Today I am sharing answer to 5 Questions from Arthur Rosch. Mr. Rosch is the author of several fiction books. He also write for several magazines including Shutterbug Magazine where he has published many articles and photos. He is with us today to talk about his latest book Confessions of an Honest Man. It is our In The Spotlight book this weekend. You can read the book an author spotlights or read our 5 star review by clicking the links.
About The Author:
The greatest thing that ever happened to me was my awful childhood. I had no choice but to get angry, rebel and follow my path to becoming an artist. My first duty as an artist was to cultivate obsessions. I proceeded to do this with gusto and learned that there is no substitute for a good obsession, compulsion or addiction to gain insight into human nature. I managed to stay out of jail (except for a single night when the Detroit police busted every member of The Artist’s Workshop), and I managed to stay out of the loony bin. Of course it was a girl who inspired me to write poetry. It wasn’t until I was twenty six that I realized I could write novels. Prior to that I had been a jazz musician, a drummer/keyboard player/composer with an immense curiosity. I figure the description “artist” covers whatever medium is inspiring at the moment. Writing is really the refuge of my “later” life, after forty. It took me that long to wear out the obsessions. They had really gotten out of hand. Not that I regret a single one. Part of a writer’s apprenticeship is to spend at least twenty years being mentally deranged, so I got to have my ticket punched on that one. It took twelve years of intense therapy to pull myself back into the functioning world. Did I tell you I love astronomy? Oh, I love astronomy! I got some lovely recognition as a photographer by doing creative work at night with cameras. Please visit my photo websites at 500px or artsdigitalphoto. I make about half a living doing photography. Writers don’t want to hear about my books. They want to hear about their own books. If you’re a reader, however, you might find my oeuvre interesting. I love science fiction, literary fiction, Rumi’s poetry, travel, history, dogs and cats and my wife, who is half Apache. She can be very eerie when she goes dipping into the shaman’s world. She invokes the spirit helpers called “The Grandmothers”. Those ladies have helped us out of a lot of jams. Stories of weird miracles are told in the travel memoir THE ROAD HAS EYES,, AN RV, A RELATIONSHIP AND A WILD RIDE. This book is available at Smashwords dot com. My younger and musical life is described in CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN, which is about to come out as an e-book.. Everything else I either know or don’t know is in the sci fi epic THE GODS OF THE GIFT. Then there’s the new trilogy, THE SHADOW STORM. Oops, there I go talking about my books. Sorry,writers. Tell me all about yours!
What advice do you have for new authors, like me?
Arthur- Find a profession that will pay the bills while you write. The odds are against you, especially in this digital age. There are millions of books competing for attention. Anyone can publish a book. It isn’t necessary to be a good writer to succeed. In fact, being a good writer may get in the way of churning out the endless series of formula books that sell. So, don’t forget. Stay with your truth and if that means writing, then arm yourself with realistic knowledge, acquire writing tools and learn how to market what you write. Reach for your highest level of ability and keep raising the bar. Write your best. Expect little reward.
Lian- I have heard from a lot of authors similar advice. Writing for the sake of writing?
What is an underrated book, series or author that you think everyone should read?
Fantasy writer Jack Vance died two years ago at the age of 97. There is no author of any time or place who has given me more joy than Jack Vance. His books are not difficult to find, yet he is seldom in libraries or book stores. I buy his books on Amazon and then give them away. He is forgotten by the larger public. Once one acquires a taste for Vance’s eccentric characters and weirdly structured societies one can’t put down the books. I re-read Vance’s entire (and extensive) oeuvre every three or four years. He is magnificent in his understanding of human nature. He has a spellbinding ability to develop alien landscapes that maintain inner coherence. His Lyonesse trilogy has been called “the greatest fairy tale of the twentieth century”. It’s a huge story, three long books that take place on a continent off the coast of Britain that has since vanished beneath the sea. This is an epoch before Rome came to Northern Europe. Magicians vie with one another for power that is contained in objects, “magical adjuncts” such as mirrors that see things far away, gargoyles, trapped creatures from other dimensions. Another Vance favorite is a series called Planet Of Adventure. Awful title! The books originally came out carrying as titles the races of creatures with whom the book dealt: The Chasch,The Dirdir, The Wankh and The Pnume. As pure adventure they cannot be surpassed.
Vance is the only author with whom I would care to share a meal.
-So he would be on your list of authors you would go to lunch with, awesome. I had never heard heard of him, but his Wiki page makes e think I should maybe check his work out.
What makes you want to share your stories?
I consider that there are four attributes that make a great story. These attributes are entertainment, information, insight and inspiration. A good story might have three of the four, but a GREAT story has all of them. For some reason, the combination of these four qualities adds up to a whole that is greater than its parts. That whole is Beauty. When I experience beauty I want to share it. As an artist I am imposing my definition of beauty upon my audience. If I break down my four components of a great story, I have a structure, an architecture of beauty that gets more and more compelling. What is insight? I just looked it up. “A sudden penetrating understanding into the true nature of a thing.”
“A faculty of seeing into the inner character or an underlying truth.” Aha! I now have insight into Insight. To keep things utterly simple, I want to share my stories because they have given me pleasure and I want to pass that pleasure on to other people. Isn’t that inspiring?
– Terrific answer! it is indeed inspiring. Thanks.
Which of your current works in progress are you most passionate about?
The Shadow Storm is a major work in progress. I’ve written a first draft of Book One.. I intend to write a trilogy. I first conceived the story as I observed the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. This was an horrific series of civil wars that followed the death of one man: Yosef Broz Tito.
