Mandate 33 is the story of what happens when a good idea falls into the wrong hands. A country’s dictator passes a law stating that only citizens carrying government-issued parenting licenses are legally allowed to bear children. Any child in the custody of adults without a parenting license will be eliminated. The law is passed, they say to protect children from unfit parents. But it’s not long before certain citizens soon begin to suspect an underlying motive for the law.
What led you to write this novel?
I always believed that such a law would be a great idea - we all know someone who is unequivocally unfit to be a parent, right? But then the questions remain: what would the stipulations to being a “good parent” be? And who would decide that? And who would enforce it? And how could such a policy remain incorruptible? It’s a pretty good policy, but in all honestly impossible to fairly impose. So I enforced it and called it fiction.
What is the function of violence in fiction, and how did you approach the violence in Mandate 33?
Most of the people who have read my book enjoyed it but found “the violence towards children to be a bit much”. It’s a comment I consistently get, and I always find it fascinating because there are only two moments in the whole book which demonstrate violence towards children, and both moments are depicted in a single fleeting sentence. I never expounded on the violence just to get some visceral shock value out of it…that would have been tasteless.
I think the reason why people keep saying that to me is because of the tone and mood I set for the book. The subject matter is very dark in nature, and so readers go into it with a mindset that it’s going to be a bloodbath. If you remember the famous shower scene in Psycho, the knife never actually touches Janet Leigh, but everyone swears it did because the mind of the audience was conditioned to see it. The truth is that the threat of violence is always more powerful than the actual violence. That's why the best horror movies contain very little blood. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, for example, contains almost no blood. As far as Mandate 33 goes, the fact of the matter is that most of the violence in this book is directed at the adult characters, not children.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when writing Mandate 33, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge was staying focused to the central theme of population control. There were so many different subjects I wanted to incorporate into the text, and I had to do it all in a way that was both seamless and did not distract from the central theme of the book. It’s very easy to go off on a winded diatribe about the Big Bad Fascists, but it’s very difficult to do it without getting sidetracked or turning people off.
What is your best advice on writing?
The clichéd answer is “read, read, read”. And it’s true. But what they always forget to tell you is “read, read, read…different authors”. Reading 50 books by Stephen King is going to teach you how to write like Stephen King; reading 50 books by 50 different authors will give you an eclectic dossier of writing styles and techniques that different authors use, and will ultimately enhance your education and enrich your writing that much more.
I started writing because I had something to say. There's no point to art unless you are saying something with it. Art can say many things, not necessarily controversial, but things the creator is passionate about. If there is care put into the art, the goodness always comes through.
I take a simple approach to writing. Simple words, simple sentences. Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Elmore Leonard taught me how much more you can actually say with less. If you look at all the pre-Victorian literature you were made to read in school, the paragraphs are six pages long and filled with adjectives that don't really enrich the story in any way. That's not my cup of decaffeinated, sugarless, bitter, black, lukewarm tea.
I hope to have my upcoming book, The Uninvited Guest, posted on Amazon next year. Truth be told, it’s ready now, but I like to focus my energies on one book at a time.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Nick!