Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Interview at Smashwords

Many of the readers of this blog have asked about the background of the host (me). Smashwords recently published an extensive Q&A author's interview with me on the following site: 

I've also included the entire content of that interview in this post. I invite comments on it, and additional questions that you'd like me to answer about my writing.  Here's the interview:

"What's the story behind your latest book?
"My latest book is actually a two book series (with more to come) introducing the cantankerous private eye, Harry Grouch, and his lover/sidekick, Judy Pacas. Each book is independent of the other, but each story develops the character and skills of Harry Grouch in a way sure to please his growing list of fans. The first book, "The Witch of Maple Park," was published in 2013. The second in the series, "Nanobe," was published in 2014.

"The "Witch of Maple Park," is based on a true story that I find absolutely fascinating. I did tons of research into the historical 1843 case of Polly Bodine, a young woman accused of gruesomely murdering her sister-in-law and niece on Staten Island with an axe. It was a case to rival the famous Lizzie Borden story although it never got the same attention nationally. In New York, however, it dominated the news for several years. Edger Allen Poe wrote an editorial about it, P.T. Barnum, the famous entertainer and con man placed a hideous and bloody axe-wielding wax statue outside the courthouse where Polly Bodine was being tried. He labeled her "The Witch of Staten Island." The media demonized Polly and the public screamed for her blood. Polly Bodine was tried three times and eventually exonerated. The murder was never solved. This case was just crying out for a fictional treatment of the story, so I reinvented it in 1993 Michigan, created another Polly as the prime suspect, and brought the tales of both Polly's, 1843 and 1993, together in what I hope will be a surprising way for my readers. What fun to watch Harry Grouch untangle the mystery!

"Nanobe," also required huge research into the scientific and clinical worlds of microbes responsible for a condition known as Rapidly Progressive Dementia. In case you are wondering, a nanobe is a tiny organism that may or may not be alive but, if living, would be the smallest form of life, 1/10 the size of the smallest known bacteria. So what's a nanobe doing in a Harry Grouch mystery book? Well, terrified neurosurgery patients at Bard Memorial Hospital are dying from Rapidly Progressive Dementia and none of the doctors or nurses know why! Is it a natural attack by a weird new pathogen? A Nanobe? Harry Grouch says "No. It looks like murder in the operating room!" The inspiration for the story came from an actual case at an American hospital in which neurosurgical patients were dying from an initially unknown cause that turned out, after extensive study, to be a nanobe. Harry Grouch is hired by Bard Memorial Hospital to figure it out and, along the way, the reader is introduced to many of the inner workings of a modern hospital.

"When did you first start writing?
"My undergraduate degree is in English Literature. I discovered and admired the great British poets like Keats, Coleridge, Shelley, Burns, Blake, Donne, Wordsworth and, of course, Shakespeare. I began writing poetry then, in my twenties in a (futile) attempt to produce poetry of similar quality. I did get some of it published and even won some awards. In recent years I've focused more on fiction and enjoy creating the colorful characters for my novels and stories. My graduate education in Public Health at Columbia University, and my years in hospital management, have influenced at least one of my novels, several of my short stories, and some unique, medically oriented poetry.
"What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
"My greatest joy comes from the pleasure reported by my readers in reading my work. Not everyone loves it, of course. That would be too much to ask. But the majority of my readers have become my wonderful fans. If my work manages to entertain and stimulate some modern readers, I am satisfied that my efforts in producing these works were worthwhile. I also love creating the characters in my novels. I look forward to sitting down at my computer each morning and wondering what unpredictable things these virtual human beings will do that day. They have their own personalities and generally lead me where they want to go rather than letting me control their goals and actions.
"What are you working on next?
"A book of children's poetry called "Sharkey's Song," written for one of my grandson's when he was in pre-school. It will be revised, re-organized and, possibly, published.

Robert Tell

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