Linda: Welcome back! Thanks for joining me today. Congratulations on your latest release Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest (Shiloh Mystery Series, Book 3). What was your inspiration for the plot of this book? Did you already have it in mind at the beginning of the series?
TM: Each of the three stories blossomed independently, although I capitalized on “bread crumbs” within Sanctuary to feed Testament’s story premise, and similarly, Testament to Purgatory. Otherwise, my characters progressed and developed throughout the series as would be expected over a course of three years. Still, I only knew how they would change as I began to write each story. In fact, I enjoyed looking back at each character from being introduced to the end of Purgatory—many experienced intriguing transformations.
LM: Are any of your characters based on you or people you know? How do you come up with ideas for your characters?
TM: Yes, in some ways, Theo Phillips and his wife Liddy are much like my wife and I, according to many readers who know us. And yes, we have two sons who have given us five beautiful grandchildren who happen to coincide in age and personalities with their counterparts in the stories. Otherwise, my characters were birthed from my fertile imagination. I went through great pains to give them their initial personalities with their flaws and strengths. However, they all went through some methodical changes as the stories came together—some more noticeable than others. All my characters were works in progress, just like we all are in real life.
LM: What is your writing routine? (E.g., do you listen to music, set up in a certain place, etc.)?
TM: My writing is usually accomplished in isolation with barely audible mood music breaking home’s silence. My wife generally fills her day with work or social activities to allow me to work uninterrupted when working on my manuscript. When she is at home, she usually stays busy in her craft room at the other end of the house. After dinner, she lends an ear to listen to me read whatever I wrote during the day—an excellent exercise for writers. However, what I described only occurs when I am actively writing a manuscript. Otherwise, outside of working on a story, my writing routine is rather willy-nilly and catch-as-catch-can.
LM: What is one thing you wish you knew how to do?
TM: Keep up with some of the ever-changing writing and grammar rules. The rules have changed quite a bit since I paid attention in high school six decades ago. Thus, I have relied on a talented and patient writing coach/editor over the past six or so years. Otherwise, Oxford and Chicago are just great places to visit in my mind.
LM: What was your favorite book when you were growing up?
TM: This covers many years and a host of books I have consumed throughout my life. Since this is about my novel writing, I venture to say, Nordhoff and Hall’s “The Bounty Trilogy” (Mutiny on the Bounty-1933, Men Against the Sea-1933, and Pitcairn’s Island-1934) stands out; a gift from my mother. Though I read it in high school, it remains my number one response whenever anyone asks this question. I have to thank my mother for providing me with the thirst for reading I have enjoyed over my lifetime.
LM: Here are some quickies:
TM: Coffee or Tea? Coffee is the fuel of my inspiration each day.
Walking, biking, or driving: I prefer driving in the country, but engage in walking once I arrive at my destination.
Ocean or mountains? Oceanside vacations edge out mountain cabin retreats.
LM: Can you tell us about Hometown Novel Nights and how that came about?
TM: When I first began creative writing from my home in Georgia, I found all the networking with other authors required trips into Greater Atlanta and beyond. Even ACFW’s closest chapter is two hours north of my home. I still find myself venturing up I-85 for many conferences and book events to this day for the lion’s share of my author activities.
Then I walked into the Lewis Grizzard and Erskine Caldwell Museum in Moreland, Georgia—a short five miles from my home. There I began to learn of so many other talented authors who suffered the journey into Atlanta for attention and activities. A few of us decided to see if we could get a local audience interested in meeting and listening to some local authors I had met. Our first program proved promising for all concerned. A handful of us got together and discovered plenty of nascent and experienced authors of various genres who were interested in signing up for a monthly series of events that featured three-author panels.
Two years later, sans the recent disruption of public events, The Hometown Novel Nights program has introduced over forty authors to monthly audiences in now four venues covering west-central Georgia below Atlanta. Our most significant and prestigious host site has been the historic Carnegie Library in downtown Newnan, GA. As soon as this COVID crisis subsides again, we are eager to gear right back up.
LM: What’s your next project?
TM: I want to stretch myself with a story I have envisioned writing since studying Church History in seminary years ago. An enigmatic New Testament character is Joseph of Arimathea. He is mentioned in each Gospel but only briefly as he plays a significant role in the burial of Jesus before he suddenly disappears in history, except for legends and lore. He even acquired sainthood in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches, yet the Bible nor history more about him. My story will be a speculative fiction account covering shortly after Calvary until the Siege of Jerusalem—forty-years. It will be a mind-provoking, what-if tale of a man who finds himself sought after by the Jews, Christians, and Romans. He has been linked to the legendary Holy Grail. Yet, was it the chalice Jesus used at the Last Supper, rumored to have held the blood of Christ? I guess you’ll have to wait to find out what my research has stirred up.
After Theo and Liddy retired to the small Georgia town of Shiloh, they expected a quieter life, but when Theo becomes the investigative reporter for the local Sentinel, he discovers that small towns can be just as dangerous as big cities for people devoted to seeking the truth. Having narrowly escaped a brush with death in Purgatory, Theo tackles what he hopes will be an easier investigation: helping the orphaned Pepper come to grips with her scandalous mother's past. But when an armored limousine purchased by Theo's friend and neighbor Zeb brings another spate of shady characters to Shiloh, Theo finds himself in the middle of unexpected danger, building to an explosive conclusion days before the town's Independence Day celebrations.