Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I’m pleased to introduce, Bob Rector, whose book Unthinkable Consequences is a fast-paced thriller with lots of sensual romance. I’ll be reviewing the book on Book Review Friday so I won’t say much more than the book was a wonderful surprise.
Welcome, Bob. It’s pleasure to interview you today. Let’s start with my favorite question for my favorite authors. When were you first able to call yourself a “writer” or “author?”
From the first day I started working in TV in March of 1970. I was hired to write, direct, shoot and edit music film shorts (they weren’t called videos back then) for pop artists of the time – a one-man band. I had to deliver a finished 2-12/ to 3-1/2 minute film every day so I learned how to formulate plots and characters fast. Usually the scripts were hand written on notebook paper. I made approximately 100 films for the shows “Now Explosion,” and “Music Connection,” and learned more about storytelling during that time than if I’d taken a college writing course.
You learn quickly on that type of deadline. I know I did as a reporter, and it wasn’t nearly as demanding as writing shows. Do you have a particular theme in your writing?
If I gave thought to messages or themes before I started writing, I’d never get anything written. Most of my writing has been assignment based, but when it’s not, it comes from a story on the news, or an incident I personally witnessed, or a comment somebody made. It plants a seed in my imagination and I’m off and running. As the work develops, messages and themes occur naturally.
Who has most influenced your writing ?
In my genre, Raymond Chandler and his disciple John D. MacDonald. Their dialogue sparkled, their writing style was clean and sparse, and their characters not only had muscles and beauty, but heart too. You could also throw in Erle Stanley Garner.
Do all your books have a common theme or thread?
I guess the most common theme in my work is redemption. Stories are usually about conflict and that usually arises from people not being very nice to each other. At a certain point in the story, they have to become aware of that then seek, and hopefully achieve, redemption. It makes us root for them. If they don’t make an attempt, they’re pretty shallow characters.
That’s always a favorite of mine. Do you have a favorite character that you created?
Paula, the main character in Unthinkable Consequences, is my favorite. I didn’t know If I could immerse myself into a female character to the extent required. This is not meant to be derogatory in any way. To state the obvious, men and women think and act differently. I wanted Paula to be completely believable, especially to female readers. It was scary, but also fun, getting into her head. Luckily I had many close gal friends, my wife first and foremost, who were willing to drop the veil and help me keep Paula honest in her femaleness.
I’m sure she was fun to create. You did a remarkable job of portraying this trapped canary in the world of the 1950s of Palm Beach. Now that I’ve mentioned Florida, how does setting play a role in your books?
Having worked in visual mediums most of my life, setting, or location, is extremely important to me. Unthinkable Consequences takes place in South Florida in the late 1950s, and it literally could not have taken place anywhere else. I know, I tried. I think setting should visually (even if it’s in the mind) reflect, and often amplify, the action, mood, and passions of the story. I needed a place that was still somewhat wild and primitive, hot and sultry. The Keys provided that.
Yes, I agree. What kinds of techniques do you like to use in your writing?
I’m big on pacing and narrative thrust, probably because of my years working in film. And I work hard not to let the reader get ahead of me. In TV, we were always aware of the viewer sitting there with the remote in his/her hand. Lose their interest and their off to another channel. I never forgot that and I think writers should keep it in mind too. Imagine that your reader has a remote in their hand.
What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?
When Claude Nougat reviewed my book, she said, “He has produced a thriller-romance that is not merely an unusual love story but a deep excursion into the psyche of one very tormented woman – something of an exploit for a male writer. The only other writer who manages to portray a woman’s anxieties as brilliantly (that I know of) is Flaubert. But what Bob Rector has done, is give us a thoroughly modern version of Madame Bovary. His Paula is a fascinating character – and equally explosive.”
Wow – I can see why that would bring some cheer to the writer’s heart. How did you choose the title and has it been the title from the beginning?
No. The only project I’ve ever worked on that the title never changed is my play “Letters From The Front” – and if I could change it, I would, but it’s been out there too long. Before my book became Unthinkable Consequences, it was “Pathetique,” “Wages of Love,” “Into the Fire,” and “The Woman Who Did Just As She Pleased.” As the manuscript developed, none of these seemed exactly right. It was my wife, Marsha Roberts, who came up with Unthinkable Consequences, and I knew itwas right the minute she said it.
