Thursday, August 3, 2017

Interview with writer and author Dr. Bob Rich

Writer Dr. Bob Rich joins me today to chat about his new historical fiction, Guardian Angel.

**For a chance to win a copy of Guardian Angel, leave an e-mail address in the comments below.**

Dr. Bob Rich is a visitor from a faraway galaxy. At home, he is an Historian of Horror, so Earth is his favorite place in all the Universe. Where else do you find an organized game (called war) in which intelligent beings kill each other? Where else are child-raising practices designed to damage children? And best of all, where else do you see the entire economy of a species designed to destroy the life support system of their planet? For an Historian of Horror, that’s delicious.

When he pretends to be human, he does get worried about all this horror. Earth is such a pretty little planet, and humans are cute little beings, and he feels like a grandfather to all of them. So, his writing is aimed at changing the global culture from one that rewards and encourages the worst in human nature: greed, aggression, hate, to one that rewards and encourages the best: compassion, decency, cooperation.

He is the author of 16.5 published books, 5 of them award-winners. If you want to know what a 0.5 published book is like, go to

Please tell us about your current release.
Years ago, when I was working as a psychotherapist at an Australian Aboriginal health service, hearing all the stories made me see a scene. Here it is, in words:

I awoke at first light as usual, although it had taken me ages to get to sleep the night before. It is so difficult to sleep when you are crying! The other girls were still asleep, the room filled with their little snuffling breaths. Silently I eased out of bed. The timber floor was cold under my feet as I walked to the door, and then into the corridor that led to the back door, and from there to the outhouses.
As I opened the back door, I faced the brilliant red of dawn. It was so beautiful that I stopped to gaze at it, at the little fluffy pink clouds still lit from beneath.
This view made up for the nasty smell coming from the five doors of the brick building facing me. The middle door opened, and a tall girl came out. She wore a long blue dressing gown, and shoes without socks on her feet. I recognised her: she was the one who had been standing in Mrs Jardine’s queue in front of me. I tried to shrink back into the doorway behind me, but the tall blonde girl had seen me.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded in an unpleasant, high voice.
“I... I need to have a call of nature.”
“No. I mean, what’s the likes of you doing in my school?”
“Mrs Talbot decided that I could come.” Within, I felt a stirring of anger, I think for the first time in my life. I could see from the girl’s glow that she was furious, but now I no longer feared her. Who was this girl to question me anyway?
“Listen here, dirty little Abo slut, you go home where you came from and
“No! You have no right! I’ll tell Mrs Talbot. She said I should.”
A whirl of movement, and I found myself on the ground, looking up. At first, there was no pain, just a numbness about my left cheek. Then a shod foot slammed into my side. The girl towered over me. “You do and you’re DEAD, little slut!”

This grew into an 80,000 word story, which I submitted to a publisher. She loved it, until the ending, which was my little heroine’s horrific death. That got her to reject it ¾ and I had to agree with her.

So, I went on to other projects. One of them is a book about writing. I invented a couple of characters to illustrate how you introduce a new person. They came alive and took over, and I had a new story. Writing about writing had to wait.

This story is set in the present, and had grown into 3 volumes with the 4th on the way, when Donald Trump got elected as U.S. president.

I couldn’t keep writing. I just had to stop. I was horrified that a self-confessed serial sexual molester, a demonstrably serial liar, a serial bankrupt, could be put in a position of such power.

And, Lisa, I know this is political, but it’s my opinion, not necessarily yours. If anyone disagrees with me, please don’t take it out on Lisa.

How can you write about the present time when such changes in reality keep occurring? By the time I got it published, world events were likely to have changed so much that it’d be obsolete.

So, in turn, I put this project into cryogenic storage, and looked for something to fill the resulting vacuum. I took out Guardian Angel. My darling little girl’s death was necessary, but I found a brilliant solution. (So modest, isn’t he?) I extended the story by another 20,000 words, to her next birth. This made the plot approximately perfect.

Her name is Maraglindi, which means “Glindi’s sorrow.” Glindi is her mother’s name, and the baby was the fruit of a rape by a white man. But she is actually a Superior Person, assigned to us humans as a guardian angel. Only, she’s never been a human, so needs to live a few human lives to learn about us. Maraglindi is her first life here. She has the gift of Love: a touch from her puts the grace of God into your heart... except that hate is an impenetrable barrier against love. Through her eyes, I show the culture of Victorian-era English-speaking people. They conquered the world basically because they considered everyone else to be less than human. Here is another little extract:

He found Giles in the Library, reading one of the late Mr Moore’s leather-bound books. When he saw Gerald come in, Giles said, “You're sure to find this interesting. It’s notes and sketches about the native vegetation and fauna of the Hunter river area.”
“That does sound exactly my kind of thing. I think I’ll save it for a rainy day. Actually, I have some friends back home who have taught me a fair amount about that very subject.”
“In the real sense of the word. They’re the local people, whose lives for ages untold have depended on just this knowledge.”
“Oh. Abos?”
“Yes. Delightful people.”
Giles put the book down and looked up at Gerald with interest. “You’re a remarkable fellow, you know that? How can you make friends with savages?”
Gerald sat down in one of the armchairs. “There are savages in New South Wales. They’ve come from Britain. The original people of this land have an intriguing culture based on an incredible complexity of family bonds. They’re just people, not savages.”
“They are dirty, and get drunk on the smell of a beer, and can’t be trusted to do a job without someone standing over them, and will never keep their word, and have no manners whatever.”
“All right, imagine this. We British are currently the crown of creation here. But tomorrow, a great fleet of warships arrives, and purple-skinned warriors storm ashore to sweep all before them. Our possessions are taken from us. If you as much as raise your eyes to a purple person, you can be whipped, killed, tortured. They rape our women, deny us education and dignity, force us to live in squalor. Maybe three generations pass. White people will be dirty, and drown their despair in grog, and why should they act in a decent and trustworthy way when dealing with the purple overlords?”
“Hmm. I do see your point. Still, I’ll stick to what I feel comfortable with.”
“The work of God is to go where you’re needed, not where you are comfortable.” Gerald stood. “Happy reading.” He went outside, to explore Liverpool.

