As part of the Noah Zarc blog tour, I interview the author D. Robert Pease today. I have also reviewed the book here. As you go through the interview below, you’ll find that Robert’s personality is clearly reflected in his book as well, which means this interview is going to be as much fun as the book was!
So. without rambling on any more, let’s get started.
Describe your book? What genre do you consider your book?
Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble is a middle grade, science fiction adventure geared toward kids about nine to fourteen. It’s a retelling of the classic Noah’s Ark story from the Bible. And I mean that in the very loosest of terms. It can be more accurately stated it was “inspired” by the biblical account. The story is about a twelve-year-old boy from the 31st century who, along with his family, travels through time in a massive spaceship called the ARC (Animal Rescue Cruiser). Their mission is to repopulate Earth after some kind of cataclysm destroyed all life on the planet several hundred years in the past. Of course no adventure is complete without bumps along the road. Noah’s Mom and Dad both disappear and Noah and his brother Hamilton, and sister Sam have to figure out where and when they are, and come up with a way to rescue them. All the while they must avoid the family’s sworn enemy, Haon, who has made it his mission to stop the ARC project at all costs.
Do you believe time travel is actually possible and will become a reality someday? If yes, how do you think it will affect our world?
It all depends, of course, on your definition of time travel. There are people alive today who have time travelled. Astronauts flying in orbit around the Earth have been proven to travel a fraction of a second into the future. In this case it is all a matter of speed. If we can get spaceships fast enough, then it does seem possible that, sometime in the future, humans will be able to travel into the future. Whether that is seconds, minutes, or years all depends on how fast they travel, and how far they travel before returning home.
Traveling to the past is a whole ‘nother thing. I’m not sure I really believe this can happen. Time relentlessly marches forward. I just don’t see how that can be changed. Sure there are all kinds of theories, but in reality, I just don’t know. I do know it’d be super cool though.
When and why did you begin writing?
My first stab at writing anything longer than a short story was back in college. I started work on an epic fantasy, first on an old electric typewriter, then on an Apple IIe (I know I’m dating myself here). Somewhere around a hundred pages I realized that it was terrible, so I put it aside along with my dream of writing. So for the next twenty years I didn’t do much of anything. Then around six years ago I read a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien. In it the writer talked about how Tolkien was a “Pantser.” Meaning he just sat down and wrote, without much in the way of an outline. When he wrote the Lord of the Rings, he basically knew it was going to be about a Hobbit, and that the Ring would play a central role. It was said that when Frodo met Strider at the Prancing Pony, Tolkien had no idea who Strider was. He just needed Frodo to have a guide since Gandalf was missing (for reasons Tolkien didn’t yet know.) This was hugely appealing to me. I absolutely love to read, to have worlds unfold in my mind. I found I could do the same with my writing. So I started putting some ideas down and fell in love. I also will say I think the fact that I’m a quarter century older has helped be write with a greater understanding of what life is about. I guess I’ve “matured” (shudder.)
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
My hardest roadblock to writing is the old “butt in chair” issue. I am just so darn easily distracted. When I’m writing, when the words are flowing, there is nothing better. But sitting down, opening up Scrivener (my writing app of choice) and actually writing is a monumental effort for me, each and every time. Every year, after the New Year, I tell myself I’m going to be better about it, but every year I fail. So I write in bursts. Cranking out thousands of words in just a few days, then go a week or two without writing. Since I’ve published my first book, it has only gotten worse. I now find that in addition to my job as a website developer, I also have a new fulltime job of book marketer. So perhaps it is really about time to knuckle down and figure out a system for writing more consistently. Because honestly, when I’m not writing, I kind of get grumpy.
What was the hardest part of writing the series?
Well at this point, “series” might be a little too strong a word. Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble is meant to be the first book in a trilogy. I’ve been working on the second book, Noah Zarc: Cataclysm for a year or so, and have about 75% of the first draft written. My goal is to have it done and published by the end of this year. Part of the reason why it has taken so long on the second book, is I wasn’t sure it was a good idea to write it as a series. My goal originally was to go the traditional route with my publishing career. And everything I read was don’t write a series before you get published. Agents or editors may not like the premise of the book, so why waste your time writing a whole series that you may never get to publish. So I wrote the first Noah Zarc book as a standalone. Then worked on some other projects. Then when I decided to self-publish, I realized it’d be better if I did make it a series. So I tweaked the first book, to have some unanswered questions, etc… and started writing the second book.
Who designed the covers of the book?
