Friday, April 26, 2013

Introducing: Robert Mullin!

A few months back, I started seeing an intriguing book cover cropping up here and there on the internets. An intriguing cover with an even more intriguing title. This one, in fact:

Eventually, I decided I should see what it was about, so I looked it up and found this summary:
Kidnapped from his homeworld and sold into slavery, Maurin despairs of ever seeing his cousin or his home again. When he is ransomed by a mysterious woman and reunited with Aric, he joins and unlikely group committed to the downfall of the slave trade. But it isn't long before he realizes they are being hunted--not only by the blood-lusting head of the slave trade, but by an ancient evil that wants their souls.
And here is what I found out about the author:
Seasoned editor and debut author Robert Mullin is a cryptozoologist who has traveled to Africa three times in search of a living dinosaur. He was featured on an episode of the History Channel’s television show, Monster Quest. He is also the creator of The Star Wars Expanded Universe Chronology, one of the premier fan timelines, and available on Rob is currently working on Worlds beyond the Well, book two in the series.
A cryptozoologist!?!? Okay, I thought, we definitely need to know more about this guy and his work!
So I invited Robert to come share with us about his writing, his debut novel, his publishing journey, and--of course--cryptozoology here on the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog! He graciously accepted and is offering a giveaway of his novel, so be certain to check down below and learn how to enter your name.
In the meanwhile a warm welcome to the author of Bid the Gods Arise!
Hi, Robert! Welcome to the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog. Would you mind telling us a little about yourself? Hobbies, personality . . . tea or coffee? (And yes, what we REALLY want to know about is the cryptozoology!)
Robert: Hobbies used to—emphasis on used to—include weight lifting (really need to get back into that).  I am a mocha addict, which pretty much ties into the first statement.
Cryptozoology  had always been more or less a part of my bookworm life until 2001, when I made my first trip to Africa. I have been back twice since then in search of Mokele-mbembe, a mystery animal that seems to match the description of a living dinosaur. I got to talk to a lot of people who have seen it, learned a great deal about its description and habits, saw evidence that the animal indeed lives there, but still have not gotten to witness it myself (although I’m pretty sure we had a near miss that first time). I do plan to return sometime for a fourth trip, but God alone knows when that will be.
(The Mokele-mbembe)
For those who are interested in my fifteen minutes of fame, I was part of the MonsterQuest season three episode, “The Last Dinosaur.” And for those interested in hearing a bit of the story behind that, I recommend reading this article.
What led you into the writing life? Were you always a storyteller?
Robert: Perhaps not in the sense that you mean, though I was world-building from an early age. I played with action figures a lot when I was a boy, and the storyline scenarios were always complex and drawn-out plots with real consequences that lasted until the “reset.” I also had a love of language and literature, thanks to my parents, and wrote a couple of short stories for school assignments, but was mostly just an avid reader. It really wasn’t until college that I was given some inspiration to write; I had an assignment in English that I really didn’t want to do. When I finally knuckled down (on the last day to turn it in), my teacher said, “You may not know it yet, but you will be a writer.” Turned out to be a bit prophetic, though at the time it just got the wheels turning in my head.
Tell us a little about your book! What led you to start writing BID THE GODS ARISE? Will there be more than one book?
Robert: Well, BTGA is a bit of a mélange of genres. It wasn’t intentional; it just tends to be the way my mind works as a fan of speculative fiction of all stripes. I tend to think of it as Lewis meets Lovecraft by way of Lucas.  The blend has gone over surprisingly well, though it was that sort of bookshelf ambiguity that made it a bit of a publishing challenge. Ultimately, though, despite its rather unusual world, the novel is about people, and I think that is what makes it work. Our temptations, strengths, and frailties are what make us human, and I am fascinated by the ability or inability to overcome our worst enemy, which is usually ourselves.
