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Bob Rich Interview: Questions: by Wendy Laing
Hi Bob! I find that like you, I have enjoyed writing for most of my life, and have a varied background in careers before getting published.
Have your writing styles and ideas for your books changed as your careers changed?
Congratulations, Wendy, I've never considered this question before. Early on, I was doing scientific research, so my writing was research papers. When I worked for the CSIRO, I also wrote plain-language reports on applications of research. But then, I "retired" in 1978 to build my very first house, and got jobs in the building trades to learn. In 1980, I wrote my first article for Earth Garden magazine, and much the same kind of information I'd written while working reached many more people. My next occupation was as a nurse, and I started writing fiction to spend the time while in a nurses' home. My first short story incorporated the lesson from something I learned as part of nurse education: Peace for the Joker, which is one of the stories in my anthology Through Other Eyes. It actually won a prize. And of course psychotherapy is a constant inspiration for writing fiction. The two occupations use a very similar skill set: empathy, striving for understanding, compassion. Suppose I am writing from a villain's point of view. To make him into a real person, for the time being I need to think like him, share his worldview, accept his rationale for his actions, all his blind spots. It'll come through my writing if I disapprove of him, and that would emphasise that this is only a story, told by someone. Similarly, when a person who had done terrible things came to me for therapy, the only way I could be of service was to reject the action, but care for and support the person with empathy.
Hit and Run is your latest book. What inspired you to write this book?
I've often had people come to me because of a relationship breakdown. But when this happened to a close friend, I felt bad on her behalf. Because I shared her emotion, I could not possibly lead her out of it, or help her to process it. This is why such "dual relationships" are unethical. Bullying, victimisation, the hurting of vulnerable people makes me furious. In school, I was only involved in two fights. Both times, I was defending someone from attack. The second was actually a teacher; an overweight gentleman waiting to retire. On one of the last days of the school year, this classmate punched him, saying, "I always wanted to punch a teacher!" So, he copped it from me, with bells on. One day, I had a "victim of crime" client whose story got me feeling like finding his attackers and putting them in hospital. Mind you, I haven't given in to such impulses since I was 21, but I couldn't work with him unless I got rid of my reaction. So, I put the emotion into a story. I thought the villain would get his just reward. The story ended up as this book,and the criminal ended up more a hero than a villain, and the story isn't one of retribution, but of compassion and growth. That's not my doing, but of the witness I invented.Once she came to life, she took charge, and I just had to do as I was told.
Is it your first paranormal book?
Wendy, I don't worry about such labels. I just write. Whatever comes, comes. I have a good layman's understanding of quantum mechanics. Max Planck, one of its originators, said, "I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness." I once interviewed Cynthia Sue Larson, who collects real-life-sized instances of events that defy what we consider as normal. Basically, belief shapes reality. Because lots of people believe that telepathy is impossible, it is impossible -- except for those people who know with full confidence that it is possible. Some of my earliest short stories had elements that common sense considers impossible. For example, Striking Back from Down Under contains the "Takamaka Fredom Fighters," in which Mrs. Jones has very useful magical abilities. I still get a good chuckle when I re-read this story. Here is one snippet: "What you don't know, Mr. Billson," she said to the rooster, "is my real name. 'Jones' is my husband's name. My name is Romanska Caratisceu. On my father's side, I'm descended from the great Count Dracula himself, and my mother was a gypsy. As you can see, I have inherited their abilities." My previous book, Guardian Angel, has what you would consider paranormal elements, which I am pretty sure could be explained by science if we had it better developed. This little Aboriginal girl had the gift of Love: if she touched you, you would come to love her, and generally become the kind of person the great religions want us all to be. Unfortunately, hate provided a barrier against her "magic." She also automatically "read" people's thoughts, and after she died, she could choose to appear to people. This was because she was sent to earth to learn how to be a human, before taking up her role of being a guardian angel for us.
Hit and Run is a clever mixed genre of police procedural, crime, psychology, and paranormal. How difficult was it for you to combine these genres?
I have an immense disability: I can never, ever, fit into other people's boxes. One of my cliches is: I am not a square peg in a round hole, but a fractal-shaped peg that makes its own hole. One of my reviewers said I've invented a new genre:
- Hit And Run, a new novel by Dr. Bob Rich, is something quite rare--actually an example of a new genre of novel. Call it EA for Elderly Adult fiction. Call it whatever you will, I call it a brilliantly told story. The protagonist, one Sylvia Kryz, is clever, humane, and gifted as an artist. And one other thing--late in her life, in her mid-eighties, she comes to recognize she has an incredible gift. Her empathetic nature has blossomed into a supernatural talent to connect with a troubled young man in ways both frightening and wonderful. Five Stars, a simply Must Read for mature adults of all ages. ~ Reviewed by John Klawitter, Hollywood writer/director/producer
Did you base the characters of Hit and Run on any 'real' people that you've met in your counselling career?
