Author Interview: John B. Rosenman

Tell us something about your book.

Inspector of the Cross is the first novel of a six book series, and it features an unusual hero. Thanks to suspended animation, Turtan is over 3500 years old and travels on freeze ships to distant worlds.  His mission is to investigate weapons that might help humanity turn the tide against their ancient nemesis, vicious aliens called the Cenknife. After five thousand years of warfare, this seemingly invincible enemy has brought mankind to the brink of ruin. 

When Turtan discovers just such a weapon, a beautiful, seductive woman stands in his way.  He must use all his skills, abilities, and courage to meet the crisis and save untold billions of lives. 

Who is the ideal reader for your book?

Someone who loves adventurous science fiction or speculative fiction and has a sense of wonder. Someone who is still in touch with his or her inner child. What would it be like to be a man who travels in suspended animation and is therefore nearly four thousand years old  compared to others? What would it be like to meet your great-great-great grandson when he’s an old, old man? What would it be like to travel with your enemy down a black hole into infinity? Or to marry a heartless alien female? If you’re a person who likes such mind-stretching concepts, then this is the novel for you. And that goes double if you also like larger-than-life heroes who are saviors, fighting for the survival of the human race.

At the same time, if you’re someone who thinks that hard science fiction is the only way to go, then I’m not the guy for you and this novel won’t fit in your library. While I try to present a logical universe, much of it is fanciful and make-believe, the stuff that dreams are made on.

Share the best critique/review of your book.

This was a hard choice. I actually have many good reviews. Finally, I chose the one below because the reviewer compared me to Robert Heinlein. WOW!

Rochelle Weber, Roses & Thorns Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars Heinlein would approve. No higher praise…

Reviewed in the United States on May 16, 2017

Verified Purchase

The college I attended had a writing program, but when I went, there were no genre-specific classes. Everyone was out to win the National Book Award at the very least, and they all looked down on genre fiction. Eventually they added a sci-fi class, but the instructor told me the rest of the writing faculty were still snobbish toward her. Hugo and Nebula Awards meant nothing to them. Mr. Rosenman’s students were lucky, indeed, to have such a good writer teaching them at a college where I’m sure he received the respect he deserved.

In my opinion, the best sci-fi writer of the twentieth century was Robert A. Heinlein. The first of Mr. Rosenman’s books that I read was almost as good as the Old Man’s. Inspector of the Cross, I think, might have had Mr. Heinlein in the same conundrum as me. The book grabbed me on the first page, but somewhere along the way, I caught a red herring. I mean I really caught it. I had that thing scaled, gutted, and breaded. If I say any more, I might ruin the book. You must buy Inspector of the Cross and follow Turtan on his journeys.

What inspired you to write it?

Well, I’d read a lot of Golden Age and later science fiction and grew up in the fifties watching science fiction / horror movies like Them!, The Thing, The War of the Worlds and so on. Plus, I read Joe Haldeman’s award-winning sci-fi novel The Forever War. It’s about a soldier who is a thousand years old thanks to relativistic space travel. A mere thousand years? I decided I could do better than that. I upped the ante and made my hero four times as old because he traveled between the stars in suspended animation.

What message would you like readers to take away from your book?

I want to convey to readers that it’s important to celebrate the imagination. One of my favorite old science-fiction magazines had a one word title that I absolutely love: If. That one word is what Inspector of the Cross is all about: infinite possibilities. If you can imagine it, it can become true. I also love heroes, especially noble and tormented ones who face seemingly overwhelming odds. In that sense, Turtan certainly qualifies because he’s the only one who can save us from annihilation.

Share an excerpt from your book.

