Wednesday, September 26, 2018

New interview with writer Dr. Bob Rich

Author Dr. Bob Rich is back here for a visit. Today we’re talking a bit about his new inspirational book with paranormal elements, Hit and Run.

Bob visited last summer and we talked about his historical novel, Guardian Angel.

***Bob is running a free book edit contest. If you are a writer, or have a writer friend, you can find the details for the contest here. The deadline for submissions is October 15.***

Bob was born in Hungary, but that was at a very young age. He acquired his mortal enemy when he was 5, and after that life was guerrilla warfare against his stepfather. He won every battle, but lost the war: in 1956 the iron curtain got a temporary rust hole, and the old boy shoved Bob through it, but kept the family behind. Bob arrived in Australia, and couldn’t even read street signs. This is why he eventually became a writer and editor.

He has so far retired from 5 different occupations, but still going strong writing and editing. However, his main reason for being on this planet is because he is a Professional Grandfather. He works to have a survivable future for all young people, and a future worth surviving in.

There is lots of stuff relevant to that at his blog, Bobbing Around

Welcome back to Reviews and Interviews.
Lisa, it’s my honor, and I am grateful you have me here for the second time. I’ll do my best to entertain your visitors, and hope to chat with them via comments.

Please tell us about your newest release.
Last time, I told you I had 16.5 published books. Well, the 17th has formed fruit, and here it is, ready to be plucked.

It starts with a horrendous crime, and has many other violent events, but it is not a crime book, or horror, or violent. Rather, it somehow came together as a story of hope, compassion, decency -- and it’s not my doing.

You see, the narrator is 84 year old Sylvia Kryz, who narrowly escaped death, and witnessed the murder of six children and the crossing guard. The book is her journal of the following 9 months.
If I’d written the account, it would probably be a story of just retribution, but I only typed her words into the computer.

The killer was 14 year old Chuck, who hated everyone. He wanted to die, but first intended to take as many others with him as he could.

On the night of the terrible event, he appeared in her bedroom, as an image? Apparition? Who knows. It puzzled him, it puzzled her, and it puzzles me. But it really happened. I know, because reality resides in my computer, and it’s in there.

A little later, we find out that in a previous life, he’d been her dog. Maybe that’s the connection that made it possible. Anyway, Sylvia found out that in all the world, there was one person the boy loved: his 6 year old brother. Using this lever, she eventually led him to change. She was the first person in his life who’d ever treated him with respect and decency. So, he modeled on her.
You’ll find a note from me at the end of the book, in part looking at the scientific evidence for this kind of change. It is completely realistic. Drug- and alcohol-crazed, violent no-hopers can change their ways, if they decide to model on a positive role model.

Remember that, the next time you have the opportunity. We all do from time to time.
I’m no good at praising myself, so maybe you’ll allow me to quote a few random reviewers:

Robert Eggleton, talented YA writer:
Uplifting and EmpoweringHit and Run is an interesting and uplifting story written in a simple declarative style that's well-suited to the imaginary diary of a most unlikely spiritual leader. Without understanding the paranormal phenomenon, Sylvia, the elderly hero, communicates with pure hatred by employing unconditional love, thereby defeating the evil that had infected a community of vengeful victims... I recommend Hit and Run as a perfect read for those stuck in skepticism and negativity, and who are willing to invest a little time to work toward inner peace. As such, I give it five stars.

Max Overton, author of over 30 books:
This is a simple story yet also a complex one with a wide array of characters on both sides of the ledger. Some people actively work against Charlie’s rehabilitation; others refuse to even give him a chance, but a growing number believe in the possibility of change and it is heartening to see the gradual blossoming of a mind stunted by terrible circumstances. ‘Hit and Run’ is a story of hope in a world where it sometimes seems as if civilisation is crumbling around us.

Carolyn Harris, historical writer:
Hit and Run is a book full of meaning and valuable insights into living a fuller life, but even without those, it’s a bloody good yarn! The people are so clearly depicted, you can see them, they move, they have feelings and ideas, agonies and pain, love and courage. The story line goes along smoothly and quickly with never a dull moment, never a loss of plot or a fault in the planning of the events.

