An Interview with Dr. Bob Rich about his Books and Bobbing Around
Welcome to author and fellow Round Robin Blogger, Dr. Bob Rich!
Dr. Bob Rich is a figment of his computer’s imagination. Outside the computer, he is a grumpy old man with no sense of humor. Other people laugh at what he says and writes, which proves that THEY have a sense of humor.
Inside his computer, he is a shapeshifter. He can be a little boy with three arms, three legs but no head who had green skin, and liberated his people from terrible two-legged invaders from space; or a boy who didn’t know he was the reincarnation of Jesus, here in this life to fight the final duel with Bdud Mara, who invaded Earth 10,000 years ago; or he can be Bdud, whose body back home is a three-meter-long green and yellow ovoid on 12 legs, with a head on a long, snakelike neck; or he can be a 14-year-boy who hates everybody and all he wants to do is to die, but first wants to kill as many people as he can; or he can be the 84-year-old lady who turned him into the kind of boy you wouldn’t mind as your daughter’s boyfriend; or... There are really too many versions to list. You’ll just need to explore Bobbing Around.
Tell us about your life outside of writing.
Have you been talking with Groucho Marx? “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Sorry, I’ve quoted this before, but I just can’t help it.
If you check out my blog, Bobbing Around you will learn that I have retired five times so far, from five different occupations. I am still going strong as a writer, editor, and most important, Professional Grandfather. That means that everything I do is working for a survivable future for all the lovely young people of the planet, and one worth surviving in.
Since 1972, a generation before I became a grandfather, everything I’ve done has focused on that, both inside and outside the dog... um, inside and outside of my writing.
Working for a survivable future means personal environmental action of many kinds, including being a member of the Australian Greens political party, building my own house and following the dictum, “Live simply, so you may simply live.” I set out the philosophy in an essay, How to Change the World.
Working for a future worth surviving in means I campaign for fairness, decency, cooperation. For example, my country, Australia, has done dreadful things to asylum seekers, and I am one of many people doing our best to fight the politicians’ criminal attitude.
Mother Teresa said, “Help one person at a time, and start with the one nearest to you.” Thanks to the internet, everyone on Earth is near to me. Although I’ve retired as a psychotherapist, I steer a great many people toward a good life, away from self-hate and suffering. They become my grandchildren, children, brothers/sisters, depending on age. This is part of my work to change a global culture that rewards and encourages the worst in human nature, particularly greed and hate, and toward the best.
Do you have work in progress?
My last nonfiction book was From Depression toContentment: A self-therapy guide When I sent it to my publisher, he told me to cut it down to 50,000 words. That meant removing the best parts: several short stories, each with an explanation tying it to therapy. So, one of my current projects is a short story collection including those stories and lessons from them, with the working title Lifting the Gloom: An antidepressant primer of writings. You can read several of those stories here: http://wp.me/P3Xihq-15c
Recently, I interviewed Michael Amos who started up a new British publishing company. He impressed me enough that I submitted a book to him. He has accepted it, and we are now working toward publication within the next couple of months. He has put an incredible amount of work, care and enthusiasm into content editing, making suggestions for change, cover design and several other details. One of my current tasks is reading over his latest comments. The title will be Maraglindi, which is the name of my delightful young heroine.
Hiding within my computer is the sequel to this book, The Protector, with about 20,000 words written. When I get stuck with something else, I dust it off and ask the characters what they are doing next.
Then there is the Doom Healer series. In 2015, I was writing an essay about characterization, and wanted an example. As a result, a couple of teenagers introduced themselves to me: Bill, a scrawny kid with glasses who was being bullied at school, and Grater, a sports champion, all strength and speed, who rescued him. I knew nothing else about them. Since then, their story has grown into four completed volumes, and the fifth part-written. You can read a few snippets among the stories at Bobbing Around.
And resting within my computer are several other projects in hibernation, like the book about writing that essay about characterization was for.
What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
So, my mother, Anikó, and I became strangers, in contact only through occasional letters. Even when I visited, I was definitely the foreign tourist rather than the returning local. However, on the first of those visits, I actually made friends with my stepfather. I learned his story. Compassion and even admiration replaced hate.
When he died in 1999, I knew she would not be long in following him, so I asked her to assemble material for me to write her biography. I sent her a little cassette recorder, and long lists of questions.
Indeed, she developed extreme Parkinson’s disorder. It was so bad she could hardly move. I visited in 2000 and stayed there for 6 weeks, spending much of it interviewing people. On the way home, I carried about 20 pounds of paper in my suitcase.
She died a few weeks later.
So, I had all this material, and couldn’t even look at it for two years. I’ll give you three guesses why.
When I did manage to start, it flowed, and it’s the book that took me the shortest time: about three months.
This book won several awards. My fans tell me you don’t want to start reading unless you are willing to finish it in one sitting.
What sort of research do you do for your work?
Research is fun. It is something I often do without a particular need, just for interest.
Last century, research meant spending a day in the University library. Now, it’s search engines like for everyone else. Too easy!
Both then and now, reaching out to experts has been both enjoyable and informative. After all, I am the expert many others have consulted on a wide range of issues, and asking for help is paying it backward, to twist the usual cliché.
My psychology self-help book, From Depression to Contentment: A self-therapy guide needed very little research while I was writing it, because it’s part of my expertise, and my computer is full of references I add to as I encounter them. Each major search engine has a scholar/academic branch, and I subscribe to a number of important academic journals. So, writing needed more refreshing my memory than doing research.
In 2001, this story won me an international award. It has been reissued by a new publisher, and to celebrate, I am offering FREE copies to every follower of Bobbing Around and every subscriber to my monthly newsletter. This is because I want lots of reviews for it.
Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author who inspires you?
As a teenager, I found reading to be one of my two major antidepressants. I could get out of my miserable world, and temporarily become a ship’s captain during the Napoleonic wars, or one of Genghis Khan’s warriors, or Shylock (I was definitely on his side. Poor bloke got badly cheated), or Geppetto (that’s Pinocchio’s father), or lived in the little house on the prairie, or... well, you get the idea.
Reading nonfiction was even more fun. I kid you not, I read every entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica in the school Library. Learning something new is fun.
When I got married, I found out that my wife, poor thing, had never heard of Winnie the Pooh, so I read her a chapter a night. But Dr. Seuss is tops in the kid-book line. My children and I can still recite The Lorax word for word.I’ve read every book Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Isaac Asimov (yes even the science textbooks), Robert Heinlein and Ernest Hemingway wrote. One of my favorites is David Eddings’ Belgariad.
When I was working full time, I used reading as a form of relaxation, but you know the cliché, you’re more busy after retiring than before? Well, I’ve retired five times, so you can imagine. Nowadays, I get books for editing, which is work rather than reading for pleasure even if the book is excellent. And I review books regularly as a service to other authors.
Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
All of Bob’s currently available books are listed at https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/bobs-booklist each with an extract you can read, a brief description, and buying links. Remember, one of them is currently available FREE to every follower of Bobbing Around, and every subscriber to Bob’s newsletter, but this offer won’t be forever. You need to do some detective work to find out which book, and how to request a copy.