            He started to answer and stopped, finding his whole body trembling uncontrollably.  God help him, what was he going to do?  He was even more used up than his hosts, the Zontenians.  Over three thousand, five hundred years of preparation and experience would be leading up to this one supreme test, and now, when the Cross needed him as never before and the course of all history might hang in the balance, he was losing his grip. Had lost it already, if Turois could be believed, who despite his rudimentary emotions still possessed a Cen brain with its vast superiority in withstanding reality-distorting phenomena.  Assuming he, who was only a human, managed to tolerate the lift-off in the morning and living in close quarters with the enemy for eight standard weeks, what would he do when he finally reached the singularity and had to go through it? Even if he were in the best mental condition, it might still drive him insane and destroy him—if the comparatively little Cross specialists knew of black holes was true.

            “Here.” Yori placed a glass of rare Zontenian wine in his hand. “Drink this and maybe you can get some rest. So tomorrow…”

            “So tomorrow I’ll be in shape to resume my Flying Dutchman chase amid the stars?” he finished. “You think getting drunk is what I need?”

            “What do you need, Tan?” Her dark eyes implored him. “Tell me.”

            He raised the glass, his throat tight with terror. “Make me young again, Yori. As when I started.” He managed to find his mouth with the glass, only he was shaking so hard, half of the wine sloshed down his body. He dropped the glass.

            “Oh, Tan, I’ll make you young again. Take away all your pain.” She dropped wet-eyed to her knees and kissed the wine from his belly, licking him dry. Gradually she worked lower and despite the way he was shaking, he felt himself respond. Respond as he always did with her. He closed his eyes as she clasped him in a frenzy, hearing her words muffled by his flesh. “I’ll make you new again, Tan. Take away all your pain.” She rose and led him to bed, where he knew she would bring him love and warmth but no youth or Lethe of forgetfulness.  All he knew was for this moment, he must try to find them.

Did you dare to believe that your book will be published when you started writing?

Yes, I dared. Foolishly, I dared. Not only that, I imagined (or day-dreamed) that my novel would hook a great agent and that after a feverish bidding war, it would be snatched up by an elite publisher who would reward me with a huge advance. Then of course, my novel would become a runaway best seller and readers would clamor for a sequel, and then a series. In the meantime, my agent would sell the novel to Hollywood and . . .

Well, you get the idea. Yes, I dared to believe even though I knew the odds were tremendously against me. But hope was all I had and whatever luck I could find.

Actually, I wrote the novel about forty years ago and couldn’t sell it, no matter how hard I tried. So I put it away in a cardboard box in my closet. Then, because I seldom give up, thirty years later I took the moldering manuscript and typed it fresh into my computer, refining it as I went. Since I was then a member of a writers group, I submitted it to them chapter by chapter. Thanks to their critiques, I ultimately placed Inspector of the Cross with MuseItUp Publishing. In time, a series evolved from it. And then later, for reasons I won’t go into here, I picked up the whole series from MuseItUp Publishing and transferred it to Crossroad Press where one of the publishers is an old writing buddy of mine.

How many times were you rejected?

About fifteen, and I kept all the rejections. One of the readers at a top publisher actually took the time to comment at length on the novel and criticize its episodic nature. He also didn’t like the title and thought that the word or title “Inspector” didn’t fit. Usually, though, I just received impersonal form rejection slips that made me wonder if anyone had even bothered to read the first paragraph.

What really helped me to ultimately publish the novel was the emergence of the small or independent press. They might not offer a large advance but they made up for it with good, supportive editing.

Was the process of looking for an agent/publisher discouraging?

Yup, it sure was. Not only for Inspector of the Cross but for some of my later novels. I used to have a list on the wall of over fifty agents I had queried for one of my novels. Many of them never responded, not even to say NO. Amazon had hundreds of agents, and I researched them thoroughly and started at the top, selecting those who seemed to fit best what I wrote. The word ”discouraging” certainly applies. It got so I decided to eliminate the middle man and submit directly to publishsers even though I knew it would be better to have an agent to represent me.

You know, I’ve only managed to snag one agent in my life, and that was for my novel Down from Oz, which is about a white teacher in a small black college. He snatched it up and shopped it around to publishers but ultimately couldn’t sell it. Later the novel won the First Novel Award at a small, independent publisher and was released as The Best Laugh Last.

