A Chat With Jeffrey G. Roberts

The Healer - Cover Art

What happens when a 22nd century doctor working on Mars is suddenly stranded 168 years in the past on a violent and primitive world – ours! Such is the premise of author Jeffrey G. Roberts’ SciFi novel, The Healer. With an inventive muse that regularly zips around at the speed of light and an imagination that constantly asks “What if…,” the fun of landing Jeffrey for a feature interview this week is a treat for anyone who has ever wanted to (1) understand how time-travel works and (2) appreciate the therapeutic value of chocolate cream pie.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: When you were growing up back in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, what is the weirdest, oldest or most sentimental item we might have found in the bedroom of your younger self?

A: I guess the oldest would have been two particular books I bought – Stoddard’s Practical Arithmetic, copyright 1853, and Appletons School Reader, copyright 1886. And the most sentimental: my aircraft books! I’m an airplane freak!

Q: What did you dream of growing up to be?

A: My Mom liked to recall a story about how my Dad once went on a business trip. I was about five and he told me I was now man of the house until he got back. And I burst into tears. When asked why, I told him I didn’t want to be man of the house – I wanted to be a horse! Luckily, I have no recollection of this bizarre incident. This is a good thing. But as I got older, and had given up the dream of changing species, I believe I wanted to be a test pilot. Never happened, but I did solo in 1968, and my Mom, Dad, my dog, and I had many happy times flying all over the country in my Dad’s plane. He was a great influence on me, as he was a decorated Spitfire fighter pilot in the R.A.F. during the Battle of Britain.

Q: Were you a good student in school?

A: I was a fair student in High School – because I hated it. I was an excellent student at Northern Arizona University – because I loved it. No brainer.

Q: Your current repertoire includes SciFi, Horror, Fantasy and Comedy. Among the authors who pen works in these popular genres, who do you most admire and what influence have they had on your own style of storytelling?

A: Probably Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, Douglas Adams, and Kenneth Grahame have inspired me most. And, of course, my Dad, who wrote radio drama after WW II.

Q: With a degree in American History from Northern Arizona University, you’ve no doubt spent a lot of time pondering how even the slightest nudge of Fate (including “outside” intervention) could have rewritten the outcome of major events. Were it left up to you, what single historical event would you like to have seen come out differently so as to impact future generations in a profound way?

A: I would have hoped General Douglas MacArthur could have gotten the green light from President Truman, to rid the world of the scourge of Russian and Chinese Communism, when the “infection” was small and weak, thus saving tens of millions of lives.

Q: In 1978 you decided to get serious about your writing career. Was there something significant about that year which fueled your enthusiasm to put your stories in front of an audience?

A: The work I had put into my undergraduate degree in writing, the fact that I wasn’t getting any younger, and my Dad telling me to get a job!

Q: What genre is the most fun for you to write?

A: Probably fantasy/comedy.

Q: Do you typically work from an outline or let the thoughts come naturally as your fingers fly around the keyboard?

A: I work from an outline, hand writing my stories in a black and white composition book, like our parents used. Then, after I’ve “bled” all over it, I put it into the computer.

Q: Does anyone get to read your chapters in progress or do you make them wait until you’ve typed “The End”?

A: Only my two closest friends.

Q: Favorite SciFi movie or TV series?

A: Sleepy Hollow, and the original Star Trek movie. Sleepy Hollow, because even though its premise diverged widely from the original story, I love Washington Irving. And Star Trek because its original premise was based on hard theoretical scientific principles. And many of its devices are actually in use today, not 200 years from now! It also showed a world where global problems have been solved.

Q: In both The Healer and Cherries in Winter, your respective protagonists find themselves thrust into another time period. Speaking for yourself and as an accomplished man of the 21st century, would you rather time-travel to the distant past or the distant future? Why? And what do you feel would be the greatest challenge to deal with?

A: I would prefer to visit the distant future; say, 2100; because I want to experience interstellar travel. I suppose my greatest challenge would be assimilation and understanding of the world of the 22nd century.

Q: If you had to live permanently in whatever time period you suddenly found yourself transported to, when and where would it be?

A: I suppose, as above, the 22nd century. I cannot know if the world will have changed for the better or worse, but that’s the chance you take in the world of time travel!

