Marcus Brotherton is a journalist and professional writer who is known internationally for his books and literary collaborations with high-profile public figures. He has authored or coauthored more than twenty-five books, including the New York Times bestseller, A Company of Heroes, and the widely-acclaimed Shifty’s War. Feast for Thieves is Marcus’ debut novel.
Born in Canada, Marcus resides in Washington State with his wife and children.
What set you on your writing journey?
I grew up in a world of books and ideas. High school is when I really pictured myself becoming a writer someday.
God sometimes sends us down an unexpected path in life—one that ultimately blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?
Absolutely. In college, I studied theology and writing and was editor of the student newspaper. I wrote various essays, articles, and short stories all through graduate school into my first job, which was as a youth pastor at a church.
I enjoyed that job immensely and had the heart for it, but it wasn’t meant to be the long-term direction for me. So I switched directions at age thirty-one and became a newspaper reporter in Southwest Washington.
I was married by then and had a child to support and a mortgage to pay, and my newspaper job wasn’t cutting it financially, so I needed to moonlight to pay the bills. A former professor of mine worked in the book industry, and he sent me a few books to edit.
One thing led to another, and over time that led to a career as a writer and editor in books, which I’m full time in today.
How does your faith play into your work?
For many years I’d wanted to write a book that had a strong redemptive element in it, sort of like Les Miserables by Victor Hugo or Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. That’s what I shot for with Feast for Thieves.
Ultimately, my novel is a primer on grace. It’s about a soldier coming home from a war and the journey he takes in his soul toward change. He encounters this gift from Providence, this feast of undeserved favor, and is invited to come and dine.
The story contains layers of meaning. It makes you think and feel and contemplate life. You could read it once, set it aside for a year and then read it again, and see new nuances in the narrative.
It’s about an elite incorrigible paratrooper named Rowdy Slater who comes home from World War II to a small town in Texas. Rowdy robs a bank out of economic necessity, then turns his life around. The town sheriff knows Rowdy’s dark secret and forces him to make a deal: survive a full year as the town’s new preacher or go to jail for a long, long time.
The story is swept along by romance. Reverend Rowdy would be hard-pressed to admit it, but he’s falling in love with Bobbie Barker, the church’s willowy missionary. She’s smart and funny and has a penchant for quoting horrible poetry. Rowdy needs to stick close to her, because she’ll turn out to be exactly what he needs in the end.
Genre-wise, my novel is officially classified as historical fiction, but I’d call it more of a neo-Western crime thriller. One of my endorsers described it as a cross between Band of Brothers and True Grit. I might throw in a bit of the Mitford series by Jan Karon, for good measure.
You host a popular blog, Men Who Lead Well, geared toward men who want to get more (and make more) out of life. You also speak on similar topics. How would Rowdy Slater relate to your ideas about extraordinary leadership?
The main character Rowdy Slater was inspired by a real life soldier featured in the Band of Brothers named Wayne “Skinny” Sisk.
Skinny Sisk was a skilled paratrooper in real life, yet he was generally thought of as the most incorrigible man in the company. Apparently he was always getting in bar fights, drinking too much, visiting brothels while on leave, that type of stuff. After the war, Skinny came home, turned his life around, and eventually became a small town preacher. He died in 1999 in West Virginia.
Everything about Rowdy Slater’s life has been fictionalized, including the company he fought with. None of the specifics of Skinny’s life were used in this novel. Yet that one big story idea sat in my mind a long time while I was planning this novel, and that’s where this story starts—with that juxtaposition in mind. An elite incorrigible paratrooper becomes a minister.
I asked myself, here’s a man used to solving problems with a rifle or his fists . . . What sort of wild-hearted minister might such a man make?
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
I love a good chocolate donut.
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
I grew up playing piano and guitar, and today I play bass for our church’s worship team.
I want to write like music makes you feel.
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
Something like With Or Without You, by U2. That song is more than twenty years old, yet it still feels fresh today, and it’s part of the soundtrack to so many people’s lives.
I hope my writing has that kind of effect on people. I hope Feast for Thieves becomes thought of as a contemplative work of art that transcends generations and provides power and poignancy in people’s lives for years to come.
In the story that is your life, are you the tall, dark stranger; the romantic lead; the mythical warrior; the mad scientist; or the child in an adult’s body?
I’m the good friend you tell your troubles to.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
I had a horribly disobedient mutt of a dog named Bojo when I was a kid. We all loved him, though, rotten to the core as he was.
When my wife and I first got married, we had a little scruffy Terrier named Flowers. She was the best dog ever, always up for a walk around the block or for a jog down the beach at the river.
Thank you, Marcus! It’s a pleasure to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
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