“Interview of Bob Rich about Hit and Run” by Joan Y. Edwards
Today I’m honored to have Dr. Bob Rich, author, as a guest on my blog. He lives in Australia. In 2012, after reading my post, “Errors That Might Escape Spell Check,” he shared with me that he has collected thousands of English words that confuse writers. We have been friends ever since. Thanks for being a guest on my blog, Bob. Thanks for doing the giveaway. I know that Barbara Harrison will enjoy receiving one of your 16 books.
You’re welcome, Joan. It’s a pleasure and honor to be here. Has it really been six years? Time flies when you get older…
1. Who inspired you to write?
Hitler and my stepfather between them. Because of those two, I was a terribly traumatized child, until I did self-therapy on myself at 21 years of age.
The first personal antidepressant I developed was reading. I remember a woman laughing at me when I ran after a wind-blown bit of newspaper so I could read it. I had no friends at school, so spent breaks in the library.
I found fiction to be the magic carpet that took me out of my life, out of my misery. I could be a corsair on the high seas, or an American gangster, or… well, anyone an author decided to write about.
Nonfiction was even better, because I got addicted to finding out things about anything and everything. Even to this day, some people accuse me of being a walking encyclopedia.
So, I had all this interesting stuff in my head, and made up my own stories. Only, I didn’t think anyone else would be interested, until I started sharing them when I was 43.
2. What must every story tell about a character?
Um… I can take that two ways, so I will.
I have a character (Some people describe me as “a character” as well, but we’ll let that pass). Also, a person in a story is a character.
a) What will every story tell about the character of its author?
An enormous amount. A whole field of scholarly activity is based on the fun but somewhat useless activity of making wise pronouncements about famous writers, based on their work. But we don’t need to get highfalutin about this. It is impossible to write a story that doesn’t reflect your belief system, even if you don’t know what that belief system is.
For example, the standard romance formula is: Boy meets girl. They are instantly attracted to each other, but often don’t realize it, and anyway, there are apparently insuperable obstacles between them. They gradually overcome these until the happy ending. Typically, the guy has very unfortunate habits, but the girl reforms him, and they live happily ever after.
This is hugely unrealistic, and is a guarantee for unhappiness if applied in real life. But it says lots about the author. I have actually tried to write a few romances as an exercise, but simply couldn’t stick to the formula. To write a romance, you have to have the worldview for it.
b) What makes a character in a story come alive?
For a reader to experience a full 3-D person instead of a carboard cutout who merely fills a role, the author needs to BE the person whose point of view the particular scene is from. This comes naturally for me, but I describe a fun technique anyone can do to achieve it, at https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ag
I got several fascinating comments in response to this essay from fellow writers. Fiona McGier wrote: “When I have the time to write, I find that I’m ‘in’ the scene wherever I am, whenever I can be! When in the shower, driving, eating, etc. the characters grab me by the ears and make me listen to what is happening in their lives. I don’t have to BE them, because they make me hear/see/feel what they are experiencing.” Actually, that’s exactly what I mean by “being” the character, so she was agreeing with me.
Other people in the scene come alive if you perceive them entirely from the point of view of the witness you’ve identified with.
3. Do you have a favorite place to write?
No. I compose stuff on the move, whatever I am doing, like Fiona described. Joan, while I am answering your questions, I also have ideas cooking in the back of my mind about my current story, and probably about a half-dozen problems of my life.
4. Tell us a little about Hit and Run
As you know, I was a psychotherapist for over 22 years. It’s one of the 5 things I’ve retired from, but even today, I keep up with current research in psychology. One of my fields of interest is rehabilitation: what it takes to lead a criminal into a good life, and what it takes to steer a “violent no-hoper” toward decency. The evidence is clear: it needs this person, particularly if young, to make an honest commitment to copying an admired model, or preferably several models. This was actually true for me.
Joan, you’ve read Ascending Spiral http://bobswriting.com/ascending.html where I describe people I call my angels, who showed me how to live. Also, you and your visitors might enjoy a short story at my blog, Armor-coating our kids https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1fR
I wasn’t thinking of this knowledge while writing, but it was there, below consciousness, shaping the story while it emerged.
5. Why did I start this story? Because victimization, bullying, hurting someone makes me boil. I had to work with an old man whose story got me FURIOUS. And you can’t lead someone out of an emotional hell if you hop in there yourself.