I actually designed the current version of the cover. I had an illustrator friend do a different version of the cover with Noah flying in a spacesuit in outer space, but I found that when I reduced it down to a thumbnail size it was just too hard to tell what was going on. So I put it aside and designed a cover that just showed Noah’s face, with an image of Earth superimposed over it. I will caution, though, I am a professional designer by day, so for most indie-authors I would highly recommend you hire a designer for your covers. Please don’t do them yourself. Your cover could be the only thing people see before deciding to buy your book or not.
Did you learn anything from writing your series and what was it?
I’m kind of a science nerd, especially when it comes to space travel. So I thought I had a pretty good handle on the basics of rocketry, spaceflight, etc… but when I sent an early draft off to a friend of mine (Susan Kaye Quinn), an actual rocket scientist, I discovered some cool things. One was I had always heard the term “escape velocity” and had somehow assumed that there was a certain speed an object had to attain to break free of Earth’s gravity and make it into space. Something always bothered me about this idea, but it was never made clear to me until she said that a rocket only needs to achieve escape velocity if it is going to enter into orbit. It would maybe be more appropriate to call it orbit velocity. In the opening scene of the book, Noah is blasting off toward space in spacesuit with rockets on it. She told me that he didn’t actually need to be going that fast to get to space, only that he needed to always be moving “up.” He wasn’t trying to get into orbit; he was headed for the moon (ok that’s still orbit, but a lot farther away.) Pretty cool, huh?
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your books?
Once the reviews started coming in, it became pretty easy to think there are things I should have done differently in the book. There are certain themes that keep coming up, over and over. But none of them have been what I would call deal breakers. They are more just style differences, or philosophical differences. So at this point I’m still pretty happy with book one overall. Now that I’m in the process of writing book two, it is a different story. I am constantly hearing voices in my head from reviewers. I try to ignore them for the most part, but there have been some valid points too. So yeah, I’ve changed a few things in book two, based on comments I’ve received. But nothing huge.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Was there somewhere in the book you felt stuck?
I hate, hate, hate when the ending of a book disappoints me. When there’s all this buildup, and then the ending just sort of fizzles, or is wrapped up to neatly. Because of this I really struggle with endings to my own books. The end to Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble gave me fits. It got rewritten so many times I lost count. I also had several pages that I ended up cutting because I found myself rambling, almost like I was avoiding the end. This is where having a great editor came into play. They helped me trim off the fat, and wrap the end up in, what I think, was a tidy fashion. Of course I’ve had reviewers say the ending felt rushed, or it left too many questions. Ouch!
You will notice, that earlier I said I was about 75% of the way through book two. I’m in that same rut right now. I know the basics of how the book will end, but I’m struggling with just how to bring it all to a close satisfactorily.
What are your current projects? When is the next book in the series coming out?
Well, as I said the second book in the Noah Zarc series, Cataclysm is due out sometime this year. I also have another series I’m working on inspired by the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors from the Bible (it’s even more loosely based on the biblical story, than Noah is.) I’m pretty excited about it. I’m not sure if I’ll release it before, or after, book three of the Noah Zarc series.
Could you describe what happens in the next book in the series? Can we get an excerpt?
Book two deals with the events that caused The Great Cataclysm that wiped out all life on Earth. Noah travels back in time to see just what happened, and to perhaps try to stop it from happening in the first place. He’s a year older than he was in Mammoth Trouble, but not necessarily a year smarter. He still makes brash decisions and follows his heart before thinking of the consequences. It is perhaps a bit darker than the first book but still something kids and parents both will enjoy.
I can’t really give you an excerpt yet, because I’m a perfectionist and it hasn’t been edited yet. Man that’s a copout. Ok, let me look. Here’s the opening of the book. You’ll have to decide who it is on your own (and realize this may bear no resemblance to the final version.)
Pain roared through my arm into my shoulder, like I was dunking it in freezing water and then immersing it in fire. My nails dug into the palm of my hand, but try as I might I couldn’t unclench my fist. What’s wrong with me? I reached my other hand over to force my fist open, but didn’t feel anything. I opened my eyes and looked down.
For a heartbeat I didn’t register what I was seeing. My left hand—a big meaty hand—was balling up a crisp, white sheet that lay draped over my body—grasping at where my other hand should be. My right hand was gone. The arm ended in a bandaged stump just above where my elbow once was. I could still feel the missing hand. Still feel my fingernails tearing at the flesh of a palm that wasn’t there.
Oy, that does need some work. Now you see how brilliant editors are!
What book are you reading now? Which are your all-time favourite authors / books?
I’m between books right now. I just finished up Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, by the fabulous Elise Stokes. It was a fun sequel to Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula. I highly recommend them.
