Investigative journalist Tori Ruth, whose website The Ruth Report has broken several recent scandals in Washington and who plays a significant role in The Seduction of Braulio Jules, interviews Tim Treanor, the novel’s author.

T.R.: Well, this is a little weird.

T.T.: It’s a little meta, yeah.

T.R.: Let’s start at the beginning.

T.T.: In the Beginning was the Word…

T.R.: Not that beginning. Your beginning.

T.T.: (Sighs) I wasn’t really there.

T.R.: Okay, let’s skip all the nonsense. You were born in 1951 in Buffalo, New York. Catholic grade school, Catholic high school, Catholic college. All that stuff. You’re – what? – sixty-three?

T.T.: Something like that.

T.R.: And after that you went into local politics. In the town of Amherst, a suburb of Buffalo.

T.T.: I was a Town Committeeman, a foot soldier. And in the fullness of time I was elected to the Town Executive Committee, and then the County Executive Committee. And I worked for a State Senator. Two of them, in fact.

T.R.: So are you Braulio Jules?

T.T.: God, no.

T.R.: How are you different?

T.T.: Well, for one thing, Braulio’s parents are a little insane. Especially his father, who was always chasing after get-rich schemes and could never hold a job. His whole childhood was extremely insecure. My parents, on the other hand, were stable, dedicated, loving people who worked hard to provide my siblings and me with a very safe world in which to grow.

T.R.: So no childhood trauma?

T.T.: (Thinks). I had protruding teeth as a kid. I had to see an orthodontist.

T.R.: Welcome to the club. By the way – and I don’t mean to get off-topic here – but couldn’t you have made me more attractive?

T.T.: (Pauses). You look fine.

T.R.: Oh, I know I’m not deformed or anything. But I’m a little lumpy, I have some facial hair, I’m beginning to wrinkle.

T.T.: You look fine. You look like a human.

T.R.: But with a stroke of the pen you could have made me look like a supermodel. Hope Trails looks like a supermodel.

T.T.: Hope is very attractive. There’s a reason for that. You look like a normal person. There’s a reason for that, too.

T.R.: Is it that I’m not a very important character?

T.T.: You’re an extremely important character. People feel like that…that if they don’t look like Scarlett Johansson or Brad Pitt they’re not important. But that’s nonsense, of course.

T.R.: In other thrillers, all the women look like supermodels.

T.T.: Those authors are hoping for movie contracts. If they get them, all of their characters, male and female, will be played by attractive people. Except, maybe, a comic villain.

T.R.: Don’t you want a movie contract?

T.T.: We’ll see.

T.R.: O.K., let’s get back to your life. You became a lawyer. How come?

T.T.: I was in love with the performative utterance.

T.R.: The what?

T.T.: “And God said, let there be light, and there was light.”

T.R.: So, God was a lawyer?

T.T.: It is the ambition of every writer to write something so powerful that it brings about what it describes. So when God says “let there be light” light came into being. And when, for example, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin she moved so many people that it helped bring about the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.

T.R.: So if I catch your inference, you became a lawyer because you hoped that you could write something – a brief, say, or a speech at a trial or before Congress or whatever – which would bring about a decree, backed with the police power of the State, which would change history.

T.T.: Or even change things in a small way. Like in The Devil and Daniel Webster.

T.R.: How did that work out for you?

T.T.: Not so great.

T.R.: Eventually you left Buffalo and moved to Chicago. Why was that?

T.T.: I was working for a nonprofit that had lost its charter. And the job situation in Buffalo was bad, even for lawyers. For a while I had my own practice. That was fun but not terribly lucrative.

T.R.: It says in your bio that you worked for a modeling agency. I find that hard to believe.

T.T.: You’re misreading what it says. I had a modeling agency as one of my clients. Eventually, they offered to give me office space in exchange for certain services. It was a good deal for both of us, since it allowed me to have an office downtown and gave them a way to fill an office they probably otherwise couldn’t fill.

T.R.: So tell us about that.

T.T.: Once, a friend referred a potential new client to me. And the head of the modeling agency offered to let me use his office, which, unlike mine, was very spacious and airy. The office had these detached closets with whiteboards in them. There was a very elegant desk, and couches – the whole thing was grand.

So the potential clients come in. They are two very conservative guys who want to set up a corporation. I listen to them for a while, and then I think of a way to structure their business which is good both from an operational and tax standpoint. So I go over to one of the closets to use the whiteboard. And I open the doors. I’m looking at them and I see their faces go white. They look at each other and then they look back at me as though my head had just crumbled and fallen off my shoulders.

T.R.: What happened?

T.T.: What do you think? The closet was full of women’s clothes. Frilly, low-cut gowns with lots of beading on them. I found the closet with the whiteboard, but by then it was too late. I explained my idea to them, but I could have been singing nursery rhymes for all the difference it made.

