Interview with Richard Long, author of “The Book of Paul”

OK–before I start, let me check my weapons, er, supplies.  Amulet, check.  Holy water, 3 gallons, check.  Sickle, checkity-check.  Guess I’m ready to meet up with my next guest.

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None other than Richard Long, who wrote what I would deem the most disturbing book I have ever read.  But also one of the most cleverly put together and well written one as well.  So without further ado, or rather with further adon’t, let us begin.

The Book of Paul delves into some very disturbing aspects of humanity. Were you trying to exorcise your own personal demons through these characters?

I was raised in an abusive environment, verbally and physically. As a kid you’re pretty helpless to defend yourself, so you have to find coping mechanisms to insulate you from these assaults. Martin, the protagonist of the story, shuts down emotionally. He can’t even smile authentically. When he meets Rose, she awakens feelings of love and desire in him, and he has to learn how to “tune in” everything he’s worked so hard to “tune out.”

Abuse is a terrible thing, and not to be tolerated on any level.  I loved how Rose brought Martin out of that closed,  insular world he had built around himself.

There is so much intellectual background to this story.  Did you have to do a lot of research into the human psyche to write it?

I’m curious about everything. I want to know why. I read a lot of science books and articles, many of which concern the workings of the human mind. One of the most interesting areas I’ve explored is the nature of human consciousness. This is one of the biggest mysteries in science. No one fully understands what consciousness is, how it arises, what’s really going on – and consciousness is the defining characteristic of our existence. We literally don’t know what we are, or how we perceive. And if we can’t understand consciousness, then our understanding of what we call reality is equally limited. There are many scientists who are seriously exploring the possibility that we are living in a virtual reality, much like the computer simulation in the Matrix.

That would be really weird.  Although that might explain a lot of things…

Do you have a background in literature?  It seems that you are highly educated.  

I read a lot. I study a lot. My writing is heavily researched because I want my flights of fancy to feel grounded in the real world. So yes, I like to learn.

“Quantum Hermeticism”?  I saw that on your Facebook page, but couldn’t find that phrase through very brief (Google, ten seconds) research.  Is this a real thing?

I invented it, but I like what it represents to me. I’ve always been interested in the occult, shamanism, magick. I’m even more interested in science. What I’m trying to do in this series, and perhaps in all my writing, is to link ancient ways of interpreting the mysteries of consciousness/reality (mythology, Hermeticism, religion, spiritualism) with the scientific approach to these subjects. I firmly believe that when we fully understand consciousness from a scientific perspective that we will also understand the basis of all these beliefs, perhaps even the God concept.

Science has always tried to explain religion, and vice versa.  You have some very interesting views in “The Book of Paul”, that’s for sure.

This is Book One of a series.  Are you working on the next one now?

I’ve been working on many of the volumes for years. I’ve written well over 1,000 pages so far. I’m torn as to whether the next volume I release will be a prequel focusing on the characters of Johnny the Saint and Loren or a sequel picking up where The Book of Paul ends, which as you know, is in a very interesting place.

Any of those choices would be good.  Those would be perfect characters to disseminate.  But the end of BoP was a real cliffhanger, so I would like to see how that pans out too.

It looks like this is your first published book.  Are there others that weren’t published/finished?

When this interview is published, I will (hopefully) have finished The Dream Palace, the first volume of a YA fantasy series.

YA fiction is a recently-acquired interest of mine.  Looking forward to seeing it.

I’ve read your posts regarding autism.  Is there anything you’d like our readers to learn/be aware of?

Our 11 year old daughter is autistic. Our journey with autism has fundamentally changed every aspect of our lives as a family. Most people will be surprised to hear that it’s changed us all for the better, though it certainly has been difficult and painful, mostly because we were so ignorant about autism in the beginning. But our story isn’t a tragedy, it’s a journey of hope, joy, discovery and more revelations about the human mind and consciousness – my favorite topics!

The Dream Palace was my way of exploring all this in a fictional context. My wife, Ariane Zurcher, who is a wonderful writer, has been highly active in the autism community. She is doing some really important work – connecting parents of autistic children with autistic adults so we can better understand that there are so many amazing and wonderful aspects of the autistic mind. We don’t have to live in fear searching for a cure for our children, trying to change them into something they’re not. She writes a great blog about all this at: http://www.EmmasHopeBook.com

I’ve seen pictures of your daughter.  She is a lovely child–and I can see in her eyes that she is a happy little girl.  Keep on, Dad–you and Mom are doing a great job!!

Odd question, consider ing the last one, but–what do you do when you’re not tearing up the characters in your fiction world?

Well, as you can imagine from all the above, I don’t have a lot of free time. I love New York City, where we live, because I’m really involved in all the arts, particularly fine arts, theater and film. There are more galleries and art museums in New York than anywhere in the world. Ditto for theaters. My idea of a perfect non-working day is a walk on the Highline, followed by gallery hopping, dinner at a great restaurant and a night at the theater.

Have you always lived in New York?

I’ve lived here most of my life, since 1980. In all that time, I’ve never once thought about living anywhere else. It’s really the perfect place for me. Fortunately, my wife loves New York just as much as I do, and we both love to travel.

One of these days, I will get there.  So many other places to visit on our list first…

Thanks for the great answers, Richard, and thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.  Happy writing!!

Just a big nod of thanks to you Kathy, and all the other people who have been so supportive and enthusiastic about Paul.

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