One of the characters in my upcoming novel, Voice, has been bugging me for years to not only publish the damned thing, but also to interview me. Well, I’ve finally given in…to both. Here is my exclusive interview with one of the main characters from my novel—who shall remain nameless. We get into everything from my childhood to a little metaphysics (the bulk of the actual metaphysical discussion I’ll be posting on my Reality Check site).
Voice: Well, it’s certainly nice to see you again, Frank. It’s been a while!
F. P.: Nice to see you again, too. I’ve missed you!
Voice: And I’ve missed you! Thanks for finally letting me out into the world. For those of you not yet acquainted with me—and not that you necessarily created me, Frank, so much as you relate my story in Voice—but, I am grateful for what you’ve done and have no regrets with the book’s outcome! It was a pleasure being “worked” by you! You did a fine job telling my story. I wondered when you’d get the hint!
F. P.: Well, it’s been quite the unique and intriguing experience—and a pleasure! I’m also really happy with the outcome, and greatly appreciate all who have helped—especially Amy, Mandy, Edie, Joseph, and of course, Lon! Lon kicked serious ass on your cover, didn’t he?
Voice: He did! He finally listened to my whispers!
F.P.: You are so sneaky….
Voice: Okay, let’s get into this, shall we? What caused you to write Voice? Where did you find your inspiration?
F. P.: Well, quite simply, we all have these little voices in our heads. I’d had this mental image where this guy has this “shadow” visit him at night (in bed), but when he turns on the lights, the shadow’s gone—but not the presence, her presence. She’s actually still there…just not visible in the light. I was also thinking…how can I write some sort of “ghost” story that is more in line with how I view ghosts…explain it through my life philosophy—
Voice: And what would that be, this “life philosophy” of yours?
F. P.: Well, it’s predicated upon simultaneous time and multidimensional souls…but what I was looking for was a way to explain ghosts using a nontraditional system of belief. Now, I’ve since done that with The Uninvited, but Voice was originally written before Uninvited. Anyway, I believe that there’s more to the world than meets the eye…that we do live other lives…and that the nonphysical world does intrude into our daily lives—on a regular basis. Voice is also inspired by two books by Jane Roberts, called, The World View of Paul Cézanne, and The Afterdeath Journal of an American Philosopher.
Voice: How long have you been writing?
F. P.: My mother tells me I started at the age of six. In high school, one of my English teachers, Mr. Spence, actually read one of my pieces in front of the class. He was so taken by the atmosphere of it! It was quite exciting and cool to be so singled out (you know, in a good way) as a teenager in front of your peers. I’m not usually “that guy” who gets singled out in any class. I can still hear Mr. Spence’s voice—see the excitement on his face and hear it in his voice! That story was called “Crypt of Vampyres.” Thanks, Mr. Spence!
Voice: What was it about?
F. P.: Not surprisingly, it’s about a kid who finds a crypt of vampyres. Then goes down into it, of course. People don’t typically act very smart in horror stories.
Voice: Did you start out reading and writing horror?
F. P.: I did. I loved Stoker’s Dracula, and H. Warner Munn’s Werewolf of Ponkert. I grew up on science fiction and horror—with some fantasy, like Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, C.S. Lewis’s The Narnia Chronicles, and later, in college, Robert E. Howard’s Conan series. I loved weird, supernatural stuff. Anyway, yeah, I started with horror, wrote lots of short stories (in my teens and twenties), some of them pretty gruesome, but probably so was the writing! In my teens, it was tame stuff, like the aforementioned “Crypt of Vampyres.” In my twenties it got gruesome, but the older I grew I found I didn’t like all the nastiness that went with horror—dismemberment and all the evil deeds, not to mention I just don’t believe in an inherent evil or “the Devil”—but I believe in human-created evil and human-created devils.
So, a shift in my writing occurred.
Voice: What kind of shift?