Q: Time-travel plots often emphasize the dire risks of changing the future through even the most minor acts. (In Back to the Future, for instance, Marty rushing to push his father out of the path of a car delayed his parents’ meeting and required the rest of the movie to get them together by the night of the prom.) What’s your own theory on this; specifically, how can one not change the future by going to the past?

A: It has been postulated that the universe has a governing mechanism to prevent such horror: what I call the Reality Tree, where an infinite number of branches represent all possible realities. If you tamper with one, it vanishes, to be replaced with an alternate, thus preventing reality from exploding!

Q: Speaking of theories, who is your favorite or most annoying “ancient astronaut theorist” on Ancient Aliens?

A: My most annoying – even though he is a Facebook friend – is Giorgio Tsoukalos.  And my favorite is John Greenwald – but not because he published my article on “The Face on Mars Controversy”. No, of course not.

Q: Who or what inspires you to come up with your storylines?

A: Basically what you’re asking me is – what is the nature of creativity? And I haven’t the slightest idea, to tell you the truth!

Q: When and where do you get your best writing done?

A: At my desk, right here. And when? When an idea, or the muse hits me.

Q: Like many authors, you’ve gone the self-publishing route. What is the most challenging aspect of wearing so many hats in order to get your work into circulation?

A: Marketing and promotion, without a doubt. It’s brutal. In comparison, the art of writing itself is a piece of cake, easy as pie. Now I’m hungry!

Q: What are you doing to promote your books?

A: I’m on Facebook, and have a Facebook fan page – A Talespinner – and I’m on Goodreads, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, about 300 Facebook book promotion group pages; I have a website (http://Atalespinner.weebly.com),  and I also promote my books on dozens of book promotion websites, such as Story Cartel, Reader’s Favorite.com, Promocave, Reader’s Gazette, and many others.

Q: In a perfect world, there’d be no such thing as bad reviews. Alas, but they’re a fact of life, even for writers that are seasoned. When someone leaves a snarky critique about your own work, how do you react to it?

A: Thus far, aside from story rejections, which every writer gets, I’ve gotten good reviews, for the most part. What do I do when I get a bad one? I go in my bathroom, put my face in a pillow, and scream obscenities in three different languages. Then I find the biggest piece of chocolate cream pie, and a glass of cold milk. Works for me!

Q: Best advice to aspiring authors?

A: Never accept the opinions of naysayers or dream breakers. There are always going to be people, who for whatever reason, take perverse delight in skewering your most sacred hopes and dreams. Ignore them, and press on! Individuals like that are attempting to blow out your candle, to make theirs appear to burn brighter. Carpe diem!

Q: What do you know now that you wish you had known much earlier?

A: If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: A horror novel, The Horror on the H.M.S. Cottingly.

Q: Where can readers find your books and learn more about you?

A: For Cherries in Winter:

Barnes & Noble – http://bit.ly/1LEdUSh

Amazon – http://amzn.to/1NpBvU8

Kellan Publishing – http://bit.ly/1nPHRp1

For The Healer:

Barnes & Noble – http://bit.ly/1uw2YbA

Amazon – http://amzn.to/ZDv24p

Booklocker – http://Booklocker.com/books/7244.html

Also i-tunes and Kobo. And to find out more about me, you can read my bio at http://Kellan-publishing.selz.com or

http://Booklocker.com/books/7244.html.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Nothing, other than this has been a very enjoyable exercise.

 

 

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Haylee and the Traveler’s Stone

Lisa_and_the_Haylee_Books2

What a pleasure it has been to interview and get to know Lisa Marie Redfern, author of the Haylee etrilogy and Haylee and the Traveler’s Stone (print book soon to be released). Not only is she a wonderful writer, but her talent doesn’t stop there. As an accomplished artist, photographer, and business woman, Lisa stretches the boundaries of her art and her way with words/imagery, enticing followers to dip their toes into the rippling waters of imagination.

Interviewer: Debbie McClure

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Q: Books, movies and even television shows these days are delivering a steady stream of plots that involve the undead, the unreal, and the wickedly supernatural. In your opinion, what accounts for society’s longstanding fascination with characters that are not completely human?