I actually started brainstorming on a story with my cousin around the same time I was going to college; we had an idea for what (at the time) seemed like a really cool fantasy movie, something that would incorporate a number of the influences in our young lives while still being uniquely ours. The story took a number of unexpected turns, and started to outgrow the original conception of a one-volume tale, but it was around that time that the aforementioned English professor made her statement to me. In the process of discovering what the story was really about, I realized that creation is fun!
BID THE GODS ARISE is the first book in a series, THE WELLS OF THE WORLDS. It looks as though it might be a bit too big for a trilogy, and I’m leaning a bit towards a quartet or quintet, but I don’t really want to tie that down too much in case it doesn’t quite go the way I think it will. Rest assured, though, that it is leading to a specific end, and does not promise to be a sprawling and unending Jordan-like epic.
I would like to caution prospective readers that while nothing in the novel is gratuitous, it does deal frankly with some adult themes, whether they be temptation or the ugly side of slavery (is there a beautiful side?). As one reviewer pointed out, the story is really about slavery to a number of things, and not just the literal slave trade. While the primary protagonists are young men, it’s not really a YA novel.
What was your publishing story? Any encouragement for other aspiring novelists out there?
Robert: After trying for several years to fit my non-niche book into a niche, I decided to go the indie route, primarily so that I could maintain control of the final product. JC Lamont (author of the astounding and unique PROPHECY OF THE HEIR) and I founded Crimson Moon Press, as our vision for writing was very similar. We live in a very interesting time for writers. There appears to be a kind of market-driven publishing revolution going on. Traditional publishing still leads the game, but indie publishing is starting to assert itself in a big way. Even some traditionally-published authors are leaning towards it due to the fact that they no longer have to be at the mercy of publishing contracts that leave the author with only a fraction of the royalties.
My advice to aspiring novelists is to learn your craft. Even if the rules seem stupid at the time, learn them. Live them. Breathe them. Set your manuscript aside for a while, and come back and see if those rules might just improve it. Then ultimately do what is right for your story. If that means peddling it at writers conferences and waiting for that big contract, don’t be satisfied with anything less. If it means indie publishing, that’s fine, but bear in mind that you are already at a disadvantage, so you must hone that craft to a razor’s edge in order to be taken seriously at all. Building an audience or platform is tough even for a traditional author; even more so for an independent.
Beyond that, I’m still learning the rules myself. But it’s an exciting time to be a novelist, and I’d say just to write with all your heart, soul, and strength.
Can you pick a favorite character from BID THE GODS ARISE?
Robert: Well, a fan favorite seems to be Dania; she steals every scene she’s in. But I’m partial to Valasand, perhaps because I feel I could benefit a bit from the wisdom her character is supposed to embody. Most of them have traits I admire, and several of them have traits I despise, primarily because that’s human nature. We each have our frailties, and the interaction of those strengths and frailties is what drives relationships.
What inspires your work? Where do you turn when you need a renewal of inspiration?
Robert: My late cousin was my muse, and I suppose that ultimately I am still telling this story to him, and hoping that he would enjoy what it has become. My sources of inspiration are probably too many to name, and I tend to hold the actual influences that went into BTGA pretty close to my chest; I want people to read it on its own merit (every author steals with abandon, but the smart ones at least try to file off the serial numbers). When my well runs dry, I turn to history and psychology in some form or another. There is nothing new under the sun, and ultimately even immortal characters are generally driven by recognizable human desires.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process?
Robert: Feedback is my favorite. I love it when something resonates with a reader, and someone “gets it.” When a character connects, and people say they can’t wait to find out what happens next, even better. Least favorite … the proverbial murder of my darlings, and second-guessing whether a certain dramatic or editing choice was the right one to make (there’s little that irks me more than reading something negative in a review that might have been avoided if I had not made that latest change in the book). But I love virtually everything about writing, from the first draft to the last. It’s all part of the fun to me. The only trick is knowing when to quit tweaking.
