Welcome John B. Rosenman today
So without further adieu....welcome John to Dawn's Reading Nook Blog.
When did you seriously sit down, and say to yourself, I’m going to write a novel?
It depends. Usually it’s rather casual. An idea comes to me, and I sit down and start writing.
With A Senseless Act of Beauty, though, I needed inspiration, a sign of some sort. I had taught at three historically black universities and thought I should write a science-fiction novel with an African setting or flavor. But nothing concrete occurred to me. Then one day I was sitting in a room at Norfolk State University and saw some books on a shelf. At that point, I had one of the few mystical experiences of my life. I just knew that the book I picked from that shelf would kick-start my novel. It was a visceral feeling impossible to ignore.
I reached out, picked a book at random, and lifted it off the shelf. When I brought it back, I found that I held Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart. It’s about the colonization of Nigeria by England. After I read it—voila!, I had the core of my idea and sat down and began writing. A Senseless Act of Beauty, published by Crossroad Press, turned out to be my longest, most ambitious, and most experimental novel. It’s also received great reviews on Amazon.
If you were to start again, with the knowledge you have now, what would be the first thing you do?
I would have saved time and begun A Senseless Act of Beauty with a prologue. Fortunately, I belonged to a writers’ group, and one of the members suggested that. So I wrote a prologue, which I sold as a stand-alone short story, “In Man’s Image,” to the pro anthology, Treachery and Treason. In my opinion, the prologue contributes a great deal to the novel in terms of theme and Aaron Okonkwo’s characterization.
For Dark Wizard, published by MuseItUp Publishing, I would have avoided all the chapter titles inspired by the movie The Wizard of Oz, which I’ve always loved. Sometimes, it’s best to play down your obsessions and let the story embody them naturally.
Do you have the support of family and friends?
My wife supports me and always has, though she thinks much of what I write is weird. Though my writers’ group has disbanded, for twenty years it was very helpful. We critiqued each other’s stories and novels as well as we could and were genuinely happy with each other’s successes. Many of my sales I owe largely to them, as well as the fact that the group’s critiques helped to make my fiction better.
Do you have a book coming out? If so what?
I have four books coming out from MuseItUp Publishing. Two of them are novels. Dax Rigby, War Correspondent is about adventure on Arcadia, a planet with two intelligent alien species and a deadly secret. Inspector of the Cross is also SF and involves Turtan, a hero who is nearly 3,000 years old and travels in suspended animation to distant worlds to investigate weapons that might turn the tide against an ancient enemy. Two long stories, The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes and Steam Heat are about as different from each other as you can get. One is about a woman with a mysterious disease that makes her a pariah; the other is erotic horror that takes place partly in a steam room.
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
Quite a bit. My first novel, published by McPherson & Co. in 1981/1982 is based on my experiences teaching in a small black Southern college. Usually, though, my writing reflects my personality and exposure to the Golden Age of Science Fiction, both in movies and fiction. I love to write about aliens, strange distant worlds, and ordinary people with extraordinary potential to be leaders and heroes. I’ve seen a lot of bigotry and prejudice, and try to be as accepting and all-inclusive in my fiction as I can. Thus, the hero in Speaker of the Shakk (Mundania Press) adopts an alien child
despite the dangers involved.
despite the dangers involved.
Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
I often sit down and write when the mood strikes me. So I go with the flow. Sometimes, I think I should have a set schedule and sit down at the monitor every morning at the same time. But I don’t. OTOH, if I get inspired by something, like a novel, I’ll write and revise it every free moment I have. It all depends on how much I’m inspired by the story or novel and how much free time I have.
What do you have coming up? Any teasers you want to give us?
I’m writing short stories these days. I’ve been thinking of returning to my sequel of Beyond Those Distant Stars, which is about a female cyborg who saves the human race against seemingly invincible aliens. The sequel is Star Warriors, and Stella McMasters, the heroine, is the only character who has ever spoken to me—or more accurately, haunted me. “When are you going to tell the rest of my story?” she asks.
“Why aren’t you working on it now?”
What is your writing routine once you start a book?
If it’s a book and I’m inspired by it, I will try to sit down early in the morning and write and/or revise for at least a couple of hours. Then I’ll do the same in the afternoon. Since I recently retired, I’ll probably become more structured this way. After all, I don’t have to shave, shower, dress, and go to work.
What are your thoughts on love scenes in romance novels, do you find them difficult to write?
While I don’t write romance novels, I do write novels with romances in them. SF romantic adventures, paranormal romances—that sort of thing. I don’t find love scenes difficult to write. Indeed, I’ve never written a novel without at least one love scene in it. My scenes are almost exclusively boy-girl, but I welcome all approaches. In one of my blogs, which I recently posted (http://minds-eye.ning.com/profiles/blog/list?user=1vhycxnvv5dt1), I try to include every type of love/sex relationship there is, human as well as alien, real as well as imaginary.
I find love scenes a challenge, and sometimes I like to think outside the box. In Alien Dreams, for example, the hero becomes an alien and makes love to the alien queen for thousands of years, sometimes swapping bodies with her. Talk about the Joy of Sex!
What kind of research do you do?
Usually not too much. For Beyond Those Distant Stars, I read some military space opera, especially by Lois McMaster Bujold. For A Senseless Act of Beauty, I read novels by Chinua Achebe and researched Nigerian history and customs. For Dark Wizard, I read up a little on video games. For my Nauru stories, such as “Bagonoun’s Wonderful Songbird,” published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing, I read Solange Petit Skinner’s The Nauruans.
Fill in the blank favorites - Dessert. City. Season. Type of hero. Type of heroine.
Type of hero – Often, he’s an ordinary man with extraordinary potential for productive leadership when placed in the right situation. Also, while I’m Jewish, I’ve become fascinated with neo-Christian heroes or Christ figures, saviors who actually scoff at religion and such roles. They include Dax Rigby in Dax Rigby, War Correspondent and Turtan in Inspector of the Cross.
Type of female hero – similar. Stella in Beyond Those Distant Stars is a seemingly ordinary woman until an extraordinary tragedy happens to her. Then she becomes an interplanetary heroine with the opportunity to change the course of history.
What are some of your favorite things to do, or your hobbies?
What are some of your favorite things to do, or your hobbies?
Tennis, Tennis, Tennis. Reading SF/Fantasy/Horror/Detective-suspense novels.
And of course, writing the same. Collecting SF/Fantasy/Horror movies. I love the
Fifties, and was warped by the wonderful movies of that period. The War of the Worlds. The Thing. Them! I could go on and on.
Who are some of your other favorite authors and/or genres to read?
In no particular order, Octavia E. Butler, Orson Scott Card, Robert McCammon, Greg Iles, Ray Bradbury, Roger Zelazny, etc. I love SF, Fantasy, Horror, and like them to intermarry and cross-breed. One thing I really like is mind-stretching concepts, ideas that lift the top of your skull clear off so your brain can expand.
As for influences, Ray Bradbury was one of the biggest. The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, etc. Such poetic, evocative prose. I also loved Richard Matheson, author of The Shrinking Man. These are two huge childhood influences, but not the only ones. The Wizard of Oz is a potent force. My first published novel was called Down From Oz before the publisher convinced me to change the title.
Which of your books has been the easiest to write? The hardest? The most fun?
My novels have all been hard to write. Usually I do things wrong, take the wrong direction, have to backtrack and revise, revise, revise! Perhaps Alien Dreams and Speaker of the Shakk were the easiest to write—meaning my first vision was essentially correct, and I didn’t have to do massive rewrites.
The hardest novel to write has been the sequel to Beyond Those Distant Stars. I tried twice with Star Warriors and may again. After all, I got nearly halfway in.
The most fun? Gosh, I love them all. Chapter twenty of Dax Rigby, War Correspondent is the most moving chapter, at least to me, that I’ve ever written, and I had a lot of fun and spiritual pleasure doing it. I also like Beyond Those Distant Stars
because it involves an action heroine, A Senseless Act of Beauty because it’s my most ambitious and challenging, and Alien Dreams because it’s my most cosmic. Inspector of the Cross may have been the most fun of all because I wrote it before the others and returned to it for a complete revision twenty-five years later.
Many of my short stories have been or will be published as books. Some, like More Stately Mansions, The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes, Green in Our Souls, Music Man, A Mingling of Souls, Childhood’s Day, Here Be Dragons and Bagonoun’s Wonderful Songbird have been relatively easy, even inspiring to write. Trophies, published recently by L&L Dreamspell, was fun too, because of its subtle and ominous erotic horror.
Which comes first, the story, the characters or the setting?
Sometimes my books come from almost NOTHING. One novel came from a single word: Dreamfarer. One time my wife put three bulbs of garlic in my suitcase and I wrote a crazy tale called “Three Pounds of Garlic in a Dead Man’s Hand.” Once I took my son trick or treating and he disappeared briefly behind a trellis, so I wrote a story about a man whose son disappears on Halloween and enters another universe.
Of the three possibilities listed, though, I’d have to say the story or plot is more important. Usually, I like to have at least a rudimentary plot to hang my characters on. The characters are a close second. For my novels, I have to have interesting people I care about. Characters, of course, interact with and help form the story, and the story works similarly in bringing out the characters’ traits.