I needed to establish “professional distance” in order to help him. I did this by “displacement:” investing the emotion in what I thought would become a short story about just punishment for a far worse crime.
So, I had 14 year old Chuck murder six little kids and the crossing guard, narrowly missing 84-year-old Sylvia. He got caught in part because she was an artist, and drew him for the police. But something strange happened on the night of the crime. It surprised me as much as it surprised Chuck and Sylvia: His lifelike image appeared to her. He was thoroughly abusive, but she reacted to him the way she did to everyone: with courtesy and caring. Then she was able to help him to continue looking after his little brother, and that was the start. By the time of his arrest, he’d decided that the “Old Duck” was pretty cool, being the only adult in his short life who hadn’t rejected and abused him.
Sylvia then took over. She kept a record of the nine months of contact between them, and that’s the book. She wrote it; I was only the scribe putting it into my computer. That’s why it’s all in her language, not mine.
6. Since Hit and Run’s July 2018 release, what is the reaction so far?
Two days ago, a reviewer accepted a copy. This morning, she sent me this email:
“Wow, just wow!
“Thank you for a fabulous read! I just wanted to let you know I’ll be posting my review by tomorrow.”
I have a colleague whose highest rating for any book is 4 stars. She gave it 4 stars. So far, all the other reviews rate it 5 stars.
I’d like to ask Sylvia to write all my future novels, but she is not available. If you read the story, you’ll find out why.
7. I’ve noticed that all your recent books seems to be an implicit call to “join your team,” as you said at the end of Ascending Spiral. Would you like to talk about that?
We live in an insane world. I’d love to get off this planet with its cruelties and suffering, because I’ve been cursed with too much empathy. That’s why I am a Professional Grandfather: I want a good life for all the youngsters on this planet.
This is not the place for an essay on all the reasons. My coming book, From Depression to Contentment: A Self-Therapy Guide deals with it in detail. But one example is the consumer myth: that happiness is a commodity you can buy. Suppose that was true: if only you could have everything you want, you’d stay permanently happy. Then you’d stop buying. That would have a bad effect on the economy, so cannot be allowed. There are several mechanisms to ensure that you become dissatisfied again.
So, if you want to live a contented life, you need to stop wanting stuff. Those of your readers who are interested in creating a good world for themselves could read the transcript of a speech I made once, at http://mudsmith.net/yarravelley.html and my essay, “How to Change the World” at my blog.
8. What’s next?
After a few more of my beta readers send me their suggestions for improvement, I will send From Depression to Contentment: A Self-Therapy Guide to my publisher.
I am writing a sequel to Guardian Angel http://bobswriting.com/guardian.html and am playing with a science fiction series.
Bob has 17 published books. He has retired 5 times so far, from 5 different occupations. He is still a Professional Grandfather. Anyone under 25 only needs to apply. Many do so by sending him an email of despair. His words often make a difference, and hundreds of young people credit him for now living a good life. Because he passionately cares for all the youngsters everywhere, he has been an environmental and humanitarian campaigner since the 1970s. Everything he does, including his writing, is intended to change the insane global culture, which encourages and rewards the worst in human nature, particularly greed and aggression. He works for one that encourages and rewards the best in human nature: compassion, empathy, decency. Only, he hates being preached at, and won’t do that to others. Instead, he writes exciting fiction his reviewers tell him is gripping. Find out more about him at his blog: https://bobrich18.wordpress.com and his writing showcase http://bobswriting.com
Hit and Run by Dr. Bob Rich (Kindle)
Amazon, USA: Hit and Run
Book Summary: 84-year-old Sylvia barely escapes death when a teenage driver plows down six children and a crossing guard, never looking back. Shaken, Sylvia draws his portrait, creating a connection with this 14-year-old boy that allows the police to locate and arrest him. That night, he appears to her through a supernatural process neither understands. Can one woman’s belief in the power of love make a difference in the life of one boy who wants to change?
Thank you for reading this interview. Please leave a comment for Dr. Bob Rich and/or for me. We’d love to hear from you.
I’m a little late announcing the winner for a digital copy of one of Dr. Bob Rich’s 16 available titles.
One person left a comment before August 13, 2018. That was Barbara. Congratulations to you, Barbara Harrison. Please write me and let me know which book you choose from webpage: http://bobswriting.com/bookbuy.html.
I’ll feature another giveaway soon. Please stop by again.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards