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What is the sweetest thing someone has done for you?
Wherever I go in life, and no matter how old I get, my mother always sends me cookies.
How would you spend ten thousand bucks?
I would like to think that I’d give it away to charity, but I have too many debts to pay. It might be nice to pay all my bills and not have to worry about things like that for a while. What I didn’t spend, I could earmark for future bills. I’m sorry if that offends anyone, but I’m fairly guarded.
Where do you get your best ideas?
The deepest recesses of my unconscious mind. No matter who you are, your unconscious mind directs all. As far as words and phrases, I get many of those from other books. Dickens was a master of colloquialism. Of course Shakespeare was too, but his stuff is much too archaic. I don’t know why, but Rudyard Kipling is another great source for quirky words and catchphrases. No one compares with Dickens though. He invented his own words and expressions—sort of like the way Goethe and Heine were always constructing their very own German compound nouns.
What comes first, the plot or characters?
They come simultaneously along with setting and time frame and several other craft elements. Everything comes to me as the skeletal framework for a whole story arc. That’s just the way my unconscious mind operates, and that’s why I never suffer from writer’s block. The challenge is to make sense of the ideas and to structure them correctly.
What does your main character do that makes him/her special?
My work, Song of the Oceanides, is a triple narrative with three different point-of-view characters. The Earthlings are pretty much everyday tramps. Giacomo is a lovesick artist stumbling through life, and Rory is an unpopular misfit at school. The one point-of-view character who is very special is the Martian girl, Emmylou. Even though her lousy emotionally-unavailable aunt stranded her on Earth, the aunt did leave Emmylou a gazebo which hops about so as to help her elude the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s Extraterrestrial-Enigma Service. Most important of all, Emmylou is intelligent and fascinated by all things scientific. She is the opposite of a proverbial mean girl—the sort of female metaphorically represented by the Oceanides.
Blue Hill, Maine.
3 August, 1903.
From the moment Emmylou heard the song of the Oceanides, she recognized something godly in the tune. As it resounded all across the desolate shoreline of Blue Hill Bay, she recalled the terrible chorus mysticus ringing all throughout that extinct Martian volcano the day her father went missing down in the magma chamber.
Aunt Belphœbe followed along, guiding Maygene through the sands. “Why don’t you go play in that shipwreck over there?” Aunt Belphœbe pointed toward a fishing schooner run aground some fifty yards to the south.
When Maygene raced off, Emmylou refused to follow. By now the chorus of song tormented her so much that an ache had awoken all throughout her clubfoot. Before long she dropped her walking stick and fell to the earth. Closing her eyes, she dug both her hands into the sands and lost herself in memories of the volcano. How could Father be gone? Though he had often alluded to the perils of Martian vulcanology, she never imagined that someone so good and so wise could go missing.
The song of the Oceanides grew a little bit louder and increasingly dissonant.
Opening her eyes, Emmylou listened very closely. The song sounded like the stuff of incantation, witchcraft. And even though she could not comprehend every word, nevertheless she felt certain that the Oceanides meant to cast a spell upon some unfortunate soul.
The author returned to the piece while working for the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society, May-September, 2005. He completed the full draft in Ellsworth, Maine later that year.
For more information, please see http://jgzymbalist.com or https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14930590.JG_Zymbalist.
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