Author Interview – Session 5
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 if All of the Above is about first waking up, then Rumi’s Field is more about how your characters respond to what they encounter once they’re awake?
A: Sure. Three years have passed since the end of All of the Above. During that time, Linda Travis strove valiantly to lead her nation toward finding a more sane response to the issues of global environmental destruction, economic instability, and resource depletion. She confronted the group that had served as the primary liaison, in the U.S., between the secret human elite and the alien presence, and that group has largely gone into hiding. It almost seemed as though both the aliens and the human elite had disappeared from world affairs.
Q: And in Rumi’s Field she finds out differently.
A: Yes. We meet her at the point where she’s having to confront the limitations of her Presidential power to avert the laws of physics, chemistry, population dynamics, and human psychology. And we learn that there are far deeper levels of hidden elite power and control, and that they are enacting a centuries-old plan of their own.
Q: You sound as if you’re being careful with your words, not wanting to reveal too much.
A: I am, yes. I find stories much more fun when I don’t know where they’re going. I love the surprises around the next corner, the twists and turns, the slowly unfolding mysteries. I love guessing where they’re going, and then seeing if I’m right. I’d hate to deprive my readers of that experience. I avoid spoilers whenever I can.
Q: Thank you.
A: I saw a movie trailer yesterday, for the remake of Ben-Hur. In two and a half minutes, they told the entire story. Hit all the beats. Showed all the major characters, the primary conflict, the story arc. After watching that trailer, I knew that there was now no reason at all for me to see the movie itself, unless all I wanted was two hours of eye-candy. I’d already seen it. I knew exactly how it would resolve, how it would feel. And I was already bored with it. Contrast that with the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane. I’ve got a million reasons to see that one. I need to see it. It looks jam-packed with the sort of delicious reveals that I love, and the trailer told me only the tiny bit I needed to know to get me in the theater.
Q: Okay. So, in that spirit, what would you like to say about Imbolc?
A: Um… not much. But I’ll say what I can. We actually see a scene from Imbolc in Rumi’s Field. A small “flash forward” that reveals something about Cole’s story and points to a future he does not understand. In this small flash, he’s an old man, walking through an ice-encrusted landscape, looking for his daughter, Grace, who’s now grown.
Q: So the story jumps far ahead, then.
A: About thirty years or so. And things have changed a great deal, as a direct result of the events in Rumi’s Field. There’ve been more unravelings of the present social systems, and Linda’s mandate to “reach up to the stars” has flowered in unexpected ways. But you probably shouldn’t quote me on any of this.
Q: Why’s that?
A: Well, the story has yet to fully unfold in my consciousness. I know where it begins, and much of what has transpired in the time between, and I know some really juicy bits about where it’s headed. But until I sit for long periods and view the characters as they live through the story, there’s much that I don’t know. That delicious revelation that happens when you read a book or watch a movie? It happens for me as I write the story as well. It’s the thing that makes writing the most exciting and fun for me. I can’t wait.
Q: The story’s called Imbolc, which, if memory serves, is the old Celtic festival roughly equivalent to the modern Groundhog’s Day. A festival that celebrates the first signs of spring.
A: Yes. So winter has come. But now there’s a new smell to the air, a slightly warmer breeze, and even a new bud or two, appearing on the trees. But I mean that metaphorically as well as physically. Lots of things are shifting.
Q: Will Imbolc center around the same cast of characters?
A: It will center on Cole and Linda, for sure. And it will go more deeply into their relationship. Focusing more on their “love story,” if you will. Around them will be many of the characters we’ve grown to know and love. And a cast of new folks will make their appearance, as we should also expect.
Q: Cats and dogs included?
A: And a rabbit. One who’s been with me for a very long time, and is finally getting the chance to play out his story. And we’ll finally learn why I named my artisanal publishing company Blue Hag Books.
Q: I cant’ wait.
A: You’ll have to. But hopefully not as long as you’ve had to wait for Rumi’s Field.
Q: Yeah. So let’s talk about that. By the time you publish Book 2 this summer, five years will have passed since All of the Above came out. Say more about why it took you so long.
A: (sighing) Well, lots of reasons for that, I think. One we’ve already discussed. While Books 1 and 3 had downloaded at least partially into my consciousness many years ago, and had already manifested in a few chapters, Book 2 took more time for me to stop and sit with and remote view. I had to wait longer for it to download.
Q: And you were using a 56K modem?
A: It felt like it sometimes, yeah. But that’s only a small part of it. I think there were some things that sort of knocked the wind out of me, so to speak. The first being that, while I knew how to write a book, I had no idea how to forge the link between the book and its readers. Having made What a Way to Go, and having amassed a good-sized audience and email list as a result of our documentary, our blogging, and the many connections we made while doing the interview and screening tours, I was astounded to learn that documentary watchers were not necessarily science-fiction readers, and that those who had loved the movie were not automatically interested in following me down this new path. And if they weren’t my readers, then who were my readers? I didn’t know. And I didn’t know how to reach them.
Q: I’ve heard you say that, in your mind, All of the Above was the logical successor to your documentary, that it was the way you wanted or needed to continue the conversation you wanted to have.
