Author Q&A with Kyle McCord

November 9, 2021

Kyle McCord , author of Reunion of the Good Weather Suicide Cult,  was kind enough to answer several questions I had in mind. In this era which seem to embrace cultish mentality, as well as “cancel” culture this book seem very timely.

Q.  How do you write? Do you do an outline or just start typing?
A. I was intimidated by the idea of writing a novel, so to give myself an incentive to finish, I outlined all of the scenes in the book before I began. That way, I was excited to keep writing to get to later scenes that I was quite invested in. I used the outline as a guide wire whenever I felt overwhelmed, though I deviated from the plan for the book all the time.

I write in mighty bursts. I store up ideas for long periods of time then will write an entire book in a month. One of my skills is that I can focus all my energy into a single task for about thirty days. Of course, after those thirty days, I have to take a huge break before revising. I have to sort of let the mold of a book settle, if that makes sense!

Q.  What made you think of writing a novel from the perspective of a survivor of a mass cult suicide?
A. I’ve always been a religious person. So, this, for me, is the black mirror. I think we all imagine the darkest dimension we could live in, at one point or another. Over the last few years, when cultish devotion has been on display (no religion even needed!) across our culture, I have been thinking more and more about this. Then, my wife and I were watching a documentary about Heaven’s Gate. In that documentary, people who had left the cult discussed how they had a reunion some years after the suicide. I said to my wife, “Wow, to be a fly on the wall for that!” Then, the idea rattled around in my brain like the ball in a spray paint can, and before you know it, I had to paint it out on the page.

Q. Do you think any documentaries, Netflix or otherwise, are biased? Or do they have some sort of an agenda?
A. I actually teach a class on True Crime, so we discuss this often! I think all writing makes an argument. Documentaries give us a lens through which to see an event. I think there are ways filmmakers can be more or less objective, but total objectivity seems impossible.

But Netflix, documentaries, and such have a lot of power. The medium offers a very authoritative vision that seems omnipresent in scope. But much of the work is necessarily conjecture. Viewers don’t always understand that.

Plus, there is such a power differential between the person behind the camera and the person before it. I often show my students the film Nightcrawler to illustrate how easy it is for someone without a very firm ethical compass to use that power to their advantage to the detriment of our society.

The credence we give to these forms of media can wreck individuals on a personal level. That is the power of the spotlight. That sort of attention can be ruinous, even for people with very little to hide.

Q.  What was your research process like when attempting to research cults, especially ones as extreme as the one you write about?
A. I have been researching for years, without really thinking about it. In the early 2000s, I became interested in David Koresh. I read every book that the UMass library had on Waco. Then I started watching documentary after documentary about different cults in the US. That continued through last year. I took a course on documentary filmmaking from a fellow who worked for Frontline. I learned a lot there.

On the lighter side, I lived in voluntary poverty for a year while working for a religious organization called Brethren Volunteer Service. Through them, I served as evangelical outreach coordinator for roughly fifty some churches in Ohio. I learned plenty about how religious community can function in healthy or unhealthy ways. From that, I could see how someone like Rain, the megalomaniac of our story, could take advantage of those types of communities.

Q. What are the challenges of book promotions in the social media age?
A. I would say the biggest obstacle is that my book is not a picture of a kitten. Just kidding, but there are certainly challenges. The internet is a cacophonous structure. It is hard to cut through the noise. I had the advantage of the incredible marketing team at Atmosphere, who tirelessly worked on behalf of the book. So, my thanks to them!

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Author Q&A with Kyle McCord
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Author Q&A with Kyle McCord
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Kyle McCord , author of Reunion of the Good Weather Suicide Cult,  was kind enough to answer several questions I had in mind. In this era which seem to embrace cultish mentality, as well as "cancel" culture this book seem very timely.
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Man of la Book - A Bookish Blog
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