Enjoy getting to know, Rob Queen:
Thank you for joining me today. Tell us in three words how you would best describe your writing.
Rooted, expansive, human
Your book, “Escape from the Spotlight” is set to release in December 2017. Share a passage that you’d like for us to enjoy.
With the black lights projecting out from the wall, he can see a cluster of thirty bats dangling upside down. They are staring at him, as they normally do whenever one comes into their enclosure. Knowing what they want, Doran slips the remains from his lunch out of his school bag: an orange.
When he has peeled it, he splits it up and spreads the fruit around on the walkway. The bats are not shy to come down and jostle for the fruit. Doran watches them and smells them in. He reaches out with every fiber of his being, to see what makes them them.
And then he is one.
The world becomes a busting explosion of sound. It is so precise that he can hear the heartbeats of the gators below him, slowed to a crawl in the cool weather despite the heaters keeping the enclosures warm. His eyes are far better than he was expecting, nearly as effective as his own human eyes, but everything takes on a wall-eyed curve due to how pronounced they are. His species-mates have shed some of the visible definitions that they had when he was human; now, they are scents and sounds combined with their physical appearance. Closing his eyes, the other senses become a rushing intake of scratching and chewing and leathery movement coupled with the pleasant tang of bat musk accented with the sweet scent of the orange.
You’ve been presented with the opportunity to be a best-selling author, but can never write again, or write forever, but never have a bestseller. Which scenario sounds more tempting?
So this question is essentially asking if I want to sell out. Read between the lines, and you can usually find the speaker’s – or author’s – main point. I see what this is. As to the question, the only thing that would prevent me from writing more is death. If I happen to get rich while I’m writing, then so be it. That is only an occasional symptom of the affliction. What is the affliction? Compulsive creation.
If you could live on a college campus and never leave, or live in a small town but be able to travel, which one would you choose?
I’ve traveled to quite a number of places already. 7 years of my life was spent outside my home country, a number were spent on the road going up and down the East Coast, touring from horse show to horse show. Doing so is highly enjoyable. Would I miss it? Well, I retired from horses about a decade ago, and yes, I miss it, but it is one of those “better to have loved and lost than have never loved at all” deals. I would miss it, sure, but honestly, I kind of love my college campus. Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA. Trees all around me, a good library, ample places to write. Banishment here wouldn’t be so bad, though all my students do complain about the food. But that’s what students do. It’s part and parcel of the job.
Okay, how about in an amusement park or in an airport?
Amusement parks are distracting. Airports are intense locations in which to engage in character studies. I’m a story-teller. There are far more variety of stories in airports than there are in amusement parks. Moreover, “The Terminal” starring Tom Hanks was a highly enjoyable film, one that actually could carry its own narrative. But can you think of any movies wholly set in an amusement park? No. I’m honestly asking because I can’t, for the life of me, come up with any. “Zombieland” ended in one, but that was only a part of the overall narrative.
And how about Australia or Scotland?
Yes. Thanks. I wasn’t aware you were giving free tickets there to both locations.
Who is your favorite 90’s band (I’m thinking Counting Crows, Blink 182, Hootie & the Blowfish)?
Ha! Ha ha HA! Though Hootie gave a really fun show back in the 90’s. I will give them props for that. No, my favorite 90’s band is probably Linkin Park. I was utterly heartbroken to hear of Chester Bennington’s (one of the band’s lead vocalists) passing this year. Depression is powerful. Chris Cornell (another fantastic 90’s era musician), Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Jim Carrey (had he not found art)… all these great talents succumbed to their depression. This is an illness that is often overlooked or dismissed as being just a “First World Problem” but it’s not. It’s a genuine illness that claws at the brain and soul, eroding it slowly over time. And all it takes is one moment of weakness, where the positives just don’t counterbalance the negatives. Not anymore.
Wow. That kind of got a little dark there. On a more positive note, Dave Grohl has seemed to maintain his great sense of humor following Cobain’s death, and in doing so, has brought us consistently enjoyable music for the past 20 years or so! Yay, Dave!
Are there any good bands out there today that we’ll talk about in 50 years?
That started now or are starting now? Yeah, a Burlington, Vermont band called Gneiss. Very talented. They’re going to blow up. Check them out.
As for bands that are still around, Phish. Honestly, how is it that people are talking about these guys more? This summer, they did a “Baker’s Dozen” concerts in Madison Square Garden. It was an actual residency in Madison Square Garden. 13 days. Sold Out. Over those 13 days, they did 2 full sets of music and did not repeat a single song. How the hell many bands could possibly say that they did or could do that? How are we not talking about how ridiculously amazing that is?
And what about your favorite comedy on TV (My favorite is still The Office)?
“The Office”? Sorry, but I hated that show. Hated “Seinfeld” and “Punk’d,” too, for that matter. And probably for the same reasons. I see no reason to celebrate incompetence. Punk’d was just a show about someone being an ongoing dickhead to other people. I got no time for that – there’s enough evil in the world to enjoy it. “Jackass”? That’s ok, because it’s an insular group being stupid and upping the ante of personal entertainment at their own expense. It actually takes a certain degree of masochistic genius to come up with the torture they put one another through. The Office, however, is just one sad sap in charge of a bunch of people that might be better off without him. If I wanted to torture myself, I’d have myself waterboarded rather than be forced to suffer forced awkwardness that just makes me feel dirtier than a fifty cent hooker in a pig sty.
