Σάββατο, 16 Νοεμβρίου 2013

Capes & Clockwork-An interview with Robert J. Krog

Robert Krog: Weaver of Worlds, Caretaker of Orchards and all around stand-up dude

With me today is Robert J. Krog, a family man, a certified, lawn care, spray tech, and above all, a writer. I see that you like asking people why do they write, so I think I should take it in another direction and ask: why don't you stop writing? What's that thing that makes you want to sit down on your keyboard and come up with worlds?
I don’t stop writing, because if I did, I’d just be a Walter Mitty, and I can’t stand the thought.  I also have a little arrogance in me that tells me I’m a pretty good writer and maybe it’s what God put me here to do.  If so, I’m not carrying out the duty all that well, but I try.  I’m a natural daydreamer, much like Walter Mitty, and the stories and other worlds come to be whenever my hands are busy, but my mind is free.  It seems a shame to waste them all.  I probably let two or three stories die, unwritten every day, but some, I hold onto, take notes for and attempt to get down in full.  Some of these even see publication somewhere, sometimes.  I won’t say I’m compelled or unable to stop, but it does feel that way at times. 
I actually have tried to stop a few times, tried to give it up as futile, and failed.  I’m nearly forty, and my first story, excepting a couple of bits in the high school literary journal, didn’t see print until just four years ago.  That’s a long time to go unpublished and not give up.  My natural thought patterns are stories and essays.  I’m not sure how I’d change that, but I wouldn’t want to try.  I love storytelling.  

When did you decide you wanted to choose the terrible career path of becoming an author, like the rest of us? How long do you think you can keep this up?

It is a terrible, career path for anyone who isn’t some sort of dilettante, isn’t it?  I know very few people who write full time.  Almost all of us have to have a day job.  I could wait until I retire, but that might never happen, and the chances of my becoming independently wealthy are pretty slim.  How I wish I were an independently wealthy delettante, though.  :)

I started writing when I was in seventh grade, and I was terrible.  As soon as I had the first, atrocious paragraph of a story titled, Night over Solate, down though, I knew it was what I really wanted to do.  I’ve been writing fiction ever since.  Some of it is even worth reading.  I do not think, now, that I will ever stop.

Thursday Morrow: the Self-Winding, Mechanical Man is a pretty damn catchy title. But what is the story about? Was this your first attempt at steampunk? 
Thursday Morrow, my third, published attempt at Steampunk is about completely mechanical, artificial intelligence, right and wrong, and heroism.  The hero is the title character, Thursday Morrow.  He is a clockwork robot who one day disappears into New York City and begins doing daring deeds of heroism on the behalf of the victims of crime.  The story takes place in his maker’s workshop where the two, Thursday and his maker, discuss his invention and manufacture and his deeds of daring do.  

I see that the Stone Maiden, one of your stories, inspired one of your readers to write a song about it. Now I won't say I am seriously awed by this, but whoa, man. How did that make you feel, as an author?
It was flattering, slightly embarrassing, and artistically gratifying.  I didn’t mind a bit.  Inspiring others is a major goal of being an author.  

You mention, in your author bio, that you can speak (and translate) Ancient Egyptian. Besides preparing yourself in case of being flung to the distant past, how would you say this has helped you with your storytelling?
No one can actually speak ancient Egyptian.  We aren’t even sure how all of the consonants sounded, much less the vowels, which they never indicated in writing.  How I wish I were like Danial Jackson of SG-1 and could speak it, though.  I’m pretty rusty at translating on paper, now, but if I had forewarning that I was suddenly going to be thrust back into the distant past, I would exercise those unused brain cells a bit first.  I would hope to be sent back to just before the Battle of Kadesh, so I could warn Ramesses II that the Hittite army was hiding on the other side of the city. 
Studying Ancient History at the graduate level is otherwise useful, however, in other settings.  The mental discipline acquired is of great value.  The knack of reading through what is written, putting it in context, and making sense of it, helps a lot.  One becomes a discerning reader, studying history.  Having to reconstruct another culture in all of its elements was good practice, too, for inventing alien cultures for my stories.  Ancient Egypt was genuinely human and yet genuinely alien to us, today.  That helped a lot. 
Have you ever written a story that you have absolutely hated? If so, what was it about?
The first story I ever wrote has to be the one that I find most atrocious in its execution.  It was about siblings in exile being forced by circumstances to move, yet again.  The youngest sibling was accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and the eldest, who was, of course, a kick-butt warrior had to save him and their sister and get them to some new, safe place.  It was an idea with plenty of potential, but I was not yet up to the task. 
That’s not the only one of course, but I usually recognize how bad something is a few paragraphs in, scrap it, and start over, these days.
Who is your favorite author?

My favorite, barely edging out C.S. Lewis, is J.R.R. Tolkien.  I’m also very fond of many others.  Ray Bradbury, Mike Resnick, H. David Blalock, Thomas Costain, and Stephen Dorning come to mind just now.  The list is hardly exhaustive.  Tolkien is still my absolute favorite.  I find his prose intelligent, readable, and moving.  I love the clarity of his writing and the depth of his world.  I love what he started.  I love the archetypes he invented and the masterful way he dealt with them.  I love the deeply insightful themes explored in his works.  I love his worldview.  I love reading a work of fiction and finding truth in it that factual works don’t deliver.

Who is your LEAST favorite author that everyone else seems to love?

Dan Brown.  His writing is unremarkable, his themes are uninspiring, and his stories are poorly researched.  That alone wouldn’t be enough, there are plenty of others just as bad, but he touted The Da Vince Code as being well-researched and stated at first, until forced to withdraw the statements, that all of the secret organizations included in his story not only existed but actually did the things of which they were accused in his story.  Making things up for a story is fine, after all, it is fiction.  Lying about how well you researched it to sell your work is quite another.  He did a few brief searches on conspiracy sites and then stated on his website promoting the book that his story was a plausible one based on rigorous research, a fictional account based on fact.  Bull crap. So he did well on tapping into the conspiracy theorist part of our culture and capitalized on it brilliantly in a lucky break.  Good for him, but the story is poorly told, and I despise lies. 

Which is your favorite book?

My absolute favorite work of fiction is the Lord of the Rings.

What is your dream project? Have you started working on it? If it is made into a movie, who's gonna star in it?

All my projects are dream projects.  They are all the product of daydreams for one thing.  For another, I throw all of my efforts into each one as I work on them.  My novella, or perhaps short novel, Penultima, is mostly finished, I think.  It’s about the survivors of a zombie apocalypse, choosing to live in an available dystopia over a seemingly out of reach utopia and the consequences of that choice. 

            There’s one I haven’t started due to the fact that I never took my graduate studies past a Master’s degree. Had I gone on to seek a doctoral degree, I would have written a fictional, but stylistically accurate and typical 17th dynasty tomb autobiography of a soldier in the army of one of the pharaohs named Seqenenre Tao which also incorporated some of the story telling devices of the Middle Kingdom stories such as the Tale of Sinuhe or the Shipwrecked Sailor.   That one will take some time, money, and study not currently available to a father of three with a full time job outside of writing.  Alas.  One day.  But my novella Penultima will see completion.  That is something to which I look forward. 

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