A new book by David John Marotta and Brendon Marotta makes you rethink what is happening in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Published just in time for Christmas, The Haunting of Bob Cratchit is now available for purchase on Amazon as a Kindle, paperback, or hardcover. Whether you are a fan of the original or just curious about the kind of fiction book Brendon and David Marotta have authored, you are in for a treat if you pick up a copy.
I recently had the joy of interviewing my father, which you can read about in my article “The Haunting of Bob Cratchit: A New Book from David Marotta.” Now, I have also had the pleasure of interviewing the co-author of the book, Brendon Marotta, who also happens to be my brother.
For those of you who don’t know him, Brendon is a smart, creative artist and activist who can be successful at just about anything he tries. I’m excited to get to introduce you to him through this interview.
How did you first get involved in this project?
My dad had been talking about it and making notes for years. While I was back in Virginia, he asked if I wanted to co-write it with him. He was more excited about working on this than many other projects I’d offered to help him on. Naturally, I said yes.
What was it like working with your father?
It was great! Men tend to bond over things, especially work they do together. We would work our way into personal topics by talking about characters and how they perceive certain situations or why they might make certain choices.
What was your favorite part of the process?
I loved writing the scene in Stave 4 with Tiny Tim. I won’t spoil it, but it came fully channeled in one sitting and took me by surprise. It made me tear up, and I’ve heard the same reaction from others. That scene remained basically the same all through publication.
Looking back, that was the moment when I discovered that I really knew the characters. It felt like the characters were suggesting scenes and almost talking to me. That made the writing easier. Getting to know these characters was probably my favorite part of the process, but that scene crystallized it.
Tell me a little about the characters in this story.
The characters in this story are more interesting people than most adapting the story show.
For example in the original novella, Tiny Tim says he doesn’t mind being a cripple because it reminds others of “the one who heals cripples.” Who says that? What four-year-old child is happy to be a cripple just because it helps others think about Jesus? Tiny Tim is a much more interesting character on his own than the way he is used in Scrooge’s story. In most A Christmas Carol adaptations, Tiny Tim is nothing more than a prop to make the audience feel sorry for him. In our version, we explore his spirituality a lot more, and it is actually the prayers of Tiny Tim that set the events of the haunting in motion.
What was your favorite moment in the book?
There is a scene where Bob and his wife Emily discuss potential treatments for Tiny Tim. That scene has my favorite line in the book. Let’s just say, Victorian medical treatments would not have helped. You’ll laugh when you read it.
In this project, you had a lot of experience in adaptation, from book to screenplay and from screenplay to book as well as from a 1843 novella to a 2020 book. What did you learn from the experience?
Writing in someone else’s world and style forces you to think about your choices much more, because someone else has already made choices for you. Some of the choices Dickens makes are ones I would never have thought to make. Since you can’t change them, you’re forced to understand them or justify them. Why did he make this choice? How could I make this choice – which I’d never normally make – work for me? It really forces you outside your comfort zone as a writer.
Nine times out of ten when I’d question a choice, I’d discover that, yes indeed, literary-giant Charles Dickens knew what he was doing and deserves all the praise and accolades his writing has enjoyed. (The tenth time, I suspect he was just being paid by the word.)
I also started to learn how and why he made those surprising choices. Now, I think I can replicate some of his genius and weave that style into my own future projects.
Other than A Christmas Carol, what books, authors, or movies is The Haunting of Bob Cratchit most like?
Tone-wise, The Haunting of Bob Cratchit is a horror-comedy. I know that might sound odd, but it is a haunting, complete with creepy ghost children and characters being shown their future deaths. People forget these elements, because of the Christmas cheer that bookends the film. Our story adds an element of comedy, with the funny dialogue you’d expect from modern movies in which an average man is thrown into a supernatural world.
The book that comes to mind is The Chronicles of Narnia. The Narnia books are family-friendly, yet contain some very grown-up ideas and a lot of magic.
Your mom, dad, and sister all work at Marotta Wealth Management. How has coming from a family of financial planners affected your life?
There are a lot of bad decisions I’ve avoided because it wouldn’t even occur to me to make them, like going into debt. Sometimes it’s hard to notice the influence, because that influence is seen in what isn’t there, rather than what is. I think it’s also made me willing to invest in things that I think will pay off long-term, even if they offer nothing immediately. I know my dad made very little during his first years building the business. Now, it’s much more. Because I saw him working at something that paid nothing initially, I’m willing to put in the work on projects that might not pay off till later, which is a skill all artistic ventures require.
What’s your favorite piece of financial planning advice or favorite Marotta article?
The series on A Christmas Carol, obviously.
I also like the series on preparing for the apocalypse, which went viral before “fake news” was a popular term. We made that into a short funny documentary which you can watch here. Watching the impact of that was an education in how media really worked.
Your article on customer service lessons from parenting a toddler is also great. More businesses and people would benefit from realizing that most adults are just grown-up toddlers.
You have been quite successful as an artist. Tell our readers what you’ve done.
I’ve basically worked every job on a film set and edited every type of project, including features. My first feature as director was a feature-length documentary called American Circumcision that appeared on Netflix. I also wrote a book on activism, called The Intactivist Guidebook, made a course on crowdfunding called “Dreams To Reality,” and am currently finishing another book on social issues that affect children.
Truth be told though, I don’t feel like I’m very successful, and tend to focus on the next step, project, or level of success. In some way, this helps make you good at your craft, by forcing you to drive ahead and pursue more. In high school, I compared my projects shot on mini-dv tape to Kubrick, Scorsese, and Kurosawa in an effort to get better. Growth never ends.
What advice would you have for other artists?
Write. Finish what you write. Everything else is superfluous.
I’d also add to trust your unconscious mind and be willing to discover things in the process. This project had a pretty detailed outline, yet we still discovered things in the writing. It’s tempting to want to plan every aspect of a story out, but there will be things you discover along the way. If in a moment a character does something that “ruins” your outline, let them do it and see what happens. You can always edit it or rewrite later.
What financial advice would you have for others who are self-employed?
Create more stuff. When you only have one offering, people can only give you money one way. After I made my first film, people who saw it loved it, but I had nothing else to sell them. Now, I’ve got a film, two books, a course, and more on the way. Ideally, you want offerings at different price points too. Crowdfunding is great, because you can offer something for $5,000 for the people who want more and still give people who only have $5 something too.
In the future, I’d like to expand even more. There are a few artists who are highly successful “one hit wonders,” but they are the exception. When you think about successful writers and filmmakers, there is usually a body of work, even if they have one hit they are best known for, and they are constantly making more. My goal is the same.
It also makes it easier to sell later. Now, if people like this book, they can check out my other stuff. They can even subscribe to my newsletter at BrendonMarotta.com and find out about everything that I come out with.