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Mindy Books, Books & More Books: Thank you for visiting with us today. What made you choose to write a satire on a subject many people consider sacred, such as nuns?
The purpose of a satire is to make fun of the things that people hold sacred, to challenge people’s beliefs and make them think twice about the world. And, of course, what could be more sacred than nuns and religion?
In part, the desire to be sacrilegious came from my upbringing. My dad was a preacher, and both my grandparents were preachers. My parents met in college at a Bible school, and my dad had been a teenage evangelist. Moreover, I had gotten religion in high school and attended a Southern Baptist church, but had drifted away from religion by the time I reached college and had become anti-religious. Despite my grandmother’s desires, I had no intention of becoming a third-generation preacher.
The birth of The Three Sisters was serendipitous. A friend of mine gave me a couple illustrations of nuns that she had found, and I got the idea of turning one of the photos into a wanted poster. Nuns are supposed to be as straight as an arrow. Their job is to make sure schoolchildren behave, not to misbehave themselves, so I thought my fellow college classmates would laugh at the idea of nuns gone wild, especially if they had been in Catholic School themselves (this was back in the 1970s when there actually were nuns teaching Catholic School).
My fellow classmates thought the Wanted poster, in which they were accused of assaulting a meter maid, was funny. I had another photo, and followed up with a story about the three nuns kidnapping an elderly couple and demanding “three well-built men” in exchange for the elderly couple. Students started asking me what was going to happen next, and thus the three sisters sacrilegious serial satire was born.
The bottom line is, if people hadn’t found my sacrilege funny, I never would have pursued it, but they did find it funny. I started putting out a new episode every week and the serial gained a following. This created the plot for The Three Sisters which I turned into a book after I graduated from college.
The Three Sisters didn’t and doesn’t just make fun of religion. Too many sacrilegious books I have read that stick to religion get boring after a while since they repeat the same themes over and over again. In order for sacrilege to be effective you need a good context for your book to avoid being a one-note wonder.
Classical satire, along the line of Candide, Gulliver’s Travels, Gargantua and Pantagruel and other books are aimed at society as a whole. In their day, Voltaire, Swift and Rabelais wrote their satires because it was dangerous to attack the establishment directly. Today, attacking the establishment is a national sport, though how effective it is in changing things is another matter.
Sacrilege is just a jumping off point for the novel. As the book develops and the three sisters become entrapped in circumstances they have themselves created, the novel moves on to non-religious subjects. The book attacks not only established religion, but government, the media, corporations, commercialism and everything in between.
Putting the novel in the form of a satire makes its wit even more effective. Moreover, satire allows you to do things that would otherwise be impossible. The events in the novel could never happen in the real world in a million years, but there is a certain logic to the flow of events, including the final plot twist, which makes it all credible to the reader.
Although the main goal of the book is to make the reader laugh, I hope the satire also makes people think about the world around them. That is what Voltaire and Swift did, and I hope I have been able to follow in their footsteps.