Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Featured Author: David Marlett

I am...ahem...fortunate to be a part of The Story Plant's virtual book tour for Fortunate Son, by David Marlett. A novel about the greatest trial in Irish history, David carefully researched this incredible story. Today he talks about his first book, his writing, and a little bit about himself.

About the book:

Combining elements of a historical odyssey, a courtroom drama, and an epic adventure, Fortunate Son is based on the true story of the greatest trial in British history.

-A tale that spans Ireland, England, Scotland, and the American Colonies in the early 1700s
-The story which loosely inspired Robert Louis Stevenson in writing his novel, Kidnapped
-A narrative that involves the iconic Kennedy family, generations before they emigrated from Ireland

Meet James Annesley, son of 18th Century Ireland. Though you may have never heard his name before, his story has already touched you in profound ways. Now, for the first time, novelist David Marlett brings that incredible story to life.

Stretching from the dirty streets of Ireland to the endless possibilities of Colonial America, from drama on the high seas with the Royal Navy to a life-and-death race across England and up the Scottish Highlands, from the prospect of a hangman’s noose to a fate decided in the halls of justice, Fortunate Son is a powerful, relentless epic. Here nobility, duels, love, courage, revenge, honor, and treachery among family, friends and ancient enemies abound. And at its center is the most momentous trial in Irish history – the trial of Annesley v. Anglesea from which our modern “attorney/client privilege” was forged, and our concept of a “jury of one's peers” was put to the test.

Carefully researched, vividly evoked, and lovingly brought to the page, Fortunate Son is an unforgettable work of fiction based on fact, one that will resonate deep within you long after you finish it.

Interview with David Marlett

David, Fortunate Son is your first published novel. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I've been writing stories since I first started writing. Some of my first were when I was 5 or 6. I wrote my own adventures for Stewart Little, after having falling in love with the original book. I filled a journal with further adventures for the mouse. 

What’s the story behind the title Fortunate Son?

It seemed to fit the narrative arc and the outcome of the story. I toyed with a number of other titles through the years that this manuscript gestated, but always found myself back to Fortunate Son.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Yes. I am an attorney consulting in crowdfunding, and I am a Research Fellow in an Arts & Sciences lab at the University of Texas (Dallas) where I am also earning a PhD in Story Design.

Fortunate Son is based on a true story. How did you create the plot for it?

I have created a new niche: historical trial fiction, focusing on the characters and events leading up to and surrounding historical trials that were major at the time, but have faded from our cultural memory. Fortunate Son revolves around the largest trial in Irish history, Annesley v. Anglesea (1743), and the extraordinary story leading up to it. Thus, that trial, the trial transcript, and all the research I do surrounding it... those all greatly inform the plot.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

"Are ye noble yet?" she pressed on. In Chapter 33, the main character, James Annesley, is confronted by an elderly blind woman who presses him on the point. The question goes to the heart of the novel, one in which the true nature of 'nobility' is examined, and not in the objective ethnographic way, but in the subjective sense as to James himself, as a solitary man. A joy for me occurred in the early reviews of Fortunate Son when one reader titled her review, "Are Ye Noble Yet?" It was highly satisfying that that one short sentence, buried deep in the book, was noted by that reader (and hopefully others) as the pivotal question of the novel, and perhaps the pivotal question put to all of us.

Are you an evangelist for any book in particular?

Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It impacted me heavily as a teenager and then throughout my adult life. It is required reading for my children. That simple, yet infinitely complex story is masterfully told. It not only serves as a basis for spiritual examination, but for story design itself.

How do you get to know your characters?

Research, research, imagination, research, observation of others, research, imagination, and the more research!

But what about research? Kidding. Which character did you most enjoy writing?

Daniel Mackercher. He is such a powerful character. Imagining how he might behave was a delight. Of course the main character was enjoyable too, but Mackercher had a particular pleasure to his construction.