Almost certainly, but I don't know. Being an introvert, I am a constant observer. The way the leaves of a tree move in a breeze... the smell of burnt toast... The way storm clouds look with the last light of the setting sun on them... the face of a little child with a freshly scraped knee... the tone of voice of someone revelling in a piece of gossip... the way a marathon runner bursts past the finishing line, then collapses three steps later... it's all stored away, and who knows where it may emerge? The ingredients are there. When I am in the grip of inspiration, something or someone selects them, and blends them into a new, unique person or scene or conversation or view. The techniques the two psychologists use in the story are what I used in my psychotherapy practice, but actually it's both ways. When I had the psychologist, Vlad, hand cards to my killer boy, Charlie, I thought, "What a great idea!" and from that time on, I used his cards for my clients. The story reports several of the cards he'd composed, and I copied them off him.
This book reflects current issues of accidents with cars involving victims, and perpetrators avoiding admitting guilt in everyday life, at present. Your characters experiences and feelings are deeply revealing. How hard was it for you to mesh these revelations into your main story?
Well, the car running over the little kids was no accident. I avoid such difficulties by the way I write. To me, a novel is a daisy-chain of scenes
. Each is told from the point of view of one of the characters, and I do my best to induce my reader to BECOME that person for the time being. So, the story is a sequence of scenes, joined with short word bridges, especially when we need to skip time and/or place. In a way, each scene needs to be a short story that has a beginning, body and end. It needs to be built on previous happenings, and open up future ones, so that the reader feels compelled to find out what's coming next. I can only get you to become one of the characters if I become that person while writing. So, what I write comes naturally. It doesn't feel that I am inventing it, but channelling it.
Are you going to write more books of this genre?
Since John Klawitter has accused me of having invented the genre of Elderly Adult fiction, perhaps I should send in my order for more. However, the book I've just emailed to my publisher is nonfiction: From Depression to Contentment: A self-therapy guide. I am playing around with a science fiction series of 5 books. Three are complete, and I am near to finishing the fourth, while I have some 12,000 words of the fifth written. The hero of this story is 14 at the start, not all that elderly.
The trick here is to say something new. I've often given advice of this kind, and don't want to repeat myself. OK, I write for two reasons. First, it's been my current creative activity this century, and everyone needs creative activities. You are not really alive without them. Writing is perfectly designed to fill your world with pleasurable, challenging, meaningful activity. Second, I want to make a difference. It's like, you can cook because it's a necessary chore, or you can cook because it's an artform, and because you give pleasure to the people who eat the product of your work.
Do you set a definite time each day or during the week to write?
No, writing is not like that for me. When I am pecking at my computer keyboard, I am recording what's clamouring to get out. That's recording, not composing. Instead, my writing is continuous. Awake or asleep, doing the myriad tasks of living, my crazy mind works under the surface. When a concept is ready, it lets me know. Incidentally, I think everybody's mind works like this, if you train it to escape the bonds of conventionality. Here is an example. I came across a short story contest with the theme of "positive manned space flight within the next fifty years." Well, according to my reading of the readily available scientific evidence, in fifty years' time, humanity won't have the technological capacity to make a motor car, or the fuel to run one, never mind a space ship. So, I thought, I need a story about a space rescue that's realistic
. What popped up was a young fellow coming out into the dark night for his turn at guard duty, carrying his crossbow... I merely needed to record Dummies in Dimensional Drive
, one of the stories in Bizarre Bipeds: What IS humanity's place in the universe?
Are you good at editing your own writing?
I am a professional editor, after all. Everything I write, even an email, is as good as I can make it. I revise and scan my writing many times. Mind you, I still miss errors in my own writing I'd pick up in someone else's like having an of for an or. So, I have ongoing exchange arrangements with friends whose editing skills I respect. One is my daughter Natalie, who has hawk eyes. Another is Emeritus Professor Florence Weinberg
, who writes excellent historical fiction. We beta read and line edit each other's work.
Is there going to be a sequel for Hit and Run?
Someone suggested that I should write about what happens when Charlie is released from jail after five years. It's possible, but not probable. I do have many other potential projects, and I think this story ended at a magically beautiful conclusion. Wendy, thank you for having me here, and your sometimes challenging questions. One thing I enjoy about the interview trail is that while some questions get repeated, each host thinks up something novel. Your first question has never been asked by anyone, including myself! I'd like to give a free book to a randomly chosen commenter. The lucky person can ask for any of the books I've mentioned. To allow subscribers to my newsletter Bobbing Around to participate, deadline is 6th September.
Dr Bob Rich is actually a 13 year old girl who has invented this online personality. She gets a great giggle from fooling so many people, so well. Obviously, she is a storyteller, that's to say, a liar. Don't believe anything she says, which means don't believe that she is a liar. As she said above, belief creates reality. You can admire her creative work by looking at Bob Rich's blog
and his writing showcase
Dr Bob Rich
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