How long did you write the first draft? And how long did the editing and re-editing take?

Keep in mind that it took about forty years to reach publication, and that for thirty of those years, my heroic Inspector lay in suspended animation, largely forgotten in a closet. When I wrote the first draft around 1980, I did it on pads of yellow legal paper. This was before computers became common, so I did it the old-fashioned way and then used a typewriter. I would say the first draft took a year to write and type. When I returned to it thirty years later, I spent a year to a year and a half rewriting it with the help of my writers group, God bless ’em. After the first publisher accepted it, the edits and revisions took about two or three months more.

Can you share your writing rituals/habits/process?

I’m a pantser, so I make things up as I go along, often with little idea of my ultimate destination. Consequently, I seldom do any outlining, character sketches, or advance planning. However, here’s one ritual I might mention. There was a certain Barnes & Noble nearby that served as a creative spark plug that jumpstarted my imagination. I’d stroll through the store and now and then, Bingo!, something I saw would cause a story to leap right into my head. Sometimes it was partial and sometimes it was almost full-blown. Thanks to this bookstore, I wrote and published over a dozen stories, some of them in professional machines.

Since I retired ten years ago, I write when I want for as long as I want. In other words, I’ve been largely unstructured. However, for twenty years before that, I was a member of a writers group that forced me to be much more disciplined. Every two weeks I tried to have a new short story or chapter for them, which required that I apply the seat of my pants to a chair and type away. It helped that I also had to read and critique their work and be prepared to comment when my turn came. Since I was an English professor during this time, I had to be really disciplined and find the time not only to grade papers and prepare for class, but also to write. My situation was difficult but productive. Thanks to this writers group, I published dozens of stories and several novels.

Who was your first literary crush?

Now, if by literary crush you mean a literary character, then it would be Cyrano de Bergerac, the hero of Rostand’s play who was superbly played by Jose Ferrer in the movie. Cyrano was an acclaimed poet and France’s greatest swordfighter. It was the swordfighting more than anything else that attracted me as a kid. Plus Cyrano’s confident ability to spout poetry as he dueled. And when he executed the coup de grâce, he announced it dramatically. ”Then, as I end the refrain, thrust home!” Also, as a kid who was sometimes picked on, I could identify with the fact that Cyrano’s gigantic nose made men laugh at him behind his back and women turn the other way. Yet at the same time they admired him and if Cyrano had only found the courage to ask for a date, some women would have gladly accepted. I could go on and on about Cyrano’s integrity, honesty, courage and other virtues. Suffice it to say that as a kid, I dressed up as the guy and organized swordfights with my friends.

Did you imagine yourself as an author in your teens?

A little, especially in my late teens. When I was in the tenth grade, an English teacher compared my writing style to Thomas Wolfe’s. Huge praise! I recall that the story I showed her was called ”The Fine Line”. It was about a boxer who was almost, but not quite, good enough to be great. I never finished it, but when I was a freshman in college, I showed it to my English professor. I still recall his written comment. ”You might have some bent or talent for writing. At your age you should read all you can.” I took him at his word and started to read more widely. One night I marched out to his house to present him with my latest masterpiece. Later, as a junior, I took his creative writing course. As for boxers, see my novel The Merry-Go-Round Man, which is available in multiple formats, including audio. In it, Johnny Roth crosses the ”fine line” into greatness both as a boxer and as an artist.

What was the first book that made you fall in love with reading?

It wasn’t a book but a comic book. Do you remember Classics Illustrated comic books? Well, I collected and read them all. The only one I couldn’t get was Don Quixote. I just loved all of them, especially Cyrano de Bergerac. Sadly, today I don’t read comics at all. I seem to have lost interest even though there are many fine graphic novels available.

Shortly after that, I was hooked by Ellery Queen mysteries and then by westerns.

Did a book ever make you cry? (Which one?)

