I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Dennis Anthony to talk with me today about his book, Debunker. Dennis has been a newspaper reporter, sailor, military officer, television news producer, public relations executive and publishing company owner. He and his wife live in Pensacola, Florida, but try to spend as much time as possible at their cabin on Lookout Mountain in Alabama.
How did you discover indieBRAG?
I learned from numerous sources that the B.R.A.G Medallion enjoyed a reputation for recognizing quality efforts by self-published writers.
Please tell me about your book, Debunker: Independence Day.
Debunker: Independence Day is the first book in the Debunker trilogy. The other two are Debunker: Psychic Storm and Debunker: Scream of the Valkyrie. When I wrote it, I assumed it would be a standalone novel, but thanks to positive feedback from readers and my own interest in the story-line, I wrote two more volumes. As a result, I look back on the first book with a different perspective than when I wrote it. It was the first book I ever wrote and it suffers from “first-book-itis,” problems I see every time I read it. I made beginner mistakes, like too much backstory. It doesn’t bother readers though. This book seems to be their favorite.
The protagonist, Francis Trecy, is pulled into participating in a ghost hunting reality program where he serves as the skeptic whose role is to find “normal” explanations for seemingly paranormal events. But Francis soon discovers that he has a gift for seeing dimensions of reality not visible to most people. His evolution in this book takes him from skepticism to uncertainty to something like a believer.
Along the way he deals with deception, infidelity, embezzlement and murder. Nothing, Francis learns, is quite as it seems.
Even if you’re not on a ghost hunting show, I think most people can understand dealing with the struggle that comes with change. At some point we have to decide if we’re strong in our beliefs, or just stubborn. That’s at least one of the themes contained in Debunker: Independence Day.
Interesting premise! What inspired you to create a paranormal reality program?
I’ve enjoyed watching the various ghost shows on television and, like Francis, I’m still dealing with a possible change in my beliefs. I can still hear my mother saying “there’s no such thing as ghosts!” Now I’m not so sure.
There’s another reason I picked the reality show as a focus. I’ve had some experience in television work and it was fun to imagine how I would handle production of a ghost hunting show like this. The paranormal aspect provides a pretty large canvas on which to paint my story.
I am really big about solid character development in stories. Please tell me about Francis and a challenge he faces.
The biggest challenge Francis faces is reconciling his natural skepticism with a world that he slowly begins to believe is far more complex and inexplicable than he ever imagined. He questions what he sees. He questions the people who try to explain it to him. And he tries to understand how the woman, Marion Guest, who becomes his obsession, fits into this world. Book Two expands his relationship with the woman and the larger reality. In Book Three he comes to a realization of who he really is, and resolves his powerful and unique relationship with Marion. I was out of breath by the time it was over.
Why did you choose the Civil War in America as part of your story-line?
I’ve always been a student of the American Civil War. The Gettysburg battlefield, where the climax takes place, is one of my favorite places to visit. In addition, it has a long and well-documented history of paranormal events. It was a perfect match for my story.
Although it’s a mixed-genre work — which makes marketing tricky — I always saw it as a paranormal thriller. Surprisingly, some of the people most interested have been history buffs, so I started marketing it as historical fiction as well. There’s a lot about the Civil War and the battles, Civil War re-enactors and … to tell you more would spoil it. I guess you’ll just have to read it.
Please tell me a little about your research for this book.
I read books written about and by paranormal investigators, tried to watch most of the television ghost hunting shows I could stomach (some I couldn’t), and for the Civil War aspects, dug into my personal library and used Internet research to fill in the blanks. It’s easy to become seduced by the research. Sooner or later, you’ve got to start writing.
Will you please share an excerpt?
“I want to know about Samuel,” Francis said. “Where’d he come from? Why does he know things?”
“Yes,” the old woodcarver said. “Where does he come from? Why is he here? How does he know about . . . ?”
Francis’s face burned. “He talks about being in the battle – the original battle. He seems . . .” Francis stuttered. “. . . well, a rather simple-minded man. Yet he knows details about the battle that surprise me.”
“Perhaps he’s a student.”
“I don’t think so,” Francis said. “He told me he remembered all these things after meeting with you. Did you put those memories into his head?”
For the first time, Mr. Cobb began laughing. The swell of sound was quickly muffled in his belly and his eyes twinkled again. “Now why would I do something like that, even if I could?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, then . . .”
“So how could this unschooled, half-literate man-child know so much about the Battle of Gettysburg?” Francis asked.
“Because he was there,” the old man said. “I helped him remember what he lived through.”
Francis was struck dumb for the moment. “Let’s pretend that’s true,” Francis said.
“Pretend away,” Mr. Cobb said.
“Assuming it’s true, then, how could he get so many facts about the battle so wrong?”
Francis paused in his own mind to consider the absurdity of this exchange, but he continued. “He said the rebel soldiers during Pickett’s Charge broke through and routed the Union troops. He said General Hancock was killed. Those things never happened.”
Mr. Cobb dropped into a straight-back wooden chair. He looked tired for the first time. “In war – especially during battle – much is said and remembered that never happened. Panic, fear. It all kicks in. A few Confederate troops did break the Union line, however briefly. During the battle, Hancock was wounded and the rumor went around that he had been killed. It would be easy for Samuel to be confused in the remembering.”
“So he got it wrong,” Francis said. “That still doesn’t explain . . .”
“I didn’t say he got it wrong,” Mr. Cobb said. “I merely wanted to point out that he could have gotten it wrong. Since you’re a practical man – a skeptic? – I thought it important to point that out to you.”
“I’m not following.”
Mr. Cobb took a deep breath, put his hands on the stiff apron that buckled up around his knees. “Samuel was at the Battle of Gettysburg. The Confederate troops did bust through the Union line and it rolled up at both ends, just like that curl of basswood I gouged out a few minutes ago. Hancock was killed. There was a rout and the entire Army of the Potomac retreated behind the defenses of Washington, D.C. Great Britain recognized the Confederacy as a result of the victory and joined the war on their side. Abraham Lincoln was defeated for re-election, and President George McClellan made peace with the South.” Mr. Cobb turned his head to look up at Francis who slowly squatted down in front of him so that their eyes were level. “The Confederate States of America won the Civil War.”
How did you come up with the title for your book?
Debunker refers to the role of skeptic played by the protagonist. It’s a point of pride that I never actually used the word in any of the three novels of the Debunker trilogy. Not sure why, but there it is. Independence Day holds a double meaning that readers of the book will understand. One meaning is the holiday celebrated on the date of the story’s climax.
Who designed your book cover?
My cover was designed by Book Cover Cafe. I provided an overall concept. They incorporated everything that worked and threw out all the stupid stuff that didn’t.
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Dennis Anthony who is the author of, Debunker, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Debunker, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.