Friday, March 8, 2013

A Nod to the Prince


Feasgar Math (Scots Gaelic for “Good Afternoon/Evening”),

This week I had the double-pleasure of interviewing author Mike Robinson and reviewing his most recent book, The Prince of Earth.  This book falls under the horror and psychological thriller category and delivered both. The prose flowed as if it were a literary fiction novel, and I found myself feeling both frightened and uplifted—which is a strange feeling, it’s how I think a Jim Jones conference would feel like (“pass the Kool-Aid”).

First the Interview:

+++

Tell us about your most recent work.

As with many books, I both intentionally and unwittingly skirt genre categorization (mostly unwittingly), but my latest, The Prince of Earth, can be tentatively slotted on the Horror shelf. What kind of “horror” it is, though, can vary: there are elements strongly psychological, surreal, and monstrous. The story follows a young woman named Quincy Redding, a fantasy geek and adventurer, who in 1988 is capping off a solo European backpacking trip by climbing the infamously haunted peak Ben MacDui, in the Cairngorms of Scotland. Simultaneously, we follow her also in 2008, twenty years later, when as a mother and businesswoman she begins experiencing mounting anomalies that may be related to a mysterious encounter in 1988, atop MacDui. The eras become entwined. You question her, you question yourself.

Who inspired/helped you the most?  (they can be dead or alive)

For The Prince of Earth specifically, I called on the still-living spirits of Cormac McCarthy and Haruki Murakami. McCarthy because I wanted to paint a rich atmosphere, a landscape as much a character as was the wild, battle-ravaged Southwest in his opus, Blood Meridian. Murakami because I love his surreal enigmas, how with every page his characters stumble on yet another colorful crack in the world, and how constantly he leaves you transfixed, wondering, What is happening? How is this happening? It feels almost personal, as if it’s your own world unraveling its weirdness. Finally, I should acknowledge Lovecraft, the grandaddy of unfathomable, malicious grandeur. I love things beyond explanation, and I suppose that’s the binding theme here -- Blood Meridian’s antagonist Judge Holden, Murakami’s nether-worlds and Lovecraft’s creatures all transcend proper definition.

What are your five favorite books and why?

That’s a difficult pick. I love so many books, and their positions on any list is selfsame, as in, they’ll always be on the list, but their status may depend on certain moods, days, or phases of my life. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury is up there, for its remarkable ability to make the ordinary feel fantastical (Steinbeck does this, too, though I prefer Bradbury’s hand). There’s a tie between Vonnegut’s Galapagos and his Breakfast of Champions, both of which, operating on Vonnegut’s characteristic zaniness, deliver biting, ageless and much-needed satire. My favorite non-fiction is still Conversations with God, a straight-forward, beautifully written book that, to its high credit, finds authentic middle-ground between traditional religion and empiricism. The aforementioned Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy makes the list, for its extraordinary craft, and equally extraordinary villain, the judge. And last I’d say Cervantes’ Don Quixote, for its hilarious experiments in meta-narrative, the wonderful exchange between Don and Sancho, and how organic it feels: half a millennium later, you still get the sense it’s being written as you read it. It’s also infectious -- more than once I felt compelled to strike out on my own wayward journey. Runner-up favorites are West’s Miss Lonelyhearts, Sinclair’s Main Street, Joyce’s Ulysses, Stephen King’s It, Doris Lessing’s A Briefing for a Descent Into Hell, Hermann Hesse’s Demian, Mark Danielweski’s House of Leaves, anything by Mark Twain and way too many others.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m buried in editorial projects, for myself and for others (I’m a freelance editor, and also work for my publisher, Curiosity Quills Press). Writing-wise, I’m beginning a collaboration with indie bestseller Aiden James, on the third installment of his series, Talisman Chronicles. My next novel, Negative Space, a quirky thriller / art satire / road journey / metaphysical work (remember, Genres, I’m none too loyal) will release August 17th this year.

What were some of the obstacles you encountered while writing your book and how did you overcome them?

Lately, in beginning projects, as a word or two squeaks out, as everything sounds wooden or banal, I get hung up in neurotic analysis of, How the hell did I ever do this before? But I know it’s me getting better, becoming less indiscriminate about what I initially throw at the page. I certainly experienced this in starting The Prince of Earth. I don’t outline, so I let the world, and especially Quincy, take me where I needed to go. It was slow, but gradually picked up steam. Editorially, the challenge came in pruning way back on the marshland of verbiage in that 1st draft, and realizing maybe I wasn’t so discriminate after all. But in all honesty, this book came a little more full-formed than others, and for that I’m always thankful.

Lastly, if you had to give a one-hour lecture to a hundred 13 year-olds….what would be the topic of your lecture? Why?

Hmm. Dinosaurs? Or they’d be “too old” for that, maybe (as for some reason gigantic prehistoric creatures with gnashing teeth, who devoured and impaled each other, are a child’s thing). Maybe I’d try to smuggle in a history lesson by discussing the “ancient astronaut” theory, the idea that extraterrestrials have influenced, even guided, our civilization. I’d also try to implore them to later on get into the sciences or the arts, as this world has had its fill of those running amok in finance, business and law. It’s hard, because I’m trying to go off of what would have interested me at that time, which I know differed starkly from many other peers. Oh, those kids today (and then).

+++


Prince of Earth Blurb:

It had come back.
            It had come back and it was stronger.
            It’s been twenty years. Not again. Not now.
            Not anytime.

            In 1988, young American traveler Quincy Redding is trekking across the misty terrain of the Scottish Highlands. She is destined for the infamous peak Ben MacDui, the summit of which soon finds her inexplicably debilitated and at the mercy of a malevolent entity.

            The book spans twenty years, alternately following Quincy in her 1988 ordeal in Scotland             as well as Quincy in 2008, when, as an adult, she begins experiencing abnormalities that        threaten her family and her life – phenomena that may be related to what happened all those years ago.

            As both older and younger Quincy learn more of their situation, and as their worlds           further entwine, she becomes increasingly uncertain of the perceived temporality or reality of each period.

+++

My Review of The Prince of Earth:

1. This book had great use of language, great story, ripe little nuggets of wisdom (did I mention this book has substance), and lots of creepy!! I give it five out of five stars.

2.  I really enjoyed this book.  Once, while having a bout of insomnia, I sat on my couch; it was about three am (prime time to read horror).  I remember thinking: that’s creepy, poor Quincy, wow that’s messed up… and then all of a sudden the book took me somewhere even darker than I’d expected. I became paralyzed on my couch, thinking: if I get up the Prince will find me. That was also the exact moment my enormous German Shepherd decided to bark at an empty corner (which gave me a nice little panic attack).

What the hell, Mike Robinson?  A little, “this book is going to mess you up,” warning would have been nice.

3. This book hooked me from the beginning. I repeated the phrase, “I’m reading,” so often that after a while I think the person or persons who disturbed me heard another phrase, one that sounded a lot like “piss-off” or something to that effect.  Good job, Mike!

 
Quotes

+++

“She meditated, aligning the three blocks of her being, as best she could. Her body raced. Her mind raced. Her soul was oddly quiet.”

“You thought of the Shoe Tree, which you’d only seen once—a group of junior high and high school kids had decorated a remote tree by the waterfall with dozens and dozens of old shoes.  They hung like dirty old earrings, their laces like encrusted moss. What was the significance of that anyway? Art? A place to do drugs? You didn’t know. You couldn’t remember.”

“People,” said the prince, “do not have so much memories but fantasies of the past, and these fantasies are often influenced by those of the present, or dreams of the future.  Nostalgia is a symptom of this.  I find inspiration in people’s creations. I devour them as they are the bulk of my material.”

+++

Well that’s the blog for this week.  I am off this week to listen to bluegrass, and jazz and I think a harpist. I love music…a bonus is the bluegrass group, The Rivertucky Ramblers, is playing a song called Mi Calida Forno (I wrote the lyrics and my husband wrote the music). It’s a love song to the San Andreas Fault and the American Southwest.I’ll try to get a recording and post it next week.

Latha Math (that’s “bye bye” in Scots Gaelic)

2 comments:

  1. Really great interview. I've worked with Curiosity Quills. Great bunch of people.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm glad you liked it. Mike had some interestng answers. :)

    ReplyDelete