What inspired you to write this book?
Psychotherapy can go wrong in two ways: if there is no emotional bond between client and helper, and if there is too close a bond. The first one is probably obvious. Therapy is not just a business transaction, but needs empathy: you need to “feel for” the other person. This is not “I know how you feel,” because you can never know how someone else feels, but more like “I appreciate your suffering, and am here for you.”

But the second kind of problem is equally damaging. You can’t pull someone out of a hole by jumping in yourself. Nursing students are told, “It’s not your pain; you’re not there to share it but to relieve it.” This is why it’s unethical to do therapy with people dear to you. My daughter fell from a horse, and suffered multiple fractures of her right arm. I splinted the injury to reduce her pain, and make the ride to hospital bearable. I achieved “professional distance” by repeatedly saying inside, “It’s only a broken thing I need to fix.” I collapsed a second after handing her over to the professionals.

Well, one day I had a victim of crime client, whose story got me furious. I’d most definitely jumped down and joined him in his hole. This time, my tool for climbing out was “displacement,” something that goes right back to Dr. Freud. I’ve seen a lady use it by vigorously vacuuming the house instead of punching her husband in the nose.

Instead of a vacuum cleaner, I used my computer, and started a story to displace my anger into. Within this magical tool, I turned myself into an 84 year old woman who was almost killed, and witnessed a far worse crime than what my client had suffered.

Only, once I was Sylvia Kryz, I acted and thought like her, not like Bob Rich. The entire book is her journal of the nine months of her contact with the young murderer. Among other things, the language is hers, too, not mine. As a child, she was trained never to say or write obscenities, and that explains a peculiarity in the extract below. It annoyed me for the first few paragraphs in the book, but I got used to it.

Excerpt from Hit and Run:
I’ve chosen a segment from well into the book. The killer boy is now Charlie (because the name, Chuck, was a form of abuse), and is out on bail. John, his child protection worker, is driving him to his first meeting with his mother since the arrest. He’d asked Sylvia to come along, too. I’ve chosen this part because it demonstrates the power of aikido.

We drove in silence for a while, going through an industrial area, then grassy paddocks. Charlie suddenly said, "Hey, we're going to Minton?"

"Yes. We'll meet Tommy and your mother at the playground near your old school. This way, there is less chance of being tracked."

Soon we were there. A blond young man was pushing Tommy on a swing. The playground was shabby and ridiculously small. John parked not three metres from the play equipment.
Charlie hopped out and gave me a hand while John got my wheelie frame from the boot.
Of course, Tommy practically flew to Charlie, who was now strong enough to lift him high into a hug.

A few minutes sitting on a park bench were enough for my arthritis, so I returned to the car and knitted there, window open.

The utility soon arrived, with the obese woman at the wheel. The car was now pink overall; an undercoat I think. Margie emerged and shrieked, "Chuck! Tommy!" She rushed toward them, arms outstretched, tears running down her face. She dropped to her knees and hugged Tommy to her.

He turned his face away and stood there, body rigid.

Margie stood and pulled Charlie into an embrace.

He put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her away. He stepped back. "Mum, sorry. 

You stink something awful."

"What the f--?"

"Mum, listen. Tommy and I now brush our teeth twice a day, and have a shower every morning. They forced us do it at first, but actually it feels good."

"La di da! Me Lawd, don't we sound grand?"

Charlie grinned. I saw his mind click: speaking the new way was a landmine here. "Yeah, Mum, f--n sure. I learned how to speak uppity, like. But lissen. If ya can speak like other buggers and smell OK, you won't be treated like a dog."

"F-- off!"

"Nah, I mean it. Y'know you're always bitching about the c--ts looking down at us? That's the secret. Change your undies every day, like, have a shower before ya go out, wash your f--n clothes once a week, and speak a bit different, and you'll be treated like a lady."

"Yeah, right." She did a prance of what she must have imagined a lady to be like, to the protective workers' wide grins. As she turned a little she saw me in the car. "Oh hi," she said.

