirituality, I would write nonfiction! Beyond that I strive for historical accuracy. I want readers to be able to walk onto the “set” of the book and find everything I describe, just as I describe it. If the reader can tell where truth ends and fiction begins, I haven’t done my job.

Which is your favorite Dr. Seuss character?
Horton. I’m always hearing things that others don’t!

Did ‘By A Thread’ evolve as you wrote it, or did it match all your expectations?
Oh, it absolutely evolved! It was in the works for eight years! In my quest for historical accuracy, I tried to tie it to current political and world events. That became impractical after the seventh or eighth revision, as politics moves a lot faster than I do! At the outset, however, I let my characters decide how their lives would unfold. When I write a scene between two characters, I take turns in their skins, saying whatever comes naturally in the conversation. Sometimes it moves the plot along, sometimes it doesn’t. I never know where they’re going until they tell me.

Did you actually reveal any Mormon secrets, any elements of the structure which are still closely guarded?
If I tell you I’ll have to kill you. But seriously, in the age of the Internet, there are no more secrets. Everything’s already out there somewhere. Besides, Mormons claim that their most closely guarded rituals and beliefs are merely “sacred, not secret.”

You mention many things we could debate, but if stated that I would rather allow waterboarding of suspects than forbid it – what would you say to me?
I would tell you to chill and enjoy some good fiction! As strongly as I feel about my own notions of right and wrong, I hate to argue. It accomplishes nothing positive.

Which authors have inspired you to write?
If I tell you I’ll have to kill myself! (Only recently did I become aware that I needed to feel embarrassed for enjoying mainstream fiction.) I have always had ecumenical tastes when it comes to genres. I particularly like books which cross genre lines with unexpected twists. For that reason I like Dean Koontz. I also like books that not only entertain, but from which I can learn something. Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress, about the NSA, inspired me to use my knowledge of the CIA in By A Thread. His later books (cue groans), though widely panned in the indie community, prompted me to use my knowledge of Mormon principles the way he used Catholic doctrine. And Khaled Hosseini inspired me to take a more sympathetic look at Muslims who are not what our culture often makes them out to be.

I would imagine the predominantly Catholic beliefs in Puerto Rico to be as difficult a mission work as speaking to Muslims. Describe your time there.
Though I have never preached Christianity among Muslims, I would have to disagree. Mormons and Catholics both start with a belief in Christ and the notion that He has only one “true church” on Earth. They have never been at war with each other. Muslims, however, were targeted for death by the Christians during the Crusades. That’s a big obstacle to overcome. I found that Puerto Ricans who had questions about their own faith welcomed the discussion of other points of view, while others were more comfortable staying with the traditions of their parents. There was never any animosity involved.

Were you a year in Puerto Rico, and another in South Florida?
Yes. The Puerto Ricans complained that my Spanish had a Cuban accent; the Cubans complained that it was a Puerto Rican accent. Rarely, however, was I accused of being a Gringo!

Did you have no input into your mission location? I would have expected your year in Europe to have been a plus for sending you there again?
The Mormon hierarchy seems to pride itself on dashing the sophistries of Men when it comes to divining mission assignments. The idealistic view is that the assignments are “revealed” by God; the more pragmatic view is that they send missionaries wherever they need them at the time. Either way—rarely does previous experience seem to play a part.

How did you graduate High School at 16?
They were anxious to be rid of me! It was actually the suggestion of my guidance counselor, who thought I would be bored by a fourth year. It could be that some parents were calling for my ouster because I sparked a couple of protests in my second year!

‘By A Thread’ was only published this year. How long did you work on the novel?
As I said, I began writing eight years ago. But I was seriously ill for three of those years, during which time I had given up on the novel. Not until my health improved and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) came along in November 2009 did I decide to go for it once and for all.

Kevin, your MC, experiences a rush of consumer frenzy when he is released from his mission. Was that something you experienced yourself?
I’m taking the Fifth on that. My current politics decry rampant, unfettered consumerism! But, the truth is, when you’ve had no choice about anything but the color of tie you wear for two years, the idea of going wherever you want and buying whatever you want is a real thrill. For me, it was the chance to eat whatever I wanted! I was no longer the victim of my missionary companions’ lack of cooking skills.

One of your readers had a personal experience with threats of violence while in Rome. Was that something on your mind during your mission, even in friendly locales?
I rarely felt in real danger in Puerto Rico, though there were times we’d get the evil eye and kids would yell “si-ya” at us, meaning CIA. They could only have learned that from adults, so the suspicion is always out there. In Florida, salesmen seemed a greater concern than the CIA, judging from some of the negative reactions there!