What inspired you to write this book?
In 1972, I was the father of two little children, and was writing my Ph.D. thesis. Wednesdays were library days (no internet yet!), and I couldn't fall asleep because I was Mr. Rich to some 900 students. So, when the scholarly slop writing became too boring, I researched futurology as a side project. This is the study of where current trends will take us if we allow them unchanged.

The result was terrifying. Basically, all the evidence indicated horror: today’s world of environmental destruction, with the extinction of humans and more important living beings (trees, whales, frogs, koalas, rhododendrons, sea urchins, variegated popmaloses and so on); war and cruelty and terrorism because that’s how all mammals react to population pressure; gross inequality with a few people forcing starvation on millions.

So, since then, I’ve devoted my life to doing something about it: to work for survival, and for a world worth surviving in. Look around you, and you’ll see how successful I’ve been. Sigh. Still, when we go down the plughole, at least I can say it wasn’t my fault.

To understand what I am talking about, and my solution to the problem, please read my essay, “How to change the world.”

The essential problem is not environmental destruction, or war and terrorism and aggression, or financial inequality. All of these are symptoms of the real problem. My bio tells you what that is: the global culture that encourages and rewards the worst in human nature. This is what we need to change.

All the great religions give you the recipe for how to save what we still can, to stave off extinction, and to have the best life possible in the meantime. Christianity doesn’t have copyright on “Love thy neighbor.” It is also the essence of Gandhi’s message, of Buddhism, and is central to Islam. Don’t believe me? The Quran explicitly acknowledges Jesus as a prophet on the same level as Moses, and therefore advocates His message. Those terrorists are as mistaken as those supposed Christians who preach hate.

So, the inspiration for Guardian Angel is this message, of “Do onto others as you would have others do onto you,” that Love is the greatest force in the universe. Only, when other people preach at me, I react by walking away. So, instead of telling other people what to believe, I show them through action, adventure, the intertwining of lives, of joy and sorrow and anger and forgiveness.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I built a house (with my hot little hands) 34 years ago. Now, I need to sell it, so I am finishing it off and renovating it. That’s a bit hard for an old fellow ¾ I am 74-and-a-third years old. Also, the editing work keeps coming, and I actually like being of service to writers in helping them to improve their books. And of course I am busy promoting Guardian Angel, and my previous books, all of which you’ll find at my blog and writing site.

So, until I finish the renovations, there isn’t that much time for writing. When I can, I am working on two projects. One is nonfiction: self-help for depression, which is all too necessary in today’s world. If current events don’t depress you, congratulations. The second, can you guess, is the sequel to Guardian Angel. I have about 12,000 words written.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In 1980. I was making mudbricks (adobe to you), when the local children kidnapped me because they needed one more male in a boys versus girls soccer game. I complied, muddy boots and all, and slipped, tearing a cartilage in a knee. This is not a good thing to do.

Bored out of my mind in hospital, I wrote my first article, for a marvelous magazine Earth Garden about a method of brickmaking I’d invented. I’ve had a byline column with them since, and expanded to other publications. The result was my first book, in 1986, which went through 4 editions.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I’ve been writing full time since childhood, only I didn’t know it. My mind has always been full of ideas, only I didn’t for a moment believe anyone else would be interested in them.

Normally, I do at least three things simultaneously. As I am answering your questions, I have a J. S. Bach melody playing in the ears of my imagination, and I know somewhere below my consciousness a part of me is planning my afternoon’s work on the house, and another part is thinking about the next chapter of the depression book. I know it’s that project rather than fiction because I woke at about 4 a.m. (old men do that for some reason), and it popped up then. I didn’t have to write it down. When I am ready, I’ll open the correct mental drawer, and it’ll be there.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Fun? FUN? I have no sense of humor. Life is too short for the seriousness it deserves.

Well, OK. I can’t read my own handwriting. Perhaps I should have become a medical doctor. So, I do all my thinking on a keyboard, and can type faster than I can speak.

When I write something like this, or a magazine article, or an episode in a novel, I don’t do the writing when I am typing, but before. I describe this odd thing here.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
All through school, I knew I was going to be a physicist, because I wanted to be of service to humanity through understanding reality. But halfway through first year at University, I realized that science led to technology, which was killing us and everything else. So, I thought, what we need is to understand people, and switched to psychology. Actually, this is one of the things I describe in my novel, Ascending Spiral.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Don’t believe anything I say. After all, I am a storyteller.

Website | Book site (for synopsis, buy links, two extracts, and the first few reviews)

Thank you for being here today, Bob!


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