"Hello Margie, how are you?"

"I'm OK. Did you put Chuck up to this bullsh--t?"

"No. It all came from his heart. He wishes you well, and is passing on to you what's worked for him and Tommy."

She opened her mouth to reply, but the roaring of an engine interrupted her. Tyres squealed, and the battered sedan shot around a corner. It pulled up, almost ramming into the ute with the fat woman still in it.

Bruce jumped out. He wore a black singlet and shorts, showing florid tattoos covering his arms, legs and chest. He rushed toward the kids.

John stepped in his path. "Hold it, Mr Hemp--" he started.

"F-- off outa me way!" Bruce kept charging, straight at John.

What happened was too fast for me to see, but in an instant, Bruce was face down on the ground. John had a foot on the back of his neck, and held Bruce's left arm at an odd angle. 
"Mr. Hempenstall, if you struggle, your shoulder will dislocate," he said calmly.

Jake had his mobile phone out.

John looked at him. "Wait," he said. He let Bruce's arm go and stepped back.

Bruce rolled over and sat on the ground, massaging his shoulder. His face was thunderous, and I noticed that the pupils of his eyes were like pinpoints.

John stood there, looking down. "Mr. Hempenstall, as you know, there is a court order that you are not to attend access meetings by Ms. Debnall."

"F-- that. I'm the one what has to see the poor bitch cry herself to sleep every night. So, I'm gonna grab Tommy and he's comin' with us. Chuck can come if he wants, I don't f--n care, but Tommy is coming."

"No, he is not. Tommy has been committed to foster care by the Children's Court, and you have no power to reverse that."

Bruce stood.

Margie shouted, "What the f-- are ya doin' here? Howd'ya find me anyway?"

He grinned. "Stupid bitch, yer phone is on. I tracked it on GPS."
John interrupted. "Mr. Hempenstall, you're violating a court order. Please get in your car and drive off. Otherwise, I'll have to report you."

"Yeah, right. Little uppity c--t, got me that time. Now I'll tear off ya head and sh--t in the hole." He advanced toward John and launched a punch.

John lightly swung aside and pulled on Bruce's arm, kicking the side of his ankle as he lurched forward.

Bruce fell on the grass, rolled and was up. He put a hand in his pocket. "F--n little c--t," he growled. "I'm gonna kill ya!" His hand was out, his thumb moved, and a wicked six-inch blade pointed at John.

Margie shrieked, "Bruce, no!"

Weaving side to side, Bruce advanced, making me think of a snake about to strike. John waited. Suddenly Bruce moved forward -- and was on his back, looking dazed. The knife flew through the air, landing far from where Bruce lay.

John calmly said, "Violating a court order is one thing. Death threats, carrying a concealed weapon, and attempted murder are something else. My colleague is ready to call the police. If you now get in your car and go, I'm still willing to let you off." While speaking, he walked over to the knife, picked it up and pushed something. The blade retracted. John put it in his pocket.

"Hey, that's me knife!"

"You're better off without it. Later, I'll break the blade off and put it in the recycling."

By then, Bruce was standing, looking murder. "F--n snooty little bastard. I will surely kill ya."

"You and whose army?" Charlie goaded him, safely behind John.

John half turned. "Charlie, we never taunt a beaten opponent. He deserves dignity, even if he is misgui--"

Bruce jumped at him. This time, I thought in alarm.

John was down on one knee and Bruce flew over his head, banging hard into the A frame that held the swings. He lay still.

John looked at him, then said to Jake, "Police and ambulance."

What’s the next writing project?
It’s with the publisher, Loving Healing PressThe title is From Depression to Contentment: A self-therapy guide. I have an advance review from one of my wonderful beta readers, Theresa Hortley:

I don’t suffer from depression, but I read this book because I am privileged to be one of Bob Rich’s beta readers. All the same, it has proven to be immensely useful to me, personally.
Depression is everywhere. Every year, a distressingly high proportion of the kids I teach are obviously depressed. Friends, relatives, colleagues -- it’s all around me.