If you were forced to pick a single favorite author, who would it be?
Robert: Timothy Zahn. Not because he is necessarily the best writer, or even because I’ve read all of his books (not even close), but because he does things with storytelling that I can only aspire to. When I read one of his novels, I forget that I’m reading, and I’m caught up in a story that has so many twists and turns that it might very well have come from the mind of someone like M. Night Shayamalan (if Night were a physics expert, that is).  There are more literary authors, and many more formative to my own style of writing, but Zahn’s blend of mystery, suspense, and speculative fiction is right up my alley.
What are you actively writing right now?
Robert: I am working with JC Lamont on a graphic novel adaptation of BID THE GODS ARISE. When that is fully scripted and sent off to the artist, I am returning with gusto to the next book in the series, WORLDS BEYOND THE WELL (about halfway complete at the moment).
Can you share a short snippet from BID THE GODS ARISE?
Robert: Certainly. The following scene features Dania, the gladiatrix, after she has effected a bloody escape from her sadistic master:
The cold hit her like a slap, and she had to struggle not to draw a breath at the shock. Plunging deep into the inky silence, Dania swam as far as she dared without coming up for air. The current swept her along, and when she finally surfaced, Seides’ mansion already lay far behind her. The icy waters took the pain of her injuries away, replacing them with a fearful ache. She swam until she could swim no longer, and then let the current take her. Rushing past gondolas and skiffs, she was tempted to leave the water for the first room with a fire she could find. Her bones felt frozen, and it was getting difficult to move. But to give in now would be the end of her.
She saw the city wall approaching, and clamped her jaws together to keep her teeth from chattering. There were a number of outflows, but she didn’t want to go over the falls. She hoped she remembered right. Then she saw the grate, and tried to slow her approach. Grasping at the sides of the canal, she skinned her hands and bruised her knees, but managed to keep from smashing into the iron bars barricading her way. Grabbing onto them, she saw that only a few inches were above the waterline. She hadn’t counted on this, but supposed it was her own fault for not taking into account the effect the rain would have on the city’s main transportation system. Gritting her teeth and taking a deep breath, she plunged under again, holding onto the bars with all her might.
Fighting the current pressing her against the grate, Dania turned her head sideways and slipped her arms between the bars, the iron squeezing and bruising her chest. The satchel had slipped around the bar, so she reached back and freed it, making sure it didn’t get carried away. She pulled her body through, only to find herself jarred back just when she thought she might actually make it.
Her hips were stuck. Inwardly, she cursed her body for not having the soft resilience of the women of Caileen, and struggled, wriggling this way and that, trying not to panic. Air was only a few feet away.
I cannot die here.
Slowly, inch by inch, she forced herself through the grate, straining at the effort, when suddenly she was free, tumbling away in the current. Dania swam to the surface and gulped for air. Lightning flashed across the sky, and illuminated the outer wall of the city.
She had made it.
Dania was in the river now, being swept along rapidly towards the woods. She let the water carry her out of sight of Caileen, then crawled out onto the bank, shivering. Every inch of her body hurt. For just a few moments, she allowed herself to rest, then dragged herself to her feet, slipping in the mud, and cutting her palm on a stone. She could barely even stand, but knew she had to find shelter, and soon.
Dania turned one last time in the direction of the city. The manacle still chained to her wrist clinked as she clenched her fists above her head in defiance. In her mind, she heard the roar of the crowd, calling her name. Inexplicably, she found herself recalling the boy she had passed earlier at the arena, and she bared her teeth in a savage, feral grin.
She shouted into the night: “Behold the victor!"
Anyone who wishes to find out more about me or BID THE GODS ARISE can use any of the following links. Thank you for this opportunity to talk!
Thank you, Robert, for joining us today!
All right, everyone, aren't you eager to grab a copy of this book now? And here's a chance to win it in paperback, so be certain to enter your name." rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway



