Tag Archives: Shroud of Turin

Interview with Paul Mohrbacher, Author of The Magic Fault

What is your book about?

The Magic Fault takes place in 2004 in Turin, Italy, where the Catholic Church’s most revered relic has been stolen by a mysterious sect from the city’s cathedral. An American professor who studies magical thinking uncovers a baffling series of answers to the question, Why?

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

The idea blossomed in 2004, and the writing started within months.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

The inspiration came from being in Turin, Italy, during a festival of food sponsored by the International Slow Food movement. Just a few miles from the festival is the church where the Shroud of Turin is honored. It was the confluence of the two events, one celebrating life on and in the earth, the other the afterlife and its promise of a future life after-earth. Putting the two themes together was an inspiring challenge.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

The most unusual character is an elderly Parisienne who is protecting a secret. She is based on a woman I met some years back who lived through WW II as a resistance fighter. She was an incredibly still-beautiful woman who smoked strong French cigarettes and climbed mountains. I may bring her back in another book some day.

How long did it take you to write your book?

I spent six years writing The Magic Fault.

How much of the story did you have in mind before you started writing it?

I found I first had to describe the plot to friends. By talking about it I got in touch with what I wanted to say in the story. I needed to know the plot well enough before I could choose my characters. Then the characters started telling me how they would react in the situations I put them in. As usual, they talked too much; I tossed everything into the first few drafts and then crawled exhausted to an editor who found a way to cut and trim and guide me back to the story line.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

Given the topic, there was a lot of research; mainly books on the subject. The Internet was a major source for fact-checking. I made visits to some of the sites described in the book, and had heavy email contact with sources who lived in places I couldn’t visit. Finally, the New York Times always had a story that nudged me when I was writing something related.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

There is pre-writing and there is post-writing. I differentiate characters by “sleeping” with them, every last one of them. I write something and then wait for the characters to knock on my head in the night. They finally come alive after many nights spent in their company (dreams, waking up and writing down some dialogue or action, etc.). They point me on the right path on how they would act and think in the story I want to tell.

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

The book is done when my characters’ involvement in the story seems fully realized.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

Balancing a day job with writing on a weekly basis was a huge challenge. I finally changed my job to four days a week instead of five. Those three-day weekends make a difference, especially if two of the days are more or less filled with other chores or getaways.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

My writing schedule varied with the stages of development of the book. Early in the book I wrote on a couple of weekday early mornings and then also on weekends. Usually my computer went with me on vacations and I wrote daily. Rewriting was more episodic, hit and run, because I spent more time thinking how the story held together. When I found an agent and began heavy editing and rewriting, I imposed a rule for myself; get the agent the latest version as soon as you can. Write whenever one finds time; deadline writing.

What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?

The most difficult part of the writing process is cutting out extraneous plot detours. That usually means characters you like but who shouldn’t be in this book; scenes that seem essential but aren’t, dialogue that explains more than it should. The “aha moment” comes at the right time, about halfway through the first draft — where am I going with this story? And usually it’s an editor who taps me on the head with the question.

Where can people learn more about you and The Magic Fault?

From my publisher’s website: Second Wind Publishing/Paul Mohrbacher

See also:
Chapter One of The Magic Fault
Excerpt from The Magic Fault

Click here to buy: The Magic Fault

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The Magic Fault by Paul Mohrbacher

The Magic Fault unfolds in Turin, Italy, where the Catholic Church’s most revered relic has been stolen by a mysterious sect from the city’s cathedral. The theft occurs during the 2004 Salone del Gusto, Turin’s celebration of “good, clean, and fair food” sponsored by the international Slow Food Movement. Tom Ueland, an American Midwest college history professor and journalist who writes about magical thinking, is in Turin to vacation with a friend, Rachel Cohen, an exhibitor at the celebration. He’s also there at the invitation of the Turin archbishop, himself a student of magical thinking. Tom takes up the chase after the Shroud of Turin and is spun toward a resolution he never sees coming.

The Magic Fault will resonate with people who love the drama of European history, with those who follow religious debates, and with people passionate about where and how the world’s food is grown. Mystery lovers will have fun trying to figure out the resolution before the protagonist does. And the “magic” theme adds to the mystery.

Excerpt:

He never would have been in that church yesterday if not for one other person. A month earlier, he had received a letter from the archbishop of Turin, a priest named Michael Tucci. Tucci had read an article on magical thinking in the New York Times arts section. In the article, Tom had been quoted as an authority on the topic. He summarized the Historian Norman Cantor’s insights into medieval behavior during the Black Plague of the 14th Century: Christians blamed the Jews for the plague. “Scapegoating is magical thinking,” Tom wrote. “And it goes on today. We blame the ‘other’ for everything wrong in our lives. Religious extremists are often the worst offenders.”

The priest wrote that he was deeply fascinated by the topic and invited him to Turin. Tom wrote back he’d be there in a month. Yesterday was to be the day for the meeting. Tom had decided to check out the famed Shroud of Turin relic first.

Now it looked as though he might not get to see the priest. Next stop: The U.S. consulate in Turin, if there was one. And he needed a lawyer.

Another knock on the door; the big guy barged in and spoke actually using nouns and verbs. “The archbishop of Turin wants to see you.”

Tom looked at his watch — 7 a.m. The cop had brought him a shaving kit, a cappuccino and a bag of fresh bread and rolls. “Get dressed, please, and I will be back in thirty minutes.” “Please” meant something for sure — he was cleared.

“It’s about time. Is it a trial, the inquisition, what the hell is going on?”

The big cop had undergone a personality change from the night before. He even looked smaller. “The archbishop will meet you in the Duomo. The scene of the crime. Then of course, if all goes well, you are free to go about your business in Torino.”

***

The Magic Fault is Paul Mohrbacher’s first venture into genre fiction. His writing career began as a playwright. His first script for the stage, The Chancellor’s Tale (The Dramatic Publishing Company), won first prize in the 1991 Julie Harris Playwright Award Competition and has received numerous productions and readings. Born in Duluth, Minnesota, he was a Catholic priest for 16 years. He lives with his wife, Ruth Murphy, in St. Paul, surrounded by grandchildren.

(Photo by Andrea Cole Photography)

See also:
Chapter One of The Magic Fault
Interview with Paul Mohrbacher

Click here to buy: The Magic Fault

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Filed under books, fiction