F. P.: I’d changed the way I wrote. What and how I wrote.
It all started when I let my dad read one of my stories. I think it was “Attention Span.” About some multi-level marketing scheme that suckered people in, in some not-so-savory way involving a tentacled monster. Anyway, I’d come home from college, handed him one and he read it. Subdued, he asked why did I like writing about this stuff? Death, violence, dismemberment. All that. I really couldn’t answer him…but it got me thinking. My dad was an upstate New York Forest Ranger—no stranger to blood and death—he’d been out on many search-and-rescues for downed aircraft and whatever else needed to be pulled off wintry mountaintops at three in the morning. So his statement hit a mark in me. I later realized that what I really loved about writing the horror and supernatural was the surreal…the weirdness in it all. The atmosphere. The Twilight-Zonish aspects of weird/dark fiction. I also realized that when anyone writes something they have to so focus themselves on the content of their work that it becomes a mini obsession. You want to so get into the characters’ heads and motivations…you so want to make the writing transparent and have the readers become immersed that you need to write really, really well. I’m not just talking about the mechanics, I’m talking about the story. The atmosphere. Things like…rubbing your hand over a porch railing might very well have you become acquainted with a splinter. How would that feel and how would you handle/react to it? When you’re sitting in a fabric-covered chair in shorts—how would that feel? Would your skin stick to the seat as you got up, squirmed around in it? It’s the little things that give you the grand, gestalt experience—and the tricks of expressing all these micro and macro details so that it doesn’t look like you are. That your readers are actually in the world you’re sucking them into.
As Stephen King says, your writing should be transparent, but not your story.
So, apply all this to horror and things can get pretty nasty! I didn’t like focusing on things-evil and found other ways to write. That is not to say I don’t shy away from occasional and necessary scenes like in The Uninvited, where I do get graphic. I just didn’t want the entire focus of my life to be centered around evil and violence. So, I kinda found myself writing more of what is being called metaphysical—or visionary—fiction. Speculative fiction.
Voice: You do get a bit graphic in Voice, though not in a violent way….
F. P.: Yesss…but we’re keeping this G-rated, right?
Voice: We are!
F. P.: But, yes, I do get a bit graphic in Voice…with the sex. It was just where the story went. How it played itself out. It wasn’t intentional on my part, in fact, I actively tried to severely edit those scenes, but the story just wouldn’t allow that!
Voice: I can be rather forceful, can’t I?
F. P.: You can, indeed!
Those scenes are an important part of Ben and Kendra’s lives. Amanda’s. Their struggles. To have edited them out would have done them a gross injustice…the story an eviscerating injustice. If we are so “forgiving” of violence in fiction why can we not also be as “forgiving” of sex in fiction? Rhetorical, because sex (and violence) both sell, but, that was my thought process. I don’t write erotica, but I have learned there is plenty of graphic detail in today’s works. As the writer, I was trying to do right (pardon the pun) by the story…by Kendra and Ben. As the writer I had to go where the story took me and I had to go there unflinchingly, and that was hard for me in Voice, because I had to address the sex. Had I removed or toned down their struggles, the rest of the story would have been far less impacting (as my beta readers so rightfully put it)…if there would even be one at that point. My characters’ struggle is not just theirs…it’s ours—the readers’. I couldn’t shy away from that…couldn’t water it down. There are all kinds of what can be considered humiliating acts done in the dark…away from prying eyes. Acts that can embarrass the most outwardly “upstanding.” But, it wasn’t just about the sex…it was about the emotion…the angst…the intensity of what was unfolding…and for the rest of the story to work, we had to go through what my characters went through.
Voice: Wow…is it warm in here or is it just me?
F. P.: Oh, it’s you….
Voice: You wax metaphysical in Voice. What are your thoughts on metaphysical/visionary fiction?
F. P.: I haven’t read much in the past few years, but in what I have read, I think it’s great as a movement—but it still needs to come a long way. I think there’s a definite need for it out there, but my problem with it has always been that it’s too—what I used to joke around with my mom as—“daisy power.”
Voice: “Daisy power?”
F. P.: Yeah…too flaccid…weak and lacking in any real conflict, character development, and/or complexity of storytelling. From what I’ve seen—and, again, I’m not all that well-read, here, and it’s been a few years since I’ve read any, let me just say that up front—is that it usually seems to paint too rosy of pictures. “Preach to the converted” as my ex-stepfather used to say. Weak on developed and complex character or conflict. I’m not saying all metaphysical fiction is this way, but the few I’ve read seems to be. Even some really well-known work. There’s usually a good idea…but telling it has been the problem, developing it into a more realistic, complex story. There are exceptions, but when I last read a couple of books a few years back I didn’t see this being done. I won’t quote any of the works I’m using as examples, but there’s one that has a really neat premise, neat backdrop, but it’s too rushed and “pat.” There’s no real conflict, no character development! It’s one of those “So-and-so did this and that and went there…and—surprisingly!—this happened, and everything just fell into our laps because “like” and “intent” attract goodness and neat stuff and everything just happens effortlessly….”