A: A cultural theme occurs when lots of people have similar ideas and begin exploring it in depth. We take our collective temperature with questions such as; What are we afraid of? What defines us as human? How far can we stretch our imagination? What does it mean to be ‘different? How would it feel to be powerful and untouchable? I think the dark nefarious vampires, zombies, and wickedly supernatural characters that are popular today are reflections of our attitudes and worries about the cultural and economic conditions that we live in.

Q: Tell us how you came up with your title.

A: Hyale is a daughter of the Greek gods Oceanus and Tethys. The character Haylee, and the book title, is roughly based on this name…with a modern twist.

Q: Alfred Hitchcock was a master at making cameo appearances in all of his movies. Does Lisa Redfern employ any signature tricks or insider jokes that we should know about?

A: Absolutely! Although I won’t reveal them all—I will say that many of the animal names were family pets. The Rattler/Lovey storyline was based on a rescue dog named Bandit. He lived up to his name. Once it was changed to Happy, he was much easier to live with. Lovey was one of our pet cats.

Q: Tell us about your female protagonist, and the passions that drive her thoughts and actions.

A: Haylee has spent most of her childhood living with a wounded parent—she takes on responsibilities beyond most children her age. She attempts to stay out-of-sight and out-of-mind as much as possible, has an affinity for animals, and possesses a quick mind; she aspires to become a veterinarian. But things don’t go according to plan. When it becomes clear that her strange condition poses a threat to her loved ones, she drops everything to figure out how to stop it. Along her adventurous journey, we see a maturing inner resolve, self-direction, and a belief that something good can be born from facing a problem head-on.

Q: In Haylee and the Traveler’s Stone, Haylee is transported to the turbulent backdrop of the San Francisco Gold Rush in 1849. During this time in California history, the population was dominated by young male adventurers who came from all over the world. Why did this specific era personally resonate with you?

A: I feel connected to this time period because it is woven into the historical fabric of where I live—in the heart of Gold Country. I wanted to develop a deeper understanding about what life was really like by bringing alive the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of that time. In my research, I discovered fun and quirky facts that may not have made their way into commonly read history books.

Q: What do you hope this book will accomplish?

A: My goal is to suck the reader into a vortex of altered time where his/her own life fades out for a while as Haylee’s story takes center stage. Isn’t that the ultimate definition of a good book—to entertain? Along with entertainment, I included those quirky facts (mentioned in the question above), because I want the readers to have something memorable to keep. If Haylee readers (who visit San Francisco) are able to see the city in a new way, I will be thrilled!

Q: Have your characters ever done anything that surprised you?

A: I usually arrive at my keyboard with an outline and longish, handwritten essays that fill in sections of the outline. Days of thought and nights of dreams have gone by as I’ve worked out the complexities of what I plan to write. It is a surprise when I’m typing away and a character goes in another direction…or says something unexpected. They are usually right, but we have to argue about it for a little while before I relent. When I describe it that way, it sounds psychotic doesn’t it?

Q: The publishing industry continues to reinvent itself. The combined effects of downsizing at traditional publishers and the desire by authors to have more control over their intellectual property and pricing structure has led to an escalation in self-publishing endeavors. What are your thoughts on this issue, particularly the debate as to whether a self-published title is as “real” as one produced through traditional channels?

A: Every work published is real. It is meaningful to the person who wrote it, so it can’t be anything else. Prior to 2010, when iPads and e-readers hit the market en mass, publishing houses set the quality standards for reading material before it was released to the public. The flood of independent authors who are self-publishing has changed those standards.

As a consumer, I appreciate knowing that the book I am about to read has a reasonable chance of being good—in subject matter, clean page design, and very little grammatical or spelling errors. When you buy something that has been self-published, quality levels can be hit or miss.

As an artist and independent author, I love having the ability to self-publish. For the very first time in my work life I’m unencumbered and free to create my vision from start to finish. The creation process itself is highly satisfying. I place a great value on producing work that is ‘as good as’ anything that a publishing house would turn out. Fortunately, I have developed the skills to do most of it myself, but I also invest in areas where I need help—editing and some design assistance. There is something ironic about putting so much effort into a product that sells for .99¢, $3.00, or even $5.00. Like those adventuring pioneers who braved the treacherous seas and overland treks with the hope of finding gold, we authors are gambling that more than a few readers will push that shiny, rounded-rectangle button marked ‘buy.’

