‘Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.’ ~Winston Churchill
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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?
I remember, oh, maybe I was eight or nine, writing baseball stories about a shortstop named Davey who played for the New York Yankees. Gore Vidal said that writers are born with a stock company of characters; Shakespeare had like nearly 30, and then there are the rest of us mortals. Vidal said the key is running the characters in and out of wardrobe to keep them fresh and new.
Tell me about your book.
Book One in The Dark Depths series, A Mound Over Hell is set in 2098 following America’s defeat by radical Islam in World War Three – and the disgraced sport of baseball becomes a pawn between those who want peace and those who want another world war. Tweet This
My timely new novel A Mound Over Hell is set in 2098 after America’s defeat in World War Three by radical Islam. Surrounded, America has established a society based on love, led by the elderly Grandma, head of The Family. All acts of patriotism, from flying the flag to singing the National Anthem, are illegal. Social media has been banned under the Anti-Narcissism Laws, with banks, lawyers, psychologists and the entertainment industry outlawed under the Anti-Parasite Laws. Religion is also illegal, as well as abortion and all contraceptives since American suffered 13 million casualties in the War. Robots with faces are also outlawed; decades earlier the AIs caused havoc by blending into society and posing as humans. Children are revered; pedophilia is one of the few capital offenses. As the novel opens, baseball, a sport now identified with terrorism and treason, begins its final season ever, playing in Amazon Stadium (formerly Yankee Stadium), the only remaining ballpark. Infused by the miraculous appearance of great players from the past, baseball regains its popularity only to become a pawn between those who want peace — Grandma is reaching out to dissident Muslims chafing under the tyranny of the Caliphate — and those who want another war. The novel will be published by BHC Press on March 29, 2018.
What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?
Banning books is the same as banning thought. Literature, and I define that as broadly as possible, is intended to provoke thinking. Sometimes the ideas are unpopular. A healthy and free society must tolerate all different points of view.
We’ve reached a stage in American society where PC is crippling creativity. Yes, there are books that aren’t PC because of offensive words or characters or ideas which were sadly proper in their day. But we need to put things in context and, if it still bothers you, tough noogies as we used to say in the Bronx.
If you’re so fragile in your own beliefs that you can’t consider an opposing idea, remember that sooner or later someone’s coming to stop you from believing what you want. An enduring lesson of history. We can never let someone else think for us. Among the many outcomes of the Anti-Narcissism Laws in A Mound Over Hell is that the days of opinion-makers are gone. You can’t have a zillion Twitter followers ‘cause there ain’t Twitter. You can’t shape what people like because it’s up to the individual to make their own decision. Scary, huh?
Tell me about a principal character in your book. What makes them memorable?
As a writer, you have to be careful about choosing favorites (at least publicly), but Zelda Jones, one of my main characters, is pretty darn memorable. Zelda’s a chubby 38-year-old African American woman who has failed as an artist, theater performer and then as a teacher; not liking children was a problem. Zelda’s always had romance issues with men and women (in this world there’s no distinction between gay and straight, all that matters is if you love someone). Zelda’s very complicated, very strong and smart. If there’s a way to screw up a situation, Zelda will find it, do it, say the wrong thing, drink too much beer, eat too many donuts, insult the boss. She doesn’t suffer fools, has a big heart and regrets the trouble it’s caused her. And she sure does get into trouble. I adore her.
It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?
I honestly don’t understand how someone can write and not read. I love sci-fi, history and an occasional Hollywood biography or mystery.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
I’d never do that. Seems to run counter to the whole point of being a writer and talking to your readers, instead of practicing some inside joke that only a favored few would get.
What are you writing at the moment?
I’m writing Book Two in my The Dark Depths series, which picks up a few hours after the end of A Mound Over Hell. It’s fascinating to write a book when most of the characters are already introduced, though I can’t resist bringing in new characters.
What is your favourite genre to write, and why?
I love science fiction because of the endless possibilities it offers. I’ve written two sci-fi musicals, The Anthem, inspired by the Ayn Rand novella, and Mad Mel Saves the World, about a pompous writer stopping an alien invasion. The beauty of sci-fi is the places you can create as long as you’re consistent in your world-building. Sometimes you must grudgingly follow your own laws whether you like it or not.
If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?
Well, this is an America which has lost its first war since Vietnam. We’ve been decimated, yet the spirit of the country survives. It’s a different America where love and ethics reigns supreme. I’d like to see if it works.
If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?
To be more patient and learn to rewrite and edit and rewrite and edit. William Faulkner said a writer must learn to devour his young.
Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?
I love rock and roll. Just love it. I have to be mindful not to float into the music and leave my writing Universe, otherwise I would boogey about the room dancing to The Doors. My pug sits in the chair next to me when I write; she is my muse.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
How I don’t have to be a model for any of the characters. Like many writers, there’s always a part of you in your work but honestly, all these people in A Mound Over Hell are some other folks. It’s been a pure joy meeting them.
Gary Morgenstein’s previous novels include Jesse’s Girl; Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman; Take Me Out to the Ballgame and The Man Who Wanted to Play Center Field for the New York Yankees. An accomplished playwright, Morgenstein wrote the critically acclaimed musicals The Anthem and Mad Mel Saves the World, and his dramas range from A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx to Right on Target, Ponzi Man and Saving Stan. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, writer and critic Marcina Zaccaria.
Gary, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!