Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Brothers' Keepers - a religious thriller by Matthew Peters

I am pleased to welcome a handsome, imaginative and erudite Matthew Peters. Today he talks about the research and the inspiration behind his religious thriller The Brothers' Keepers.
MJN: In literary context, I don't like to make the distinction between fact and fiction. I prefer the term "educated speculation". How much did your education provide in terms of background knowledge for the novel?  What additional research did you have to do?

My education provided little in terms of background knowledge. However, it did provide me with the research skills to find out the information I needed to know in order to write the novel.

MP: I had to do a bunch of research for the book. In addition to reacquainting myself with portions of the Bible, I read a ton of books and articles on the Jesuits, Jesus and his family, early Christianity, and several of the places visited in the book.   
MJN:  Some of your reviewers already mentioned The Da Vinci Code. It's inevitable that your work, given the subject matter, would be compared to it. One of the main criticisms of Dan Brown's work is that his characters are "talking heads", mere vessels for spouting esoteric facts. How did you manage to avoid falling into that trap?

MP: I prepare pretty elaborate sketches of the characters in my novels before I write a single word. In addition to the basics (e.g., name, age, occupation, physical appearance), I ask and answer questions about their values, the things they fear, their general temperament and life philosophy, things like that, all the way down to the contents of their pockets.
MJN:  We live in a society where sex is considered a vital need, like breathing and eating.  People cannot fathom a life without the carnal element. I don't know your personal religious beliefs (or the extent of your physical needs), but do you really think it's unfathomable for a person of deep religious persuasion to live in celibacy?  There's all this talk about Jesus being married to Mary Magdalen, or Jesus's mother Mary having more kids with Joseph.  Is it really hard for modern people to wrap their heads around the idea of someone not needing sex?

MP: I think it is hard for people to imagine someone not needing sex. I think this stems from an overall diminishment of empathy in the world today, as well as from the realization that most observant Jews at the time Jesus lived were, indeed, married. Personally, I don’t think it’s inconceivable for a deeply religious person to remain celibate. I think more people would be attracted to a vocation in the Catholic Church if celibacy were not mandated, but I don’t believe it’s unfathomable for a votary to live without sex.  
MJN: Let's talk about the token vixen.  Not long ago I reviewed a similar novel by Shifra Hochbert The Lost Catacomb.  Her characters seem to have both looks and brains.  Your protagonist's sidekick, Jessica Jones, is described as beautiful and sharp-tongued.  What sets her apart from other heroines in the same genre.  Do you think your novel would've suffered if you made Jessica plain and withdrawn?

MP: I think what sets Jessica apart from other heroines in the same genre is her incredible resourcefulness. Not only is she well-educated, but she has a tremendous amount of wisdom obtained through a difficult life, which included losing her parents at a young age. Her possession of common sense also plays against Branson’s book knowledge. In addition, there’s a tremendous amount of snarkiness to her character, which only seems to increases her charm. Would she have suffered if I’d made her plain and withdrawn? The plain part might have worked, but the withdrawn part wouldn’t because that’s just not who she is. One final point regarding Jessica’s looks: I think most writers draw characters based on real people. The woman I had in mind when I created Jessica was Scarlett Johansson. So I guess she was bound to be beautiful.      
MJN: You mention certain places in your novel that have a profound symbolic meaning - churches, old buildings, sacred sites.  Have you visited most of them?

MP: Ironically, I haven’t visited any of the places I mention in the novel. I substituted extensive research for travel in my portrayal of the various locations. Books, articles, dissertations, Google Earth and Street View, as well as YouTube were drawn upon to make the depictions seem as realistic as possible.


  1. Thank you so much for featuring me today, Marina.

    All the best,

  2. Great interview from a great writer!

    1. Thanks, Virginia! That's a great compliment coming from someone as talented as you.

  3. I liked MP's thought provoking questions and your fully formed answers to each one. Excellent interview. She made you think on this one, Matthew.

  4. Hi Janet,

    Yes, Marina made me think hard for this one. I thought her questions were fabulous.

    I am looking forward to interviewing her on my blog in March.

    Thanks for coming by!

  5. Thank you for having me on today, Marina!

  6. I'm a day late, Matt, but who could stay away from a blog run by a CT Commie Soccer Mom? She does ask interesting questions. The research available today is amazing. Years ago, Anne and I published a novel called Theft of the Shroud that involved venues in Europe. We really would have loved to have had Google!

  7. Hi Ken and Anne,

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

    Marina asks great questions and has a terrific sense of humor.

    Your novel sounds very interesting. I'll have to check that out.

    I'm really enjoying Praise Her, Praise Diana!

    All the best,

  8. I enjoyed this interview: thought-provoking questions and precise on-target replies.

  9. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Sal. The interview questions were certainly stimulating.