Last year I had the privilege to read an advanced copy of THE PARDON by Rodney Powell. Rodney and I connected via social media sometime ago. We both work in the real estate industry. And while we are from different generations, we share similar values and ethics. That made it easy for us to connect and get along.
When Rodney asked me if I would consider endorsing his book, I accepted the opportunity.
I had this to say about THE PARDON.
Rodney Powell has crafted a grounded tale teeming with history and political intrigue. Interweaved into this character drama are themes of economics, clashing ideologies, envy, strife, and The Redemption found through Christ Jesus.
The Pardon is a Visceral, Poignant read that demands to be shared with others!
TEN QUESTIONS FOR AUTHOR RODNEY POWELL
Thanks for asking me about THE PARDON. I enjoy answering questions like these. Knowing the story behind the story makes it more interesting for everyone. If you ask an author to write his answers, you risk getting a novel. Well, let’s dig in and find out what you’ve got for me to talk about here.
How does it feel to be a published writer?
THE PARDON turned out to be way better than I anticipated when I began writing the story. I’d considered writing non-fiction, maybe sharing helpful insights about real estate, but I never aspired to author a novel. It’s almost like the story found me.
How does it feel? Let’s say, I’ve had a lot of fun with this.
What inspired you to write THE PARDON as your first literary work?
The genesis of THE PARDON almost feels like an accident, except we know the Lord establishes the footsteps of His people. Blood oranges and Russian friends were the basic ingredients.
About three years ago, a friend was exterminating our home for termites. Being that he’s a friend, I sat on the porch steps and visited with him while he was working. He does video work on the side and was telling me about a screenplay he’d written that won a film festival award.
I said, “Oh, I’ve got a good story.” Improvising on the spot, I made up a story in about twenty minutes.
He said, “That’s pretty good!”
I’d taken a few improv classes, although I’m too slow to be good at improv performance. Here’s the benefit, though. Improv conditions your mind to take a thought and go with it ─ don’t over-scrutinize. It’s like having a basket of random objects and being told to build something from it. So I was able to sit on the back porch steps with Wayne and formulate a story on the spot.
My wife and daughter were sitting at the kitchen table. I said, “Hey, I was just telling Wayne this story,” and repeated it to them.
They said, “That’s pretty good.”
Hey, I might be onto something here, I thought. I’d better write it down, or I’ll forget.
So, I had the first ten chapters drafted in two days. What I would eventually discover is that writing is easy ─ the devil is in the editing! I didn’t know what I was going to do with this story, only that I didn’t want to forget it.
All that said, perhaps God just handed me a gift at that moment ─ because I wasn’t convinced I could ever do that again. THE PARDON brings together a wonderful combination of elements that make an epic tale.
Also, my rookie assumption was that a story would be written in a linear fashion ─ start at the beginning, and write to the end. It didn’t happen that way, though. It came together more like a mosaic.
With my real estate business, I sell land all across Texas, so I have a lot of windshield time. I’d think about the story while driving, then come home and write a part. Eventually, those parts began to fall into place, like a jigsaw puzzle.
After about two years, I decided that I either should publish the story or stop spending time on it. I got help from some editors. You don’t just take a Word document and upload it to Amazon. Well, some people do ─ and we can all tell when that happens.
THE PARDON was too good of a story to not handle everything with excellence. It took another year to complete the editing, proofing, cover design, typesetting, audiobook production, etc. It’s all a process.
Were the principal characters based on or inspired by real people?
Some of the main characters were modeled after real people, with their permission of course. Their lives weren’t depicted in the story, but the characters’ personalities bore similarities to real people, sometimes even their names. That was part of what made this so fun to write.
Not all the characters were like that, though. Different characters were given different treatment. While it may not have been necessary, I did change the names of recognizable celebrities and some places in the final published version. You can say anything about Fidel CASTRO or Che GUEVARA you like, though ─ historical political figures are fair game. Others were composite characters, not like any particular individual. The edgy or despotic characters were not any real persons, living or dead.
The descriptions of the Cuban settings were very detailed. Have you visited Cuba before?
Now that I’ve written the book, I’m even less inclined to visit Cuba. If someone offered to give me a ticket, I wouldn’t go today. There are people who do romanticize Cuba today, despite its dark past. It’s still a messed-up place. There are aspects of Cuban culture to enjoy though.
