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!

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