T.R.: So – on to Chicago.

T.T.: I got a job offer from a federal agency. I’m not going to tell you which one because then if somebody buys The Seduction of Braulio Jules somebody else will accuse him of trying to curry favor with my Agency.

T.R.: That doesn’t sound very plausible.

T.T.: Welcome to 2014, Tori.

T.R.: You got married in Chicago, didn’t you?

T.T.: Yes. Everybody has a different experience in finding a life partner, so it probably wouldn’t make sense to generalize from mine. I was forty-four when I married – I’m sort of a slow learner – and had been through many relationships. The thing that I learned is that my life partner has to be somebody who is good for me. There are a lot of reasons to pick a life partner – inducing envy in other people is surprisingly high on the list for many folks – but the only one worth a damn is to be good to yourself.

T.R.: So Lorraine is good to you? And for you?

T.T.: Yes indeedy.

T.R.: Let’s talk about the book. The Seduction of Braulio Jules is the first of three novels, isn’t it?

T.T.: Yes.

T.R.: So when did you start to work on it?

T.T.: 1988.

T.R.: 1988?

T.T.: I am a slow learner. I made every mistake in the book, so to speak. In my first draft it was a pittoresque novel, with all sorts of digressions, like Tom Jones.

T.R.: Tom Jones was written in the eighteenth century.

T.T.: The problem was that it was longer than Tom Jones. And not nearly as good. I didn’t understand that in novels people have to do something, not just comment on things. So, for example, in early drafts Braulio was the guy who carries the nuclear codes – the black box – for the President. That gave him access to a lot of information, but it didn’t give him much to do, unless…you know.

T.R.: Sort of like Forrest Gump.

T.T.: Forrest Gump had a lot more to do than Braulio in these early versions. Then somebody in one of my writing groups suggested that I make Braulio much younger, and add different point-of-view characters in order to give the reader access to what is going on. And that’s what I did.

T.R.: Your novel focuses on the impact that the aging of the baby boom generation will have on Social Security and Medicare. Was that the focus in 1988?

T.T.: Oh, yeah. We’ve known that this problem would come up since the Eisenhower Administration. By 1988 the truth was unavoidable.

T.R.: So if it was so obvious why didn’t we do something about it?

T.T.: Because nobody wanted to do what we’d have to do – pay more taxes or have less by way of benefits. Probably both. Could you imagine a candidate running on a platform: “Raise taxes. Cut benefits. Grow up.”?

T.R.: Probably not the greatest rallying cry. Conceded. So are you a Tea Party guy?

T.T.: I’m a 1 + 1 = 2 guy. If we solve the problem by raising taxes, fine. If we solve it by cutting benefits, fine. If we solve the problem by doing something in between, fine. Just solve the problem.

T.R.: Some people claim that this – austerity – will ruin the economy and bring about a lower standard of living.

T.T.: They’re probably right. It still has to be done. Look, suppose I came to you and said, “I earn a hundred thousand dollars a year and I spend a hundred and fifty. And I’m five million dollars in debt. What should I do?” Would you say “spend less money”?

T.R.: Yeah, or earn more.

T.T.: But what if I said to you, “look at the great house I own! And look at my great car! And last year I summered in the South of France! Are you going to lower my lifestyle through some austerity plan?” Wouldn’t you think that –

T.R.: I get your point. So is this what the Life and Death trilogy is about? The impact of the aging baby boomers on our system of institutional benefits?

T.T.: No, that’s just the framework of the story. It’s what sets things in motion. This is a story about becoming evil, one step at a time.

T.R.: Explain.

T.T.: Braulio Jules and Ned Namon are two basically good young men. They are ambitious, but not malicious. They have dreams; they want to change the world, and generally for the better. Ned’s dreams are a little more realistic, because his skill set is bigger than Braulio’s, but they both have dreams which we would like our children to have.

Now, they both live in the real world, like you…

T.R.: Of course like me.

T.T.: …and like me, and like the people who are reading this interview. They know they have to compromise. And they know that there are short cuts to achieving what they want to achieve…

T.R.: Until your short cut is geronticide. The end justifies the means.

T.T.: The funny thing is that the end always justifies the means if the actor is doing the justifying. Even Steven Land thinks he is being noble. To him, this grisly plan will put an end to an economic crisis which will destroy the country, and so is justified. The trick is to look at your own motivation when you take an unethical act. Are you doing it for a noble cause? Or just for your own benefit?

And here’s the thing: When we demand more out of our government than we’re willing to pay for, we are as responsible as Steven Land is for what happens next.

T.R.: So when is the rest of Life and Death coming out?

T.T.: Part Two around August and Part Three by the end of 2014.

T.R.: Will I be in them?

T.T.: You’ll have to buy the books to find out, just like everybody else.