Five Writing Questions From a 13 Year Old

 

The Road Has Eyes: A Relationship, An RV and A Wild Ride

My Blood Is In Every Word

I’m using a promotional service to market my book, “The Road Has Eyes”.  I was asked to write a brief intro about the book and then to answer any five of the twenty five questions posed by the book promoter’s daughter.  I was charmed by the very concept.  So, below, is my response to this interesting request.

This book is a travel-adventure memoir. Some of things that happen in the book seem   impossible but they actually happened.   My wife is part Apache, a Medicine Woman and healer. Being in her company seems to provoke an element of the weird and the miraculous.  

Ten years ago we were living in a rented cottage in Marin County, California. The monthly bill was incredibly expensive.   We were dropping $2500 a month for a one bedroom house. It was a nice house, I’ll admit. It was out in the woods, it was quiet and the deck gave a view of the night sky.   It was a very pleasant place, but we were going broke maintaining that life style.

We had bought a little pop-up trailer to tow behind our Jeep. We made our first trip to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. This is where the book starts, with the statement “How could you be so stupid?”

In spite of making incredibly dumb rookie mistakes, we were bitten by the camping bug. Soon we were driving a thirty year old RV. Our adventures in that broken-down camper, which we named Yertle, form a big part of the book. It was during a second trip to Arches that we met a couple who were living full time in a Class A Motor Coach. Living full time in an RV? Was that possible? Sure it was! Bit by bit we acquired RV experience until we got ourselves out of that $2500 a month hobbit house and bought a 38 foot Class A Motor Home. We’re still living in this RV.   It has saved us vast amounts of money and has provided backgrounds for a variety of adventures.

          That, dear readers, is the book, “The Road Has Eyes: A Relationship, An RV and a Wild Ride.”

 

Below are the five questions I answered for my young interviewer.

 

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

 

The most surprising thing I learned in creating my books was that I could do it. I could actually write books.   They have mass, structure, character, dialogue, action and they make sense. The first book I wrote was absurdly juvenile, yet I completed the story.   It was a big story, about three hundred pages worth of story.

There is a phenomenon that I call the “Where Did That Come From?” syndrome. My imagination is like an extensive cave system where I don’t know what’s around the next turn. I’ve learned that if I unleash my imagination, it’s bigger than I expected it to be.   It’s an inner process that takes practice. The more I use my imagination, the more fertile it becomes. I am always surprised at what emerges from my own mind. I’ve learned to rely on my faculties as a resource that always comes through with the resolution I’ve been seeking. Warning: imagination can turn against you. Creative people can be led by their imaginations down some ugly corridors. So, take care of your mental and emotional health. Surround yourself with friends, people you can talk to.

Apart from writing and reading, what are your other hobbies or interests?

I’ve got several great passions. I love playing and composing music. I’m a drummer, keyboard player and songwriter. I’ve recorded one CD called “Out Of This World”. Most of it is on Youtube at http://bit.ly/1AUhHVG . I’m deeply involved in photography. I have an obsessive love of astronomy, the night sky and the leading edge of scientific investigation into the nature of the universe. You can see my photography at https://500px.com/artsdigiphoto. Writers need to have a wide range of interests. I study history, anthropology, politics, archaeology, all kinds of things. You never know what you might need in some future plot or world-building project.   Turn your mind into a giant filing cabinet loaded with facts on many subjects. Of course, you can always turn to the Internet if you need to do research. The Internet is a wonderful tool for writers!

How do you define success as an author?

I would like to have enough readers that they would talk to each other about my books, and correspond with me. I would enjoy feedback about my writing, especially as I have been completely obscure for so many years. Success would simply be what is called “buzz”, that is having my work capture the interest of a few thousand people (though I wouldn’t mind a few million).   I believe that my books are original and convey strong emotion. I write with emotions that may lie buried deep within the psyche. It’s my way of bringing to light the emotions that the reader may have experienced without knowing it. I would feel successful if readers responded to me about their emotional experiences in reading my work. I want my work to be useful, entertaining and inspiring. If I could make a living writing? Of course. That too would feel like success.

