Good morning, Bruce. It’s good to talk with you today.
Thanks! I really appreciate this opportunity and your willingness to host these interviews.
In your latest book, Paladin’s Odyssey, you venture into a post-apocalyptic world where your main character has to help rebuild the fabric of society while hiding his own sins. I know that several events in my own life have led to some of my best plot mechanics. What events in your own life led you to build this character?
Not so much events in my own life — I can’t say I’ve ever been through an apocalyptic event — but of those from history, particularly in the Bible. As a kid, I was taught about all the “heroes” of the Bible in Sunday School. They often took on a superhero-like persona, which looking back I feel was an unfortunate portrayal. In reality, most were ordinary people with many of the same problems and personalities that we have. They found themselves thrust into extraordinary circumstances, stumbling, rising, overcoming while wrestling with their own weaknesses.
So true. I think we do people a disservice by not being as real about their flaws as their accomplishments. So, if the world of your story is a bit dark, how do you see the future of this world?
That’s a difficult one to answer. If some sort of global cataclysm doesn’t change our current track, as it did in Paladin’s Odyssey, I tend to think that our future could follow what’s in my novel “Chasing Redemption.” In that backdrop, the American economy eventually collapsed, taking the rest of the world down with it. A new, more global-centric economy rose from the financial chaos and there was a golden age of prosperity. Business drove the priorities, probably far more so than they do today.
I’m actually quite curious. Can you tell me how plot and overall story come into being?
It was something that I thought about every time I saw a movie with an apocalyptic event, and there have been quite a few of these made over the years. I would often ponder on their premises, finding most of them to be a bit too far-fetched or just plain cheesy. Hey, I can enjoy a good zombie flick, or some great CG mass-destruction eye-candy, but most of these movies left me yearning for a more plausible premise.
Then I remembered the Spanish Flu of 1918. It killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, which was a staggering number for that era, especially since World War I was still raging. Yet the world seemed to shrug it off and move on. That got me wondering – if something similar happened today, how would it play out? Would our world be able to handle it, particularly since we seem primed to panic over something much smaller?
You know the media has been reporting a tough flu season, and the current vaccines aren’t really effective. I hear that this sounds familiar to you. How so?
[laughs] It’s spooky. I saw this news story a couple of weeks ago. It was kinda freaky, as though the backdrop of Paladin’s Odyssey was starting to unfold in front of my eyes, right down to the month and year. I seriously doubt that it’ll lead to extremes like martial law by March, but if for some bizarre reason it does, it’ll be tragic that I can’t change professions to make a fortune predicting the stock market before it goes away.
Some people write for a paycheck, while others do it for the love of the craft or to fulfill a promise to a loved one. Can you tell me what drives you to get up and write?
While I can certainly use the paycheck, I’ve found that writing is far more fulfilling than what I used to do. My former professional life somewhat resembled the movie “Office Space.” I always had to be on top of those TPS cover-sheets while protecting my stapler. Nah, it actually wasn’t that bad, but I always wondered if the screenplay writer spent some time at the company I worked for.
Also, I dabbled in writing/directing/producing film shorts.
Nothing spectacular or I’d be in Hollywood right now, but I was always wrestling with all the frustrating limitations in that medium. Budget, equipment, and technological shortcomings always restricted the story. Writing, on the other hand, is like directing a movie with limitless resources.
They say your main character is a reflection of some aspect of ourselves. For example, Brodie Wade is the timid, scared part of me that would rather read a book than go out to a social situation. Is Joseph Paladin some aspect of your personality?
I like to think that Joesph Paladin represents an identity that many of us would be tempted to take on so people would think better of us. Walter Johnson took on his identity and ended up crafting a new, heroic reputation with it. It allowed him to leave behind a narcissistic life in which he perpetrated some questionable acts.
How far did you have to “reach” to get us from our comfortable homes and lives to establish this new vision of the world?
When facing the collapse of almost everything, my main character said it best: [opens Paladin’s Odyssey]
“I was consumed by the thought that I couldn’t survive in a world without convenience. I knew nothing of being a survivalist and never watched those outdoor reality shows on television. The closest relevant experience I had was a couple of years I spent as a Cub Scout. I was nothing more than a spoiled, middle-class kid raised in the suburbs. I needed my car, my electricity, well stocked grocery stores, drive through service, and my data-phone. There was little doubt it was all slipping away. I sat and wondered when the electricity would finally go out.”
Things get pretty grim before it gets better.
And finally… I like to end with one question that’s a bit out there. If you were a clown, what would your face paint look like?
Clowns? Um… all I can picture is that creepy “Pennywise” from Stephen King’s “It.” I suppose if you’re going to freak people out, you might as well go the distance and leave a scar.
Well, thank you for being with me today. I appreciate your time, and I look forward to finishing your book.
No problem. Thank you for having me on your blog.
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