Interview with Eleanor Lerman

Radiomen book

Q:  What inspired RADIOMEN?
A:  Whitely Strieber said something once that I’ve never forgotten: when he wrote Communion and then subsequent books about his encounters with aliens, he said that people kept asking him why the aliens abducted people, why they seemed to be doing some kind of experiments on them, etc. His reply was that how could he, a human being, possibly understand the beliefs and motivations of other beings? They might have a completely different view of the universe, of living beings’ purpose and place in the universe. He thought it was almost arrogant of human beings to think that their understanding of the universe would be the starting point for any other being’s understanding in any other part of the cosmos. I thought that was a brilliant and profound idea–with one little spin of my own. I imagine that wherever there is life, there is probably some yearning for connection with a higher being and probably the same kind of confusion about who He/She/It is. That’s what began the story for me. But there’s one other thing: when I was a little girl, my uncle rigged a radio receiver that allowed us to hear the sound of one of the later Sputnik satellites. The Soviets wanted people to pick up the signal because they thought it would scare Americans, in particular, into thinking that the Soviets were way ahead of them in the space race. But when I heard Sputnik, I wasn’t scared–I think I fell in love with the idea of sounds traveling through space and being able to hear them on a radio. (When I was a teenager, living in New York, I remembered this feeling when I could pick up a rock and roll station at night from a distant city like Chicago.) Many years later, I came across an audio tape of Sputnik’s telemetry signal online, and when I heard it, it was like hearing the voice of an old friend.

Q:  How important was tone to you, related to audiences outside the scifi community?
A:  It is very important to me that Radiomen be accessible to both the scifi community and others who are more focused on reading “literary” novels. Most speculative fiction and sci fi written by women tends to be dystopian in nature. I’m not really interested in speculating about the end of the world or apocalyptic times. For me, the question of whether or not we’re being visited by aliens and if so, why, is a framework for speculating about why actually lies beyond the human horizon. Questions about why we exist, what our lives mean, whether we are alone in the universe–big questions like that–are the kind of thing that you talk about with your friends when you’re young. But you sort of forget about them in the middle of your life when you’re caught up with work and raising kids and the everyday stuff of life. But as you get older, the questions return again when you start staring mortality in the face. Once that happened to me, as a writer, it seemed almost trivial to be writing about anything else, but I needed a big framework to deal with such outsized, almost metaphysical questions, and that’s how I moved towards sci fi. But I was hoping that anyone who wonders about what we can’t see beyond the night sky and the stars would like Radiomen.

Q:  Did you hear the audiobook, and if so, what did you think?
A:  I have not heard the book yet but I was very impressed by how much effort Dawn Harvey put into making sure that her pronunciation of names and words was something I was comfortable with. I very much appreciated that and I can’t wait to listen, some late night, to a reading of the story.

Q:  Will there be a sequel?
A:  In a way. I’m working on a new book called The Stargazer’s Embassy. New characters and, sadly, no dog–but alien beings are once again main characters, although this time what they are confused about is the nature of death. The Betty Hill star map–her claim that when she and her husband Barney were abducted in 1961, the aliens showed her a map of the Zeta Reticuli star system and said that’s where they were from–plays a role in the story, as does a Hello Kitty phone ap and a character based on Ted Serios (who was once famous for being able to take “mental pictures”–meaning, to transfer images from his mind to the film in a camera).

Review of Radiomen here: 

http://audiobookstoday.blogspot.com/2015/02/radiomen-by-eleanor-lerman.html

Do You Have This in Common with Brad Pitt?

ArchitectureBrad Pitt is a fan of architecture, something many people may not know. I’ve posted an interview with Alain de Botton, who is a Swiss writer, philosopher, television presenter and entrepreneur, resident in the United Kingdom. His books and television programs discuss various contemporary subjects and themes, emphasizing philosophy’s relevance to everyday life. He is author, among others, of Essays In Love, How Proust Can Change Your Life, Status Anxiety, and The Architecture Of Happiness (released on audio, narrated by Simon Vance.) He was a founding member of “Living Architecture,” and was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, as well as being elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Find the interview HERE.

Brad Pitt, architect

happiness

Garrison Keillor Interview

Garrison KeillorGarrison Keillor may seem, to some, a throwback to the age of Ozzie & Harriet or Leave It to Beaver. But if you’ve never heard A Prairie Home Companion you’ve missed out on a true slice of Americana. With his traveling road show, still heard every week on NPR, Keillor brings his quirky characters to life on the stage, and all of them are funnier than the folks you find these days at your typical suburban shopping mall.

