Saturday, June 20, 2020

Inside the Mind: Robert M Roseth

Welcome to Inside the Mind where we here at The Faerie Review interview authors and creators.
Our guest today is Robert M Roseth, the author behind Ivy is a Weed.

Lily:  Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Robert, I really enjoyed Ivy is a Weed. Mike seems like an unlikely investigator, where does he get his curiosity?
Robert:  In his previous career, our protagonist was a journalist. So he was used to asking questions, even if they made people uncomfortable. Reporters, at least the good ones, see themselves as the eyes and ears of the public. So they will ask questions that may seem elementary, even stupid, just to fill out the picture. They don’t assume what they know is true and prefer to check their facts with the source. And that’s how Mike pursues his investigation.
Lily:  It definitely makes him tenacious and a great main character. A possible murder on a university campus, why a college setting?

Robert:  First and most important, I worked at a university for most of my life.  In my final few years of working there, I would have visions – daydreams –of what it would be like if someone found a body on campus, if people had potentially acted on their darker impulses. I liked writing about the paradoxical situation of such a seemingly irrational act taking place on a university campus. The culture of higher education is to extol the intellect and rational thought. But I found in my career that human beings are pretty much the same no matter where they work. Sometimes they behave like rational creatures. But very often they don’t.
Lily:  Thinking back to my college days it definitely would have been strange if an administrator had died on campus mysteriously, but I can completely see them trying to sweep it under the rug. Did the story take any unexpected turns as you were writing it?
Robert:  Constantly! The way I wrote this book was to invent the characters and watch what they did literally in my mind’s eye. I’ve tried in the past to work from an outline: This happens, and then this happens. It has never worked for me. The characters just refuse to perform in the ways I might expect. I could give you specifics, but those would be mostly spoilers. Let’s just say that as I approached the end of the book I watched my characters ever more carefully, to see what they did, who they met, what they decided, and how others responded. None of that was mapped out in advance.
Lily:  I love that approach and I think it worked out well! Will there be a book two with Mike?
Robert:  I’m not sure. It’s possible. I’m working on a couple other projects right now, and neither of them are part of the same genre as Ivy is a Weed. But you never know.
Lily:  I'd love to see him return for another round of satire infused mystery. Now we’d like to talk about you as a writer. What’s your favorite place to write?
Robert:  I keep up a consistent routine when I write. I have a desk and a computer that is in my son’s former bedroom. I try to write around the same time each day. Since this was my first novel, I set myself a goal of writing at least 1,000 words a day. Most days I met or exceeded that total. I thought initially I might write in locations remote from my house, more isolated. But that never worked out.
Lily:  A routine is always good when it comes to getting something done. Do you have any quirky writing habits?
Robert: Not sure if this is quirky, but I never permitted myself to cop out with “writer’s block.” I’d encounter rough spots, days where things were tougher than others. But the best way to get through those was to write. Sure, I might later decide to throw away most or all of what I wrote that day. But for me it was like a muscle: The more exercised the ability to write, the stronger and more fluid my writing became.
Lily:  That's great that you always pushed through, I don't know if I could do it. Where do you find the most inspiration?
Robert: Inspiration is a funny thing. It comes when you least expect it. The genesis of the core idea for Ivy is a Weed actually goes back to a New Yorker cartoon I saw decades ago that just stuck with me. I remember the moment at which I figured out the book’s dĂ©nouement: I was riding on a ferry and the idea lit up my brain. My second book, which I’m editing now, is in some ways more conventional: It was inspired by the time I spend with my mother as she was dying.
Lily:  I love that it all started with a cartoon! Let’s finish up with some fun questions and get inside your mind. What’s the weirdest pizza topping you’ve ever seen and/or tried?
Robert:  My wife likes to try all kinds of things on the pizzas that she makes. Most recently she tried some kind of jam. I don’t think we’ll be having that again. 
Lily:  I'm trying to imagine what pizza with jam would taste like and I can't quite do it. I have to admit I haven't been very adventurous with my toppings. What is one thing you would do if time and money weren’t a problem?
Robert:  Oh wow. Devote more time to Greek theater and philosophy at its source. I think a lot of what we need as humans and what we can say about humanity occurred in that small city of Athens 2,500 years ago. I’d like to soak it up, study it, debate it with people who were as fascinated with that civilization as I am.
Lily:  It's been awhile since I dipped into philosophy but now I have the urge to pick up my old collection of Plato and Aristotle. Do you have a favorite snack?
Robert:  Since the isolation of the pandemic we’ve been eating healthier than I might otherwise. I miss greasy fried chicken followed by several teaspoons of a bismuth chaser.
Lily:  Homemade fried chicken sounds amazing right now. Maybe I'll make some after we move. What would be the worst “buy one get one free” sale of all time?
Robert:  Two terms for Trump. 
Lily:  Firstly, I agree. Secondly, I probably laughed way too hard. Would you rather 5% of the population have telepathy, or 5% of the population have telekinesis? (You are not part of the 5% that has telepathy or telekinesis.)
Robert:  So all I get to do is observe? That’s not fair! If other people's brains work anything like mine, telepathy would be like sitting inside a clothes dryer and watching the different colors and shapes float by. Not pretty. My only reference for telekinesis is in the movie The Fly (both versions). But now, an age in which air travel is described by epidemiologists as putting yourself in a "flying germ tube," telekinesis would definitely be a boon in so many ways.
Lily:  I wouldn't mind being able to travel long distances without having to fly in a plane. In college my friends and I started saying "telekinesis" and whatever item we wanted passed to us and it's kind of stuck over the years. What is a piece of advice do you often give but find yourself struggling to follow?
Robert:  Don’t lick the screen door in the winter. No, seriously. I would advise people, when possible, to focus on activities that elevate their spirit. My happiest moments are when I’m able to follow that advice. Which can’t occur unless you follow the Socratic dictum Know Thyself. That’s an ongoing struggle.
Lily:  Not licking the screen door in winter is great advice too! Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
Robert:  I’m 71 years old. I began writing a few years ago to see if I had it in me to tell a story from beginning to end. I was skeptical. But I’ve been able to achieve something that has brought pleasure to me and, I hope, a broader public. 
Lily:  You've definitely brought some smiles to my face. How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Robert:  I have a website. There’s more about my book, some really funny stuff, and a story about when I became a writer, at least in my own mind.

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