Sometimes, while the setting is not the prime mover in creating a story, it is a persistent, pervasive presence. Several of my novels like Alien Dreams and Dax Rigby, War Correspondent take place on distant worlds where the setting is crucial. I really have to know these places to write about them. For Dark Wizard, San Luis Obispo, CA was my prime inspiration because I had visited this colorful city several times and always wanted to write a novel that took place there.
If we asked your muse to tell us three things about you, what do you think he might say?
One: The guy likes to write about transfigurations in all their imaginable forms. For example, Rachel Ross in The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes changes physically and psychically because of a terrible disease. What will she ultimately turn into? I try
to take the concept as far as it will go. Again and again, I like to explore this theme.
Two: The guy sure likes action heroes and aliens, and he likes to bring them together on strange, distant planets. Perhaps this reflects the author’s repressed desire to get out of town.
Three: The guy likes mind-stretching concepts, sometimes combined with sex and romance. In Inspector of the Cross, for example, two of Turtan’s heroes are a delectable alien female and a female computer who’s loved him for a thousand years.
What is your favorite season and why?
Summer, because I worked all my life and took the summer off to do what I wanted—play tennis, read, write, travel, etc. Since I retired two and a half months ago, the whole year may become my favorite season.
Congratulations, your novel was just picked up by a major Hollywood studio. They are letting you cast the characters. Name the book you would choose to be made into a movie and who you think would play those characters.
Oh, wow, thank you! I think Beyond Those Distant Stars would make a great movie. (Some of the others would, too.)
Stella Singlethorne McMasters – the cyborg heroine – Jodie Foster in her mid to late thirties.
Jason – her jump pilot boyfriend and unfaithful lady killer – Jude Law, about thirty.
George Darron – immense, bearded psyche-physician – Michael Clarke Duncan.
After that, I’m not sure. I just want to get the money and see the flick at the I-MAX.
If you could choose anywhere in the world to set up your desk and write, where would you like it to be? What’s so special to you about this place?
Home. It’s the best place. It’s where my wife and I live, a place of love and stability. Over the long haul, routine and familiarity are important. I don’t actually have to visit the worlds and realms I write about, only do a little research and visit them in my imagination. On the other hand, it has helped to visit some places such as Rome, which I describe in “A Spark from God’s Finger.”
But I always come home to write about them.
BLURB for A Senseless Act of Beauty:
Aaron Okonkwo, a Nigerian bio-botanist, travels to Viridis, an exotic world filled with scientific wonders left by a godlike race. There, he is ensnared by the delectable, deadly beauty of Nightsong, an enchanting alien female. His supreme test comes when the Confederation sends 200 ships to conquer Viridis for its boundless resources, just as the Europeans once did in Africa. Can Aaron prevent history from repeating itself, or will his efforts be A Senseless Act of Beauty?
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Peering through the shining leaves of a sarberry bush, Aaron Okonkwo watched the naked alien girl dive into the pond. Lithe green body and breasts full and firm in the sun. He wet his lips, feeling his blood course as her delicate, sinuous form glided through the water faster than any human could swim. She moved smoothly, with barely a ripple, her webbed hands flowing with graceful precision. Watching the water caress her long, slender limbs, he felt his body respond.
Aaron rubbed a muscular arm and took out his recorder. He tried to focus on dictating some field notes concerning the sixty species of moss he had so far catalogued, but soon found himself watching the girl again. This, of course, was not right. Their survey team had come to Viridis for a month to evaluate the planet for possible colonization and commercial exploitation. Indigenous, sentient life forms were officially off-limits to Confederation (’Fed) personnel because of the danger of cultural and biological contamination. Since they had landed two weeks ago and first met the gentle, humanoid creatures, he had constantly reminded himself of this fact.
Still, he desired her.
He knew it was more than just the exquisite molding of her form or her quick, light animal movements which no human female could match. The clear, liquid trill of her laughter, seemingly so innocent, had ensnared his senses too. Then there was the strange way she would suddenly freeze and stand motionless. At such times he felt as if she had not only caught his scent but was listening to his heartbeat.
God help him, he knew he was in trouble. He had fought it from the first day, as had two of the other three men in the expedition force. Only Abraham Pritchett, the captain, and the three women crew members seemed immune to the aliens’ charm. But Pritchett was an old, grim, celibate and righteous homosexual and the women strictly hetero.
Aaron tore his eyes away from the girl’s swift form. Glancing about, it occurred to him again that though there seemed to be no fierce animals, this green, junglelike world, with its rolling savannahs and teeming life was so like the Africa his father had told him about, so like the homeland they had lost forever. Yet at the same time there was a vibrancy to Viridis’s colors, a stark intensity to its textures, that was unmistakably alien.
The splash of the girl’s swimming interrupted his thoughts. Grimly he forced himself to turn and walk away without looking back.