For a decade of my life, through my twenties, I worked for Continental Airlines and American Express. Consequently, I traveled widely ─ every state in America and thirty-one countries. Cuba was not among them, as the country wasn’t open for tourism during that era.
Traveling there wasn’t necessary though. Michael SHAARA didn’t need to experience the Battle of Gettysburg firsthand to write The Killer Angels. Charles DICKENS didn’t have to live through the French Revolution to write A Tale of Two Cities. We could go on and on, listing dozens of historical fiction novels.
While I was writing THE PARDON, the Lord brought people into my life who had lived in Cuba. One gentleman had only been in America for thirty days when we met. Through a translator, I was able to ask him questions for weeks. He was eager to talk with me about his life and family in Cuba, amazed that anyone was so interested. That was a gift to the story.
Because I was almost obsessed with authenticity, I researched and asked questions, whether it was about Cuba or many other details in the story. Authors that have influenced me are James MICHENER and Tom CLANCY, of course. Everyone knows authenticity is a hallmark of their stories.
Also during this time, a woman joined our church who had grown up in Cuba, and she was a first reader. She was able to verify details so that I was comfortable with the authenticity.
Except for Cuba and Kavkaz, Russia, there were other places and events in the story that I was very familiar with. Florida, of course. And I’d traveled to Isla Mujeres many times when it was just a sleepy little fishing village. It was such a neat place back then ─ I took my wife there to the island for our honeymoon over thirty years ago.
Jamaica provided the most colorful parts of the story. My parents took me there as a child, maybe six years old. I had a great uncle who helped establish bauxite trade between Jamaica and the United States. We were invited to the home of the prime minister ─ he knew everyone. I was a bright kid and remembered a lot about the experience.
That accounts for much of what I wrote about Jamaica in the story. Even so, I also had a wonderful Jamaican editor to validate the accuracy of my memories and help me with details through the lens of someone living there. She was a believer, spoke Spanish, and had also traveled to Cuba a few times, all of which was helpful.
It’s also worth noting that I do not speak Russian. A few Russian friends provided translations for those parts. And, by the sovereign hand of God, we had a Russian audio engineer to ensure the narrator got the pronunciations correct.
Some of the chapters were inspired by real events. For instance, the part of the story about Vladi hog hunting with his younger brother, Erik. That is almost a word-for-word retelling of experiences my brother and I shared in years past.
The Tupolev Tu-114 crash was a composite of real-life events that offers some insight into how many details were researched for the story. My late stepfather had been a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He transitioned to being a civilian helicopter pilot ferrying crews and supplies to offshore platforms. His career ended abruptly when the transmission seized in the Bell 206 Jet Ranger he was piloting, and it fell like a rock into the Gulf of Mexico.
The original chapter about the Tu-114 crash was drafted from his account of ditching the helicopter in the ocean along with what I knew about aviation from my years in the airline industry and being a private pilot myself.
The draft was reviewed by an acquaintance who was a former Navy pilot and career Delta Airlines captain. He told me about a problem with a particular U.S. Navy turboprop aircraft that was similar to the story and provided me with the crash sequence from the perspective of a professional pilot. Then I was able to take that version to a brother in church who works as an aircraft mechanic. He gave me the details to round out that bit of the story.
That was the process by which many parts of the story came together. Typically, there was some kernel of an actual event that was researched and fleshed out until it worked in the overall story.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us there is nothing new under the sun. The application here is that, whether it’s characters, places, or situations, we don’t create the ingredients. What makes it special is how we blend those ingredients into something meaningful.
It’s sort of like your grandmother’s dessert. She didn’t have to make the sugar, flour, and eggs. But the way she put those things together made something so wonderful you’ll remember it for the rest of your life.
There are political and religious themes in the story. What do you hope people get out of the book?
THE PARDON is a wholesome story, which is better than being unwholesome. Our culture is at all-time lows ─ society stands to benefit from works like this.
What if you could read stories your great-great-great-grandfather had mindfully written? If you could get a glimpse into his mind, what a treasure that would be! … especially if he’d written things he knew would be instructive. Should the Lord tarry, I wanted to write things that my grandchildren could read, great-grandchildren, and beyond.
Also, I wanted to be able to leave this with people who met with me in the normal course of business. Most of us are busy people. When I bring a signed book as a gift for someone, the whole dynamic of that conversation shifts. I’ve seen grown men become teary-eyed. Everyone else in their world wants something from them, and they’re seldom met with something that comes across as thoughtful and personal.