We both know an author, who has written another political thriller/fiction. He has endured review attacks for what he wrote. What do you think motivates people who focus on calling out an author as ‘wrong’ for his work?
I would like to hope that it’s because an author has done such a good job of conflating fact with fiction that some people can’t tell the difference. Why should someone feel threatened by a work of fiction, unless they fear that it might be accepted as fact?

How many languages do you speak well?
Does that include the voices in my head? (Remember Horton…) I’m fluent in American, Spanish and German; and not too bad at the Queen’s English. I’ve also had two years each of French, Russian, and Mandarin, with which I can muddle through (or into) a few awkward situations. The rest are just book knowledge.

Please name the funniest movie you have ever seen.
Can I name more than one? My longtime favorite is A Fish Called Wanda. My current favorite is I Love You Man.

What is the most obscure book you have read, that you loved?
It has to be the Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubinstein. I absolutely love that book. Although it may not be obscure for long. Julian said just a couple of weeks ago that Johnny Depp has signed on to make the movie!

Boring Design & Consulting? Is that you, or another MB from Oregon?
Where have you been digging? That’s a CIA front company. Now I have to kill you.

I’ve written a science fiction, which a physicist may find hysterically inaccurate. Do you have any thread of your book, which you dread having mentioned as ‘just not possible’?
Absolutely none. It’s airtight. Try to prove otherwise and you will find a Mormon missionary-turned-CIA agent and a gay Kuwaiti terror suspect on your doorstep with black-suited militiamen bearing “awesome” weapons!

You’ve had a steady presence in print, you are known as a writer, editorialist. Have you tried to expose ‘By A Thread’ to traditional publishing, by querying, and do you believe your published writings will help you?
A good friend of mine who is also a writer has been querying for over a year and endured more than a hundred rejections (or “ignorings”). As a favor to me, after he had read my manuscript and given some good advice, he set me up with a couple of agents and I sent out the queries. I, too, was rejected. I stumbled into self-publishing because NaNoWriMo “winners” get a free proof copy from CreateSpace. So many of my friends and family wanted to see this long-overdue creature I’d been birthing, that I decided to order a case of books for them. But my husband was way ahead of me; he bought me a domain name and a blog without my knowledge, then told me, “start promoting!” I haven’t had time to query since!

Your work in progress ‘The Third Token’ also showcases political intrigue. Is it more, or less difficult to write than your first novel?
Both. Less difficult because I now understand both the process and the potential rewards, the latter of which serves as motivation. More difficult because a sequel can’t be organic; it has to flow from fully formed characters. I’m not free to make Kevin (“Red”) and Jassim whoever I want now. The rest of the story has to hinge on them and their previous experiences.

When do you plan to release your second book?
I‘ve set a goal of next September 1, exactly one year from the release of By A Thread. But I would rather it be right than on time, so I’ll take as long as I need when it comes down to it.

The images of Kevin and Jassim that I’ve been noticing…is that your artwork?
It is my composition and rendering, but not entirely my photography. I’m imagining what my main characters might look like, and asking readers to share their conceptualizations as well.

What do you believe is the single most unjust law in the United States today?
You mean, besides the government-mandated low-flow toilets that don’t flush? It would have to be, not a law, but the waiving of the law: the suspension of habeus corpus. Everyone accused of a crime deserves his or her day in court

That sense of fairness plays heavily in 'By A Thread'. Not every character deserves what you might think about them at first. As Marty said, people are not "what our culture often makes them out to be." That might include being guilty of international terrorism.


  1. Another great interview, Joel! You have a way of making me want to drop everything and grab the book you are talking about.

    Marty, I enjoyed getting to know more about you and your book. I need to read it soon! I do have to mention your issue with low-flow toilets. I have two in my home and have no problem. What is it you're trying to flush? Wait, never mind, I don't want to know! :)

  2. A very interesting and as always humourous interview, Joel. Marty, I enjoyed learning more about your background and the book. I wouldn't usually choose a political thriller to read, but this interview has definitely piqued my interest :)

  3. Darcia: If I tell you, I'll have to flush... er... kill you!

    Maria: I love books that cross genres and surprise you; conversely, I hate having to slap a genre label on my book. One reviewer of By A Thread (happily) said this: "What I was expecting was something along the lines of a Dan Brown or Tom Clancy political thriller. What I got was a story about a man struggling with his beliefs and sense of self. This might have seemed like a rather rude change-up, but I was pleasantly surprised that Kevin’s story took over and held my interest throughout."

    I hope both you and Darcia eventually get to enjoy it too!


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