My list of all-time favorite authors begins (of course) with Tolkien. I think my life wouldn’t have been near as rich without Middle Earth. I loved Dune, by Frank Herbert. The Chronicles of Amber, by Roger Zelazny (does it date me at all when my three favorite authors are dead?) More recently, I loved the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer (although Book Seven, what was that all about?)
Give us three “Good to Know” facts about you, something you could not read just about anywhere.
First, my kids mean more to me than anything. I didn’t really find my passion in writing, until I started writing for them. Every day, as I wrote the first draft to Noah Zarc, my son read what I had written. It felt very much like I was creating the story just for him.
Second, I really enjoy Texas Hold-em Poker. I’m not great, but I can hold my own against some pretty good players.
For my third fact… I’m engaged in an ongoing battle with a blue heron for the lives of my Koi fish in an ornamental pond in our back yard. Right now the score is heron 8, me 0.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to readers?
More than anything else, I just want readers to have fun. Life is full of too many worries as it is. My writing is meant to give a kid, or adult a few hours when they can just sit in their favorite chair, and discover a fun new world. If they get anything more out of it, then that is just a bonus.
ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?
I used to be a hardcover fanatic. I always wanted a beautiful library, with rich, dark wood shelves, and tons of books, but now… I LOVE my kindle. Just can’t read any other way. It is just too darn convenient. It’s a bit sad to think, but I’m pretty sure the library will never happen.
Cats or dogs?
I have both, and love both, but (don’t let Waffle hear me) dogs all the way.
Coffee or tea?
Tea, chai specifically. Coffee makes me ill.
I’m not much of a foodie. I’m more eat to live than live to eat. So if I like it, I eat it. But I can’t say I have a favorite.
Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream?
Ice-cream on the other hand… Vanilla with chocolate syrup and peanuts!
What are 4 things you never leave home without?
4 huh? Um… clothes, car keys, shoes (I know that’s clothes, but…) and my iPhone… although it’s funny you ask that now, because I’m sitting in a coffee shop, without my phone! I feel naked (like I forgot number one thing on my list too.)
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I do write best at a coffee shop. Away from the distractions of home.
If you were deserted on an island, who are 3 famous people you would want with you any why?
Well, even though my wife and kids aren’t famous, I’d want them. But if I could have them and three famous people… I’d probably pick that guy from Survivor Man (so I could eat) and some guy who knew how to rig up wi-fi. I can’t live without my Internet. Gosh these are lame answers. Honestly I’m not that into “famous” people. They are just like any of us, just happened to be somewhere that vaulted them into the public eye.
List 3 of your all-time favourite movies?
The Lord of the Rings, Roxanne (with Steve Martin), and When Harry Met Sally. (So a nerd movie, and two chick-flix.)
What is a movie or TV show that you watched recently and really enjoyed?
I am hooked on The Walking Dead right now. Bloody as heck, but man is it good.
Noah Zarc Blog Tour
Noah lives for piloting spaceships through time, dodging killer robots and saving Earth’s animals from extinction.
Life couldn’t be better.
But the twelve-year-old time traveler learns it could be a whole lot worse. His mom is kidnapped and taken to Mars; his dad is stranded in the Ice Age; and Noah is attacked at every turn by a foe bent on destroying Earth… for the second time.
Get your copy today by visiting Amazon.com (available in paperback or as an eBook) or the online retailer of your choice (more links below).
Guess what? You could win a $50 Amazon gift card as part of this special blog tour. That’s right! Just leave a comment below saying something about the post you just read, and you’ll be entered into the raffle. I could win $50 too by having the most comments. So tell your friends to stop by and comment on this post too!
Win 1 of 5 copies of the paperback version of Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble by entering the giveaway on GoodReads.
D. Robert Pease has been interested in creating worlds since childhood. From building in the sandbox behind his house, to drawing fantastical worlds with paper and pencil, there has hardly been a time he hasn’t been off on some adventure in his mind, to the dismay of parents and teachers alike. Also, since the moment he could read, books have consumed vast swaths of his life. From The Mouse and the Motorcycle, to The Lord of the Rings, worlds just beyond reality have called to him like Homer’s Sirens. It’s not surprising then he chose to write stories of his own. Each filled with worlds just beyond reach, but close enough we can all catch a glimpse of ourselves in the characters.
Discover ways to connect with the author by visiting his site at www.drobertpease.com
THANK YOU! for visiting. And don’t forget to comment below for that chance to win the $50 Amazon gift card. And of course head on over to your favorite online book store and buy a copy of Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble, for you or for the kids in your life.