I have already done a review on this book as i am sure you have seen and since writing that i have had the pleasure of talking to Andrew personally.
I have got to say first and foremost what a humble and really nice bloke he is! 🙂 I know that’s not really a very literary description but it sums him up perfectly!
He has written for me a piece on how this book came to life and the inspirations, struggles and aptly named the Sacrifice’s that go into finally see your lifetime wish of becoming a published author.
I don’t know if you read the acknowledgements at the end of most novels, but they do give you a general idea as to how much goes into publishing a successful book. There are always lists of people the authors thank and from that we know it is more than just one author, pen and paper/computer and a publisher.
But reading Andrews story of how this book came to be I was struck with just how much time, perseverance, research, struggles and determination that goes into a novel and how much of himself has gone into this book.
I hope you will take the time to read Andrews story and i hope it is as inspirational to you as it was for me. I now have an even greater respect for the authors behind the books we read now. It’s so easy to just pick up a book and read it, enjoy it and not even give a thought to the author behind the book. The people who write for our benefit and enjoyment, so please read in Andrews words how he brought this book to life!
Thank you to anyone reading this and thank you to Andrew for writing the piece for this blog 🙂
“The story behind SACRIFICE began at a hole-in-the-wall breakfast joint in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This was about ten years ago. Life was different then. Every Friday morning a friend of mine and I would get a breakfast burrito at a place called Over Easy, and then we would catch the earliest matinee of the day. After the movie the two of us would head to work. We worked together at a hotel on the corner of the Santa Fe plaza. We met on the job. We both wanted to be writers. An instant bond was formed. The bar became the perfect place to make money, but still have enough time on our hands to write.
This particular morning, I received a phone call while standing in line to place my order. The call was from a producer I had lunch with in Los Angeles a month or so earlier. The producer was interested in turning some funny stories I had written into a movie. He was calling to tell me that the money had fallen through. He wouldn’t be making the movie from my stories. However, he said that he could get money to make a horror movie. Apparently, money is always laying around for scary movies. He wanted to know did I have any horror movie ideas.
But, being a writer, I decided to lie.
So I told him I had an idea, but I needed a few days to get it on paper.
I hung up the phone. My friend and I ordered breakfast. Then we took our coffees outside to one of the patio tables that abutted the parking lot. I remember it was early spring. Spring comes fast in the high desert, and when the wind isn’t blowing, it is a magical time that hints at summer to come, but without the heat.
I told my friend about the phone call. I asked, What do you think would make a good horror movie? The two of us spent the rest of our time until work batting ideas around. We skipped the movie entirely.
Although the idea we came up with during that conversation was quite different, it was that morning that I first heard about Los Hermanos de Penitente. I became fascinated by this 400-year-old cult. For the next two weeks I sat in the Santa Fe Public Library reading everything I could find about them. For the next year, I would buy every obscure book I could find in dusty bookstores scattered around the southwest. I became obsessed with the beliefs, the rituals, and how this intense cult of penitence grew.
I grew up in a Christian home. My father and grandfather were protestant ministers. I was supposed to take over my father’s church when I grew up. Even though I am a spiritual person who reads and studies the Bible and theology, I knew I couldn’t become a minister. I do not read the Bible stories the way people who preach to a congregation need to read the Bible. I understand on an intellectual level that the morals are spelled out in the Bible. However, when I read the stories I see the dark undercurrent of violence, bloodshed, and destruction. Even before I wrote horror stories, I always wrote about the dark side of the faith.
I understood the Penitente. I understood their need to experience pain in order that they could comprehend the mercy of forgiveness.
After I wrote the proposal for the screenplay of SACRIFICE I found a management company that wanted to represent the project. Then I sat down to write the script.
I never expected to go into screenwriting. I always wanted to be a short story and novel writer. However, when I wrote the script for SACRIFICE all the stars seemed to align. During the years that proceeded the writing of the script I had written two and a half novels. Although a division of Random House read and enjoyed my first novel, I received nothing but rejection letters. However, with SACRIFICE doors flew open. People loved the concept. However, every time the project seemed to be coming together, something would happen, and the money would fall through.
Even though I couldn’t get the movie made, the script became my resume, and I was able to get other jobs. I went on to develop more scripts and television pilots and work for two national television shows.
But I always found myself returning to Benny’s story in SACRIFICE. Every year or so I would dust it off, tinker with it, send a few emails around, then put it back in a box.
It wasn’t until I moved away from Santa Fe, that I ever thought about telling the story in a different way.
When we had children my wife and I began discussing the prospect of leaving Santa Fe. It was the hardest decision of my life. It still fills me with great sorrow. I loved that place. It was the only place in all my travels where I truly felt at home. It is a magical land with amazing light. The desert is mysterious and it takes some people captive, and that is what happened to me.