Q: In addition to being an author, you are also an artist and photographer with a busy home life. How do you find time to write?

A: Good organization is a must. I use a Google calendar synced with my smart phone. Sometimes other jobs have to go to the top of the ‘to do’ list. I get as much done as I can when my son is in school. I enter into my most efficient writing zone after everyone has gone to sleep and the phone isn’t ringing. I try very hard to remind myself to go to bed before it gets too late…

Q: Lisa, you are incredibly multi-talented, and your website, book trailer are amazing. What advice would you give to new writers/artists regarding building a social media or networking platform?

A: 1. Realize that platform building and gaining followers is something that takes time. It starts small and slowly increases over time.

  1. Once you start participating in social media, know that you’ve created a ‘living’ thing that needs to be fed on a regular basis.
  2. Start slow. Choose one or two sites that you think that you might enjoy. Stick with them until you are comfortable before moving on to more.

My social media ‘ah ha’ moment came with Pinterest. Because I am visual by nature and I enjoy organizing data, this was a perfect social site to start with.

Q: As an artist and writer, you are clearly an inspiration to others, but who inspires you? Have you benefited from the wisdom and/or counsel of a mentor? If so, who and why?

A: Inspiration comes from everywhere. To quote Christina Hamlett’s book Screenwriting for Teens, “Log into life. No password required.” Also, my artist friends inspire me when we spend time together setting up art shows, getting our hands dirty, or just sharing and talking about our work.

For authors, I follow the big guys—Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child, Barbara Kingsolver, and Jean Auel for starters. I also follow some of the rising independent author stars—Hugh Howey, Guy Kawasaki, Rysa Walker, and Chuck Wendig. I like studying how they present themselves online, how they interact with their fans, what kinds of stories they are writing next, and what rights they are selling.

My son has a big imagination; he and I have many humorous, “What if …” conversations. Being out in nature, photographing interesting animals, random conversations, seeing something online that grabs my attention, or even just being alone and quiet, are all areas of inspiration.

Q: You’re obviously drawn to the metaphysical and otherworldly in many aspects of your creativity and writing, sometimes blurring the lines between the real and fantastical. What is it that draws you in, or inspires you?

A: Underlying everything is the hope and faith that we are much more than just our physical existence. I think all life is connected, and should be respected and honoured as the incredible gift it is. The real magic in this world is love and our relationships with the people, animals and living things around us. That is what I always attempt to express in both my art and in my words.

Q: A lot of new writers think all they have to do is write a good story and their job is done, but today’s writers are expected to do so much more, whether self or traditionally published. What advice would you give to new writers just starting out on this very long journey?

A: I think that is an urban myth. How did that one ever get started? When I worked as a book publicist, I dreaded the inevitable moment when the author bubble would burst. Once it popped, fairy dust and glitter never spewed out and sprinkled to the ground.

My advice to authors just starting out is similar to the advice you gave in your interview for In the Spirit of Love. Always conduct yourself professionally online. Stick to it – give writing a permanent place at your table – live your life – do what you need to do…and then go back and write some more. Once you have a few books out there for sale, add to your regular routine time to feed the marketing machine.

Q: Many writers and artists struggle with following their creative path vs making a (normal) living, and being accepted in a world that often can’t understand what drives the creative mind. Have you struggled with this, and if so, how do you attempt to overcome it?

A: Oh yes! More than a few times, I’ve wondered if I was adopted. Most everyone in my family is an engineer, accountant, scientist, lawyer, or a business person. Conventional social norms hold the greatest respect for professions with the highest pay scales. If pay scales were based on job satisfaction, artists and writers would be where the venture capitalists and technology moguls are now. I don’t worry about people accepting me. I am who I am, I do what I do, and I am very happy about that.

Q: Where can readers discover more about you and your books online?

Author reads sample chapter Audible.com Lisa’s art portfolio & online store Art and Words Blog Google+ Goodreads Twitter reddit Redfern Writing Facebook Page Join Lisa’s author e-mail list

Lisa: Thank you for the opportunity to participate in a You Read It Here First interview. I enjoyed responding to your thoughtful questions. Additionally, it was a pleasure to become acquainted with you and Christina and your work.