Robert Ashcroft on public corruption, Bill Watterson & ‘Twin Peaks’

Robert Ashcroft stops by the store this Sunday, April 15 at 5 p.m. to discuss The Megarothke, a sci fi/horror novel that’s drawing comparisons to Blade Runner and Westworld. Check out his answers to The BookPeople Questionnaire below!

BP: What are you reading these days?

RA: I just finished Tropic of Kansas by Christopher Brown and a collection of Chuck Klosterman articles titled X. In the past year, I’ve also read the entire catalogue of S. Craig Zahler’s books. He’s become one of the authors that I will buy and read without even looking up the reviews or summaries. Though I will say that his least mentioned book, Corpus Chrome Inc, is my favorite.

BP: What books did you love as a child?

RA: My grandpa had the complete set of Calvin and Hobbes growing up, and they encouraged me to learn to read from an early age because I needed to understand what was going on. The older I get the more I appreciate the emphasis on creativity, loneliness and self-exploration within the comic. Bill Watterson is one of the true greats of our time. Also, the Redwall series, by Brian Jacques, is just so good. I’m tempted to go back and reread them even now. These mice would be having feasts of roots, berries, and scones. Then they would wage war against the rats to protect their abbey. This was high drama in third grade. They had great covers, too.

BP: What’s the hardest thing about writing?

RA: Protecting the time and space necessary to let yourself―and sometimes force yourself―to do good work. To say no to things: weekly clubs, softball leagues, Spanish lessons, etc.

BP: What’s the best thing about writing?

RA: The ability to write the book you want to read. There’s no boss and there isn’t a ton of money in it either, so you have to love the process. You have to believe in your work, in your characters, and in your story. More than that, it’s genuinely a calling for most writers. The ones who do it the best, and do it the most, are the ones who would be scribbling on the prison walls if they got locked away.

BP: What’s your favorite word?

RA: Murciélago, which just means ‘bat’ in Spanish. If I could import one word into English, that might be it.

BP: What’s a sentence you’ve loved and remembered from a book?

RA: The last line of Germinal, by Emile Zola, has always stuck with me. The author was really passionate about social justice, including working against anti-Semitism, but he was also aware of the danger of revolutionary tendencies. “Beneath the blazing rays of sun, in that morning of new growth, the countryside rang with song, as it’s belly swelled with a black and avenging army of men, germinating slowly in its furrows, growing upward in readiness for harvests to come, until one day soon their ripening would burst open the earth itself.”

BP: Do you have any weird writing habits?

RA: Sometimes I’ll go into the woods and throw rocks at an empty milk bottle while a friend reads from a list of character names and descriptions. Then I’ll put check marks next to their names depending on my accuracy. Okay, so this is actually from Twin Peaks, but I really wish that it were a valid way to come up with what comes next. The truth is that I read/run/swim/fast/overeat/go to museums―whatever it takes―because in the end, there aren’t any shortcuts. And also, Dale Cooper is an American hero.

BP: Who are your literary influences?

RA: James Joyce and J.D. Salinger were huge during my formative years, but more recently probably Richard Matheson, Haruki/Ryu Murakami or Michel Houellebecq. Jon Ronson and Chuck Klosterman are also really essential, because their collected works form a lens through which I see a lot of culture. Both of them are razor sharp. I’d also―since I don’t think there’s a word count here, this is the internet, after all―like to take a second to recommend, Visible Man, by Klosterman.

BP: What’s your favorite place to write?

RA: I have a dedicated writing room, which I’ve set up to be a sacred spot. But from time to time, I also get really great work done in hotel rooms. Something about the social isolation.

BP: What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?

RA: A journalist. By some strange twist of fate, I graduated at a time when the newspapers were dying but blogs weren’t yet profitable. This sort of forced me into politics, then public relations and a variety of other work. More than anything, I would love to cover public corruption.

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