Greetings to all who dare enter. This month I delightfully put somebody through the mill who is a hopeful up and coming author, Paco Ahlgren. Please read on and enjoy watching me make another supple victim quiver at my quantitative query.
Note: Some of my questions pertain to Pacoís newest book Discipline. You can learn more about it @ www.disciplinenovel.com
MM: Is this your first book?
PA: Yes, Discipline is my first work of any length.
MM: Youíve been criticized for the amount of profanity many of your characters use, and yet one character in the book never uses any profanity at all. Is there something significant to that?
PA: There are several characters in Discipline, who use a lot of profanity, but one of the main characters, Jefferson Stone, never uses any at all, and this seems to be lost on some people. The truth is, whether you like it or not, people really do talk that way.
Profanity is simply a construct Ė just like any other form of language. It doesn't offend us; we allow it to offend us. Its use in Discipline should illustrate that its presence or absence has no real meaning in the universe Ė like so many other constructs to which we assign too much value.
MM: A lot of the concepts in Discipline are complex. How accessible is the book to the average person?
PA: Discipline appeals to people who love philosophy, mathematics, finance, science, and/or psychology, but it is, at the same time, a fast-paced thriller that appeals to, say, gamers or science-fiction buffs. And the book also has a lot of humor.
The intellectual aspects are subtle; it flows without ever coming across as dry. It certainly isnít a scientific manual or a text book.
Maybe this will help: try to imagine Lenny Bruce or Andy Kaufman giving a presentation on how subatomic physics relates to eastern traditions and modern philosophies of science. Then throw in a fight scene or a car chase from a John Woo film. Top it all off with a love story from some classic southern epic, and you might get some idea of why Discipline is so accessible.
MM: The main character in your book is forced to deal with the abrupt deaths of his entire family. What would you say to someone facing something so tragic?
PA: Western traditions donít teach us to live with sadness and fear, but rather to mask them, or run from them. And yet, if we respect these emotions Ė if we learn to live with them Ė they can be fuel for unprecedented growth.
MM: Do you train yourself to the same extent as your characters, in terms of exercise, meditation, and intellectual pursuits?
PA: Absolutely. I eat well, exercise regularly, and spend a lot of time reading and researching. I also try to do all things in moderation. To me, the secret to rich existence comes from balance.
MM: What were you doing before you wrote Discipline?
PA: I am a financial analyst, and while I still do some work in that area, I owned and ran a hedge fund for many years before Discipline was published.
MM: What advice can you give aspiring writers about Publishers, Agents and Publicists?
PA: Never, ever quit! I suffered through 750 rejections from editors and agents before I found a home for Discipline. Another piece of advice: Write, donít edit. Just write. Keep going. You can edit later; just get it out there.
MM: How long have you been promoting this book?
PA: Five months and countingÖ
MM: Is this a stand alone novel or part of a series?
PA: I am writing a sequel to Discipline. Iím not sure yet if there will be a third, but the second is definitely in the works. Iím also writing a companion guide to Discipline, to give readers more of an insight into the philosophies that formed the foundation of the story.
MM: When I was reading the praises for your book I noticed that you are being compared to Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King. Do you consider that praise more of a great compliment or added pressure to perform well?
PA: I consider it a compliment! I learned a long time ago not to be bogged down by comparisons. I know my writing is unique, and Iím proud of that.
MM: This has been a great interview so far, but let me dim the lights a little more and turn the heat up ever so slightly. No one leaves the dungeon without some of my famous creepy inquiries.
MM: One of your characters in Discipline suggests that aging may be avoidable, or even reversible. Is this something you believe?
PA: Absolutely. A tremendous amount of research suggests that it may be possible to turn off the gene that directs our cells to divide at an ever-slowing rate. If it is possible, there's no reason we couldn't revert to our prime and stay there.
MM: While you were writing, did the ideas from the book give you nightmares or perhaps drive you close to the brink of insanity?
PA: Yes, and they still do. I have woken up many times to echoes in my mind, or graphic images I canít shake. This is something I wasnít prepared for at all when I wrote the book.
MM: Did any of your childhood phobias creep into the book?
PA: SureÖ what author writes something this dark and doesnít use his or her childhood phobias? I have seen some horrific things, and I call upon these events when I write. Itís the rent the images pay for squatting mercilessly in my mind
MM: Any apprehension in regards to readers who may become stalkers?
PA: Yes. Weíve already had some ďissues,Ē and this was yet another thing I didnít quite prepare myself for. Itís one aspect of the journey I can honestly say I donít enjoy. I suppose that should go without saying.
MM: Do many people consider you a Ďdarkí person because of this book?
PA: Yes. But I think even people with preconceived notions about who I am see pretty quickly that I have a light side too.
It comes out on Tuesdays.
MM: Do you prefer solitude to that of being around others?
PA: Both. I like to run and mountain bike alone, for hours. I like working in crowds Ė being anonymous in public places. But Iím also driven passionately by intimacy.
MM: Iíve noticed that your studies include several sciences, ancient traditions and cultures along with politics. Tell us, what is the most corrupt thing you have come across?
PA: Without going into details, I have been appalled consistently by some of the things Iíve seen in the financial industry. I made it my main objective to be as honest with my clients as possible, and I feel confident I have been able to do that. Wall Street, and its extensions, are very political, and largely esoteric. Iím glad to see that changing.
MM: Before I release you, are there any parting comments?
PA: Experience is everythingÖ
MM: And so, now that I have pummeled poor Paco with my questions, I suppose it is time to release him back unto the masses. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. Donít miss next issueís interview for it is one that I myself am sharpening my claws and fangs for!