There’s goodwill in that ─ I’m no longer an interruption of their day ─ instead, the highlight of their week. I’m able to take an encounter they may not have remembered ten minutes later and turn that into something they’ll remember ten years from now.
As for the political themes in THE PARDON, they’ve become more poignant since the time the story was conceived. Those plot elements were intended simply to be history. Who knew we would see a slide into dangerous Marxist ideals within the United States?
There is one huge difference. Many of the citizens of Cuba were fairly simple, trusting people, hopeful that the promises of communism would make their lives better. In contrast, our society is being overrun by the willfully ignorant. Marxism has a destructive history as evidence ─ proof that its fruit is deadly. We could give the poor Cubans a pass for naivety. But this generation of Americans is without excuse.
When endorsements for THE PARDON began coming back, it was evident that readers tended to either focus on the political dimension of the story or the Christian content. But I would add to that the economic lessons.
Some of the other things that made it into the story were incidental, but I was deliberate about portraying the virtues of capitalism and free enterprise. I’m a businessman, as you are too. The tectonic movements in our economic order tend to be subtle and happen over a long time. They’re the most dangerous though.
We need to be mindful to ensure future generations grasp and apply free enterprise, which is at the heart of a thriving economy. From one generation to the next, we can drift away from wholesome ideologies so that our day-to-day system becomes corrupted and eventually fails to represent what is right and good for us individually and for society overall.
It may be surprising to learn that writing a Christian novel wasn’t an explicit objective. However, Christianity is integral to the story because it’s the lens through which I see the world. I’ll explain.
Consider authors like CLANCY and GRISHAM, who are outstanding by any measure. If there’s a spiritual dimension to their characters, in general, that doesn’t get too much focus. Do they ever have a spiritual crisis? In reality, we all do … every one of us. I wrote that aspect of the characters into this story.
The flip side is that when authors deliberately try to write Christian fiction, too often it comes across as contrived. That’s not the case with THE PARDON. When you read or hear matters of Christianity discussed in this story, they’re familiar conversations. You’ll know intuitively that this is the way it happens in real life. So, what Christianity is woven into this story is very organic in that respect.
There are also some emotional aspects to the story. When an author weeps while writing, the result is bound to be powerful. My eyes still well up when I read some parts … and yet I know what’s going to happen … I wrote those words. The same was true for Roy WORLEY when he was narrating the audiobook ─ we decided to leave those parts in the recording. That’s how powerful the story is.
At the end of the book, I included an Authors Note that makes some salient points about the place of so-called Christian media. This invites the question ─ What is the role of “Christian” media in reaching a lost world?
The short version is that no book, music, or movie is a substitute for God’s Word ─ the Bible. THE PARDON is only “Christian” to the extent that such truth is accurately communicated ─ which it is unapologetically.
If we really care to know the truth, we need to ask, “What does the Bible say?” We don’t see Jesus sending His disciples to sing or stage skits for the lost. The God-ordained approach to evangelism is the preached Word … it always has been. We read that time and time again throughout the New Testament.
I’ve never met anyone who told me they were saved when they listened to Christian music, read a Christian novel, or watched a so-called Christian movie.
That leads to another aspect of this, and that is discernment. We call this Christian media, but who decides how that label is assigned? We see it being applied loosely. If people are getting their ideas about truth from contemporary media rather than directly from the Bible and a faithful shepherd in the Lord’s church, they will lack discernment.
So, is there a place for healthy Christian media in the edification of believers? This is only my opinion, but I think so. The world bombards us with a lot of garbage. We are commanded to set our minds on what is wholesome. We do have worship music in which we are actually singing Scripture put to music. And the novels I write literally placard Scripture within the context of the story. To the extent that our music, reading, or any other consumption of media helps to focus our attention on the living God, that is beneficial.
This was also one of the reasons for the decision to self-publish. There wasn’t an editor or publisher who could gut these stories of the truth.
A sequel is in the works. Did you plan the story as a series of novels?
First readers, in the FALL of 2022 during editing … before THE PARDON was published … would get to the end of the story and say something like, “Wow, that was great !” … unlike anything they’d ever read. The question that followed was, “What happened to the characters after the story?”
Honestly, I intended to leave that to the reader’s imagination. THE PARDON was already a 430-page novel, and it had to end somewhere.
After being asked numerous times, I wrote what I originally called “the lost chapter” to tie up a few loose ends … except it was five chapters … too long to be an epilogue and too short to be a sequel.
