Tuesday, 10 April 2018

An interview with Robert Pope

Robert Pope’s fiction first appeared in Dark Lane Anthology Volume Three.  Since then he’s made regular appearances in subsequent volumes.

Q: What are your working methods?  Do you sit down every day to write?  Do you have a designated place to write?

A: I sit down everyday and give attention to writing, but I don’t write every day unless I have a story in the works. Then I sit down a couple of times each day to do as much as I can. As it has been too cold to work in my attic this winter, I write in a large leather chair in the living room, with the laptop on my lap—early in the morning. I often come down to Nervous Dog coffee shop when I find it tempting to play with the dog or daydream. At the coffee shop I sit in a stiff-backed chair, so I will not get too comfortable. People talking or working around me gives me the sense I’m getting somewhere.

Q: Tell us about one of your favourite short stories and why you like it (not one of your own).

A: At the time I read “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol, I might have been twenty, but the experience of wonder and delight at the purposeful wackiness of the story gave me a bit of a thrill. Since then, there have been many highlights, and often the stories share this quality of purposeful wackiness as well as intensity in forward motion. The sense of wonder found in strange situations and comedy in tragic moments satisfies the mourner and the fool in me.

Q: Tell us about one of your favourite short stories (written by you).

A: In recent years, my favourite stories appeared in Dark Lane, “The Detective’s Son” and “The Rose Is Red the Grass Is Green.” Both had qualities I want to balance: a developed, dense sense of both the realistic and imaginative levels. “The Detective’s Son” was an apotheosis of what I most desired to achieve at the time, but “The Rose Is Red…” had a more complex development. I wrote the sections from varying viewpoints, as they occurred to me. In rewriting, I chose the dominant point-of-view, Farrell Flynn, a lawyer running for political office, and each section fell in place naturally. I ended up with a file of pieces that didn’t make it but have not looked back at them with remorse. Writing it did exhaust me, I will admit. Perhaps because I had to put in more time and effort, I have to like it best, for the same reason that troublesome children are so often most loved by their parents.

Q: Where do your ideas come from?  Do you go looking for ideas – for example by brainstorming, or do you wait for inspiration?

A: I do what every reasonable writer says you should not: wait for inspiration. Once I finish a story, I have a couple of days of ecstasy that slowly evolve into desperation. But I always trust another story will present itself to my imagination, and I have to be ready. I have to recognize it as a story worth developing, and it has to take root firmly for me to stick with it. Of course, everything you do, hear, read, seek, dream comes into the formation of the idea, but all bets are off once you wade into it. I might actually have thoughts such as, wouldn’t it be nice to write something that did such-and-such, but conscious desires of this nature must be blended in with an idea that comes with sufficient force to demand attention. Eventually, your unconscious mind will come to the idea your conscious mind suggested at the point at which the unconscious mind believes he or she came up with it on its own. Never contradict the unconscious mind, for she or he is the source of all good things. I suppose I am a bit of a Jungian, but only because my unconscious thinks he or she invented it.

Q: Are you a full-time author? If you have another job, what is it and would you like to become a full-time author if you could?

A: I write full time now and would like to be a full-time author if I could. Yes. Teaching has supported my vice throughout the years. I just got a letter (meaning a long email) from a former student and present friend who asked me why I continue to write when I do not have to do so any longer. My first response is best represented by three large question marks appearing over my head. Evidently, when she took my fiction writing class, she thought I was kidding. I write stories. This is what I do.

Q: What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

A: The most difficult part of the writing process is a triumvirate: waiting, writing, and obstacles. In the space between writing one story and starting another, I often question myself most severely.  In the writing, I usually take Advil at least once a day because my back or neck hurts. In the living of any life at all, there are situations that demand attention if you hope to be a decent, law-abiding citizen. If you are neither decent nor law-abiding, you don’t have time for writing stories.

Q: If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self about becoming an author?

A: If I could go back in time, and if I could find myself again, I would nod to my younger self in passing, and I would smile and point at him. That would give him enough to think about for years.