Friday, April 15, 2011

Allan Richard Shickman

     Allan Shickman has graciously agreed to share some things about himself today!

1. What encouraged and inspired you to write your two prehistoric novels?
     I never intended to write two books. The idea of the second came much later. The first was inspired by travel across the American West, where, it occurred to me that it would be difficult for anybody to survive without modern technology. From this came the notion of a survival adventure. I started collecting ideas, but it was a long time before I wrote anything. Long afterward my nephews encouraged me to write a sequel.

2. Did you have to do much research on the era? Is any of it fact-based?
     As an art historian, I studied some of the art and artifacts of prehistoric cultures, so I knew a little of how they lived. Of course I had to do a little research too. Tribal societies sometimes were afraid of twins, I discovered, and would put them and the mother (never the father) to death. That fact became important in the first Zan-Gah story. My home state, Missouri, is rich in caves, and I visited Onondaga Cavern. That was a wonderful experience, and generated a number of ideas.

3. How did you come up with the different clans? They were all so different from each other.
     It was half knowledge and half imagination—a fertile combination. There actually are totemistic societies—those that consider themselves related to animals in one way or another. I invented a people who had a totemistic relationship with wasps. They lived in, and were comfortable in trees. There are actually a very few tribes that do so. The Ba-Coro, Zan's people, perform a unification ritual that I actually saw (on video) performed in New Guinea. So I borrowed, mixed, and invented.

4. Zan and Dael were immensely close when they were young, but grew apart after Dael's torment. Does this parallel any of your own relationships? Is family particularly important to you?
     I have no doubt that my own family life unconsciously inspired relationships in the books, but they are all the products of reverie. I dream in fragments, and then I put the pieces together, polishing as I go. Who knows where those dream come from? They have to come from somewhere.

5. Which of your characters would you say is most like you?
     I wish I could answer that question with exactitude, but I really can't. There is a side of me that is a little like Zan, that is, virtuous. There is another side of me that is angry, bitter and disturbed, like Dael—but not so much, I hope. I can be stupid/wise like Chul, ingenious and inventive like Rydl, and somewhat like my female characters as well. It is said that Charles Dickens had a little of Ebenezer Scrooge in him, and I do not doubt it.

6. Which part of your novel (either one) was most fun to write? Why?
     I liked writing the climactic ending of the first book. It's fun when solutions come together dramatically. I thought that happened when the characters' danger and their personal "profiles" interacted. I also had fun describing the land of the red rocks in the first book and the volcano in the second: "Soon only the fiery cataclysm was visible against the night sky. A burst of yellow sparks thrown from the molten heart of the mountain stood out against the blue-black sky, reflecting its brilliance in the fixed eyes of the watchers, while a glowing vein of lava trickled like blood down the smooth slope."

7. Given the chance, would you go back to the prehistoric era or would you choose some other time instead?
     I have just finished the third book, Dael and the Painted People, which is the sequel to the second. So I did go back to the same prehistoric era. It is not impossible that I will write a fourth; or I may invent something in an entirely different era—ours, for instance. It depends on where my dream life takes me.
     But as for visiting the prehistoric era physically, not a chance!  Why would I want to go to a time when life was "nasty, brutish, and short"?  No, but it might be fun to go back to a period when the economy was running smoothly and a person could find a job.

8. Is there anything else you would like to share with readers whether it is about you, your novels, or writing in general?
     Dael and the Painted People is in the hands of a professional editor at this very moment. Soon, I will have to put together a cover. I intend to quote a passage of the story on the back, and comment, just as I did on the other two books. Here is what I think I will quote (nobody knows this yet):

     The whole time the shaman was speaking, he shook a boney finger at Dael, his enemy—a finger that was almost doubled in length by its long nail.
     "Did you dare to strike my brother?" Mlaka demanded, not without an evident note of sadness.
     Dael did not answer. His eyes were fixed on an empty corner of the room.  Something back there was bothering him, and he looked more closely.  His vision was blurred and he was a little dizzy.  Who was that standing apart in the shadows?  Dael stopped listening to the voices around him and intently focused on someone he only gradually recognized—a wrinkled, haggard old woman that nobody else could see.  She had glazed eyes, and a spear in her breast.  It was Hurnoa, dead and yet alive!

     When Dael, guilty and tormented, came to live with the painted people, he longed for peace and restoration; but without knowing it he made a powerful enemy.  A story of conflict and love.

     A big thanks to Allan for such a wonderful interview! His novels, Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure and Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country, are wonderful reads. I can't wait to get my hands on the next, Dael and the Painted People!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Blue News

     For those of you who were interested in reading Blue by Lou Aronica, I have some great news for you. The e-book edition of this fabulous read is now only $2.99! As you can see from my review, I think that this book is well-worth the price.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Book Blogger Hop (April 1-4)

     I must say, it has been much too long since I participated in the hop! They do say junior year is the hardest, but I didn't expect such a lack of sleep... Thank goodness for Spring Break and all of the lovely reading I was able to do.
Book Blogger Hop
Question of the Week:
     Since today is April Fool's Day in the USA, what is the best prank you have ever played on someone OR that someone has played on you?
     Honestly, I usually forget about April Fool's Day and usually people don't play jokes on me. Today, however, I got pranked and I did some pranking myself (insert evil grin here).
     My English teacher decided to tell us that she had a death in the family and would therefore have to resign her post and manage Walgreen's. I almost believed her, except that she had already played the joke on my friend who told me about it.
     My Chemistry teacher had the best practical joke ever! She told us that she was going to burn a candle and we needed to make specific observations about it. So we did, and then she blew it out and took a bite of it! She took a bite of the candle! Now, I was questioning her sanity at this point. Of course, it turned out that the 'candle' was really a potato and what we thought was the wick was actually a piece of almond. We got her first though. When she walked out of the room, we all hid, as much as one can hide in a chemistry classroom. :)
     There are two AP English 11 classes at my school. I have it first block and some of my friends have it fourth block. We are currently reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne ( review forthcoming) and were supposed to get through chapter 23 last night. So, first block decided that we would tell fourth block that we had a brutal test over it that our English teacher claims to have told us all about so we could freak them all out. Let it suffice to say that some people thought they were about to fail a major test. Ah, yes, goal accomplished.
     Re-reading all of this, I realize that you probably had to be there to understand how funny all of this really was. So, you'll just have to trust me on this. Hilarious! I'm telling you, today was a riot. ;)