Thanks so much for taking the time to be with us today, Jacob. We’d love if you’d start by sharing a bit about yourself and your background?
First off, let me thank you for taking the time to interview me. I truly appreciate it more than words can adequately express.
As for information about me, there really isn’t much too exciting about me personally, at least from my perspective. I’m pretty much your average man with a family. I have a partner of 9 years, and we have 3 children whose ages range from 17 to 11. Like any parents, our lives are filled with homework, dance recitals, soccer practices, and ferrying children to and fro.
I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, where I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees in English from St. Mary’s University. In 1996 shortly after graduation, I moved to Victoria, Texas, when I received a job teaching college English full time at Victoria College.
When did you discover your passion for writing? Was there someone in particular who encouraged and inspired your love of storytelling?
I discovered my passion for writing at an early age. Growing up in the barrio of San Antonio, one quickly learns to occupy himself in order to escape the harsh realities of the neighborhood. Writing was one of those escapes. Instead of getting in trouble or having trouble find me, I sat in the dining room of my grandparents’ house and wrote my own comic books, plagiarizing heavily from DC Comics. Most of the characters I wrote about came from the pages of The Justice League of America or The New Teen Titans. Those early stories paved the way for my writing ability. They taught me a great deal about character development and creating interesting story arcs and subplots.
My mother always encouraged my writing or whatever I was interested in, really. She would listen to every story I wrote, no matter how awful the story might have been. Sometimes, I would read her my stories to help her fall asleep after a long day at work.
Your book, Moral Authority, takes a look into the not so distant future of an America in which homosexuality is a crime. Will you tell us a little more about it and share with us how you came up with the idea for the story?
Moral Authority takes place in the year 2050, where a fourth branch of American government called The Moral Authority has been established and in existence for thirty-five years. This part of the government acts as the moral compass for the nation and helps enact lifestyle legislation to keep Americans on a rightful moral track. Homosexuality is illegal, but so is smoking, drinking, and excessive caloric intake, to name a few. But the lifestyle legislation goes even deeper. Moral codes of conduct are established based on high moral standards of care, fairness, loyalty, respect, and purity. Any action that contradicts those precepts in personal relationships or in an individual’s daily life is cause for a stay in a moral prison—or worse!
The idea actually came to me about two years ago. I was at my desk, wondering what would have happened to this country had Obama lost the election and a lunatic like Sarah Palin came within a stone’s throw of the presidency. After that, ideas started to steamroll. I wrote The Moral Constitution of the United States, which basically helped outline the social-political environment for Moral Authority.
If there was any one message you’d hope readers will take away from the book, what would it be?
I want readers to understand just what can happen if ideas, such as morality, are universally defined for everyone. Morality isn’t something that can be prescribed; what’s moral to you might be immoral to me. But that doesn’t give me the right to impose my beliefs on you anymore than you have the right to impose yours on me. Granted, there are universal moral codes that all people adhere to—murder is inherently bad and sexual assault of another is just plain wrong, but when we get down to other concepts or beliefs that aren’t about one person inflicting pain on another, such as homosexuality, then those beliefs can’t be dictated by one person or one group of persons. When one group starts defining life for others, that’s when freedom is truly lost and that’s when a country begins to fall from grace.
Did you find, as you were writing, that you drew upon any of your own life experiences or based any of the characters on people you know?
I think most characters have some infusion of me or of people in my life, but I do my best to make them their own individuals. As such, my characters tend to be amalgamations of different parts of people I know. Sometimes, I take the best qualities of a few people and put them all in one character and then take all their bad qualities and put them in another. This way, my characters are still real but still individuals in their own right.
From conception to publication, how long did the process take?
I began writing Moral Authority in November of 2009 and finished it in February of 2010. I was quite surprised at how quickly I wrote it, but the novel seemed to write itself—almost as if some higher power possessed me until the story was finished. The revision process took awhile as I am a perfectionist and work full time. In fact, I was still revising until I finally published it in August of 2011.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received with respect to writing? Did it change the way you approach your craft?
The best piece of advice I ever received actually had to do with reading, not writing. Diane Gonzales-Bertrand, one of my college English professors and a published author herself, told me that reading for authors is crucial.
In college, I didn’t understand that advice. I do now. After I read a few novels, I find my creative juices rejuvenated. When I read I do so as an author. I look to see how particular authors made me love or hate a character or how I responded to this plot twist or that resolution. This helps me when I write because I gain a broader sense of the writing process beyond my own. I contemplate how others have created their fictional worlds and then apply that to my own writing. Each novel is a teaching tool, and I grow as an author every time I finish reading a new novel.
