Q & A with Rob Kroese
Since the Friends of Mine launch is delayed for a few more days, I thought I'd take today to instead feature my friend and fellow Amazon Publishing author Rob Kroese (pronounced kr-OO-see). His latest novel is called Schrodinger's Gat, and it's a bit of a departure from his previous novels. Enjoy this Q & A.
So tell us about Schrodinger’s Gat. I’m especially curious about the inspiration (although I know from experience that it’s sometimes difficult to explain the conception of an idea).
The book started with the idea of someone manipulating coin tosses to alter the future. Coin tosses are interesting because they represent a clear bifurcation of two possible realities: Heads, one thing happens; tails, something completely different happens. I liked the idea of a character who could somehow see the consequences of a coin toss and alter the result to make a different reality happen. The book starts with an extreme example of this: the protagonist has decided to let a coin toss decide whether he lives or dies.
What I find interesting about the novel is the action interspersed with quantum physics theory. Why did you take that approach? Was it risky?
Sure, it’s risky, because you’re basically trying to find this weird intersection of readers who like both action-driven thrillers and philosophical ruminations on quantum mechanics and free will. But I’ve always believed that if you write something that you find interesting, you’ll connect with other weird people like you.
How would you describe the main character, Paul?
Paul is frankly a bit of a loser. He’s a smart guy with a lot of potential, but he’s a bit of a screwup. He hates his job, is recently divorced, and doesn’t know how to deal with his family. He’s sort of desperate for something dramatic to happen in his life, which is why he ends up getting dragged into some questionable things.
Do you think you’re more story/plot driven, or character driven, or an even mix of both?
I’d say it’s about 50/50, although my writing tends toward revealing character traits through action, rather than long passages of introspection. Schrodinger’s Gat has more introspection than most of my books because it’s a more serious, philosophical book. The protagonist is trying desperately to make sense of his life.
How do you describe your writing style? Do you have favorite words/phrases?
“Irreverent” is the best word, I guess. I have a sort of dry, ironic style that tends to end up on the line between third person limited and first person omniscient. I like telling the story from the point of view of individual characters, but occasionally I also like to step back and comment on things from a broader perspective. So the narrator ends up being another character in the story (either explicitly, as in the Mercury books, or implicitly, as in Disenchanted). Schrodinger’s Gat is my first straight-up first person novel, and I also wrote it in present tense to increase the sense of immediacy and urgency. In most of my books I also sometimes address the reader directly, which some writers consider a no-no. Basically, I break a lot of rules. J
You’re probably best known for your Mercury series. How does SG differ from the Mercury books? Any similarities?
All of my books seem to end up having to do with the ideas of free will and determinism, usually in the form of a character rebelling against an organization or hierarchy that he doesn’t fully understand. That’s the whole idea behind the Mercury books, and there’s some of it in Disenchanted too. In those books, the rebellion is handled humorously for the most part. Schrodinger’s Gat is a more serious exploration of the same idea: what if all of our actions are predetermined? Is there anything you can do about it? Does it even matter?
You self-published SG. You also originally self-pubbed your first novel, Mercury Falls. What’s changed in self-publishing during the time between the two?
I think the market has gotten a lot more competitive. When I self-published Mercury Falls in 2009, Amazon hadn’t yet gotten into publishing, the Kindle was a new thing, and publishers were still trying to sell ebooks for $10 or $15. It was relatively easy to slip in with a quality book priced aggressively and get some attention. It’s a lot harder now, because there are so many self-published books out there, and books are priced more cheaply. The other big difference is that nobody reads blogs anymore. Everybody’s on Facebook.
You also funded SG as a Kickstarter project. Tell us about that experience.
Kickstarter is another thing that didn’t exist four years ago. The Kickstarter went really well, both in terms of getting more exposure for the book and in raising money from my existing fans for things like editing and cover design. The great thing about Kickstarter is that if you have a small but dedicated fan base (like I do, apparently), you can give them ways to support you other than just buying a book. The one recommendation that I would make to an author planning a Kickstarter would be to set a conservative goal. Only ask for as much money as you actually need to make the project work. I asked for $3000 and got $5200. That’s much better than asking for $6000, getting $5200 in pledges, and ending up with nothing (because if you don’t meet your goal, you don’t get any of it).
Switching gears a little, I know you’re a massive Huey Lewis fan. How many times have you seen them perform live? Got a favorite Huey song?
I think I’ve actually only seen them 3 times, the first time in 1987 and then twice much more recently. They are an absolutely fantastic band to see live. They work really hard to put on the best show they can. They even tour with a full horn section. As for a favorite… I guess “The Power of Love,” but they have so many great songs it’s hard to say for sure.
You also have the good fortune to brag that Simon LeBon from Duran Duran read one of your books—and tweeted about it. Did he like it? (Anything you’re not telling me? Did John Taylor invite you to his LA home for lunch?)
He [Simon] did confirm to me on Twitter that he was reading the book, but I never heard whether he finished it. I told him the latter half was mostly Def Leppard lyrics, which may have deterred him.
One way in which you and I differ as writers is that you’re very open to talk about works-in-progress, while I’m very secretive. Why is that?
I get excited about what I’m writing. I write primarily to entertain myself, so whenever I start to get bored I throw in a joke or an explosion or a shooting or kidnapping. If I write something that makes me laugh out loud, that’s a pretty good sign that other people are going to enjoy it as well, and I can’t help posting that stuff on Facebook sometimes.
So, um, in that case, what are you working on right now?
In honor of Douglas Adams, I’m working on the fourth book in the Mercury trilogy, tentatively titled Mercury Returns.
What TV shows are you watching?
Nothing, right now. Too busy writing. But I’m excited for the return of The Americans on FX. That’s a riveting show. Also looking forward to the return of Justified and The Walking Dead.
What have you read recently and recommend?
Currently reading Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, which is kind of a big downer. The last really enjoyable book I read was Sheila Redling’s Damocles.
Is there any question that no one has ever asked you, and you wish they did? Ask and answer it now.
I don’t know about “ever,” but I’m a little sad that nobody asks to see my ID anymore when I buy liquor.
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.