It’s a great title and very appropriate. How long do you estimate it took you to take the book from an idea to a finished, published?
About twenty years. Seriously. It started as a film project but it was during a very busy time in our lives. We were building a business and raising a family, so the project kept getting shoved onto the back burner. Plus finding the money to produce it was out of our reach. At a certain point I decided to convert it into a novel and finally about 8 months ago I found time to attack it full time.
I think only another writer can understand how a book can be in the musing and fuming stage for years. I’m glad you found the time to get this one down on paper. Is the book traditionally or self-published?
It’s self published. If that option wasn’t available, I probably wouldn’t have spent the time completing it. Having been in the entertainment business all my life, I know all about ‘gate keepers.’ My wife had self published Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer a little earlier and had significant success.
Two writers in one family? That’s quite an accomplishment. What is the message conveyed in your book?
Be careful what you wish for.
What is the best thing someone could say about this book?
That they thoroughly enjoyed reading it and loved the characters. That’s the equivalent of a ‘standing-o’ in theater.
Let’s go back twenty years. How was it conceived in your imagination?
It was an observation brought about by sexual awareness. I was twelve in 1959, the same year that Unthinkable Consequences takes place, living in hot, sultry Florida. I began to notice an undercurrent among women in the their late thirties, early forties, mostly mothers of my friends who were wives of successful businessmen, professionals, professors, etc. They had everything – nice homes, clothes, all the latest household gadgets, because it said their husbands were doing very well. But many of these women were restless and seemed (to me) to be pacing about like lionesses in gilded cages. There was a sexual tension to it that I was just starting to pick up on. But this was 1959, a very different America, especially for women. My imagination went to work and I wondered what would happen to one of these women if they made a break for it. It percolated in my mind for many years and finally started finding its way onto paper, as a script at first, than as a book.
You captured that time and feeling and setting very well. What other type of research did you do in the writing of this book?
Extensive. I packed up the family and drove down to Palm Beach and Key Largo. I took tons of photos, visited with Chambers of Commerce and Visitor Centers, scouted locations even to determining where Paula would shop for groceries, and just talked to locals, trying to pick up their colloquialisms. And of course, I spent hundreds of hours in libraries and doing internet searches. I wanted every detail to be right. To me, that’s what brings a story to life.
Who or what is the antagonist in your book?
A thug named Red, a former fighting partner of the lead male character, Kurt. Bad guys are the most fun to write because you can pull out all the stops.
Yes, they are. Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.
Paula, the main character, has a major confrontation with her son Billie who has just started college and is spoiled and self centered as only a teenager can be. Paula goes into the meeting with high hopes of reestablishing a bond with her son, but it quickly falls apart, leaving her devastated. What Paula does to redeem herself with him is so sacrificial that readers can only yell, “No! No! Don’t do it.”
I agree. In some ways, I hated that scene because I surmised what he might do, and I just wanted her to drive away (in her own car!). What else do you want readers to know about your book?
That it’s for you, not me. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Then I thank you. You accomplished your goal. Do you listen to music while you’re writing?
I’ve never been able to listen to music and write. Too distracting.
Where do you write?
As long as I have access to a keyboard attached to a computer, I don’t much care where I write. Marsha and I spent many decades on the road so I learned to crank out scripts wherever we were. When battery operated laptop computers arrived, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Now I could even write in the car during those long, five or six hundred mile days.
How does your immediate family feel about your writing life?
They’re very supportive. It’s all they’ve ever known me to do.
What do you do during your down time?
I don’t have down time because I don’t work. I’ve never worked. I don’t understand the concept.
That’s good! I heard someone say it’s only work when you’d rather be doing something else. What book are you reading right now?
The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart – for perhaps the 4th or 5th time. It makes me aware of the magic that is always around us, if we just know how to get in touch with it.
I love that book, but haven’t read it in many years. Do you set your books in the place you live?
I did once, for a screenplay that was never produced, but it was more for expediency than anything else.
One last question, if a movie was made about your success as a writer, who would play you?
Well it would have to be George Clooney, wouldn’t it?
Certainly. I don’t know why I asked! It’s been delightful having you here today, Bob. I hope you’re working on something else these days.
About Bob Rector from Bob: My background is primarily in film, video, and stage work as writer and director. My play Letters From the Front entertained America’s troops around the world for fifteen years and is in the process of being revived.