Now, I’m not saying I do all this stuff perfectly myself, but what I am saying is that whether or not life is easy, or should be easy, it ain’t—for any of a number of reasons. And no one (do you, really, readers?) wants to read about things that “just happen” with no real conflict nor emotional skin-in-the-game? Show us there really is something to lose, at stake here. Emotionally invest us into the story and the characters. Use those reasons for why life seems so hard in the stories. Make them toughened and three- or four-dimensional. Show all the hardships and conflicts we all deal with every damned day. Job stress, conflicting thoughts and impulses, fear, the selfish acts we all occasionally perform that don’t make us selfish in and of ourselves. The places in life where we stumble, stub our toes. But show us learning from our mistakes. Make the goals hard to obtain and put some damned conflict in there! They want to see those struggles and they want to see them overcome. We all want to feel that we are not alone in our journey through life…that we’re all not all that different from one another. Even those who feel they are different from everyone else want their own groups that they can identify with, and therefore also want to feel wanted…and like others like themselves. The “daisy power” comes from the “peace” movements and other philosophies that preach to be flaccid and unaggressive and I ask what’s wrong with proper aggression? Not in bullying and criminal acts, but in going after what one wants? Going after The Good. Dreams. Isn’t that also aggression? Action, rather than inaction? Life is action. It’s not meant to be stagnant. We are not meant to sit around and just have things come to us without any effort on our part.
Voice: What do you do when you’re not writing?
F. P.: I have many and varied interests…and I used to do all kinds of gnarly activity in my younger days, but current life finds me having to significantly scale back on all those activities—most them now cut out entirely, which is okay. I had my fun doing them but am now focusing on different areas of life. Currently I work out at the gym, take in some light hiking/walking as weather and activities allow, travel, reading. Meditation (again, when I can get to it!). Trying to be more family oriented. And I love yard work, being outside—clearing brush, pruning trees…mowing the lawn! I really like mowing the lawn. If I lived out in the woods, like I did growing up, I’d be constantly walking through the forest (again, like I did growing up). I love exercising the imagination…thinking. I’m also trying to learn to stop…and watch paint dry. Take a break from everything—but it’s so hard! There’s so much still to do!
Voice: Where’d you grow up?
F. P.: I grew up in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, in upstate New York. I had a great childhood! I lived in the hamlet of Lake Clear and went to school in the village of Saranac Lake. My dad had been in the Navy, so we lived between Whitefield, New Hampshire and Key West, Florida. Besides my mom being mainly a stay-at-home mom, she was also a writer, did some secretary work (it used to be so called), and also got into real estate administration.
Voice: Why did you feel you had such a great childhood?
F. P.: There was so much to do where I lived…swimming, walking through the woods, biking, stuff with my dad—and I loved it. It was—and still is—an absolutely beautiful area. When I look back on my childhood, I look back with great fondness. I really had a great time!
Where we finally settled down after my dad got out of the Navy and found a permanent job, we lived on wooded property directly across from a lake with a boathouse—all the locale stuff I described in Voice are for real, except the name of the lake and area. The novel’s hamlet of “Bedford Lake” I morphed from the Boy Scout Camp that exists up near Malone, NY, called Camp Bedford. We lived on a small “farm,” with three gardens (and, yes, rocks really did “grow” quite well there!), chickens, pigs, turkeys—a pony and rabbit for a spell. We always had dogs. As I mentioned, my dad was a Forest Ranger, so he knew all the neat spots to go see, and he occasionally took us canoeing, boating, cross-country skiing, hiking, and camping. He took me to work with him a couple times when I got older. In fact, I got my first paycheck (in the 70s) doing clean up work at the Panther Mountain forest fire that had just been put out—I sported an Indian tank (yes, that’s the name of them) and other fire-fighting tools, like a maddox, and dug around in the charred earth and under and around felled and burned-out trees making sure there were no more embers. I loved that! It truly was a wonderful life. We had our chores, obviously, being around all the animals and gardens, and had all the time in the world and all the beautiful northeast woods to play in! I love deciduous trees, love the sound of the leaves in the breeze. Love lakes. I just love the northeast. I love going back there every year. I also had great parents. My mom was into the esoteric stuff—at least she talked with me about it when I asked questions—and I learned about hard work, discipline, and responsibility from my dad. I remember…well, I, um, used to lie a little—
Voice: Oh, were you a naughty little boy?
