It’s been a while since I’ve had an author stop by for an interview, so I thought I’d start 2016 off right. Please welcome to my little corner of the internet, Lawrence M. Schoen.
Here’s a bit about him to get you going:
Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, has been nominated for the Campbell, Hugo, and Nebula awards, is a world authority on the Klingon language, operates the small press Paper Golem, and is a practicing hypnotherapist specializing in authors’ issues.
His previous science fiction includes many light and humorous adventures of a space-faring stage hypnotist and his alien animal companion. His most recent book, Barsk, takes a very different tone, exploring issues of prophecy, intolerance, friendship, conspiracy, and loyalty, and redefines the continua between life and death. He lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with his wife and their dog.
Lawrence is here promoting his new book that just came out on December 29th, Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard. Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite before we get to the interview:
An historian who speaks with the dead is ensnared by the past. A child who feels no pain and who should not exist sees the future. Between them are truths that
will shake worlds.
In a distant future, no remnants of human beings remain, but their successors thrive throughout the galaxy. These are the offspring of humanity’s genius-animals uplifted into walking, talking, sentient beings. The Fant are one such species: anthropomorphic elephants ostracized by other races, and long ago exiled to the rainy ghetto world of Barsk. There, they develop medicines upon which all species now depend. The most coveted of these drugs is koph, which allows a small number of users to interact with the recently deceased and learn their secrets.
To break the Fant’s control of koph, an offworld shadow group attempts to force the Fant to surrender their knowledge. Jorl, a Fant Speaker with the dead, is compelled to question his deceased best friend, who years ago mysteriously committed suicide. In so doing, Jorl unearths a secret the powers that be would prefer to keep buried forever. Meanwhile, his dead friend’s son, a physically challenged young Fant named Pizlo, is driven by disturbing visions to take his first unsteady steps toward an uncertain future.
Now onward, to the interview!
What’s the first word of your book? (You can exclude articles, pronouns or prepositions.)
Rüsul. It’s the name of a supporting character who has set out on his last voyage and sets up one of the major plot threads of the novel. The full line is: Rüsul traveled to meet his death.
Are you hooked?
Tell me something about your book that I can’t find in the blurb.
There’s a weird little kid who can’t feel pain, is considered an abomination by all but two people on the planet, and he converses with trees, rocks, waves, and even moons.
In one word, describe your main character. (You can expand afterwards, but limit your initial response to one word.)
Xenophilic. For eight hundred years no one but Fant have set foot upon Barsk, and only a handful have left. Jorl is the most recent of these, having gone out to experience life among other races before the death of his friend brought him home.
Where does your book take place? Tell me about why you picked that location.
Most everything takes place on Barsk, a world of endless rain and no major continents. The only residents dwell in arboreal cities built in the rain forests that exist on the islands of two archipelagoes. Some action occurs on a small space station in geosynchronous orbit above Barsk, a mostly automated facility that handles the stream of exported pharmaceuticals coming from below. And too, some scenes take place entirely in the minds of some of the characters who, under the influence of a powerful drug, can build mental landscapes for conversations with the dead.
I picked these locations because these are the places my characters were and I wanted to tell their story. I could have moved them elsewhere, but then it would have become someone else’s tale.
Tell me about your favorite character that you’ve written.
Can’t do it. I know you don’t want to hear this (and may not believe me) but I don’t have favorites. For anything. Sure, for a given category there may be a few exemplars that I prefer, but those vary as a function of time and circumstance. Favorites, as I understand the term, should be more lasting. Sorry.
What’s your favorite verb?
There’s that word “favorite” again, but let’s go with what leaped to mind when I read the question. Ready? Defenestrate. I hardly ever get to use it.
What’s the last book you read?
The Vital Abyss by James S. A. Corey. It’s a side novella in the Expanse series, and a particularly powerful read is you’re any flavor of researcher or scientist.
Who was your favorite fictional character as a child?
John Carter, gentleman of Virginia, friend to Tars Tarkus, spouse of the beauteous Dejah Thoris, warlord of Mars. Imagine my horror when I returned to his books so many years later and discovered how racist and misogynistic they were.
Tell me about an event that contributed to your decision to become a writer.
I remember being present in a room where my father and some of his friends were talking. I was probably five or six, sitting on the carpet playing quietly and so tolerated while the adults told stories to one another. I recall being awed by their tales, autobiographical exploits of wonder, one and all. And I vividly remember wondering to myself if when I grew up I’d have any adventures like that so I too could tell stories.
What would you tell past you, if you could send a letter back in time?
Let go of zero-sum games and pursue win-win scenarios. I promise you, as your future self, your life becomes immeasurably better as soon as you do this. Embrace generosity, both giving to others and allowing others to give to you.
You can find Lawrence here: