Friday, January 14, 2011

H.A. Goodman

     H. A. Goodman is here to give us a bit of information about himself and his novel, Logic of Demons: The Quest for Nadine's Soul!

1. What led you to write Logic of Demons? Was it something that happened to you, or something you witnessed? Why did you decide to actually publish Logic of Demons?

     About one year ago, a couple of close friends betrayed me. This event, along with several other issues I was going through, inspired me to write Logic of Demons. Essentially, the novel is about how human beings justify their actions, the thought process (or lack thereof) pertaining to decision making, and how even good people are at times capable of immoral behavior. Getting back to my squabble with several close friends, I remember that during the last conversation I had with one of them, he actually quoted a Bible verse in an attempt to give me advice. Thus, the theme behind my book stems from an observation of how religion can be used to legitimize a point of view, or even to circumvent logic. Writing the novel was a catharsis and helped me heal from the hurtful actions of others and my mistakes as well (I wasn’t perfect either). It also enabled me to make a statement about humanity – all at once. I suggest that anyone going through heartache write a story and vent emotions through characters, a plot, and a storyline. If your literary endeavor is fueled by emotions that you’d normally bottle up inside, it will automatically be successful because the pursuit of writing will help alleviate stress and perhaps heal some wounds.

2. How did your background in history and international relations have an impact on the events in the book? On the characters?
     Well, there are two wonderful books that I think anyone interested in politics, world events, and human nature should read. The first book is entitled, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Mr. Grossman’s On Killing is an unbelievable look into the human mind, and how people can be conditioned to kill a legitimate enemy (in battle) and even innocent people (during genocides or slaughters). Mr. Grossman taught psychology at West Point, and the case studies and research found in his book are eye opening and reveal a part of all human beings most of us don’t like to recognize. Ultimately, he highlights how the human mind can justify an entire array of cruel acts, and how these rationalizations can lead to dire emotional consequences. Another wonderful book is God is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens. Mr. Hitchens analyzes how religion has been utilized throughout history to legitimize irrational, dangerous, and often times deadly behavior. Both books helped me also see how one of my friends (who happened to be quite religious) was able to justify his actions, even though these actions were not only contrary to religious values, but also in opposition to logical and rational thought. In addition, I did research on the Rwandan Genocide, the Iran-Iraq War, and various other historical events that are addressed in my novel.

3. Your novel takes the idea of 'good' versus 'bad' to a new level. The main character himself has acted immorally, but is he truly a bad person? Is anyone entirely 'good' or entirely 'bad', in your opinion?
     I think Devin is a good person; he just wanted to avenge the death of his wife, which in turn caused him to commit a horrible act. Ultimately, he pays for his lack of self control in the afterlife, and quest for Nadine’s soul begins. I think that the vast majority of people on this planet are good, wonderful people. However, it unfortunately only takes a small number of people to cause a tremendous amount of pain and havoc for everyone. But to answer your question completely, everyone is capable of committing evil, and even though it can be difficult at times, it’s up to each of us to control our behavior and act in accordance with decency and goodness.

4. Devin made a huge mistake, but he was eventually able to redeem himself. Do you think that everyone deserves a second chance?
     I’d say most people deserve a second chance. However, when it comes to mass murder, for example, such killers in my view don’t deserve reprieve.

5. Religion plays an immense role in your book, as does the idea of religious fanaticism. Did you create this added tension in order to convey a particular message?
     Ultimately, I believe that positive actions speak louder than words or even “faith.” A person can have all the faith in the world, be able to quote Bible verses, give 10% of their income to a religious institution, and do everything their religious leader tells them to do, but if their actions are inconsistent with logic and rationality, and if their behavior hurts other physically or emotionally, then all their beliefs don’t help the world. Although I’m Jewish, philosophically I’m agnostic in my view of the world. I don’t believe “the guy upstairs” plays favorites, and if I wasn’t so frightened of the notion of nothing happening when we pass on, I’d probably be an atheist. Also, I believe that tribalism, or any viewpoint that leads a person to think that their culture or religion (or manner in which they separate themselves from others), is better than another person’s background , is the scourge of humanity. History has shown that millions can be slaughtered if certain people are deemed by more powerful groups to be less than human, or below the worth of the powerful group. A quick look at world history easily sheds light into the phenomenon of tribalism and its consequences.

6. Which character is most like you? What are some of the similarities and differences?
     I’m probably a combination of all the characters – hopefully a lot more of the angels than the other guys!
7. You put a lot of historical references into your book. Is there a time period you would like to visit, given the chance?
     It might sound odd, but knowing what I know about history, I’d probably like to just stay in 2011.

8. Is there anything else you would like to add, whether it is about yourself, your novel, or the writing process?
     I’d like to thank you, Alex, for taking the time to review the novel and I appreciate the interview! Also, I encourage everyone who is going through stress or a tough time in life to write a story, a poem, or something that will allow them to display, or vent emotions on paper.

     Thank you so much for the wise advice and for taking the time to answer my questions honestly! Make sure to check out Hal's own website and his book. I hope everyone enjoyed the interview, because I certainly enjoyed coming up with the questions.  

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