However, the public schools are atrocious. I had never been able to make much money as a writer. I always needed one or two jobs to get by. When we had kids we wanted my wife to stay home to raise them, which meant I had to work more. So we knew we couldn’t afford private school. So we began considering places to move to. Places that had good public schools. Both of us grew up in New England. We were raised in Massachusetts. The fact of the matter was the public schools in Massachusetts are about as good as the private schools out west. So we decided to move back. Also, both sets of parents still lived in Massachusetts. I was dragged away kicking and screaming, despite the fact I knew it was best for our kids.
However, when we moved back east I found myself struggling to get work. I had never had a hard time finding a job in the past. But when we moved to Massachusetts, I found myself interviewing for dozens of jobs and never getting hired. I found myself getting anxious and depressed. For the first time in my life, I found it hard to write. So I couldn’t find work, and I couldn’t write anything new. Nothing made sense to me any more.
One dark winter evening, I sat in my office, and began digging through old boxes of material. I had been writing everyday for the fifteen years we spent in New Mexico after college. I had accumulated a lot of projects. That’s when I stumbled on SACRIFICE. I probably hadn’t looked at it in over four years, even more, when I pulled it out of the box. I sat at my desk and read the screenplay from beginning to end with fresh eyes. I was struck by how much I still like the story. The story still worked. It had good bones.
I thought, What do I have to lose? I’m broke. I have no work. I have no prospect of work. Maybe I should rewrite this screenplay as a novel. Maybe someone will publish it.
Many years before, in the days just after I had written SACRIFICE the first time, a vice president at CBS had read the script and loved it. She tried really hard to get SACRIFICE made, or at least get me a good television job with it. She heard that I was thinking of writing a novel out of the story, and she said once it was finished she would send it to some people at Simon Schuster. With that encouragement on the table, I got up every morning and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I think I wrote the first draft in six months. Then I edited it several times. The story changed quite a bit as it transitioned from screenplay to novel.
The vice president of CBS never showed it to anyone at Simon Schuster. I never got a clear idea why. She had always been a woman of her word and was a big champion of me in the past. But life is a strange and wild thing full of twists and turns you never see coming.
The book went through several rejections as I began to blindly submit to publishers and agents. After writing SACRIFICE as a screenplay I stopped writing long form prose. I exclusively wrote for film and television for ten years. And so when I started submitting a manuscript I had no idea where to begin. So I just started sending it out like throwing darts at a dartboard.
Then in the summer of 2016 I had finally found a decent job.
It was only seasonal, but it paid well, and there was food on the table.
I was standing at work when an email came through on my phone. The email was from a small publishing company in Castroville, Texas. The publisher, Reagan Rothe, wrote to tell me someone in his office really liked my novel and he wanted to offer me a contract. It was one of those emails that blindsides you. I had dreamed of publishing a book since I was fifteen years old. Here I was, now, forty-two-years old with two kids, living hand-to-mouth, and an email comes that finally validates all the hard work. All the long hours alone with a pen and paper scribbling away when I could have been out with my friends having fun, but instead I felt driven to sit alone in a coffee shop.
There were many times that I thought it would never happen. That none of the stories I wrote would ever see the light of day. Many times I thought I had wasted my life and squandered my youth. There were a million other things I could have done with those hours. I would use all my vacation time over the years to retool some project I had been working on. I would come home during the holidays and people would ask me what am I working on. As I got older I became more ashamed to talk about my writing. I would convince myself that everybody thought I was a fraud. How can he still be writing? He must be terrible if he has nothing to show for it now.
On one sun-drenched afternoon, standing at a new job, everything changed in an instant. Suddenly, I was holding a publishing contract in my hand. Suddenly, everything I had worked so hard for over so many years was finally going to be a reality. I almost couldn’t catch my breath.
During the years I couldn’t find work, when my kids started school, and I was asking myself what kind of man puts his family in this kind of dire situation, I nearly had a nervous breakdown. I suffered hypertension, and began taking blood pressure medication.
Finding a publisher for SACRIFICE didn’t solve all my problems. It is still very difficult to break through the fray when you are a new writer. But my dream was always to publish. I never thought I would be famous. Nor do I want to be. I wanted to tell stories that are important to me. I don’t write like best selling authors. The questions I have about the world aren’t simple and straightforward. But I enjoy crafting the stories and developing the characters. I am very proud of SACRIFICE. It is extremely rewarding every time someone tells me that they really connected with my story. I have had some bad reviews. I think I always expected that. This isn’t a book for everyone. It is dark and violent. It is about a cult that searched for God in a strange and bizarre way. Not everybody can relate to that. I understand.
I’m just glad I was able to tell the story I wanted to tell the way I wanted to tell it”