Today we're talking with Sam Moffie, author of To Kill the Duke
FQ: The two worlds of Hollywood and Soviet Russia made for great contrast and were an unusual combination. Likewise, combining movie making with government-sponsored atrocities and a Communist assassination plot was very original. What first gave you the idea for this book? Did all the other aspects fall into place around it or did it take some mulling to fit everything together?
When researching my third novel No Mad for a commune scene in New Mexico, I came across a tidbit that another movie by the name of The Good Earth was filmed by many of the blacklisted Hollywood Ten in New Mexico. One day, during some downtime, I started researching about documents released from The Soviet Union and came across an official document that stated that Stalin wanted John Wayne assassinated. I couldn't believe it and started looking more into that. We all know Duke died of cancer, which led me to find out about the horrific death count for the cast and crew that worked on The Conquer. Everything fell into place when I decided to weave a tale that it was our own government experimenting with nuclear bombs that killed John Wayne, just not on Stalin's time line.
FQ: Howard Hughes must have been a great character to write. What was it like to get inside the head of such an eccentric man?
Hughes was oodles of fun to write about. My editor made me make him meaner and I had to add that last chapter to show that he had gone bonkers. Everyone makes him out to be a total nutcase, I wanted him to be a nutcase, but have some sane thoughts, ideas and actions. You can't get as rich as him and be a total fruitcake.
FQ: Researching the terrible things that happened in Soviet Russia and the Cold War must have been depressing. How did you manage to keep the light tone throughout the story while writing about such a dark subject?
The most depressing thing I found was how our American government used anyone, anything and anyplace as guinea pigs for their obsession with scaring the crap out of the Russians. I think another great scene is when Boris gets the toilet paper and instead of keeping it himself, he gives to the old woman at the end of the line. I had to make Russia depressing. 1) It was in the 50's and 2) Make it so Ivan and Alexei and Barney wouldn't want to leave Hollywood.
FQ: Do you share the Russians’ love of puns? Did you come up with all the puns yourself or did you have help from friends and family?
I wanted the Russians to be the most fun characters in the book (except for Stalin and one scene with Boris). Puns are funny. If I were going to talk in code, I would use puns. I also hoped to attract readers to a semi lost art of a good pun.
FQ: I really enjoyed the character of Dick Powell, who was a good man with a lot of integrity. Did he come across this way during your research or did you write him this way yourself to have a real “good guy” to include in the story?
Great catch on Dick Powell! I did a lot of research on him and asked my mother (a top - notch movie maven) about him. I found nothing but great things about him, so I made him a decent, honorable man. He is the sane center of the Hollywood part of the story.
FQ: This is your fifth self-published novel to date. Do you have any advice on the process of self-publishing and marketing for new authors?
Don't give up. Reject the rejecters. Be prepared to go into advertising as soon as your book is ready or you wont get noticed. Take advantage of fine review sites like Feathered Quill.
FQ: Your bio says that you own two bars, which gives you the chance to observe human nature. Do you feel this helps you in your writing? Do you ever find inspiration for characters from your patrons? Or get ideas for plots from overheard conversations?
I used my bar as a background in my first novel Swap. Without those bars, I wouldn't be able to have the luxury of writing. Case in point: this past April, I sold 935 Kindles of The Duke. My royalty was $3.15!