What would your main character say about you?

That I have deep admiration for the journey of discovery into ourselves. Not only does he seek the true answer to the question, "Who am I?," but he is put to the moral dilemma of how to respond once the answer comes.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

The personality of Fynn Kennedy was not known, so I created much of him in my father's image, with such iconic characteristics as: protective, strong, warm, self-sacrificial.

Are you like any of your characters?

I see myself in most all of the main characters of Fortunate Son, for better or worse.

If you could be one of your characters, which one would you choose?

I would be the main one, James Annesley. His journey was extraordinary.

With what five real people would you most like to be stuck in a bookstore?

My father, mother, and my four children (ok, that's six).

That's okay, I'll allow it. How could you cut any from that list? Tell us about your favorite scene in Fortunate Son.

This is very difficult. There are so many true scenes that are amazing, one after another. All fun to write, some made me laugh aloud while writing them, some made me have to stop and literally weep. But perhaps my favorite one is the major trial the book builds toward. I say that only because it is from a small excerpt from that trial transcript that I discovered the entire story. So when I came to the point of writing it, it was a peerless pleasure.

You get to decide who would read your audiobook. Who would you choose?

Anthony Hopkins or Liam Neeson.

Excellent choices. What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?

I am reading a number of books simultaneously, some for my PhD studies, and some for research for my next novel American Red. I read everything in print. I eschew e-books.

I don’t claim to be an expert on writing, but there are some writing techniques (or mistakes) that stand out to me when I read (e.g. when an author switches POV mid-scene). What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?

Obvious use of strained dialogue to inform the reader of something. I am reminded of a scene in Ken Follett's book, A Place Called Freedom, where two main characters who have already been established to be TWINS are talking and one says to the other, "Next week is my birthday." Uhmmmm... yeah, I think your twin brother knows that.

Do you have a routine for writing?

As often as I can, for as long as I can.

Ditto! Where and when do you prefer to write?

At home, with just my cat there (no kids), and with no interruptions for hours. Now, that is my preferred writing environment, that doesn't mean it happens often!

Where’s home for you?

Rockwall, Texas (a suburb of Dallas, on a very large lake).

If you could only keep one book, what would it be?

The Complete Works of Shakespeare, in one volume.

Would you rather work in a library or a bookstore?

Bookstore. I couldn't be as quiet as a library requires.

You’re given the day off, and you can do anything but write. What would you do?
Hang out with my kids.

If you could be a fictional character for one day, who would you be?

Captain Jack Aubrey.

What’s your favorite candy bar? And don’t tell me you don’t have one!

Almond Joy.
Excellent choice. Let's pretend you get to live anywhere in the world. Where would it be?

Mountains of Colorado.

What are you working on now?

My next historical trial novel, American Red.

Good luck with it, David. Please come back and tell us more about it when it's released.

About the author:

David Marlett is an attorney, artist, and self-trained historian who grew up in a storytelling Texas family. He attended Texas Tech University where he earned multiple degrees in finance, economics and accounting. Subsequently, he earned his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.

David has created and written stories and screenplays since childhood, and is particularly interested in richly textured history and the drama behind major courtroom battles, such as in his first novel, Fortunate Son. His second novel, American Red, another historical courtroom drama, is due to be published in late 2014.

He is a serial entrepreneur focused primarily on the arts. (He once owned eight bookstores across the United States.) David currently speaks and lectures at conferences and universities on transmedia, storytelling, entrepreneurship in the arts, and crowdfunding. He has been a featured contributor to MovieMaker magazine, Digital Book World, and many other publications.

He has developed and sold a number of film scripts and has directed/ acted in many regional theatrical performances. David is also a photo artist whose work has appeared in several galleries across the United States, and can be also seen at He lives outside Dallas, Texas and has four children.

Connect with David:
Website | Like David on Facebook | Friend David on Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | David's PhotoArt

Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Preorder American Red on Amazon