If you were to offer a word of advice to a new author, what would it be?
My advice would be to not give up. It’s far too easy to say, “Okay, I’m done. I can’t get anyone to publish my manuscript, so I must be an awful writer.” That’s just not the case. All writers have a voice, and if we are true authors, we will do whatever is necessary to share our visions and our creations with others. We will hone our craft by attending conferences, finding reading groups, starting blogs, or whatever else is required to get our words out there. So if your desire is to be published, keep trying. One day, someone will be interested in what you have to say, and when that day comes, all the frustration, tears, and long hours will be worth the joy of someone reading your book and liking it.
Do you have any new projects/works-in-progress you’d care to share with us?
I actually have two new projects in the works. Moral Authority is the first book in a series. I’ve completed more than 300 pages of the second book—tentatively titled Moral Panacea, which picks up two years after the conclusion of the first book.
I also have finished a m/m romance novel, which is currently in the editing process. I don’t want to give away too much about that book yet, but it’s currently titled 3.
Where can readers find you on the internet?
I have a blog at www.jacobzflores.com. The blog tends to be highly political as I discuss current news events. I also blog about gay culture, entertainment, and personal anecdotes. I try to blog at least twice a day, so my website is updated on a regular basis.
It’s been a pleasure having you with us, Jacob. Thanks again for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions. We’d love if you’d consider sharing a favorite excerpt from Moral Authority with us.
Moral Authority by Jacob Flores
“Alright, you pansy ass butthole fuckers, it’s time to get going!”
The angry voice of the K3 officer screaming at them in the boat hold roused Mark from his tentative slumber. He couldn’t remember falling asleep, but he often drifted off when he escaped inside his own mind.
The K3 officer flipped on the lights in the boat hold for the first time since he shut them off four days ago. Mark tried to shield his eyes from the brightness, but the shackles and chains around his wrist prevented much freedom in arm movement. All he could manage was to squint and hope his eyesight recovered quickly.
“Hurry up and get on your God damn feet,” the K3 shouted while yanking one of the prisoners to his feet. Since no one had the chance to stand for four days, the prisoner crumpled to the ground, his legs numb from sitting in one position too long. The officer proceeded to kick the prisoner repeatedly. The man screamed for help as his body was mercilessly assaulted by the K3 who Mark now referred to as Officer Asshole.
“Stop it! You’re going to kill him,” shouted someone from up front. Immediately, Mark knew that to be a mistake.
“What the fuck did you just say?” Officer Asshole asked, while kicking the man on the floor one final time. Mark heard a snap on that final kick, no doubt a rib or two being broken.
Unfortunately, Mark’s eyes adjusted well enough now for him to see Officer Asshole pull out his side arm and fire it pointblank at the outspoken prisoner. The ringing peal of the shot blasted through the boat hold, and the noise frightened Mark. Most law officials now carried electrical weapons in order to subdue offenders without serious bodily harm. When discharged, those guns sizzled, not exploded like this one. Lead ammunition guns hadn’t been in use for decades. Apparently, at detainment camps, they were standard issue.
Mark averted his eyes as the man’s lifeless body fell to the floor, where Officer Asshole kicked it twice. Afterward, Officer Asshole looked around. “Does anyone else have something to say about me kicking the shit out of this butt fucker?”
No one responded. Even the man who sobbed for most of the boat trip remained silent.
Officer Asshole resumed kicking the man he lifted from his seat. The man no longer screamed but moaned in pain; his moans were interrupted by the wet sound of gurgling blood escaping his lips. Still, Officer Asshole attacked. The man’s anguished moans became too much for Mark to bear. He tried to block out the whimpers with his hands, but the chains restrained him.
Blow after blow filled the boat hold, and the interior walls of the boat amplified the beating until it sounded like a percussionist banging out a macabre beat in some nightmarish band.
Finally, the moans stopped. The man was most likely dead, but his death failed to deter Officer Asshole. He kicked the man, at least ten more times.
“That was fucking fun,” Officer Asshole said in delight. “Who’s next?”
The officer’s delight filled Mark with rage. More than anything else, even more than being free of this hellish place, Mark wanted Officer Asshole to die.
“That’s enough, Davies,” a voice from behind Officer Asshole commanded. “Bring them above deck. Now.”