F. P.: Well…”occasionally”…I used to do bad “little kid” things then tell my parents one of my brothers or sister did it—or the standard phrase: “I dunno….” My dad always kept telling me that I needed to learn to take responsibility for my actions. Well, one day it finally stuck. At that point, I also pretty much stopped breaking windows, climbing on roofs, and writing all over the outside of our house—
Voice: You wrote all over the outside of your house?
F. P.: It was in pencil, don’t worry. Yeaaah…I guess the writer in me just couldn’t be stilled—not even at that young age! At one point, I went around the outside of our house and drew and wrote a story on it! And don’t ask me about my kid-brain thought process—why do kids do anything? But the point is, I pretty much (in my mind) stopped doing the annoying shit that kept getting me spanked or sent to my room (yeah, like that was punishment? I read and wrote! Listened to music…).
Voice: What have you done since? What turns did your life take once you left home?
F. P.: While in high school I applied to several universities and was accepted into two. I went to Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, Arizona (the other university acceptance was in Tucson, Arizona). I majored in physics, with an emphasis in astronomy, and minored in German. When I graduated, I was one class shy of a double minor in philosophy. I keep kicking myself about that one, but I was taking so many courses I simply couldn’t fit in another. I had a great philosophy professor, Dr. William Nietmann (he published a book, The Unmaking of God, of which I have an autographed copy and really need to finish reading—thank you, again, Dr. Nietmann!). Having the double minor would have been nice for “closure,” considering the turns my life has since taken! And I really thank Dr. Nietmann for all he’s done—he was truly an outstanding professor and I do miss our in-and-out-of-class discussions!
I was also in Air Force ROTC, and after graduation, entered the Air Force and navigator training. Then some really weird things happened.
Voice: What kinds of things?
F. P.: Well, academically, I did well in navigator training. I had something like a 98 average, but when it came to mental math I wasn’t that great. I’m just not that good doing mental math. This lead to a lot of angst—like the old Clash song, should I stay or should I go—and I had two really weird, metaphysical experiences result.
Voice: Well, don’t wait for me to ask!
F. P.: While still on Mather AFB (where nav training was), I was driving to the mail room one fine day. I had collected my mail…gotten back into my car…when suddenly I felt like I wasn’t me any longer. It literally felt like another me had slipped into my body…like someone was trying to see what I was like—and I say this because when it came to driving, my limbs went all dumb and clumsy. Driving my car had suddenly and literally felt entirely alien to me! Think of it as, say, a person from ancient Egypt was suddenly in your body and soul while you were driving around…but you were aware of it all! Shifting the car, though I obviously knew how to do it, was jerky—as was using the clutch, brake, and accelerator. Steering. I was curiously beside myself, you could say…watching how I was behaving. I got back to my quarters fine, but the rest of the day I felt slightly “off.”
And another strange instance at Mather occurred at night. I awoke in the middle of the night wide awake and lucid, and saw—I swear I saw this—two Vaudeville shadow characters dancing right alongside and past by my bed! With tuxes, top hats, and canes—then they just disappeared! Now, I know many would say that I was just still sleepyheaded or hypnogogic, but I swear I wasn’t. It doesn’t matter who believes me, I know what I saw and what I experienced—felt—and I felt an emanation of fun coming from these two! I felt that these two characters were trying to tell me that I needed to lighten up, enjoy life. Maybe “exit stage left” from what I was doing, where I was headed (curiously the door was to my left). Letting me know it was no big deal “punching out” of nav training. And this just gets better: when I awoke that morning…I found my officer quarters’ door to the outside parking lot wide open.
Gee, no message there, huh?
That door had been locked the night before. I took all this to mean that it was time for me to move on—not just in the literal sense of navigator training, but in terms of personal growth. I was still somewhat reserved in personality, but intense, and decided I also needed to change myself more into a person I wanted to be. Not afraid of trying new things, not afraid of putting myself out into the world, and also to become more outgoing and fun. Lighthearted. And I think I’ve done a fair job of that.
Voice: I would agree.
