– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Road Seven’ blogtour, organised by Meerkat Press.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but b
About the Author :
Road Seven follows disgraced cryptozoologist Mark Sandoval—resolutely arrogant, covered head to foot in precise geometric scarring, and still marginally famous after Hollywood made an Oscar-winner based off his memoir years before—who has been strongly advised by his lawyer to leave the country following a drunken and potentially fatal hit and run. When a woman sends Sandoval grainy footage of what appears to be a unicorn, he quickly hires an assistant and the two head off to the woman’s farm in Hvíldarland, a tiny, remote island off the coast of Iceland. When they arrive on the island and discover that both a military base and the surrounding álagablettur, the nearby woods, are teeming with strangeness and secrets, they begin to realize that a supposed unicorn sighting is the least of their worries. Road Seven will mark the third of Rosson’s novels to be published by Meerkat Press.
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Let’s see. I live in Portland, Oregon, with my wife, our kids, and our three-legged dog. My journey to becoming a published novelist happened over a long stretch of time. I started out writing punk zines as a teenager, and by the time I stopped in the early 2000s, I’d made twenty-some issues of my zine, AVOW. Around then I made the leap to short stories, and then ultimately started tackling novel-length ideas with some seriousness. By the time my first novel, The Mercy Of the Tide, came out, I’d been writing for decades, really. It was definitely a process.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
You know, I’ve got a joke that I want to be a literary author so bad, but I’m physically incapable of NOT putting a ghost or robot or monster in my stuff. I grew up on a healthy diet of Stephen King novels, Marvel comics, and punk music, and I think all of those sensibilities, tempered with decades of writing pretty regularly, have informed my work. Nowadays I read the gamut – when there’s time – from literary fiction to horror to crime to whatever. Give me a story collection and I’ll be happy.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Not really, honestly. There are certainly authors I would absolutely love to talk to. I’d be enthralled if they talked about their process or whatever, but as far as hard and fast advice, I think I’d just rather read their books. I pretty much know that I’m capable of writing novels at this point, even if that belief flags sometimes.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
Whenever I get this question, I always think of the grizzled, hard-as-hell detective Claire DeWitt, in Sara Gran’s fantastic crime novels. Gran is definitely a person I’d like to have a beer with.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
With the pandemic barreling down the nation – our county has just now entered Phase 1 of reopening, and we’re currently facing a spike in new cases, so who knows how long it will last – and the fact that my wife and I took in a pair of foster kids right before the country essentially shut down, I find myself with very little time these days. Writing is such a high-wire act of sustained concentration for me, and if I can’t sit down and get in that headspace frequently, and for some amount of time, it just doesn’t work for me. I’m not really one of those “write for five minutes when you have time” kind of people. Hopefully in the fall, school will be somewhat open and I’ll have some stretches of unbroken time to work. When I do, I’m very precise about formatting my stories and novels in a particular way before I start writing.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
One novel started after reading a biography of Joan of Arc. Another started after getting handed a few prompts in my writing group. Yet another started with being enamored with local myths and legends. It’s all over the map, but the impetus usually comes from somewhere outside me first, causing some snag in the brain that won’t let go.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
Definitely a pantser, though I’m working on a project now that I’ve written an entire synopsis for, which is a first for me. I usually just plow ahead, and as I go, it opens up ideas the following chapter or two.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
I think it’s pretty universal. Read a lot. Write regularly, if possible. Be willing to show your stuff to people, and be willing to accept their critiques without getting defensive – other people can see the fault lines in your work that you can’t. Lastly, if you’re planning on getting published, prepare for rejection, and cultivate the ability to shrug it off. It’s just part of the process.
What are your future plans as an author?
Road Seven comes out in July. My story collection, Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons, comes out in February of 2021. It’s been a dream of mine to have a collection out, and I’m profoundly grateful that Meerkat Press has had enough faith in my stuff that they’ve been willing to out four of my books over the years. Meanwhile, I’ll be writing when I can. Have a number of novels I’m pecking away at. We’ll see how it goes.
Last, but not least: Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
And what happened next?
What happened next really was the ten-million-dollar question, wasn’t it? And ten million was being conservative, when you considered the advance he’d gotten for The Long Way Home, the years of significant royalties, the translations, the options and profit points on the movie, the advances for the other books he would later write, the generous fees for speaking engagements, the write-offs, even the emasculating acts of his later years in which he’d slump hungover in his little booth, signing books and promo glossies at sci-fi and comic conventions, diminished as his star would later become. But yeah, ten million was on the slim side, and all of it—the whole thing, his whole blessed, magical, fucked up life after that point—hinged on what had really happened in that dark cement box of a bathroom in Bumfuck Nowhere, Montana, after he smoked that joint. What had happened there, and what happened in the scraggly snow-dusted copses of scrub pines and blackberry bramble out behind the rest stop, and in the mostly empty parking lot, and later in the deep, dark woods.