Anonymous said...

This sounds like a really interesting book. I can't wait to read it.

Hannah said...

What an intriguing sounding novel. Congratulations on your success, Mr. Mullins!

It is so awesome that you've searched for Mokele-mbembe!!! My brother and I were huge dinosaur fans when we were little, and the mystery of Mokele-mbembe always fascinated us! We always dreamed of finding him...or her.
One day perhaps, someone will get actual footage of that elusive but oh-so-big creature.

Bookishqueen said...

When did you first get into cryptozoology?

Molly said...

Have you ever found any bones of the Mokele-mbembe?
I've touched real dinosaur bones before (ahem I may or may not have done that when no one was looking) but I can't imagine how exciting it must be to actually find some yourself!

This book sounds really intriguing! Yet another great book to add to my growing booklist ;)

Imblest said...

I totally agree with Anne Elisabeth. The title and cover of your book is very eye-catching. I was hoping to find out more about it, so thank you Anne for hosting Mr. Mullins interview, and thank you Mr. Mullins giving it.

Mokele-mbembe!!! My kids and I have been fascinated with this creature for years. Back in the late nineties, we attended a presentation by Dr. John Morris of The Institute for Creation Research, and if I remember correctly, he played a audio recording of what his researcher contacts believed to be Mokele-mbembe. He said coming back (at that time) with proof was very difficult because the extreme tropical conditions were very hard on the equipment. My kids always wanted to go in search for Mokele-mbembe. My son is now a senior wildlife biologist major, so it would be great if he could go someday. How did you go about arranging for such a trip? Was it an independent effort, or did you make contact with a group? I hope you are able to make the trip again soon.

Thank you for letting us know about your book. It sounds like quite the adventure!

Lauren said...

I think that the book sounds really intriguing!!! Do you plot your novels out in advance, or are you more "seat of the pants"?

J. L. Mbewe said...

Blogger is not liking me today, but three times a charm, right? I just wanted to stop by and say that I love Bid the Gods Arise, and I was so excited to see this interview. Thank you, Ms. Stengl!

Are you currently working on a cryptozoological project? Do you study other animals or just dinosaurs? Thanks :-)

Alyssa Fryberger said...

Robert, I love the sound of Bid the Gods Arise and will have to read it now. Thank you for the interview. It was very interesting.

Unknown said...

Oh, cryptozoology! I've always loved dinosaurs (when I was younger, I wanted to be a paleontologist really badly), and the idea of living dinosaurs makes me giddy.

In regards to writing, how do you deal with a large cast of characters? When you have a character that may only have one scene yet you want to make them unique and memorable, what do you do?

Thanks so much for dropping by the blog and giving us the opportunity to learn more about your fascinating book and hobbies. The excerpt was fantastic and makes me want to read more! And thanks for the giveaway!


Kessie said...

As a beta reader for this book and now an avid fan, I approve of this interview. What made me want to read it was the author's remark that the villains are a new twist on vampires. And boy, are they ever! But I shall say no more because of spoilers. :-)

Galadriel said...

It sounds really cool.

Clara said...

Thanks for the interview! Bid the Gods Arise is something I would love to read.

Robert Mullin said...

Thank you all for the warm welcome!

Hannah, I hope that we will have some news on Mokele-mbembe soon. The chances are equally good to find a male or female; both have been described to us in detail (complete with mating habits).

Bookishqueen, I mostly read up on Cryptozoology until the first trip to Africa in 2001. The circumstances leading to that were a bit odd. I had started a novel about the search for Mokele-mbembe. Around the same time, I found Clint Kelly’s THE LOST KINGDOM on the bookshelf at my local Christian bookstore. I got the book and got in touch with the author, teasingly chiding him about the fact that he wrote the book before I could (fortunately, our plots were very different, so if I ever get around to writing mine, I need not worry about repetition). He got me in touch with an email list (this was before Facebook) of like-minded Christians, Creationists, and Cryptozoologists, where I met Bill Gibbons. Bill had been to the Congo several times in search of the animal, which had always been my favorite of those last unsolved mysteries of Earth. I coincidentally read in a magazine that he was going to be heading there again in 2000, so I wrote to him and said something along the lines of, “I have no particular credentials to offer, but I’ll row your boat or carry your water if you will let me come along with you.” Bill replied that he was no longer going on that expedition, as the leader was “a paranormalist nut who would get himself killed if he went anywhere near the Congo,” and that he, Bill, was going to start his own expedition, and would I like to be the first member? I thought about that for a nanosecond, and the rest is history. I was very pleased after that first expedition to find several of my theories confirmed by further interviews with the natives, and several tidbits discovered that no one else has ever known.

