Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Today's book is a departure from our usual format. We're featuring a Christian graphic novel. Welcome, Robert. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
My main protagonist, Dr. Terry Harper, really started out as a metaphor for both my spiritual condition and my fascination with all things historical. Since my personal leap of faith was aided by discovering that there were men of science who not only believed in the story of Jesus but also did research which help to prove the Bible was historically accurate, it made sense for me to integrate those kinds of traits into one of my characters. You know what they say…write what you know!
Secondly, I have a very dry and sometimes dark sense of humor, which you see peppered throughout the Eye Witness series.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
When I about 21 years old, my friends and I were at a nightclub which featured live bands. This particular night, the band on stage started their rendition of, Ted Nugent’s, "Cat Scratch Fever" and came into the audience so they could have various people sing the chorus. When the came toward our table, they stuck the mic in our faces, I grabbed it and started belted out the chorus. But then, to the surprise of the singer, I kept the mic, went up on stage and continued singing the rest of the song. I did my best impression of Mick Jaggar meets Freddie Mercury and the crowd went wild!
It was one of those moments that I wished had taken place two decades later, during the era of the handheld video camera, so I could go back and watch it again. It was every rock fans dream, to be up in front of a crowded club and having people go wild over your performance. Ten years later I had someone approach me and ask, ”That was all an staged right…you were there with the band?”
When did you first discover you were a writer?
My writing talents really began to blossom back in college (at University of Wisconsin/Platteville, 1977-‘81) through my assignments in radio and TV broadcasting. I was part of a group of very creative people, and we were responsible for writing a number of shows and events that were broadcast on our local cable and radio station, including: A daily half hour news program, a weekly children’s show, a 24 hour radio show and various Monty Pythonesque comedy specials.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
For enjoyment, I currently search out historically-based fiction. Over the last couple years I’ve really enjoyed: Ann Rice’s, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt; Brad Meltzer’s, The Book of Lies; and Michael Chabon’s, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.
For spiritual feeding I try to read a couple books each year that deal with the human condition and how our spiritual beliefs relate to and affect it. One of my favorite authors in this genre is, Brian McLaren.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Outside of my three Eye Witness graphic novels (A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth, Acts of the Spirit, and Rise of the Apostle), my other writing work has been in the genre of sequential comic books. I created a noteworthy science fiction based series back in the 1990’s entitled, Template…which introduced many of the concepts you are now seeing played out on the big screen in such movies as, Push and the small screen through the TV show, Heroes.
Other than that, I have a file full of screenplays in various levels of development, that I’ll eventually get to once I’m through with my work on Eye Witness.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
That’s a great question…one I ask myself on many occasions! But the simple answer, (which also may seem the corniest, depending on your point of view), is through my faith. If you read my bio (http://www.headpress.info/about.html) you’ll discover that I was a late bloomer as far as pursuing and accepting my Christian faith. Though raised in a Lutheran home growing up, I lived most of my adult life as an agnostic. Like a lot of people, I didn’t open myself up to the possibility that God and his son Jesus really existed, till life helped nudge me in that direction through a series of events, which included the death of one of my oldest friends, my father and a business mentor…all within the span of six months.
It was this acceptance of faith that helped me through these difficult times and many others since then. In fact, when I look back over my life since the day I was reborn. (October of 1999), I marvel that I made it through some of these events with my family and marriage still intact!
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Some are just plucked out of thin air, because they just “feel” like they’ll fit the character’s disposition, (re: Terry Harper, Curtis McIntyre, Raj Patel), while others are more deliberate attempts to make a statement, (re: Omar Al-Kadar…which is loosely translated as “the powerful”, in Arabic tradition). If there’s any one thing I try to do when determining names, it’s to make sure they do not seem derivative of other works and give the character a unique identity.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
The creation of the Eye Witness series...including the illustrations. This was something I was inspired to do shortly after my acceptance of my faith as a way to share the gospel through my unique set of creative gifts and to be honest, I wasn’t sure they were enough to get the job done!