After chewing on the idea for a few more months, that plotline eventually became a profoundly satisfying sequel, THE RANSOM.
It doesn’t disappoint. If you enjoy THE PARDON … you’ll love THE RANSOM.
Without giving away too much, what can readers expect in the sequel?
We go from the Cold War to the cartel wars in THE RANSOM. We hit the ground running with the sequel because readers are already familiar with the characters and their backstories. There are more characters and a lot more action! If my formerly homeschooled daughter-editor is to be believed, it’s even better than the first!
Like THE PARDON, there are no sexual themes or foul language in the second book. Drugs are a plot element but not condoned in the story. There is violence ─ because bad guys do bad guy things, and a story without conflict would be uninteresting.
Young people would need to be somewhat mature to grasp the themes in this story, but you know that I wouldn’t write anything that I’d be embarrassed for my wife, my pastor, or my grandchildren to read someday.
Besides action, THE RANSOM is equally profound. Whereas THE PARDON has more of an evangelical focus, THE RANSOM gives treatment to what it’s like to live as a Christian in a dark world that’s filled with uncertainties. How does a genuine believer live with the real and persistent repercussions of sin? We explore important themes like forgiveness and reconciliation with God and with man.
Where can people buy The Pardon?
THE PARDON is available as a hardcover, paperback, Kindle ebook, and audiobook. Amazon and Audible seem to be the most popular retail outlets, although THE PARDON is available through other channels.
Actually reading the story first is good because it allows your imagination to work. You can hear the characters’ voices in your head. You envision the setting and the scenes. You control the pacing, so you can slow down and chew on a thought if you want.
That said, the audiobook is really special too. Roy WORLEY narrated THE PARDON, and he really brought the story to life. I wrote the story, yet hearing Roy narrate THE PARDON still sounds fresh to my ears. And the audiobook is better than a movie because it’s true to the manuscript.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked if I was going to narrate the audiobook. When people learn that I’m not the narrator, they’re always surprised. My response is consistently the same, “Wait until you hear the audiobook, and you’ll understand why.” Roy really made this story come to life!
Despite the fact that I do a lot of voiceover work, I had no desire to spend as much time in my closet as it would take to read this entire book – plus audio editing, ugh. Roy served as a missionary in Chile for many years and speaks fluent Spanish. Even if I could pronounce the words, he does the accents better, so it doesn’t sound like a “popcorn” gringo trying to be Cuban and Russian characters.
There’s not anyone else on the planet that I would rather have to deliver the story for you than Roy WORLEY. I give thanks for my brother and talented fellow laborer in Christ.
That’s a long answer to say people LIKE the book – they LOVE the audiobook!
Where can readers stay up to date with your current works?
My official author website is rodneypowell.com – easy to remember because that’s my name.
You’ll find two exciting 60-second book trailer videos there and a short form you can use to be included about updates. I’m respectful to use that sparingly so that you won’t get any spam. Not selling anything ─ just keeping friends informed.
As for now, the only social media that I engage with is LinkedIn and Alignable for business. As it’s appropriate, I’ll do some marketing and post information and updates on those platforms.
Any closing thoughts for the reading audience?
Yes, you can do me a small favor that’s really kind of a big deal ─ and I think I’m asking with the right motives.
I don’t know any magic levers within my reach to ensure that a book climbs in popularity with people. If these novels have only a modest readership, that’s okay with me. I’m content, because if their intended purpose is essentially giving wholesome and instructive stories to generations who follow, then they’re already accomplishing that.
Writing is time-consuming and publishing is expensive. Where does it go next? … there’s no way to say for sure. I’d like to write more stories like these, assuming that could be the Lord’s will. Already, I have a fresh series with a half-dozen new stories in mind. These first ones must get some momentum before that can happen.
And that’s where you come in. Everyone knows the most effective marketing is word of mouth. Reviews on Amazon or Audible and Goodreads.com are a big deal as well. We all read those and make decisions about whether to invest our time and dollars based on recommendations.
These are all excellent questions, Andres. And there could be more ─ as much as we have room to write and our time allows. We’ll just have to save them for another occasion. We could almost write another whole book about writing the book.
Thanks for asking me to do this. You’ve been generous with your time to review these books ─ and I think you know it means a lot to me that you also believe they’re worth advancing. You and I are in agreement that our culture can only benefit from wholesome works like this. I’m grateful that you have come alongside one author in working to make that happen.
─ Rodney POWELL