Now, I can understand where they are coming from, and can be more effective in helping them, though not as a therapist of course.

But this is far more than a self-help book. It is an inspiration. One sentence late in the book has captured me: “knowingly or unknowingly, all of us are apprentice Buddhas.” Depressed or not, if you read this book, you will become a better person.

You wouldn’t expect a book about depression to be humorous, but in typical Bob Rich style, he got me chuckling time and again. Just one example: a patient told Bob that he’d known all his life that he didn’t matter. Bob’s reply: “Right. You crawled out of the womb believing you didn’t matter?”

All of Bob’s novels I’ve read are full of therapeutic lessons. Here is a book designed as a set of therapeutic lessons that is as enjoyable to read as any novel.

What was your biggest challenge when writing this new book?
The challenge came after the book was finished, revised a zillion times, and accepted by Writers Exchange E-Publishing.

We couldn’t get a cover to suit. The publisher paid for an artist, who did a TERRIBLE job. I asked for help from my newsletter readers, who came up with lots of good suggestions. She took these on board, and hired a second artist. The result had nothing to do with the feel or theme of the book. The fellow hadn’t even bothered to read a few paragraphs.

Then an old friend of mine came to the rescue. She is Martine Jardin. I used to edit for her when she was the publisher for Zumaya Publications. She is a brilliant artist, and did all the covers for my earlier books. She designed the beautiful cover you can see. Rather than go with the title, or the plot, she captured the spirit of the story. One commenter said, “It’s nothing to do with the story, and everything to do with the story.”

If your novels require research – please talk about the process. Do you do the research first and then write, while you’re writing, after the novel is complete and you need to fill in the gaps?
I learned to love research as a severely depressed child. There is a joy to learning new things, regardless of the subject matter.

When a new project hijacks me, I spend a great deal of time immersing myself in relevant background knowledge. Nowadays, it’s easy with the internet. Twenty years ago, while I was writing about events in 700 BC (when I was very young), I spent days in a university library.
For “Hit and Run,” the only new information I needed concerned what happens in a court of law, and had advice from four generous lawyers.

My book with the highest number of awards is “Anik√≥: The stranger who loved me.” This came about because after my stepfather’s death, I was sure my mother would soon follow, so I set her a task: provide me with material for her biography. I visited her in Hungary when she was dying in hospital, and her last whispers were still as my researcher, giving me instructions on whom I should interview and why. I returned to Australia with a suitcase full of documents -- then couldn’t even look at them for two years. When I did, it was like getting into a time machine.

What authors do you enjoy reading within or outside of your genre?
My genre is... everything and anything. I don’t read horror for its own sake, because if I wanted horror, I could read the news. I don’t read romance for its own sake, because the romantic myth is, believe it or not, the cause of a great deal of unhappiness. It’s an application of the consumer myth to human relationships.

Of course, terrible events, and romances, are part of life, part of what gives a story tension, and I both read and write about them -- as integral parts of a story.

As a youngster, I consumed all the books in a couple of libraries, and have kept this up. However, in the last 10 years or so, most of my fiction reading has been books sent to me for editing or for a review.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers today?
Life is too short for the seriousness it deserves. I learned this from a young fellow in 700 BC.

Thank you for coming back to Reviews and Interviews!
Lisa, it’s my pleasure and honor. I have a wish for you and your visitors: As you slide down the banister of life, may all the splinters face downward.


Barb said...


Dr Bob Rich said...

Barbara, you are amazing. You've beaten me to the first comment.
Lisa, Barbara pops up on all my interviews, guest posts and even blog posts, and motivates me to do my best so I can live up to her expectations.
I am looking forward to chatting with anyone who comments, and even with people who don't.

J.Q. Rose said...

Hi Lisa and Bob. Enjoyed the interview. Bob is such an interesting fella. I read Hit and Run and after I finished I wanted to believe it was based on a true story, but the woman's heart is too good to be true. Am I too cynical? Love that book cover. Thanks for sharing the story behind its creation.
JQ Rose