F. P.: When I went to my 10-year high school reunion everyone said I had changed the most. Became more outgoing and friendly. So I guess it worked!
Voice: Let’s back up a second—to this “other me” concept you spoke of. Do you believe in other you’s?
F. P.: I believe in simultaneous time and multiple personalities of a person. Time is a mechanism, a byproduct (I feel) of physical existence. Outside of our physical life, I feel there is no time. I also feel that we live more than just one life (“reincarnation”). I feel our souls are way too huge and multifaceted to be confined to a single existence; c’mon, it makes no sense. I think we all have so much to accomplish, to learn, and it would be far too limiting, too ludicrous, to believe that we only get one shot at existence. Our souls have way too much energy! Way too much complexity! So, when you put simultaneous time and multiple personalities together, you get other yous exist “out there” at the same time!
Voice: Have you experienced any of these other lives?
F. P.: I feel I have! Beside the Mather incident, when I was a kid, I awoke from an intense dream with a terrible pain in my [I believe it was] right side, and I remembered dream images of a Civil War battle. Of being bayoneted. Some 20 years later one of my brothers told me he had exactly the same dream. Then, in 1990, while living in Alexandria, Virginia, my then-girlfriend and I visited the Manassas Battlefield. I had the oddest sensation the entire time we were there…that I had one foot in the present and one in the past! Très Twilight Zoneish! I couldn’t shake it! It was nothing like I could name names and maneuvers from some previous-life memory, but I knew—I felt—like I’d been there before, which, of course I hadn’t in this life. My girlfriend thought I was nuts, but went along with me. And I’d been to other battlefields before and since, and not felt that level of weirdness: Gettysburg, Antietam, Ball’s Bluff….
Voice: Have you experienced any other past lives?
F. P.: I feel I was on the Titanic…that I drowned in it. Maybe was one of the third-class passengers stuck behind the gated corridors, in steerage. I feel I was also in WWII, in a B-17 Flying Fortress as a tail gunner and was shot out of the sky. I wrote my short story, “Tail Gunner” based on that experieince.
F. P.: And here’s another interesting story: years ago, my wife and I were walking our dog, Mac, and way up ahead I spotted this lone guy, walking by himself. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t keep my mind or eyes off him. He was way up ahead, walking slowly. Eventually we caught up with him, and as I turned to him, an adult guy I’ve never ever met before, I knew—knew beyond a shadow of a doubt—that this guy was my brother. I almost said something about all this to him, it was that intense.
Voice: How neat!
F. P.: We exchanged a polite “hello” and I ended up saying nothing “metaphysical” to him, and my wife, Mac, and I made it home. But to this day, I know that that man and I were brothers in another life…and that sometimes we have these little encounters just to say “hi” with our nonphysical selves. To play. To remember where we’ve been and are going. We do it for the fun of it!
Voice: Wow, such exciting metaphysical experiences! Thanks for sharing them! What’s next for you and your writing?
F. P.: Well, I have a couple ideas I’m toying around with, all involving the paranormal and metaphysical, of course. All more “literary” in writing, I hope. Mainstream. One is about a writer who helps people as they die, another about a haunted lake. I’d even like to publish a collection of short stories. Once I get this novel out the door, I can then properly focus on which work I want to tackle next….
Voice: Well, I certainly have enjoyed our time together—and thank you for finally allowing me this interview after so many years!
F. P.: You’re most welcome! Sorry it took so long.
Voice: And where may readers purchase Voice?
F. P.: It may be pre-ordered at Amazon.com for 99 cents before it’s release date of August 7th. There will be both an e-book and trade paperback.
Voice: Thanks, again, Frank!
F. P.: You, too—and—
F. P.: It was also a pleasure “working” you…in my novel!
Voice: Oh, Frank….
- A Faux Metaphysical Interview with F. P. Dorchak, Author of Voice (fpdorchakrealitycheck.wordpress.com)
- Voice—An Erotic Tale of Nonphysical Love (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- You CAN Judge a Book by its Cover (thecockeyedpessimist.blogspot.com)
- The Pink Elephant in the Room (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Update on WIP: Second Set of Comments In! (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Update on WIP: First Comments In! (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Update on WIP: Out For Proofing (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Surrendering To The Role (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- My Short-Lived Modeling Career (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- What I’m Working On For 2015 (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Unearthing the Bones (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Wailing Loon (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)