Sunday, October 16, 2011

An Interview With Myself

I recently released my first novel, “Passion is a Harsh Taskmaster.” Since I am an unknown author trying to self-promote my book, I have not been inundated with requests for interviews by the established media. Therefore, I decided to interview myself. Why not? Who better to ask just the right questions? I can be just as hard or easy on myself as I choose to be. So, without further ado, here is Randy C. Finch’s interview with author Randy C. Finch.

Q: I have read your novel, “Passion is a Harsh Taskmaster,” several times now and find it a good read and thought-provoking. I know this is your first novel, but I understand that it’s not the first thing you’ve written. Is that true?
A: No comment.
Q: Huh?
A: Just joking! Yes, you understand correctly. Having been a chemical engineer for the last 33 years, I have written many technical reports. I have also written and presented many papers at conferences. Apart from my work, I have authored over 60 computer related articles for magazines and journals. For two years I wrote a regular column for a computer journal. I also had several essays published in a philosophical journal and some poetry published online and in book compilations. I have actually written some unpublished SciFi short stories as well. About 10 years ago I published a non-fiction book, “Beginnings to Endings,” which is a humorous philosophy book.
Q: So, what prompted you to write a novel?
A: I have thought about writing a novel for many years. When I was a teenager, I was an avid reader of science fiction novels. Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, and others were my favorite novelists. In my post-teen years I discovered John E. Stith. The first novel I read of his was “Manhattan Transfer.” I read the first chapter in a SciFi magazine and immediately went to a local bookstore and preordered a copy. I just recently reread the novel in eBook format on my smart phone. It’s an excellent read. After Manhattan Transfer, I obtained and read every book Stith wrote. He is one of, if not my favorite, SciFi authors. His books made me want to write my own novel even more. The thing that drove me over the edge was a dream I had a little over a year ago.
Q: A dream?
A: Yes, you remember the dream we had, don’t you? In the dream a religious skeptic cheats on his Christian wife. He is really torn up about it and decides he must go to her, confess his infidelity, and beg her forgiveness.
Q: Ah yes, I remember now!
A: Of course you do. Anyway, just as the man, whose name is Tom, is about to leave for home, he is inexplicably confronted by a man from the future telling him that it will be a big mistake to reconcile with his wife. Unpleasant things will happen if he does.
Q: So how much of your novel is based on the dream you had?
A: The core of the first third or so of the book is based on my dream. I embellished it with character development and dialog, of course.
Q: What about the remaining part of the book?
A: Once I realized that my dream was a good idea for a book, I soon realized that there had to be more. There had to be some kind of twist. When you read the book, you will see that the man from the future makes additional visits and provides more warnings to Tom. Then, about halfway through the book, something very unexpected happens. Everything after that point is based on my waking thoughts rather than my dreaming thoughts.
Q: So, what happens?
A: I can’t say. That would be too much of a spoiler for those who haven’t yet read my book.
Q: So you’re just going to leave those reading this interview hanging in order to prompt them to buy and read the book?
A: Absolutely.
Q: Okey dokey, then. Let’s move on. It’s seems rather strange that your dream would be specifically about a skeptic married to a Christian. Why do you suppose your dream was so defined on this point?
A: That’s an easy one. In real life I am a religious skeptic and my wife is a Christian.
Q: Really? How in the world did you end up married?
A: Well, I was a Christian when we got married. I de-converted about five years afterwards.
Q: I guess that was a tough time for your marriage.
A: To some degree, yes. However, we soon discovered that our love for each other was stronger than our differences in beliefs. Next year we will celebrate our 30th anniversary. We love each other more today than yesterday. Say, that would make a good song.
Q: It has already been done years ago by Spiral Starecase.
A: I know. I was being facetious.
Q: I couldn’t tell without an emoticon.
A: Oh, sorry. I should have added one.
Q: Well, anyway, back to the interview. So, I guess you being married to a Christian explains why you present Christians in such a positive light in your novel. Many skeptics these days make fun of and denigrate Christians.
A: Oh, absolutely. And it’s not just my wife. I know many Christians, and the vast majority are fine, intelligent, upright people. I cringe when I hear certain unbelievers try to make Christians appear to be deluded idiots. Of course, Christians are not exempt from this behavior either. I have heard many preachers try to portray all unbelievers as being ignorant or licentious or both. And it just isn’t so. I know that I personally de-converted because I came to believe that the evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible was not as great as it should be, given the incredible claims that it makes.
Q: But what about all those very intelligent Christian apologists such as Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell that went from being a skeptic to a Christian based on the evidence?
A: That is puzzling, isn’t it? A few years back, Josh McDowell came to town and gave a talk at a church just a few miles from my house. It was quite enlightening. He said that Christian beliefs had to be based on evidence, not faith alone. Why? Because a person can choose to believe anything by faith. They can choose to be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and so on by faith. Simply having faith in some system of belief does not speak to its truthfulness. That is where evidence comes in. Evidence is what allows us to determine what is true and thus worthy of our allegiance. However, the problem is that the evidence is incomplete. Therefore, we find that some level of faith is necessary to bridge the gap between the evidence and our acceptance. It’s kind of like sitting on a jury. Evidence is presented both for and against the defendant. The jury must then decide the defendant’s guilt or innocence. When it comes to religions, the world is basically a hung jury. Some believe the evidence is sufficient; others do not. So, Josh McDowell and I agree that we should only accept a religion based on the evidence. However, he, and many others, believe the evidence is sufficient. I, and many others, believe it is not.
