Author Interview – Session 2
The View from Inside My Writing Process
Q: Let’s talk about some of the other “side stories.” Which characters from All of the Above made it into Rumi’s Field? Which didn’t? And while Linda is having this long conversation with the Fisherman, what are the other characters up to?
A: (smiling) Times are so urgent you have to ask your questions three at a time, eh?
Q: (laughing) Good one! That was something Obie said to Linda Travis in Book One.
A: Yep. And it gets repeated, to different effect, in Rumi’s Field. But, to answer your questions, I’ll start with who didn’t make it, since that’s a shorter list.
A: The Inuit. Sina and Aamai and Utterpok and the rest. They’ve “gone out onto the ice” and don’t appear in Rumi’s Field, though I have a suspicion we’ll see them in Book Three. Ben, Cole’s father, has died in the time between Book One and Book Two. The General makes a very brief appearance at the beginning of Book Two, but then disappears. And most of the characters who made their final exits in All of the Above – Pooch, Ruth, Immaqa, Mr. Random, Mork – they seem to be gone for good, though nothing is certain, since there’s Book Three still to come.
A: Well, some characters are just too much fun to let a little thing like death stand in the way of their continued existence.
Q: Care to give us a hint?
A: Let’s just say that getting sucked into a rubix, which is a sort of tamed black hole, doesn’t necessarily obliterate you from the Cosmos.
Q: Got it. And that’s an ongoing theme or device in your stories: that death may not mean the end of consciousness.
Q: So, other than the missing characters you’ve mentioned, the gang’s all here?
A: I think so, yeah. They’re back, in larger roles, or smaller, or in very different forms or guises. Cole and Linda. Iain, Emily and Grace, and their dog, Dennis. Mary, Keeley, Stan Walsh, Stendahl Banks. They all figure into one or more parallel storylines. There are kidnappings and rescues and confrontations that play out. Confusions of identity and sleights-of-hand and healing journeys into the past. There’s a global pandemic to deal with, and an enormous hurricane. There’s the secret elite and their mysterious Plan. And there are those pesky aliens, meddling in human affairs.
Q: Is Spud around?
A: We see Spud as much as he allows us. He can be quite furtive, you know, and has the power to distract our thoughts so that we don’t notice him. But, yeah, he’s around, doing his enigmatic alien thing.
Q: It’s interesting that you mention a hurricane, as I read once how you describe your writing process using the hurricane as metaphor.
A: Yeah, I added a hurricane on purpose. The process I went through with both of these books felt like a hurricane to me. I’m going through my life, attending to other things, not noticing that the deep ocean of ideas inside of me has warmed considerably. Eventually, a storm begins to gather far out to sea. It builds, it strengthens, it begins to gyre and gimble. Soon it’s a huge storm, heading right at me. It makes landfall, blows through me, tearing the roof off of my days and uprooting my routines. Eventually, the power of the storm lessons and it moves on. Forces are rebalanced. The air is clean and fresh. The sun returns.
Q: And that’s how it feels inside, to write these books?
A: It’s a way to describe it, yes. And the stories themselves follow the same course. When the books begin, we’re at a point where huge forces are out of balance, swirling and blowing and ready to hit the characters head on, and I follow them as their lives are disrupted and their assumptions are uprooted, and let it play out until balance is restored and the sun returns.
Q: So you just went ahead and put an actual storm into Rumi’s Field?
A: Well, as I followed the characters, I couldn’t help but notice that a real hurricane was brewing out to sea, so I was compelled to write that in. Much of the story is set on the Maine coast, out on the water, or on Squirrel Island. What better place for a hurricane to hit?
Q: The Maine coast isn’t really hurricane country, is it?
A: After a few more years of climate destabilization, who knows?
Q: Right. So, you’ve also got new characters, you said.
A: I do. A number of them, but a few who stand out. There’s Gabrielle, the daughter of the Canadian MP who betrayed Linda and Cole in All of the Above. She steps up for a prominent role in Rumi’s Field, mostly playing opposite another so-called “alien,” Zacharael, who made a few rather mysterious appearances in Book One. Her father’s role is expanded as well, as a way to reveal more about the secret elite. There’s Linda and Cole’s cook and confidant, Ness, who features in a storyline involving the kids, and who ends up being more than she at first seems. There’s a group called The Church of the Stranger, some members of which get involved with Cole and Stan. And then there’s Mihos, a cat, who lives in two different layers of reality, as all cats do, and acts as both guide and rescuer for Iain, Emily, and Grace. Of all the new characters, Mihos was the most fun to hang out with. He’s a hoot.
Q: I remember that there was a great deal of “dog energy” in All of the Above.
A: Yep. And now we’ve got “cat energy” as well. And “cat versus dog” energy. Mihos appeared from nowhere, literally “out of the darkness.” He had to be written. The cats demanded equal time.