An Interview with Author Dina Roberts:
Ms. Dina Roberts, here are the questions for the interview. You can answer a select number of them or you can answer all of them, as long as you are comfortable. Here we go:
What was it that made you want to become an author?
When I was in seventh-grade I had a dream…maybe a nightmare? It was something about a haunted house. I decided to turn it into a story. Then I took it to school and let some of my friends read it. They liked it! I wrote some more. I got a lot of attention for my writing and I think I’ve always been hungry for attention.
I also had a strong need for fantasy and fiction. I loved make-believe play and gave it up at an older age than most of my peers. I think I was a little embarrassed about that and writing gave me a new “more appropriate” outlet.
How did you come upon the plot for your novel ‘The Dead Are Online’?
It actually had no plot for awhile. I just had a premise and characters. I had no idea what to do with them. Then I was talking to my son about the title, and told him I was thinking of calling it “Our Side”….referring to the living people who are not on the other side yet. He thought I said Arcide…some kind of fancy word. Or maybe he thought it was a made-up word? I thought the misunderstanding was funny and wanted to work it into the book in some way. He was also pushing me to come up with some type of antagonist, so ideas started forming in my head.
Then dreams played a big part! I had an anxiety dream about being late to my niece’s Bat Mitzvah. My sister was very mad…yelling at me. Then for some random reason, her nose was bleeding. I ended up using a very similar scene in my book, and I started getting the idea that the Arcide would cause physical symptoms.
What are the social networking sites you have mentioned in your book?
I think it’s mostly Twitter. Does FaceTime and Skype count as social networking? I think my characters mostly text and video chat. I sort of regret not mentioning more sites. Maybe if I write a sequel, I’ll talk about things like Instagram, GoodReads and Pinterest.
What are the social networking sites that you use?
Instagram, Flickr, QuizUp, Goodreads, Twitter, and YouTube.What are your views on the theme ‘life after death’?
I want to believe in it, and I try to. It makes me happier and more relaxed. For me, it makes death less frightening and life more meaningful.
What are your views on the topic of reincarnation which you have mentioned in you book?
It’s what I believe. Or what I’d like to believe. Sometimes I stumble on certain questions…like how we have so many new souls. Where do they come from? Population is increasing. Maybe that just means more souls have a chance at life? Maybe there’s a bunch of souls out there on a waiting list. And now that there’s more potential living bodies, there’s less of a waiting list. Also, there’s the animal question. Do non-human animals have souls? Are they reincarnated? And where do you draw the line? Do gnats get reincarnated? How about bacteria?
Philip Jenson was a character in your book who literally made all around him feel inferior. Which character in your book according to you suffered from a serious inferiority complex because of Philip Jenson?
I think all of Philip’s family in different ways. I might create a new term for him──Bullying-through-generosity. It sounds a bit nutty, but I think it happens. He gives in a way that makes people feel inferior and trapped. We can give to people with the attitude “I give you this gift because I think you’re wonderful.” Philip gives to people with the attitude, “I give you this gift because I am wonderful.” Now I think we all do the latter to a point. We feel good about ourselves when we give to others. That’s fine. But if we start to look down at people we’re giving to, then it’s not so great anymore.
Do you identify yourself with any of the characters in your book?
Yes! A lot of them. I gave a little bit of myself to a lot of the main characters.
- Taylor’s eating and exercise issues.
- Jessica feeling abandoned by friends, and her relationship to Frankie.
- Eugene’s anger about Anna not reading his writing.
- Jennifer’s confusion about her singing talent.
- Zoe’s rich dream life and her wondering if something magical is happening to her or whether it’s all in her head.
- Arthur’s insecurity about financial dependence.
- Christina and Loretta worrying that they’re bad mothers.
And I even reached deep inside to find my own inner Philip. I don’t have much money, so I can’t be generous in that way. But I sometimes go through phases where I become very generous with listening. I let the conversation be all about the other person. It sounds nice, but behind the niceness is anger, lack of trust, an unhealthy need of control, and a sense of superiority.
When I get in this phase, I look down at people who show little interest in my life. I call them self-centred. Yet I feel nervous and uncomfortable around people who are good listeners. Why? Because then I can’t feel superior around them.
It’s all a bit messed up. They say it’s better to give than to receive. But if you’re not doing any receiving, you’re not giving other people the chance to give. So you’re really depriving them.