No, but a few made me weepy or got into my head. Cyrano de Bergerac is one. The scene at the end where Roxane learns that it was Cyrano, not Christian who spoke to her beneath her balcony in the dark and that he has loved her all his life . . . Cyrano is blind and dying and it’s a romantic tear jerker if there ever was one. For Pete’s sake, why didn’t Cyrano ever speak up and confess his love? What would have happened? Would Roxane have rejected him or seen past his gigantic nose into his noble soul? Then there’s Karen Joy Fowler’s short story “The Lake Was Full of Artificial Things”. Betraying someone you love has always gotten to me. I guess you could say that with this one, I cried inside. Both of these works continue to haunt me.

Which literary character did you want to take to bed as an 18-year-old?

Dominique Francon in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. She loves Howard Roark passionately but resents the architect’s stubborn integrity and dedication to his craft, his refusal to compromise in order to get ahead. One time she tells him that she will do everything to obstruct and destroy him but that she will still come to his bed like a ”whore”. I thought, Oh, man, I wish she’d come to my bed. A woman like that would burn up my sheets.

Do you sing under the shower? Or to your plants?

Uh, have you heard me sing? I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Actually, I do sing a little under the shower, perhaps because the close walls make me sound better. As for plants, I’ve never tried that. Some folks say that plants are impressionable and can thrive in an emotionally supportive environment. Come to think of it, I believe I wrote a horror story about that.

Do you like to cook? What is your specialty?

I don’t cook much and don’t excel at it. EXCEPT, I sometimes grill steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken on an open grill using charcoal. In particular, I’m very good with steaks and know how to burn them just right. Not too much, not too light. Otherwise, I leave the cooking to my wife.

Do you have a pet?

Not anymore, but we did have two dogs, one after the other. The first was YoYo, a terrier of sorts, a lovable mutt. The second was Tempest, a fluffy and furry black mutt. She used to lick my legs for the salt. Tempest lived to be eighteen years old. Finally, we had to put her down because of her pain. Jane and I held her as she died. It broke my heart.

Later, for nearly a year, we looked after a friend’s dog while she served overseas in the military. Shiloe was a forty-five pound pit bull. At first, this dog gave me a pain but we both grew to love her. Shiloe used to lie next to me in bed while I kissed a certain spot high on her nose. When Jennifer, her owner returned, Shiloe perked right up and shot out the door without even looking back. All our love was forgotten in a heartbeat.

What is the most romantic thing you ever did?

In college I picked some flowers and gave them to a girl. She couldn’t have cared less. Also  in college, I knelt and had a girl get on my shoulders. Then I rose and ran with her across campus while she laughed. I thought that was romantic in a way. Also, I wrote love poetry to her. “In those days, Jane…” No, I won’t go any further except to say we’ve been married now for fifty-three and a half years.

What is the most romantic thing someone did for you?

A few years ago, my wife Jane kidnapped me. It was on our anniversary and she wouldn’t tell me where we were going. I found out it was to a performance at an opera house in Norfolk. While waiting for the opera to begin, lo and behold, our son and his roommate appeared and sat right beside us. They were co-conspirators and in on the plot. All things considered, it was a wonderful, romantic evening. Everyone needs a happy surprise now and then.

The “J” stands for John and Jane.

Do you believe in love?

Oh, yes. Love comes in many forms and varieties, and it’s the most important thing in life. You’ve got to love someone and something, and you’ve got to be loved. You’ve got to feel. This is why the Invasion of the Body Snatchers movies are so terrifying. The thought of becoming completely unemotional and dead inside is chilling. I love my wife and children, my country, and sometimes, obsessively, my writing. I wouldn’t want to give any of it up.

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/John-B.-Rosenman/e/B001KMN69E
Website: http://www.johnrosenman.com

John B. Rosenman – After 3500 years, Turtan finally discovers a weapon that can save humanity from vicious aliens, only to be betrayed by a beautiful woman. INSPECTOR OF THE CROSS, #SciFi Action Adventure – Buy at https://amzn.to/2BlE1QS

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