A: Yes. But as Sally is fond of pointing out, my Aspergian mind tends to miss some things, and regards things as obvious that are, in reality, not obvious at all. I think she’s probably right. The conversation I’m having in the None So Blind series, while sharing some themes with my former work, is also fundamentally different in some important ways. It’s not the obvious “next step” that people will want or need to take. It’s just a possible next conversation to have. It’s the one that fascinates and excites me, to be sure. And I think it’s a conversation that will fascinate and excite many, many others. But it turns out that I have to find that audience in a different way.
Q: And that realization “knocked the wind out of you”?
A: Well, the lack of response knocked the wind out of me. I failed to easily find the larger audience I’d dreamt of. But the realization came much later, and is still unfolding.
Q: And there were other things that knocked the wind out of you?
A: I think so, yes. One was just the busyness of daily life. There were houses to renovate, and Sally’s many projects and businesses to support and help with. I also took a left turn into rock and roll for about eighteen months, hooking up with a group of musicians and singing and playing my electric mandolin and drumming a bit, stepping into an old, secret dream I had not allowed myself to even consider before. That took a great deal of my time and energy and consciousness.
But probably the biggest factor was that I had to go through some rather dark times of withdrawal and anxiety and grief and loss and self-examination. For me to write, I need a background of peaceful routine and a sense of safety. I’d lost what little I had of that, and it took me a long time to recover it.
Q: But you’ve recovered it now?
A: I’ve recovered it enough to dive fully back into my work, yes. Anxiety remains a constant friend, though he doesn’t call as often as he used to, and his voice is not quite so loud as it was. I’ve found I had to face head-on into the truth of my being, so that I could understand why my life had gone as it had gone, why it was going as it was going, and why so much of it felt hard and challenging and confusing. As it turns out, I am “afflicted” with both Asperger’s Syndrome and very high IQ scores.
Q: “Afflicted” is a funny term to apply to high IQ scores.
A: Sure. That’s why I said it with scare quotes. And I don’t actually consider either Aspergers or high IQ as an affliction. Both confer upon me a set of superpowers I’m quite glad to have, and I would trade neither of them in for a new rack of letters, to grab a metaphor from the Scrabble game. But so many things are two-edge swords, in a very all-of-the-above sort of way. While they convey certain advantages, both Aspergers and high IQ come with some significant costs attached to them. Those costs had begun to really add up in the last five years or so. They’d become a great weight on my soul, and showed up in every relationship I had, and interfered with my ability to simply calm down enough to sit and write, to feel safe in the Cosmos. So I had to take some time and sort my way through them. Declare psychological bankruptcy, if you will, and get the creditors off my back enough that I could rebuild my sense of self.
Q: It sounds like you’ve done a great deal of that now.
A: I have. In a way, getting these two “diagnoses” allowed me, in Sally’s words, to “get my ticket stamped.” I was able to admit the truth of myself to myself, and then to others, which I do in my blog. I was able to find some new sources of peace and power. And now, knowing what my superpowers are, I’m able to consciously apply them to my work. I hadn’t really “known” how smart I was, how able I was to learn and understand certain things, and how much ability I do have to forge connections with other people, even if only, or primarily, through the written word. Knowing that, I can dive in.
So I’m creating my own “crash course” in social media, blogging, writing and editing, marketing, and putting my work into the world in a way that others can find it. I feel “credentialed” now in a way that I did not before. I have great gifts and a unique way of seeing the world. And I know now that my writing is really good, and valuable to others, and is worthy of a larger audience.
Q: I’m glad you’ve figured that out. When you read through your Amazon reviews, it seems like there are a bunch of people that already knew that about your work.
A: By talking about my previous failure to find a larger audience, I hope I don’t sound ungrateful for the audience I did find. I’m so thankful for those who have read All of the Above, and especially for those who’ve taken the time to leave a review, or a comment on Facebook, or a like or a tweet or a follow or a share. This conversation that I’m having in my writing, it’s beginning to feel really fun when I get to have that conversation with other real human beings, rather than just with the more abstract “Mind at Large.” I can know, intellectually, that there’s a large community of lurkers out there, people from whom writers will never hear directly. So in actuality, I won’t ever really know exactly how big my audience might be, or who they are. But sometimes it’s difficult to remember that, and feel the truth of it. And the circuit doesn’t feel complete, when I don’t trust that my stories are reaching the ears that want and need to hear them.
Q: Speaking of lurkers, when you write about secret elite conspirators and their nefarious plans, do you ever wonder, or fear, that some of them are “lurking” out there, red-flagging you for watch lists or following you for possible usefulness to their plan?
A: (laughing) Worry? Not at all. In fact, to the extent that there really are “secret elite conspirators” out there, which would be another topic altogether, I’m hoping to catch their attention.
Q: Really? And why is that?
A: Because I’m fascinated by them. And I want to know the truth of things, and to see the world through their eyes, and understand better why things have gone the way they have gone. I wish the Fisherman would take me on a guided tour of the “breakaway civilization,” if it exists as some people describe.
Q: And the aliens? You want them reading your books?
A: Wouldn’t that be interesting? I can imagine Spud, reading All of the Above, and shaking his head at the parts I got wrong. Maybe he should write an Amazon review!
Q: Sometimes I have difficulty knowing when you’re just joking.
A: You and me both, Q.