Until the last 5 years, there’s been a precious few attempts to create spiritual-based comic books and graphic novels. Part of what I felt commissioned to do through Eye Witness, was to open the door of curiosity and acceptance not only for the readers, but with in the ranks of authors, publishers and the retail community.
Outside of the three book awards the series has garnered, one of the nicest complements I’ve received since starting down this path in, was when I was approached by one of the true groundbreaking writers in the comic book/graphic novel industry at a pop culture convention in the summer of ’08. This writer had been personally responsible for the creation of one of the more demonic characters in mainstream comics/Graphic novels. He told me, he’s watched my progress from afar and had admired what I’ve accomplished with Eye Witness. In addition, he shared with me that I’ve inspired him to self-publish a spiritual based story, which he created years ago but could never find a publisher for.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A dog…most likely a mutt, because I’m so even-tempered and loyal.
What is your favorite food?
Good, (what I like to call), cheap Chinese food. You know, the kind you can get for four to seven dollars a dish, only at a no bells-and-whistles-shop owned and operated by a family, not a chain. When I discover a new one of these restaurants in my area, I always order my “litmus test meal” of garlic shrimp. If they past the test with that one, than I go on and explore the rest of their menu.
I'm like that, but my dish is sweet and sour chicken. There's one of those family owned shows near my house that has the best sweet and sour chicken I've ever tasted. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome was allowing other people to edit my work. I’m still struggle with this one today! What I found is, that I’m great at editing other people’s writing but that I have huge blind spots where my own work is concerned (which I think is pretty common). When proofing my own work, I think I end up seeing what I knew “I meant to say,” rather then what my hands actually typed.
It became clear I had to overcome this kind of fixation about my own work, when the first Eye Witness book came out (A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth), in 2004. I had rushed to make my originally stated release date and shaved time off the final editing and proofing stages, to achieve that. After reading the couple reviews of the book in national publications, which liked the concept but couldn’t focus on anything but the preponderance of typo’s in the narrative, I quickly learned that if you want your work considered legitimate by reputable sources, this cannot happen.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
First: Do your research on the topic you’re writing about and/or time period…so that it has a foundation in reality. Even if you’re writing fiction, it helps the reader suspend his disbelief in something that may appear totally wild, if there is a basis in reality to anchor your fictional world or premise to.
Second: Develop a thick skin and don’t be afraid to show your work around, especially to those who have a background in writing, publishing and literature or those who have some expertise in what you are writing about. You want to hear criticism of your work at the early draft stage, where you can make changes for the better, rather then waiting till after the book is published and it’s too late to fix problems.
Tell us about the featured book?
Eye Witness: Rise of the Apostle, if the third book in the Eye Witness graphic novel tetraology (a Greek term for a play in four parts). It is quite unique, in that it combines two stories running concurrently…a modern day action thriller and a Biblical adaptation of the Book of Acts, as related by the Apostle Paul.
The modern day story centers on forensic archeologist, Dr. Terry Harper, who’s helped to translate what could be a previously unknown gospel of Jesus’ passion week, written not by one of his disciples, but by a completely objective eyewitness to these events. Dr. Harper’s desire to bring this information into the public’s eye sparks dark forces to rise up and attempt to stop him by any means necessary, including poisoning, bombing and assassination. Throughout these episodes, Dr. Harper, finds himself drifting into blackout-induced visions, where he becomes an unwitting eyewitness to the events surrounding the birth of the Christian faith. These visions, which trace the blueprint laid out in the Book of Acts, share the transformation and journeys of the Apostle Paul in a very personal and in-depth fashion.
At its core the Eye Witness series, not only presents a fresh and colorful look at the origins of the world’s largest religion, but also presents a story that illustrates that anyone, even a non-believer, can become an instrument of God.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Our main website, which has information about all things related to Eye Witness, (including a link to my blog and a shopping cart), is: http://www.headpress.info/
The Eye Witness graphic novels are also available at: Amazon, Target, Barnes & Nobel, Family Christian and many other book retailers’ sites.
Other sites where you can communicate with me directly, or see some of my posted artwork are on:
Thank you, Robert, for spending this time with us.
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