Today I want to welcome Dr. Bob Rich to Gloria’s Corner. Dr. Bob calls
himself a writer, a mudsmith, and a psychologist. Dr. Bob Rich is a
past winner of both the EPIC award and the Golden Web Awards. He is
here today to talk with us about his latest novel Ascending Spiral.
I’ve met you way back when at the Muse Online Conference, I believe and
this is the first time I am honored to host you on my blog. So why don’t
we jump right in.
GO: Bob, tell us a bit about your book.
BR: Above all, “Ascending Spiral” is intended to be an exciting read.
Advance reviewers have been kind enough to state that they found it to
be a page-turner. Joyce Scarborough has written, “This book is unlike any
I’ve read before. I made the mistake of skimming the beginning one night,
even though I was in the middle of reading another book and was
committed to reading several others before it. By the time I got to the end
of the first chapter, I was hopelessly and happily hooked.” That’s manna
from heaven for a writer.
At the same time, every bit of writing, even a shopping list, has a message
under the message. I often read books I enjoy, but find that I disapprove of
the author’s unwritten assumptions. These could be the glorification of
greed, violence, cruelty, drunkenness… For example, I’ve recently edited a
book in which the hero does his acts basically for egotistical self-
The message under the message in “Ascending Spiral” is that we need to
build a new culture, based on compassion and cooperation, because the
current culture of greed and conflict is driving humanity to extinction.
This is something I strongly believe, while at the same time I have a
strong dislike of preaching at people. Actually, I don’t have to. All I
need to do, all any of us need to do, is to write from my heart, and my
beliefs will come through. The protagonist of my story is a person who
made a terrible mistake, perhaps 12,000 years ago: in a thoughtless act,
destroyed all life on a planet that had an intelligent life form. Its chosen
restitution was to become a short-lived, planet based creature, living
life after life until the occupants of that planet face extinction. Then, this
person will need to work to avert disaster.
The current incarnation of this person is Dr. Pip Lipkin, and he is living
now, on earth. We are the species facing the risk of dying out, and
his reason for writing his account is to be part of the effort to survive, and
to survive into a better kind of life.
GO: What is your writing schedule like?
BR: I don’t have one of those. Although I’ve just turned 70, I am
very busy with multiple activities, one of which is writing. Most of the
other things I do involve deadlines, appointments, commitments to the
needs of others. I am a counseling psychologist, which means helping
to relieve suffering, or perhaps putting band aids on the wounds caused by
a crazy society. This is far more important than anything that may benefit
me. Also, I do a lot of editing, for small publishers and hopeful writers.
This nicely fits into the gaps left by other things I do. When I edit a book,
I know that the author is waiting with bated breath for my response, so I
have a rule: I do my best to return the edited manuscript within a week.
So, writing is the chocolate icing on the cake of life. It’s what I do when I
can spare the time.
GO: Where can readers learn more about you and your work?
BR: My writing showcase is http://bobswriting.com, where I have the first
chapter of each of my books, a variety of short stories, speech transcripts
and other enjoyable reading. You’ll find lots more there, particularly
material helpful for other writers, including my editing service, and advice
from me and others. There is also an award I administer: the “LiFE Award:
Literature For Environment.”
I have two other web sites. One deals with environmental conservation,
http://mudsmith.net, the other with psychology, http://anxietyanddepres
sion-help.com. My occasional newsletter Bobbing Around http://mudsmit
h.net/bobbing.html is interesting, challenging, perhaps annoying, but never
GO: What were the best and worst bits of writing advice you’ve ever
If I’ve been given bad advice, I’ve completely forgotten about it. So, can’t
say anything about the worst.
The best I got as a very novice writer. It was in the late 1980s, when I
started entering short story contests. I picked up an old book about creative
writing. The author was an obscure writer with no great success, and I can’t
even remember his name, but his description of how writing works was
beautiful and effective. He said, you as writer provide raw material. The
reader is the person who then creates a story from it. So, introduce some
people. Bring them to life, put them in a setting, set them some challenges
– and get off the stage.