Q: I found it interesting how you handled the issue of an afterlife in your novel. You seem to be hopeful that even unbelievers can be a part of a wonderful afterlife rather than a hellish eternal torment that some people believe await them. Do you personally believe in an afterlife?
A: I’ll have to play the politician here and answer, “Yes and no.” What I really mean is that I simply don’t know. On the one hand I know for sure that it didn’t bother me one iota to have not existed before I was conceived, so why should it bother me to return to that same state after my death? On the other hand, it seems rather bizarre that we humans, with the capability of self-awareness, would come into existence, live for a few years, and then disappear forever.
Q: My thoughts exactly.
A: I’m not surprised. 8>)  Notice I didn’t forget the emoticon this time.
Q: Thanks for that. Now, changing the subject, I wanted to say that I really enjoyed the cultural references you sprinkle throughout your novel. A good friend of mine who has also read your book agrees with me. You mention many popular movies, TV shows, and songs. Why did you do this?
A: Because that’s how I think personally. Many times during my life I have had situations arise that remind me of a song, or a movie, or a particular episode of a TV show. Many times I will make a comical reference to it. I usually only speak the reference when other people are around and just think it when I am by myself. However, I have been known to speak aloud to myself every now and then. I hope that’s not too freakish.
Q: What? Did you say something to me? I thought you were talking to yourself.
A: Okay, wise guy. No emoticon?
Q: 8>)
A: That’s better.
Q: Speaking of popular culture, you mentioned earlier that you used to be a big fan of science fiction. Are you still?
A: Not so much. The bookstores these days have combined two categories: science fiction and fantasy. While I enjoy SciFi, I am not much of a fan of fantasy. When I visit the SciFi / Fantasy section of my local bookstore, I find that most of the books are really fantasy, not hardcore science fiction. Back when I de-converted, I found myself reading more non-fiction than fiction. I was reading a lot of philosophy books, particularly those by Ayn Rand. I also read a fair number of books criticizing Christianity and others defending it. I even wrote three essays explaining the problems I had with the Bible that caused me to reject it. However, one can only read so much of this type of literature before it begins to get repetitive. Recently I have gotten into reading thriller authors like David Baldacci and Lee Child. Interestingly, shortly before I published “Passion is a Harsh Taskmaster,” I found out that another writer friend of mine had just published his first novel. Like me, he had also written a lot of non-fiction articles and books. The big difference was he became quite well known, having written at one time for Reader’s Digest. We talked by phone and Email and he gave me some sound advice about how to approach the publication of my novel. I appreciated that.
Q: So, who was this friend and what was his novel about?
A: His name is Robert Bidinotto, and his novel is entitled, “HUNTER: A Thriller.” Don’t let the title fool you. It’s more than just a thriller, it’s also a romance novel. It’s also a good read for anyone concerned about the current state of our criminal justice system.
Q: I just found out that Mr. Bidinotto’s novel is available in print as well as an eBook. How about your novel?
A: Right now it is only available in various eBook formats at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple’s iBook store, and Smashwords. I am looking into producing a print version, also.
Q: I’m really getting tired of interviewing you, but I did want to mention one other thing about your book: sex. While I realize that the sexual content of your novel is very mild compared to today’s standards of sexuality, don’t you think it’s too provocative given that part of your target audience is the Christian community.
A: Who told you that Christians were part of my target audience?
Q: Do you really have to ask that?
A: Oh, sorry, I forgot who you were for a minute. We seem to be taking on the persona of a ventriloquist act. I just can’t decide who’s the ventriloquist and who’s the dummy.
Q: I have an answer to that, but I’m going to let it slide for the moment. So, go on, tell us about the sexual content of your novel.
A: I actually debated with myself, this time in my head and not out loud, how much sexuality to include in my book. After all, I was writing a mystery romance novel with elements of the supernatural thrown in. I felt like it had to have some level of sexual content to emphasize the romance between the main characters. The boundaries I put on the book were based on several factors. One was the Bible. There are a number of suggestive passages in the Bible such as David’s lusting after Bathsheba and Lot’s daughters getting him drunk and having sex with him. And the love letter “Song of Solomon” has some rather provocative content in it. Another factor I considered was how much more open the Christian community is about sex than it used to be.
Q: Why do you think that is?
A: I believe a lot of the openness stems from the studies showing that Christians were divorcing at the same rate as were non-Christians and that part of the problem was due to the lack of sexual fulfillment in their marriages. There are a fair number of books and marriage seminars that now address how Christians can maintain their sexuality in a monogamous relationship with their spouse. I have even heard that some rather provocative sexual questions can now be asked at Christian women’s conferences without the questioner being called down. Rather, answers are given to the questions. So, with all these things in mind, I limited the sexual content of my novel to what I believed would be acceptable to the modern day mainstream Christian.
Q: Very interesting. Thanks for taking the time for this interview. That’s all the questions I have, but I reserve the right to ask more if I think of more.
A: I’ll be nearby any time the urge to ask another question arises. 8>)
Q: Indeed you will be.

1 comment:

  1. Hey there, Randy,

    That was a very funny and clever self-interview. Clearly, you're gifted with words and a natural with dialogue!

    Thanks much for the kind references to my own novel, HUNTER. Glad you enjoyed it.

    And I wish you every success!