Bernie pic

Bernie pic

Monday, 24 September 2012

More than just a naughty boy: the life of Paul

This week, Save the Book is part of a whirlwind blog tour in support of Richard Long’s novel The Book of Paul. I am not sure what the tour badge is about. As I understand it, only the bloggers can win the prizes. WTF, they give me badge: I'll wear it

There will be some generic stuff from the tour organiser, but you know we have to do our own thing, as well. We start with a Q&A session and we will finish the week with our own review.
I have asked some general questions to keep the spoilers at bay. So to begin, we will let the author talk about the book and any spoilers are on his head.

STB: The book covers a lot of ground in touching on religion, philosophy and psychology among other subjects. Do you see readers reaching for Google and Wiki?
RL: I hope so. There was an enormous amount of research that went into this book. I’d love for it to spark the same curiosity I felt when I discovered some of these things, particularly the Gnostic and Hermetic material and the connection between them.

STB: You cleverly insert parts of the back story of childhood throughout the book. Did you always plan to do this or did it evolve as you were writing?
RL: The present day action in the story takes place in a very compressed three day period, yet the central conflicts between the characters spring from childhood traumas. So yes, the exposition was complex and had to be carefully orchestrated so the flashback scenes didn’t detract from the present and instead amplified that tension, suspense and mystery. Another challenge was the revelation of the mythological material that goes back to the creation of the universe, then on to ancient Egypt, Greece, Jerusalem and Ireland. It’s an epic story with a lot of action and I wanted to keep the freight train rolling. 

STB:  There are a lot of four-letter words to the point that you seem to be parodying your own use of them. What is the go there?
RL: These are gritty characters trapped in a terrifying situation with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. So yes, there are going to be a lot of F bombs dropped. Humor is a big component in my writing, so many times the profanity is played for laughs.

STB: There is  a saying in literature that every villain should have at least one redeeming quality. I could not find any in Paul. Are there any?
RL: I suppose that depends on what you consider redeeming qualities. Paul is extremely intelligent, clever, jovial, ambitious, successful, powerful, fearless — all highly valued qualities in our society. Unfortunately for the other characters in the story, he also happens to be exceptionally cruel and nearly devoid of compassion. It’s clear he has affection for Martin, William and Michael, yet he’ll allow nothing to stand in the way of his objectives. In some of the scenes near the end of the story, you learn part of what happened to Paul that transformed him into such a monster, and in the sequels and prequels the full story of Paul will be revealed. I think you’ll find Paul to be a much more complex and sympathetic character than you can imagine from the first volume. One of my favorite lines in this book is, “Sometimes I think evil is just loneliness with nowhere else to go.” Ultimately, that’s true of both William and Paul. Maybe the rest of us too.  (I thought that was the best line in the book and I made a note of it when I read it. I would buy a T-Shirt with the punchier Evil is loneliness with nowhere else to go – STB)

STB: At least one critic has found your work too violent. What do you say to that?
RL: Read Emily Bronte instead. Shakespeare is horrifically, comically violent. In any Shakespeare tragedy, at the end of Act V, the stage is covered with blood. Nearly every character has been horribly murdered. Greek tragedies are even worse. Matricide, patricide, suicide, infanticide, you name it. ( Richard, Greek tragedy had a rule that all violence happened off stage, but I certainly agree about Shakespeare, with jokes about rape in Romeo and Juliet, as an example - STB) These literary impulses have been very well represented for a very long time. I’m just continuing the time-honored tradition! What I find amusing in the few negative comments I’ve received along these lines is that they uniformly come from male reviewers, not women. I’m not sure why female reviewers seem to be less squeamish, or less vocal about it. Maybe having to deal with men all the time toughens you up. Another thing I find interesting is that a great deal of the violence in the book is not directly described and happens “off camera,” so to speak. So perhaps I spurred the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks in a particularly grisly way. Ultimately, this is a horror story. By definition, horror isn’t pretty. You get what you pay for. As Hunter Thompson said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

STB: There are no obvious heroes in the book yet the reader does seem to want a few of them to survive their various perils. Was this creation of sympathy for extremely flawed characters difficulty to write.
RL: I think Martin and Rose are decidedly heroic in addition to being flawed. We’re all flawed. We’ve all been hurt and damaged. No one gets out of life alive. (We had better attribute that one to Jim Morrison of the Doors unless someone has an earlier reference. – STB) The reward for a lifetime of passionate love with your mate is that one of you gets to watch the other one die. This is the human condition. I am extremely sympathetic to these characters because I came from an abusive household. Their pain is my pain, though far from that extent. And yes, that kind of pain was as difficult to write as it was to experience. 

STB:  Why did you want to write a YA book after this horror novel? Was it a commercial or artistic decision or come from somewhere else?
RL: I have two young children and I wanted to write something they can read before they’re adults. My daughter is autistic and that’s a major theme in the family story at the heart of The Dream Palace fantasy series. She and her brother are the heroes. There are some fun sci-fi elements in addition to the overlapping dream/real worlds. In the next sequel, it gets steampunky in nineteenth century America and Germany. Basically, The Dream Palace is as light as The Book of Paul is dark.

STB: For prequels and sequels to The Book of Paul, are you committed to 500-page books or will you shorten the length?
RL: I’m not committed to any word or page count. I’m committed to the characters and the story. We shall see where the final period is placed. 

STB:  How long was your eBook for sale before you decided to drastically reduce the price and why did you make that decision?
RL: The eBook has only been reduced for this promotion. I’m not sure you can call the difference between $3.99 and .99 drastic. The full price is equivalent to a Starbucks Grande latte. 

STB. I guess people should be aware the book also has quite a bit of comedy in it. Was that the intention from the start?
RL: What can I say, I’m a funny guy. 

The Book of Paul is available in print and digital:

from  AMAZON

Here is our musical tribute:

-Bernie Dowling Sep 24, 2012


  1. Hey Bernie, thanks for the post, your interjected comments and your punchy improvement on my writing. Fascinating stuff. PS. Jim said, "No one here gets out alive" and I wouldn't say Medea keeps the gore offstage, unless you consider wandering around blood-soaked with gouged out eyeballs a costume change.

  2. Hi Richard
    Thanks for the comment.
    I would not presume to re-write any of your book: that was just for the T-shirt. Oedipus gouged out his eyes. I am not sure Medea did too. (Maybe Sophocles re-cycled) Bandages and blood are not quite the same as the enactment of the self-mutilation. I would still be inclined to credit Morrison for a paraphrase.
    This blog was mostly meant to be light-hearted as well as informative. Ultimately it is up to the author how they tell their story. You can't please everyone so you got to please yourself. (Ricky Nelson)Anyway, the second instalment of my Paul tour is up.