He wrote, everything is from someone’s point of view. In journalism, that
is always the writer. In fiction, it must never be the writer because that
reminds the reader that this is only a story, an artificial creation. The way
to make the world of the book more real than reality is to present it through
the perception of the people in it.
GO: Who has inspired you in your writing? Why and/or how?
BR: Um… How many pages can I cover with this one? There are too many
Hemingway: don’t use two words where one will do. Every word must
justify its inclusion.
Sue Grafton: writing is a good way to deal with the traumas of your own
Dick Francis: ordinary people can rise to the greatest challenge; it’s
interesting to learn about varied fields of expertise.
Asimov: it’s OK to be clever. Did you know, he also wrote a chemistry
textbook. When I was a student, it was the only textbook I enjoyed.
O. Henry: the sting is in the tail.
Dr. Seuss: you don’t have to be serious all the time.
Tolkien: you can be serious all the time, and still be whimsical.
GO: Did you choose the writing profession or did it choose you?
It most certainly chose me. For many years, I didn’t know I was a writer,
but kept filling my head with monologues. I didn’t share these with anyone
– who’d be interested in my ramblings?
Then I started to build my house, and invented a new way of making adobe
bricks. I wrote an article about it for a marvelous magazine, “Earth
Garden,” www.earthgarden.com.au, and soon I had my own column on
things to do with building. My qualification for this was a series of laboring
jobs in building trades. I learned from work, applied the new lesson to my
house, and wrote it up as a “how to.” This resulted in my first book, “The
Earth Garden Building Book: Design and build your own house.” That was
in 1986 and the 4th edition is still in print. That success gave me
confidence enough to start creative writing as well.
GO: What is your background?
A wall at the moment.
I live in Australia, in a beautiful country town near enough to the city of
Melbourne that the air pollution there gives us lovely sunsets.
I am a professional grandfather, with hundreds of grandkids in many
places. They find me through the internet, send me a cry for help, and
somehow I have the ability and make a difference for many of them.
As I said, I am a counseling psychologist, and much of my time is invested
in making life a little better for the victims of society. This is not a duty or
a living, but a joy — when it works.
As you may have noticed, I have no sense of humor whatever.
GO: When did you “know” you were a writer?
Oh, anybody who has been to elementary school can be a writer. Question
is, do you write anything worth reading? As I said above, I published my
first magazine article way back. That was in 1972. Got my first prize for a
short story in 1986, and that was the publication date of my first book.
GO: How would you describe your style of writing?
BR: One of my principles for anything is the motto of the Australian Army
Engineers: KISS. It stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid!” So, my
writing style has been described as “deceptively simple.” The idea is, I
want my reader to be lost in the content, not distracted by language.
“Literary writing” is a form of showing off — look how clever I am! My
preference is to entertain, to inspire, to educate, not to impress. I am there
for my reader, not for my ego.
GO: What is your writing process?
BR: I think on a keyboard. I know some people have the odd, old-
fashioned habit of scribbling on bits of paper, but I can’t read my own
handwriting, so that’s no good. Besides, I like trees to stay alive instead of
being pulped into throw-away stuff.
As a beginner, I used to plot my stories in detail. Now, I might set up an
opening and an ending, more or less, and let the characters decide the
details. Actually, I’ve just written about this in my newsletter:
http://mudsmith.net/bobbing12-7.html#plot. Often, I set up a situation
before going to bed, then sleep on it. In the morning, my fingers tell me
how the story develops. Right now, in my current work, a young girl has
just heard that the father she and her mother have been desperately hiding
from is on her track. When I get a chance to return to the story, I’ll find out
Anyway, Gloria, thank you for the opportunity of being on your blog. I am
happy to chat with your visitors.
GO: Well, it’s my pleasure having you here today, so now let’s turn it over
to the visitors to ask Dr. Rich any questions they’d like an answer to.
Don’t forget to come back Thursday for the weekly question and Friday
for my featured blogger. See you then.