What do you think makes a good story?

The basic architecture of narrative implies conflict. Usually the conflict is one between good and evil.   A compelling story needs to embroil the reader emotionally in the outcome of this battle. A story is only as good as its villain. The energy of a story comes from putting a lovable or heroic personality in jeopardy.   The danger, the jeopardy, is supplied by an antagonist, a villain. A really good story has characters who are complex, flawed or just plain crazy. Villains often are more certain of themselves than are heroes. Their purposes are not tainted by doubt. They have a solid ideology or philosophy that they seek to impose on the hero’s world. I often look to history for inspiration in writing my stories. One of my favorite historical events is The Battle Of Stalingrad during World War Two. It serves as a model for many story situations. Imagine that the Good Guys have fought valiantly, used every ounce of courage and resource to stave off defeat. Yet, in spite of their effort, they teeter on the brink of annihilation. We can call this “the last ditch”. The heroic team has one final effort in them; they are teetering on the edge of defeat. They don’t know that their enemy has been weakened by the sturdiness of their resistance. They fling themselves into this last ditch effort.   To their surprise, the enemy collapses.   It seems miraculous, but it’s no miracle. It’s the outcome of the effort that our protagonists have sustained. It’s an EARNED victory. That’s important. The term DEUS EX MACHINA translates as “God’s Mechanism” or “the hand of God”. In other words, a miracle happens, God acts from on high and sees to it that the good guys win. God provides a storm, a fuel shortage, or a sudden epidemic of the flu, to weaken the enemy. There’s an emotional let-down when the writer must resort to Deus Ex Machina. A good story has a logical outcome that derives from true heroic effort.

          Let’s break it back down to the basics: A story is generally a representation of the conflict between good and evil. Characters are avatars for one or another of these principles. The evil character is arrogant because of an iron-clad belief that he/she is working for the right idea. Arrogance is a source of energy. It makes the villain more dangerous.   Good stories generally proceed by placing the protagonist in increasingly dangerous situations. The hero escapes danger by a combination of intelligence and physical prowess. Sometimes strength of character plays a major role in the hero’s victory. One way or another a successful story provides emotional release for the reader by having the hero overcome the villain and seeing that justice is served.

          Sounds simple, doesn’t it?   It is, in fact, simple. Good fights evil. What keeps a story interesting are the false leads, red herrings (or misplaced suspicions) and last ditch efforts. The more the characters resemble actual human beings, the better the story. A hero isn’t just fighting an external danger. A hero is fighting internal flaws, personal weaknesses of character. A convincing hero is one who triumphs on the inner battlefield of the Self. A hero’s soul becomes more virtuous as a result of the internal conflict that has been waged in the course of the story.

 

Who do your stories appeal to?

My work appeals to creative people. I’m always exploring the process of making Art. My work appeals to the intellectually curious, the spiritually adventurous, the psychologically perplexed. Let’s call my audience Seekers, or Sensitives. I like readers who are honest, smart and confused. I write psychologically, as if my basic position in life is one in which I’m wondering how I got the way I am. How did I get to this state? How did I get into trouble and how am I going to get out of it?   I write to expose the emotional pain that I’ve experienced. There’s a process of healing that happens when I live through my characters. Even when I write Science Fiction my characters are working through childhood trauma.

It’s said that in one’s dreams one is ALL of the characters. I think the same thing is true in fiction.   We would not be able to portray evil with authenticity unless we had that experience in our own selves. All of my characters emerge from myself. My evil characters partake of aspects of my own personality.

I joked once that my audience is comprised of anyone who has either been to or wants to go to a Burning Man event. It really wasn’t much of a joke. I was serious. Though Burning Man represents an extreme phenomenon in our culture, it is filled with people committed to experimentation and the exploration of art and consciousness. Those are my readers!

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