In which genre would you place your book ‘The Dead Are Online’ in a regular book store?
I have no idea! I’d actually probably want it to go in the regular fiction section. I don’t think it’s a typical paranormal book.
Which was the toughest part in the book for you to write?
I think the scenes between Eugene and Anna were emotionally draining.
Describe the format of the book or the unique presentation of your book.
The book has eight point of view characters and somehow they connect to another character. It’s kind of like a chain of connections.
Where did you get the idea for the unique presentation of your book?
I think I’ve liked the idea for awhile…before I came up with The Dead Are Online. I thought it would be neat to write a book about online life. Have one character with a blog, then in the next chapter tell the story of someone who comments on her blog, and in the next chapter have the story of one of the blog commenter’s online friends. I’m not sure if I’m saying this in a coherent way. Sorry! I guess what I’m trying to say is I like how we all kind of connect to each other in a chain. I have a friend Tracey and then she has her friends I don’t know and they have their friends she might not know…and it keeps going.
Do you like books with many characters or books with only a few main characters in them?
I like both. The only problem with multiple characters is it can get confusing. Who is who? I feel bad that I’m going to confuse people because I’ve been in the same boat.
Who is the author who has inspired you the most?
I don’t think there’s one particular author. It’s definitely not my favourite (J.K. Rowling). When I read her work, I want to quit the whole business because there’s no way I can measure up to that. Maybe I’m more inspired by writers who write at my level and have a similar style. Then I think well, they’re doing great and I sort of write like that, so maybe I can do okay in the business as well.
Who is the author whose writing style inspired you to write your book ‘The Dead Are Online’ or is it something unique which you yourself came up with?
I think some other multiple character books inspired me. Stephen King’s The Stand was in my mind at times, as well as Ken Follett’s Century series.
Arthur & Bernard is a gay couple mentioned in your book. What are your views about homosexuality?
(I’m very much against it, but the liberal media and gay mafia said if I don’t include a few gay characters, they’d burn down my house. No, I’m joking.) Of course in a dark way someone did kind of hint that this is the reason why I have a gay character in my book. It didn’t make me too happy because I have various views that might be controversial. I can probably write a whole book. I’ll list a few:
1. I think homophobia might have had some benefits in the past when people were trying to populate the Earth. Now that we’re overpopulated, I would think the more gay people the better…especially if they want to make their family via adoption.
2. I don’t like the idea of dividing people between gay and straight. I think it’s more of a continuum. Let’s say there’s a scale of 1-5. 1 is very homosexual. You’re never attracted to people of the opposite sex. 5 would be people who are extremely heterosexual. Then I think a lot of people are in-between. You might like both genders equally. Or you might prefer one over the other, but you have the ability to romantically fall in love with the gender that’s not your preference.
3. I don’t like the whole “Born this way.” A lot of people are born in ways that are not ideal and we try to cure them. Just because you’re born a certain way doesn’t mean you should stay that way. Also I think some people CAN choose to be gay or not, because they are not 1’s and 5’s (as mentioned above).
I don’t think it matters why you’re gay…if it’s genetic or something you chose. Why is it a problem? If people love each other and have a wonderful relationship, I think that’s a great thing. I don’t think they need to justify it or explain it.
The characters Eugene & Anna are a couple who think about divorce even before getting married while the gay couple are happy together. Did you pen this down in your book on purpose to give a message to your readers?
No! I didn’t even think of it until reading this interview. But maybe subconsciously…..
How would you react if you had a person like the character Philip Jenson in your life?
I’d start going on a very strict diet like Taylor. And like Arthur, I’d write angry emails.
How would you react if suddenly you would be seeing ‘the dead online’?
I would probably think, “Holy crap. My book has come true!” It wouldn’t be the first time my life sort of imitated my own fiction. And for the most part, I’d be excited. It would be nice knowing there’s life after death. It might be fun talking to the people I used to know, although maybe a bit overwhelming. I have a hard enough time keeping up with all the living people in in my life. (That’s not saying I’m super popular…more that I’m not the most social person).
Many people don’t believe there is life after death. What is your stand on this?