Imblest, one of the newer discoveries was the fact that these creatures have inflatable dewlaps used for vocalization . The sounds are indeed similar to what the Regeusters expedition returned with, although that recording is to be viewed with a fair amount of skepticism.

Molly, no, we have found no bones. The discovery of unfossilized bones would be absolutely world-shaking news (in a scientific sense). We have found footprints, evidence of trees being stripped of foliage to a height of 18 feet, claw marks on the banks where they dig out their caves, and heard vocalizations and some tremendous splashing, but no physical evidence such as bones or scat. They live in the river, though, and breed in the swamp, so I expect that most of the evidence of their passing is eaten by the rainforest, as it were. It is really dense there, and you really don’t tend to find bodies of dead animals.

Jennette, I have actually considered putting myself out there as a sort of cryptozoologist-for-hire, going to various places (on someone else’s bill) and doing the hard work of searching for the animal. I am intrigued by other cryptids, but there’s a soft spot in my heart for the living dinosaurs (probably because I love to watch arrogant people eat crow, and I already know just from what I’ve learned about MM that when certain animals are discovered, there are a whole bunch of science and history books just waiting to be rewritten). There is also a more personal reason for being partial to MM, but it’s kind of obscure, and may simply have to wait until the book (novel or nonfiction).


Robert Mullin said...

Back on the subject of the book, to answer your question, Lauren, I tend to be a little of both. I do like to plot out the major events of the novel, and several of the scenes come to me in advance, but when I sit down to write, it is generally a discovery process to see how the elements link up.

WriterofDreamThings (I’m loving these names), the cast of my novel is large, but not horrendously so. I believe that as long as you use Deep POV as much as possible, the “voice” of each character should be fairly distinct. Other fantasy authors have done this fairly capably; the first that comes to mind is George R.R. Martin. By alternating extended sections or chapters of one character’s POV, you allow for a greater scope of story, but also give the reader time to know each character well enough to remember them. For the one-shot scenes you describe, I tend to let secondary characters be famous actors in my mind. Hopefully if I describe mannerisms or the like in such a way that even though people won’t realize that they’re reading a “cameo,” they will at least have a distinct impression of these people that show up here and there.

Kessie, you crack me up and make my day every time you write about BTGA. ;)

Thank you, everyone, for your interest, and good luck in the giveaway!

Rachel6 said...

My first thought looking at the cover was that it looks darker than something I'd read, but the title is COOL. And then I read the interview, the excerpt, and Kessie's comment about the villain, and now the whole book sounds cool!

I've always inclined toward fairytales and myths rather than cryptozoology, but your expedition sounds fascinating! You have the added bonus, of course, of searching for something you might actually find. I'll be watching the news for MM...

Robert Mullin said...

Rachel, I appreciate the interest, even if the book might be a little darker than might be your wont. I hope that you enjoy it; I know that it does push a few people's envelopes, but I haven't met anyone yet who was sorry they read it. :) Some of the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads might help you decide if it's right for you or not.

Anne, do we have a winner to announce?

Robert Mullin said...

Er, never mind. I see we do. Congratulations, Christy L! :)

Robert Mullin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Mullin said...

Just wanted you to know that starting tomorrow, May 14, Bid the Gods Arise is free on Kindle until midnight of the 15th. (For some reason, it didn't go through as scheduled for today. Whoops!)

Anonymous said...

I would have to say that one of my favorite authors (there are definitely more than one!) would be Jennifer Valent. I LOVED her Calloway Summers series. Her characters were moving and the story stayed with me long after I finished reading it.