Author Interview – Session 1
The View from Inside My Writing Process
Note: As I continue to push through my final, smoothing edit, I’m concurrently working on a number of marketing and branding tasks. In order to help book reviewers, I’m making ready an interview to which they can refer. I sat for long sessions with a person named Q, and will post our discussion here in small sections as I go along.
Q: So let’s start by talking about your new book sitting here on the table. It looks pretty thick.
A: (laughing) Yeah, it’s a whopper all right. It’s called Rumi’s Field, it’s a sequel to All of the Above, and it picks up the story approximately three years later, following many of the characters from the first book, as well as a great many new ones that stumbled onto the playing field as I wrote. Were we in an elevator and I only had thirty seconds, I’d give you the rough draft of my tagline:
As the world falls further down the stairwell of environmental and societal collapse, President Linda Travis meets with a member of the Secret Elite Rulers of the World to discuss the intentional reduction of the global human population.
Q: Hijinks ensue, no doubt.
A: No doubt.
Q: That’s… uh… quite a topic you’ve chosen there. No wonder you needed so many pages.
A: That’s part of it, yes. The discussion between Linda and the man she knows as the Fisherman is long and far-ranging, and the topic takes a great deal of time to unpack and examine. But there are a number of subplots and side stories that play out at the same time. Unlike All of the Above, which tended to stick closely to Linda and Cole as they had their series of adventures, Rumi’s Field plays out in parallel, as we jump back and forth from character to character and situation to situation.
Q: That sounds like fun. Was it more difficult to write it that way?
A: It did require more mental juggling on my part, yes. But it was an exciting challenge and a fascinating process.
Q: So how did you decide to write about “the intentional reduction of the global human population”? I mean… that’s some fairly rocky ground to walk upon, isn’t it?
A: Well, first, I would say that I didn’t “decide.” It was given to me to do, and I did it. Second, it’s a question that’s out there, wandering around in the dominant global culture. You start looking at the environmental situation and it becomes immediately apparent that the exponential rise of the human population is a key facet of the present planetary predicament. And soon enough, in true If-you-could-go-back-in-time-and-kill-Adolf-Hitler-would-you? fashion, people begin to wonder whether, if there were a way to quickly reduce the human population, would they take it? I know I’ve thought about it. I’m sure others have as well. But it’s not a topic for polite conversation, so we have to pretend that we don’t think about it.
Q: Don’t you think-
A: Hold on. Let me finish my thought. Third, I would say that the question of intentional population reduction isn’t really the point of the book, so much as a vehicle I use that allows me to explore other things.
Q: Okay. So… lots to talk about here. Start by telling me what you mean when you say you didn’t “decide” to write about it. Who gave this to you to write about?
A: I don’t know, really. Or I do, but I’m not sure how to speak of it. I mean, I could answer that question in lots of ways. My subconscious? The Muse? The Source? The Great Hologram? The Morphic Field? The gods? The ancestors? When I say it was given to me to do, that I didn’t decide, I’m speaking to my feeling experience of the process. I don’t feel like I had a choice. I do feel like the story was given to me from something outside, beyond, above, and other than my rational, thinking, deciding egoic mind.
Q: Any chance that’s just a way to put the responsibility for writing about this topic on someone besides yourself?
A: (smiling) Ouch.
Q: Sorry. I’ll take you off the hook. Because I think you’re right. The question is out there. I’ve thought about it as well, just as you say. I think lots of people have. And I, for one, am glad that you listened to the gods, or whomever, and wrote about it.
A: Thanks. It’s interesting. I mean, I can feel myself flinching as I discuss this. It’s so not okay, to think about and talk about such things. There’s so much pressure to remain positive, and not without good reason. And, collectively, I think, we’re sitting on a huge, pressurized well of fear and grief and loss and shame and guilt and longing and rage and hope, a powder keg of suppressed feeling. So it feels like we have to be very careful about what we think about, and talk about, and feel about. Because if we open just a tiny hole to peer inside, the whole thing might blow up on us.
Q: So, then… if it feels risky to talk about it, why are you talking about it?
A: Well, the book’s going to come out soon and this discussion is in it. I can’t hide it. It’s right there, black words on white paper, easy to see. So I figure I’d better come clean from the get-go. Otherwise, I’ll end up with a stack of returns.
Q: My guess is that people are secretly aching to talk about such things. If, as a culture, we’re looking at the future and wondering if humans will survive, then it feels natural to me to also ponder what would happen should we be bring intention to the matter. It’s not really a new idea. You can see it at work on the personal level. When a person gets a fatal diagnosis, one of the things many of them ponder is the possibility of suicide. Going out on their own schedule, before it gets really painful. I think people do wonder whether there is some secret, elite group out there, plotting such things. You just allow us to meet one of them: the Fisherman.
A: Well, the problem is that, at that larger scale, we go beyond the individual question of suicide to the larger and much more delicate questions of assisted suicide, murder, and genocide. But, personally, I’m fascinated by these questions, and I think that others are as well. And I think science fiction is the perfect place in which to think and talk about such matters. So it may turn out that this notion that feels really risky when I talk about it is actually one of the things that helps my writing find its larger audience. “Going for the jugular,” as Natalie Goldberg says.
Q: Well, you hit mine, for sure. So if “intentional population reduction” isn’t really the point, so much as a vehicle for you to explore other things, what are the other things?
A: Thanks. I was hoping you’d go there next. Because it’s the “other things” that I am most interested in. When the Fisherman confronts Linda Travis with this question, she’s forced to confront the larger issues around it. The nature of reality. The truth about consciousness, death, and what lies beyond. The judgments of “right and wrong” and “good and evil” through which we view these things. The possibility that most people are stuck viewing the questions of societal and environmental collapse through the limited and obscuring lens of scientific materialism. The possibility that there is much more going on here than the dominant global paradigm allows most people to see. That’s why the book is titled the way it is. The Fisherman calls the place they are meeting “Rumi’s field,” referring to a Rumi poem Linda first heard from her brother-in-law Obie in All of the Above. It’s a land that lies beyond those judgments of right and wrong. An open space in which true dialogue can happen, and the deep questioning of assumptions and beliefs and language can occur.
Q: I have the poem right here. (reading) Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense. (stops reading) That sounds like quite a place.
A: Yeah, but it can feel like a long journey, to get there.
Q: So where’s this “Rumi’s field” in the new book?
A: On the surface of Mars.
photo credit: ツール・ド・フランス覇者ペドロ・デルガド / Charla de Pedro Delgado sobre ciclismo via photopin (license)