He remembered staggering around the bathroom for a while, just feeling the kettle drum of his nerves jangling, alternating between outright panic and a feverish euphoria that quickly sputtered out and was very different from a heroin high. He walked to the sinks and gazed slack-jawed at his face in the dented mirror covered in half-peeled stickers and marker scrawls. He spent some time examining the whitened vistas of his eyeballs, trying to discern patterns in the red silken threads of veins buried there.
His heartbeat sang in his sour mouth. He gripped the counter and sneered.
Marnie, he decided, was wrong for leaving him. Don Whitmer had lost a valuable employee. He would eat stew from the bowls of Dieter and Julian’s skulls. He tapped a fingernail against his canine and marveled at the sound of it. He spent a lifetime spitting in the sink, trying to get rid of the chemicals abrading his gums, his tongue.
And honestly, maybe he was the one that broke the light above the mirror. Maybe he did. But at some point—days, minutes later—he noticed that the only light in the room was the single bulb on the ceiling, flickering in its steel cage. His limbs continued to weigh him down and he slowly began to sink toward the floor, an ice sculpture melting. He grinned and watched himself in the mirror.
And then something skittered behind him and he stood up, his hands slapping at the wet countertop.
But there was nothing there.
Just the entrance door, the dented garbage can with its a grim tide of paper towels ringing its base. His breath was ragged, his blood so loud he thought he might be able to hear it moving inside him; he gazed down at his hands again and became lost within the parchment-fine skin, the blued veins.
When he looked back up, he saw a little man standing behind him in the mirror. Sandoval screamed, childlike and breathy. The man—for lack of another word—was maybe four feet tall, as khaki-colored as a pair of pants, mouthless and nude. As smooth as a thing culled from wax. Thin-limbed and bald, it tilted its head almost inquisitively. While the eyes themselves were as black and lightless as any sea-bottom, the flesh ringing the eyes writhed with movement. These circles of roiling, putty-colored flesh. Sandoval breathlessly screamed and hoisted himself up on the counter, his ass soaked in sink water, and the little man ran away on hind legs suddenly grown multi-jointed, its legs hooking backward like an insect. Fast, so fast, but somewhat hobbling, too.
Watching the thing move made his eyes itch. He screamed again.
The little man ran into the far stall, the one Sandoval had just smoked in. The door clapped shut and slowly drifted halfway open.
Sandoval crouched on top of the counter, piss now warming his thighs.
A hand with too many knuckles reached out over the top of the stall door and slammed it closed. Bang. Then opened it and slammed it closed again. Bang. The bright sound of metal against metal. Bang.
Oh, long, knuckled fingers.
Too many knuckles.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Then the hand pushed the door open and the little man’s waxen head peered at him around the edge of the doorway.
The flesh where a mouth would be began to grow thin. Translucent, the skin of bubblegum. The coils of flesh around its eyes squirmed. The skin of its mouth finally tore open to expose the black cave of its mouth and the light bulb on the ceiling exploded with a febrile pop! The room was flung into darkness.
Sandoval screamed and hopped to the floor. He slammed against the door, found the door handle and flung it open and staggered outside.
The world was frozen and blue.
The parking lot was scoured in a watery cobalt illumination, as if God had put a scrim over the moon. A pair of big rigs sat hulking in the gloom at the far end of the lot. He heard a bang inside the bathroom, something metallic buckling and scraping across the cement floor, and hot piss again sluiced its way through his jeans and then turned icy. He stumbled toward the parking lot because his lizard brain told him that beyond the parking lot was the inevitable human river of the highway. Cars and their headlights and their drivers. People. He stumbled toward the ineffable tide of life out there beyond the parking lot, there on the highway, he could hear it, hear it like his own blood in his head, like his own heart, the highway, of course, that’s what he wanted, he wanted to be among them, people, he didn’t understand how he could’ve ever not wanted to be among them— His foot hooked over his other ankle and he fell.
He shredded his palms, the back of his hands a cold blue, and when he looked up at the sky, it was not pinpricked with stars or scudded with a veil of clouds but was instead lit now with a disc of light. That disc of dark blue light. A light so large that it seemed to block all else out, to span from treetop to treetop on each side of the lot, and where had it been only seconds ago? And then the blue became white, white as chalk, as fresh paper, a light so bright that as he put his hand up to cover his eyes—and he was truly screaming now, yes, definitely, something integral cracking inside his throat—he could see the delicate framework of his bones beneath the skin, the black latticework of his own bones laddered below the pale flesh.
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Keith Rosson.
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P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!