As for favorites… um… yeah… don’t watch too much TV. Does “Avatar: The Last Airbender” count? Aang, Sokka, and Tosh are pretty damn hilarious. If not, then probably “The Big Bang Theory.” I’m a nerd at heart, and I can appreciate the various aspects of the crew in that show. Even if it sometimes does come across as a non-nerd regurgitating nerdisms. But – and this is true for all cultural appropriation, I feel – sometimes (YES, Some – not all – but SOME) a culture (or subculture, and yes, the Phish Phan, Transformer nerd, animal lover, pseudo-my-gods-is-this-becoming-a-rant-of-whatever-else-I-am is part of the culture or subculture that BBT mocks) needs a good auteur to present the challenges and problems that that culture / subculture endures, even if there is a certain degree of stereotype to it. As long as the material is presented honestly, then it’s cool. “Big Bang Theory” does tend to present such things somewhat honestly, but honest within the confines of the peculiar characters, and the situations that they use such things for. Which, I guess, works.
Is there anything you’re currently working on?
Yup. As of writing this, I am putting the finishing touches on my novel “Escape from the Spotlight.” It is my first foray into the Young Adult scene, which is a genre that I have long enjoyed but that I honestly had no real intention of ever writing for. Funny how that works out. Anyway, Doran Titus is your average fifteen year-old whose family maintains and runs an animal sanctuary. As an aside, animals are wicked fascinating creatures that add so much to a story. Luckily I didn’t lose the story for the elephants taking up the room. Anyway, Doran learns that he has the actual ability to change into animals. But if the Trump Years of the USA have taught us anything, it’s that people hate. People hate big. So the big question for Doran is how does he learn to cope and master these amazing abilities while also being able to confide in the people around him. Who can he trust to share his secret with? How will he effect a school/work/sport/shape-changing balance? In the process, it puts him under the proverbial spotlight of society’s collective judgment. Not a great place for a 15-year-old kid to be, that’s for sure. Earlier, I mentioned Depression, and I know that for a lot of people coming to grips with their own sexuality, gender identity, or even – just simply: identity, suffer the massive weight of the big questions “Who am I?” “Why me?” “Can’t I just go back to the way things were?” Doran fits right into this group, only instead of the very real problems mentioned above, this inaugural book (of what will become a series of sorts) explores the sheer vicarious safety of fantasy.
“Escape” will be released via Amazon.com’s Createspace in December or so. An Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign is being held through October to help finance its publication.
Other things that I’m working on are a Fan-Fiction full-length novel starring DC Comics’ Vixen. The story is all done, and every Thursday, on Wattpad, I’m uploading a new chapter. As of the third week in October, there are 10 chapters up and available to all. Lots of fun. Good superhero action, with some pretty deep conflicts and consequences.
Finally, I’m working on a comic book with the talented artist, David Dace. Sadly, I can’t say much more about it than the simple premise: its principal protagonist is a reverse vampire. What is a reverse vampire, exactly? Well, guess we’ll just have to cross our fingers that one of the comic companies out there will bite, and then everyone can find out.
Who is your favorite author and if you could ask him/her one question, what would it be?
Neil Gaiman. No questions. He signed my copy of “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” and drew a Cthulu-like doodle in it. Beautiful work. Does that mean I have anything to ask him? Not really. If I shook his hand, I’d probably just thank him for all his wonderful words, and the brilliant syntax that he created with them all. I dunno. Maybe also, I’d ask if he wanted to change lives with me, so that I could live life through his bones, and see just how a mad genius like him could string words together so beautifully.
Ocean or mountains? Mountains
Yogurt or ice cream? Ice Cream
M&M’s or Skittles? Reese’s Pieces
Jimmy Fallon or Stephen Colbert? Fallon
Happy or sad ending to a novel? An Ending. What I want doesn’t matter. The story will go where the story goes.
Beer or wine? Cranberry juice
Flying or driving? With me in the driver’s seat? Computer / Word Processor.
Hemingway or Twain? Poe
You’re stranded on a desert island and you can take two things with you, as well as two people. What and who are you bringing?
A Transformer with a relatively easy transformation. A Swiss Army Knife. The Wonder Twins – one can turn into any animal, the other can turn into any liquid. The pair are almost fully created with the concept of desert island survival in mind.
You’re able to sit down with any leader in world history. Who would you choose, what would you talk about, and would you rather have him/her over to your house or meet at their place of royalty?
See, that’s the thing. I would never want to meet any leaders. I would have absolutely nothing to ask them. I mean, what do you say to Napoleon? “Watch out for Waterloo!” Doing so would change history. Does that mean that Napoleon isn’t fascinating? Not at all. I’d just have nothing to ask him. I enjoy him from a distance, and appreciate all that he did for people (yes, both good and bad. Everyone always needs a villain). If I sat down and talked to a leader from a different time, I’d be putting myself at risk of saying something that would get myself killed, or else I’d put them at risk of learning something that they shouldn’t know. Then the whole timeline would implode in a paradox. That said, I’ve heard that The Earl of Sandwich had some brilliant dining ideas ….
You can wish for one thing and one thing only, not world peace and no more wishes. What’s it gonna be?
I’m copping out here. I’m going to say that I’d wish people had the wisdom to observe without judgment. But honestly, we do that all the time, and that’s a stupid thing to wish for. That was an ironic twist, wasn’t it? Aren’t I clever? No, honestly, I’d wish for people to not take themselves quite so seriously. While I wouldn’t say that life is Joker-level (Dark Knight version, RIP Heath Ledger) funny, it is pretty silly. I mean, have you ever seen a platypus? I’d wish people were more willing to laugh with each other rather than at each other. Maybe that would make people a little more tolerant of the amazing variety of life that we have on this planet.
With more than 15 years of writing experience, and hailing from the American Northeast, Rob Queen has always been an active storyteller. Throughout his travels, he’s found inspiration in Asia and Thailand. Experiencing cultures and their aesthetics has helped him develop an affinity for humanity and deepened his cultural knowledge.