Ed: Hi, Robin. So, where you from?
RMR: I was born in Poughkeepsie in the Mid-Hudson Valley in New York State and have lived here off and on for what now adds up to be about half my life. However I have also lived more places stateside and abroad than makes sense to list.
Ed: You have one of those dreaded “day jobs?”
RMR: Licensed Speech Language Pathologist
Ed: And how about a dream job?
RMR: Author Publisher and Mentor to up and coming writers.
Ed: So, the big question: Why do you write?
RMR: I like the challenge writing affords me and hope that through it I will in some way entertain and inform the gentle reader.
Ed: Now for some quick, “What’s your favorites?”
Food? Artichoke hearts under oil.
Color? Orange and warm blue.
Place? A stone house in the Italian village of Pagliari; a keller in Heidelberg, Germany; the mountain view above Granada, Spain; Port Henry, New York; my study carrel at the University of Nebraska; the State Library in Albany, NY; and the Medical Library at the University of Michigan; NYC Streets in spring; remembrances of my favorite childhood reading place in the branches of the apple tree behind the barn; any place I share with the children in my family; any theatre with a play in rehearsal.
Ed: Nice. I forgot about study carrels, but I had a nice one just one state over, in Iowa.
How about three random things about yourself, please.
RMR: 1.) Whenever I laugh too much, I wind up coughing. 2.) I don’t mind looking silly at times—especially for the sake of levity. 3.) For me the thrill of writing comes from finding myself increasingly among other people more creative than average: artists, musicians, and other writers. 4.) I love real art—whatever that means—including theatre. 5.) I can’t count past two.
Ed: Three, five, same difference. If we were good at math, we might not be writers. But since we are, let’s talk about books.
RMR: Who recommended it and whether or not it is likely to be dense or fresh enough to command my attention.
Ed: What genre would you say you enjoy most?
RMR: Novels and theoretical works on selected themes or by specific authors. In the past few years I have read half a dozen books or more on war and its aftermath variously placed in Colonial times, Japan and India, Russia, East Germany, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and culminating in Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez—worth reading despite its need for pruning—and the marvelous book War by Sebastian Junger.
RMR: Survival stories such as Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers interest me.
Often I get hung up on an author. When I read Jane Austen’s books I read them in the order in which they were written. But I have also read all or most of William Faulkner’s, Saul Bellow’s, Joseph Heller’s, and David Roth’s works.
Speculative works interest me. Currently I am wading through The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb after having just finished The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinor and Why We Make Mistakes by Joseph T. Hallinan.
I like my coffee light and my poetry strong so I was struck muchly by Kristen Henderson’s work in her soon to be release book of poems, Drum Machine.
And recently I had the pleasure of being a first reader for Streetscape by Carl Waldman, a mystery travelogue about a homeless man which I enjoyed for its uniqueness and ease of reading.
Ed: Very nice selection, it’s nice to see a reader who is as “all over the place” as I tend to be, not to stuck in a particular genre. All the meats of our cultural stew, as they say.
How, and when, do you tend to come up with titles?
RMR: Titles come to me early in the game. They reflect the tenor of the writing and provide a wall against which I can test whether or not my novel is on track.
When writing factually, the title is most often arrived at after the ideas are organized and the piece written. In that way I can measure whether or not I held to a single topic and can define what exactly the topic was.
Ed: How do your characters get their names?
RMR: In different ways. Sometimes I hope the character’s name will suggest the style of a person: Natalie, a red-haired, high-strung beauty. Sometimes a name is to suggest the incongruities of life: Thaw, short for Theodore Horatio Alexander Wamp. Sometimes it is to suggest the culture: Dody, a name with no particular significance beyond its being a nickname.
Ed: If you could live in the world or with one of the characters from your stories, which one would it be and why?
RMR: Thaw. Why not? He is caring and artistically talented, strong but gentle, virile and passionate. And he lives in a small mountain village in an imaginary part of the USA not unlike my favorite North Country village of Port Henry, NY.
Ed: What do you think your books say about you?
RMR: Prescribed patterns don’t suit me. I prefer my own.
People interest me. My characters I am told are believable. Readers tell me they love Thaw and Natalie—but most especially Thaw. Some have said they love the Matters boys.
Contributing to the greater good is important to me. My subject matter is well-researched and my readers tell me they come away with of sense of being better informed and because of this feeling safer. In fact after Fukushima and the events at Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, my readers have told me they went back to re-read Jolt: a rural noir a second time, that time for the facts rather than the story.
Ed: What’s the best advice you ever got as a writer?
RMR: The only way to learn to write is by writing.
Ed: What is the worst thing for you about being a writer?
RMR: Early on it is the rewrites. Then it is finding the courage to seek criticism of what you have written. And finally it is all the effort required to catch the attention of the world so that at least some will pick up ones book and actually read it.
RMR: I thought it would be easier. Wrong. I knew I needed the freedom it offers. Right.
Ed: Have you, or would you ever, collaborate on a story?
RMR: I tried to collaborate with two different illustrators on a children’s book I have written only to find the artist’s visual eye is different than the writer’s inner ear. Would that I could find the illustrator to help me get out the two children’s books I have written. Still I think it might be great fun to write scripts for television in cooperation with a group of other writers.
Ed: If you were starting to write for the first time, what would you do different?
RMR: I’ve written all my life for professional reasons, reports and evaluations; political reasons, speeches, newsletters, and news releases; poems and short stories, for personal entertainment.
If I were to do over, I would have started my work as a novelist sooner.
Ed: And in closing, a real answer to a HYPOTHETICAL question.
RMR: The file marked Two which includes the outline and first chapters of the sequel to Jolt: a rural noir.
Whereas Jolt describes the effects of dirty bombs and a nuclear meltdown primarily upon those people outside the thirty mile radius of The Plant, Two describes the plight of those closer, most especially Mary who suffers radiation sickness and Lou who, as a result of blunt trauma, survives with minimal Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) of the type evidenced by so many service men and women returning from active duty in Iraq.
Ed: One last thing last, what question do you wish I had asked?
RMR: Actually, I can think of none. Your format has been free and your questions varied. And as you invited me to answer in any manner in which I felt comfortable, if I have not said what I need to say by now, I have only myself to blame.
Except of course for this: Ed, I would like to offer you a very large thank you for your gracious, considerate, and generous hospitality.
Somehow I have had the sense that we have been chatting in your living room—with the French doors open onto the garden and a warm breeze occasionally lifting the sheers as we sip tea and unhurriedly converse. So thank you so much! And do come visit me on the ALVA Press, Inc., Visiting Writer’s Page. And the sooner the better!
Ed: My pleasure, Robin. Though sadly my living room faces on the Sonoran Desert, and if the sliding glass door was open, the scorpions and coyotes would get in.
Jolt: a rural noir – Facebook
Alva Press, Inc. (Jolt’s Publisher)
Jenkins Inspirational Fiction Award 2011
Ink Drop Interviews – Kathy Reinhardt
Stucker Interviews Roy about Jolt
Mutterings with Alva the Indie
Roberta M Roy’s Personal Blog
Roberta Roy on Nuclear Survival
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What Is Said of Jolt