Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Interview with author Gary Morgenstein

A Mound Over Hell
A dystopian science fiction-baseball novel

1. What really inspired you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and conveying it into a book? My wife Marcina Zaccaria and I were having a Sunday breakfast of bagels and listening to The Beatles when the idea popped into my head: what if I wrote a novel about baseball’s last season ever in a dystopian America run by someone called Grandma? And I was off to the races. Baseball and science fiction are my two loves, and I’m also a political junkie and a history buff. The beauty of writing speculative fiction is you build upon existing events and take them to that next terrifying level, like Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, George Orwell’s 1984 to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The greatness of science fiction is asking “What if?” Then you have to answer it!
2. What is it about and whom do you believe is your targeted reader? I think the readers will be science fiction and baseball fans, and those interested in current events. A Mound Over Hell is set in 2098 following America’s defeat by Islam in World War Three. In this world, all acts of patriotism, from flying the flag to singing the National Anthem, are illegal. Social media has been banned under the Anti-Narcissism Laws. Religion, associated with Islam, is also illegal. In a nation where children are revered, abortion and the use of contraceptives are capital offenses along with pedophilia. Banks, lawyers, psychologists and the entertainment industry were banned by the Anti-Parasite Laws I and II. Robots with faces are also outlawed; during the 2030s the AIs caused havoc by posing as humans and blending into society. 
As A Mound Over Hell opens, baseball, a sport now identified with treason, begins its final season ever, playing in battered Amazon Stadium (formerly Yankee Stadium), the only remaining ballpark. All of the nation’s stadiums were razed after the failed terrorist attack by the pro-war, pro-baseball Miners at the Seventh Game of the 2065 Yankees-Cubs World Series.

Holograms play for out-of-shape players and attendance barely averages 15 fans a game. Just as the sport is about dead, everything changes. Infused by the miraculous appearance of great players from the past such as Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle (and from the future, the greatest of them all, the female Mooshie Lopez), baseball regains its popularity, only to become a pawn between those who want peace -- Grandma is reaching out to dissident Muslims chafing under the tyranny of the Caliphate -- and those who want another war.

3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book? What should remain with them long after putting it down? I’m hesitant to ask readers to feel or think a certain way since that is entirely their right in the magical relationship between writer and reader. I don’t think a writer can say, oh you got that wrong. I didn’t mean that. Well if that’s what the reader thinks, if that’s what they’ve gotten from the book, that’s correct. Once I turned the novel into the publisher, it was officially out of my hands. It’s in the hearts and minds of the readers who honor me by spending time in my world. At best, I hope I’ve touched them in some way, made them think, made them feel, made them laugh and oh, maybe even brought a tear to their eyes, and certainly, I hope they remember and identify with some of the characters. To me, the greatest triumph of a novelist is when their characters linger in the mind.
4. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers? Write, write, write. No one wants to hear about the idea you’ve had for twenty years. It’s hard work and you have to be prepared to make sacrifices, like any goal. Above everything, don’t be afraid. There’s very little quite so terrifying as the blank page. Everyone feels that way. But once you’ve got it down, that’s when the work begins. Writing is about editing and you have to be prepared to discard what you’ve written, no matter how wonderful you think it once was. Oh, and have a thick skin. A writer who thinks they won’t be criticized is like a boxer who thinks he won’t get hit. Like Rocky, you just have to get up.
5. What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? I think the explosion in independent publishing has been a transformative populist literary revolution, knocking down traditional barriers and giving voices to writers and opportunities to indie publishers, like my wonderful and supportive publisher BHC Press.
6. What great challenges did you have in writing your book? Building the world was fun, a society that has no ideological “isms” – other than the foundation of love and ethics -- post-WW3, post-democracy. But when you create a new world, you create rules which beget other rules which you must follow. For example, this America sustained 13 million deaths in the war as well as nearly four million children. The country must, quite simply, replenish the population, so contraceptives are illegal. One of my main characters gets pregnant and as I pondered dealing with that, I realized that abortion would also be illegal, as would laws governing how a single pregnant woman, with no partner, would be treated in a society where family was paramount.
7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours? If you love baseball and sci-fi like the works of Philip K. Dick, I think you’ll enjoy my novel. A Mound Over Hell is quite different from anything you’ve ever read, an unusual blend of science fiction, baseball and politics featuring memorable characters in a nightmarish, uniquely drawn dystopian world, with humor. As one advance critic said, it’s “disturbing and thought-provoking.” Plus it’s just the first book in the series, so buckle up.
A Mound Over Hell is Morgenstein’s fifth novel. His previous novels were Jesse’s Girl; Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman; Take Me Out to the Ballgame and The Man Who Wanted to Play Center Field for the New York Yankees. A playwright as well, Morgenstein wrote the book for the critically acclaimed off-Broadway rock musical The Anthem, as well as the sci-fi musical Mad Mel Saves the World. His stage dramas are A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx, Right on Target, Ponzi Man and Saving Stan.  For more info, please see: http://www.bhcpress.com/Books_Morgenstein_A_Mound_Over_Hell.html

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource."

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