“Yes, sir!” Officer Asshole returned his gaze to the prisoners. His smirk foretold even more hell to follow. “Alright, you fairies, let’s get those loose asses of yours up those stairs and off the boat for inspection.” Officer Asshole bent down and unlocked the chains of the two men he killed. Their torment was over while Mark’s, and the other hundred or so prisoners, had just begun. Officer Asshole then pushed another man toward the stairs leading up to the deck. The procession out began.
As they filed out, Mark looked around at his fellow prisoners all dressed in bright orange jumpsuits. Some were soiled by their own body excrement, which they sat in for the past four days. Even though Mark had to go, he fought the urge. He would be damned if he gave his jailors the opportunity to mock him for a simple human bodily function.
Most of the prisoners looked awful and defeated. Eyes wide in terror, they shuffled forward carefully since everyone’s ankles were also chained together. Dried snot caked some of their faces. Others showed no emotion, as if they detached themselves from this world, their bodies merely on autopilot.
Mark didn’t feel defeated or detached. He was terrified, but he was mostly furious. No human being deserved to be treated as they were being treated. Every fiber of his being knew this to be wrong.
How could anyone, much less the supposed moral majority of this country, think this was just or moral?
“Pay attention, man. Our line is moving,” the man behind him whispered while nudging Mark forward. The men in front of him shuffled forward. His lack of attention might have upset the line when his chain linking him to the man before him pulled taut. The man in front of him could have stumbled or fallen backwards, unbalanced, which likely would have resulted in a beating, or worse, for them both.
“Thanks,” Mark whispered back and shuffled forward.
As he made his way closer to the stairs leading up, the sunlight at the top shone brightly down on him; its warmth felt good on his skin. He closed his eyes briefly, freely giving himself to its embrace. The sun told him everything would be all right, that he would be watched and cared for. Mark found this soothing. He listened to the roll of the waves as they gently rocked the boat against the dock, and it lulled him into a tentative peace. Even the sea breeze that rushed down to him, carrying the smell of salt and sea life, filled him with renewed vigor.
Mark climbed the stairs toward the sun, exiting the darkness of the boat hold.
On deck, he looked around at Provincetown harbor. Boat slips surrounded the area, but there were no boats. At one time, Provincetown was home to many boats, both commercial and private. Now, the only boat was the one he currently stood on. No doubt all other water transportation was forbidden since Provincetown had been turned into a detainment camp. Forced by K3’s, citizens and businesses relocated off the cape.
The line of men in orange jumpsuits extended all the way down the pier, toward a New England styled building with white trim and a grey roof. No doubt the building was once a visitor’s center or some official site for Provincetown tourism. Now, it was where the processing of prisoners occurred. It even had K3 guards standing sentinel along the white ramps, their weapons drawn and their muscles tense, anxiously awaiting the opportunity to shoot someone.
He focused his attention instead on the cool sea breeze that continued to swirl around him, whispering to him that he wasn’t alone. Mark then stepped off the metal plank used for disembarkation and onto the wooden slats of the pier. As he walked forward, Mark imagined what Provincetown might have been like a generation or two ago.
Mark pictured the excitement his gay brothers in the past must have felt when exiting the ferries that used to shuttle them back and forth from Boston. When their feet touched these same wooden slats he now walked across in chains, they no doubt felt liberated from their daily selves. He imagined their excitement, as opposed to his dread, about their arrival. Instead of being detained like Mark, they had arrived at a destination where they were the most free, where they could be who they truly were and express that without hesitation or fear of reprisal.
He clearly saw them in the past, walking hand-in-hand as they hurried to join the rest of their kin at the local bars or shops. Each person they encountered was a potential new lover or friend. In the past, there were no limits here, no boundaries, like the rows of chain linked and barbed wire fences that extended for as far as the eye could see along the beach in both directions. Provincetown was whatever they wanted it to be. It could be filled with dancing and debauchery, shopping and sight seeing, or relaxing and lounging, or it could be all those things.
In fact, if he listened hard enough, he still heard the thumping bass beat of a long ago silenced speaker churning out the dance music to which the boys used to love to dance. The music drifted on the air currents, refusing to die and challenging the present to ever erase that part of this town’s past. The vibe was in the air. It was the essence of what Provincetown was and what it promised to be again. He felt it. This was no doubt what he sensed while climbing out of the boat hold. It was the spirit of Provincetown and the ghosts of his gay brothers from the past. They were here, they told him. They wouldn’t be chased away.