I’m always fascinated by the extremes of human behavior. As a Jewish boy growing up in the 50s I heard stories of the Holocaust. Some of these were first-hand accounts by survivors of Nazi terror. My father’s second wife spent years in Auschwitz. She had sloppy blue tattoos on her wrist. The very concept of such barbarity held a fascination for me. How could people do this to other people?. I kept that interest as I grew up. In the last half of the twentieth century there have been other genocides: Cambodia, Rwanda, many more. We live in truly barbarous times. When Yugoslavia dissolved I began to plan a book about an alternate world. By changing the world’s geography everything else changed. The politics, religion, distribution of wealth, everything changed. Yet I kept the model of Yugoslavia at the front of my imagination and continued a ten year program of research.
The Shadow Storm is alive in my mind. You ask in another question about how I write my books. I don’t write my books. My books write themselves after giving me permission to bring them into the world. This may sound facile, even “cute”. It’s the best I can do to describe my process. I write by “scenes”. I keep a catalog of scenes in my head and I use these scenes as the scaffolding of my story.
In the Shadow Storm a set of characters presented themselves. The Tito figure is murdered in the first chapter. His death sets in motion terrible events, He’s gone. It’s the ramifications of his murder that drive the plot. I am passionate about this story. It has my complete devotion. A first draft of Book One took me roughly a decade to write. It’s a great story. It’s a thriller, a love story and a military epic, rolled into a single narrative. Now that I’ve begun Book Two I progress into the conflict that all the characters have been working so hard to avoid. A great war breaks out. It resembles our World War One. The world into which I have placed my characters has technology analogous to the year 1900. Since the story was inspired by Yugoslavia and the Balkans, my characters and settings share a Slavic feel. One of the most powerful and feared empites in this landscape is The Klute Hegemony. It is ruled by an Autocrat, called A Glavnik. The Glavnik of the Klute is called Igor the Fifth. He is roughly modeled on Joseph Stalin. I say roughly. He is an original character, a ruthless, eccentric, physically repellent man who has such power that his very presence inspires terror.
– Wow, you really put a lot of work into your work!
Name three fun facts about you or your work.
My first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. It was a sci fi humor piece about a planet where there are six genders. The story won Playboy’s Best Story of The Year Award. I was flown to a celebration in New York City, all expenses paid. I met the important people on Playboy’s staff, the Fiction Editor, Christie Hefner and such writers as Alex Haley and E.L. Doctorow. As a result of the sale and the award I was signed to a two year contract with Scott Meredith Agency. Unfortunately, the relationship with the agency didn’t work out. (Read I didn’t make any more sales).
More recently I received Honorable Mention in the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. I also had two humor pieces published in the online magazine Exquisite Corpse. This magazine was established by well known writer Andre Codrescu. It is notoriously difficult to get published in Exquisite Corpse.
An aside: I also write as a photographer. Shutterbug Magazine has published six of my articles and thirty of my photographs, including two covers.
-You do find a way to keep busy. Those awards must have been a honor to receive.
Who is your favorite character in the book you are sharing with us today?
Zoot Prestige is a sixty two year old jazz musician. He’s a successful tenor saxophone player who consistently scores in the Top Ten jazz musicians in the major polls. Zoot is compassionate, self-possessed, wry, and loyal to the musicians he hires to play in his various bands. The hero of my book, “Confessions Of An Honest Man” is Aaron Kantro. We meet Zoot, Aaron and keyboard player Tyrone Terry in the first page of the novel. Some of Zoot’s qualities are immediately apparent. Zoot is a worldly man who has worked jazz clubs and venues for fifty years. He’s a black man and he grew up in a ghetto world. That hasn’t prevented him from reading widely, educating himself, improving his vocabulary and becoming highly articulate. Zoot is something of a chameleon. He likes to melt into his environment.. He will cause trouble over matters involving justice. When he auditions drummers for a tour of clubs throughout the mid-west, he invites fourteen drummers to play for him over a period of two days. Aaron is the only white drummer among the fourteen. Aaron is the third drummer to play for Zoot. When he hears Aaron’s music, he sends the other drummers home. Aaron is the first white drummer Zoot has ever hired. He knows it’s going to cause trouble. The is the 60’s. Racial tensions are tight as violin strings. After a bit of trouble, Aaron says, ” Sorry, Zoot. I didn’t wnat to become a crusade.”
Zoot responds, ““Don’t flatter me, young brother, I ain’t no Martin Luther King. My reasons for bringing you on are purely selfish. You ain’t a crusade, you the most funky goddam drummer I’ve ever heard and no racist bullshit is gonna deter me from keeping you in my band. I enjoy playin’ with you like I ain’t never enjoyed playin with NO drummer….well….Jimmy Cobb, Roy Haynes. You got to appreciate the gods of drums, but you…you something special, you pull shit outta your self I ain’t never heard before. You restore all the pleasure to these endless gigs, that’s the simple heart of the matter. After forty years of playin’ Embraceable You, a little fresh input is a valuable thing. Truth is, I can’t live without you. I NEED you…like dope or somethin’.”
An unaccustomed warmth starts in Aaron’s throat and descends like a cup of his granma’s chicken soup, all the way to his guts. This is what love feels like, he realizes. His father is the only other person that can give him such a feeling. Aaron swallows and awkwardly wraps his stripped rib bones neatly together in white paper.
-Mom has put your book on the “read when I get older list” (she is so bossy sometimes =] ), but from your excerpt, Zoot does seem like a really neat character.