I hope they’re wrong! I think when their disbelief in the afterlife is very strong that maybe they find comfort in the idea of death being the end. I’m talking about the people who are very zealous in their belief, the one who work hard on trying to disprove the afterlife. It’s not enough for them to not believe. They feel the need for others to not believe as well. Would it be likely for someone to LIKE the idea of an afterlife, but then work so hard to prove it doesn’t exist?
I think maybe some of them have been tortured with the whole hell and heaven story. It’s probably better to believe death is the end than to believe you’re going to burn in hell for not going to church enough.
For other people…the ones who are less dogmatic, they might want to believe, but it all just seems too far-fetched. I get those feelings at certain times in my life, so it’s not hard for me to be understanding of people who have them often.
Which was the most hurtful remark made by a reader or critique about your book?
I haven’t had anything yet. I mean no one has said anything really harsh. But I haven’t had many readers yet and some reviews have been mediocre, so that’s a bit disappointing. But those who didn’t love/like the book have been very nice about it. I appreciate that.
Which was the best remark made about your book?
There’s no best remark, but probably the best response is this interview! You really write amazing questions. And answering them is making me feel like a superstar. I’m feeling so important right now. It’s a nice feeling; though I can see how it could totally get out of hand.
Have you authored any other books or are you working on another book currently?
Yes…many, but most are in a bin in the closet or lost on a computer somewhere. I’m re-editing a novel about a girl with Neurofibromatosis. I hope to finish that by September or October. I’m sometimes tempted to resurrect some of my old work, but it’s probably best to move forward.
Do you delve into the study of the supernatural?
Not currently, but I have in the past.
Which is the best social medium according to you to market your book?
I’m not doing very well with any of them. I think people get tired of seeing other people self-promoting themselves. Then there are people who promote other people, but rather blindly. They Tweet and Retweet and post…about a huge amount of content. But they don’t even read the content they’re promoting. It’s the attitude of quantity over quality.
I like what you do…actually read books, review them, and do interviews.
I think that’s more helpful.
Kayla is a medium in your novel. Do you believe in mediums who can communicate with the dead?
Well, I love the question either way. I guess I’ll say yes to both. I believe in mediums who can communicate with the dead and I also believe in those who can’t communicate with the dead. With the latter, I’d divide it up into scam artists, and those who mistakenly believe they’re communicating with the dead.
Will your book be able to attract an Indian audience?
I hope! I’m not sure if there’s any generalization about Indian folks that would make the book repulsive or attractive to them. I’m tempted to think Indians are more open to the idea of an afterlife…especially reincarnation, though I don’t know the statistics between belief there and belief in my country…or other countries.
Why do you like Australia so much?
I like to believe it’s just meant to be…my relationship to Australia. I tend to believe I have some kind of spiritual connection.
What is your dream destination for a perfect holiday?
What is the religious view that you profess?
I’m Jewish, but don’t really follow that religion. I don’t really have a religion. I’ve taken tests before and come up with Neo-Paganism. But I don’t call myself that.
What is your favourite colour & what does it mean to you?
I like a variety of colours. It depends on my mood…and it’s something that changes over time.
Describe yourself in one line.
Describe your book ‘The Dead Are Online’ in one sentence.
The Dead Are Online is about what happens when people know for sure there is an afterlife.
Which is your favourite quote or saying?
I don’t have one particular favourite. But one that I do love is from Harry Potter.
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
To whom would you recommend this book?
People who like character centred stories, but also ones who enjoy (or at least don’t mind) the supernatural. I think maybe fans of the TV show Lost would like it. That show had supernatural elements, but I think the most important part was the human stories…the relationships, the turmoil.
Where do you see your writing career five years from now?
It depends on whether or not I’m having a fantasy or not. If I’m having a fantasy, I’m very wealthy. The Dead Are Online is a TV show with very cool opening credits and an awesome soundtrack. When I’m not in la-la land, I picture myself getting excited for selling one book after not selling any for weeks. Actually, I don’t know if I’ll be excited. I might be a bit depressed or at least frustrated. It would be a bitter sweet accomplishment.
Thank you so much for this interview. I had so much fun with it. You ask brilliant thought-provoking questions.
Thank you Dina for agreeing to this interview . I appreciate that you took a lot of pains to answer my questions. I am placing the link to your Amazon page here below and I encourage all my readers to download the sample and buy your book.
Copyright 2014 Fiza Pathan