JONATHAN LOWE: You have an association with Minnesota Public Radio and with Highbridge Audio, and you often tour the country with your radio show, besides teaching at the University of Minnesota. What gives you most satisfaction–writing, performing, or teaching?
GARRISON KEILLOR: I don’t associate work with feelings of satisfaction. Rather, guilt, frustration, and resentment of people who write better than I do. Writing is the main gig around here, and teaching and performing are sidelines, an excuse for not writing more. Working on a novel and on an opera make me seriously want to retire and find a volunteer job as a docent at the zoo explaining to schoolchildren where frogs go in the winter.
Q: What inspired you to begin this journey? Who influenced you?
A: I was inspired by the need, as an English major, to earn a living in the world and to pay the rent and purchase coffee and cheese danish. I spent most of the 60s in college, imagining I was brilliant, and then, in 1969, my son was born and I had to find work that someone would be willing to pay me to do, and the choices were limited in the extreme. Fortunately, I caught on as a DeeJay in public radio and I’ve clung to this raft ever since. My last job interview was in 1969. I will never write another resume. This is my earnest prayer.
Q: In your novel Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 you mention a lady who hypnotizes chickens before chopping their heads off. Then there’s the Doo Dads singing “My Girl” while repressed 14 year old Gary tries to both indulge and conquer his adolescent urges. With all the description and depiction going on, your town of Lake Wobegon really comes to life, and has people asking you if the place really exists. Do you see that question as a compliment or a nuisance?
A: Nothing that readers say or do strikes me as a nuisance. Anyone who cracks open a book of mine is, to me, a gem. And I am impressed that you know about the chicken hypnotizer and the Doo Dads and the boy’s adolescent urges. Most interviewers don’t have time to read my books. They ask questions like “What’s your favorite TV show?” or “What’s it like to be your age and know that the twilight years are near?” As for Lake Wobegon, it’s a real place, so the question is easily answered.
Q: You live in St. Paul, in the land of 10,000 oft-frozen lakes. I was born there, but haven’t been back since age six. How has the area changed, and is the longing for simplicity and family values more alive there than elsewhere?
A: In the time since you left, son, Minnesota hasn’t changed all that much, except the Twins won the World Series twice, and we elected an irate oaf for a governor, and a lot of farms have been lost to housing developments with names like Woodlawn and Riverwood and Floodcrest. I don’t detect a longing for simplicity so much as a longing for a 28 hour day. People are ferociously busy, and it’s taken a toll on all the leisurely arts, such as friendship and humor and good samaritanship. There isn’t time for it. As for family values, they are whatever they are–some families are tight, others are blown away like dandelion puffs. A main value in Minnesota is still: don’t waste my time, don’t B.S. me, I wasn’t born yesterday.
Q: What is audience reaction to your shows and signings? Any anecdotes to share?
A: I did a reading in Seattle a which a little girl in the front row fell sound asleep. She slept for more than an hour. It was sweet. I seem to have a God-given ability there. Some people in the room were hooting and slapping their knees, and she simply leaned her head against the fat lady next to her and dozed off. It’s good to be useful. A boy wrote me once to say that he loved it when the news from Lake Wobegon came on the radio because it meant that his parents stopped arguing. That was an eye-opener for me. You work hard to polish your act and then you find out that it does people good in ways you couldn’t predict. The audience is invisible and that’s good. Somewhere my voice is drifting through a swine barn and the sound of it seems to perk up the sows’ appetite. Or a lady is listening on headphones as she jogs along a beach, running to my cadence. Or a dog sits in front of the radio, head cocked, and the sibilants excite him in some mysterious way. A dog’s humorist, that’s me.
Q: Your guests are an eclectic mix of musicians and storytellers. Who are you most proud of having had on the show, and who do you wish would appear or come back?
A: Chet Atkins was a classy act. Nobody like him. The man never had a bad night. And Willie Nelson. A great musician, very underrated. Bogan, Martin, and Armstrong were great, an old black string band from Knoxville. And Emmylou Harris and Gilliian Welch and the Fairfield Four. And the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. When they left, at the intermission, the hall was suddenly half empty. I wish Willie would come back, but then I also wish I were 36, so what can you do?
Q: On the show you also have comedy radio drama skits and fake commercials. Are those items advertised ever real?
A: They’re all real, actually. Bertha’s Kitty Boutique, and the American Duct Tape Council, and Bebopareebop Rhubarb pie, and Powdermilk Biscuits. And if you’d like to buy a few shares of stock, see me.
Q: What does Garrison Keillor do during off hours, if there is such a thing as off hours for you?
A: Sleeps, cooks, reads, plays with the kid, goes to movies, shovels snow, sits and yaks with friends. I’m a lucky guy. I get to sit around every day and indulge in make believe and get paid for it.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: A show on Saturday. Look forward to it.
(Note: this coming season will be Garrison’s last on the radio, after more than 40 years.)

Jayne Ann Krentz

Jayne Ann Krentz and Amanda Quick are the same author. My interview with her here: http://AudiobooksToday.blogspot.com