Our Reading Glasses author interview series continues with Richard Voza, author of “Mrs. Rabinski,” the story of an old lady given a terminal diagnosis who spends her final days plotting revenge that goes perfectly to plan–until the last possible minute.
Marie Gilbert: Hi Richard, it’s a pleasure to interview you. I have lots of questions. First tell us a bit about yourself and how and what got you into writing.
Richard Voza: Ever since college, I have always had something that I could consider a “work in progress.” During college I wrote a screenplay, my first real piece of work, and I sent that to a film agent. Good news: he loved it. Bad news: he told me to keep my eye out for a movie coming out soon called Pretty Woman. The only difference between my story and that film was that my main character was a rock star instead of a Wall Street type of guy. About 20 years ago, during my early years teaching, I wrote a story about a boy caught in the middle of the Civil War. Since then, my writing and attitude have grown up.
While teaching for 25 years, I wasn’t taking my writing very seriously. I was always working on something, but I would just stop after a second or third draft and then do almost nothing with it. After 15 years of teaching, I realized that I needed to get more serious about it. I then wrote three novels in about five years. During the past three years – after completely stepping away from education – I’ve been more focused than ever and now have a right to call myself “published.”
MG: You have four books under your belt so far, which one is your favorite? I know this is a tough question, but there has to be one that you favor more than the rest.
RV: you’re right, this is a tough question. However, if a choice must be made, I’ll have to go with an older book, Room 317. It’s about a man who has had so many things go wrong in his life that he’s contemplating suicide. Before doing so, he wants to see the Pacific Ocean. On his way there, he stumbles into a situation in which he simultaneously witnesses an “organized” crime while also endangering the lives of a single mom and her child. He knows he could easily protect himself and walk away, but instead he is willing to potentially sacrifice himself to protect them. His personal circumstances make him a candidate to jump off a building or blow himself up in a crowded movie theater, but instead he manages to attempt something positive.
MG: What was your inspiration for Mrs. Rabinski? Is she based on anyone that you know?
RV: Don’t tell anyone, but Mrs. Rabinski is based very closely on someone I know. Although that person has not exactly done the things that Mrs. Rabinski does, her own life conditions are similar. This is how most, possibly all of my writing is generated. I look at real-life situation, and I simply think, “How could this become interesting?” While accompanying someone on a similar doctor visit that Mrs. Rabinski attends, I twisted it into something else. To the best of my recollection, that’s the same process for everything I have ever written.
MG: What are you working on now?
RV: My current work-in-progress is tentatively titled Time. Yeah, that’s a bad title, but it’s short and easy to type until I change it. I have always loved and wanted to write a time travel story, but the problem for me was that I couldn’t write one until I had what I considered an “acceptable” time travel device or theory. The nuclear DeLorean hitting 88 mph was already taken, and other devices in books I’ve read were just dumb to me. I was watching a science television show a few months ago about parallel universes when I finally found my idea/device, and it’s connected to déjà vu. The story involves a character much like in Room 317, but this time the man with nothing much to live for volunteers for an experiment that might send him back in time where he potentially can correct all of his mistakes, or he might die. Or both.
MG: It’s always nice when we get to see you at the South Jersey Writers’ Group. What drew you to our group and why would you recommend someone joining a writers’ group.
RV: I found the group after complaining to a friend about a bad writers’ group I had joined. She showed me the Meetup.com website, and a quick search resulted in the SJWG. The best part of this and hopefully any writers’ group is the camaraderie and encouragement to move forward with your work. At my first meeting, I heard members talking sadly about their rejection letters. I interrupted and said, “Hey. Don’t feel down about that. A rejection means you’re trying. I have no rejections to talk about at the moment, but that means that I haven’t been trying hard enough.” Now, about a year later, I have a novel titled “Connecting Flight” that will be released in a few months by Start Publishing, a small press in New York.
MG: You do movie reviews. What type of movies do you like to watch?
RV: I mostly enjoy movies about “real” people. What I mean is I don’t like movies about wealthy people who have the ability to hop on a private jet and zip to wherever and buy whatever. Most of us like those movies because they involve an escape to a fun and exciting lifestyle – but it’s nothing I can relate to. I prefer movies that could be stories about people I actually know with problems that must be solved by real people who don’t have extreme weapons or government connections.
MG: Did you ever write a bad review of a movie that everyone else liked?
RV: Oh dear yes. I have had the most trouble with my review of 2001: A Space Odyssey. To me, it was 80% all about the technology without much of a story. It had the potential for a fabulous story, but it left that undeveloped. It also had one of the most indecipherable endings ever. I’ve been told that if I read the book, then I’ll completely understand the ending. To me, that’s unfair. A good movie needs to stand on its own without the book as a crutch. I have had email arguments with the late great Roger Ebert about this movie. We also argued about his love and my similar dislike of The Great Gatsby, another work that everyone loves – except me.
MG: Richard I want to thank you for this interview for our Reading Glasses fans. I loved your story, Mrs. Rabinski and I also have known people just like her. I’ll be looking forward to reading your upcoming book, Connecting Flight, and I’m sure after our followers read Mrs. Rabinski, they’ll want to read your novel, too.
Reading Glasses will be available September 24, 2014.
About the interviewer:
Marie Gilbert is a ghost-hunting, zombie-fighting, steampunk comic book superhero in disguise as a grandma from South Philadelphia. She blogs about television and film for Biff Bam Pop and Go Jane News, and served as co-editor of Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey. Her book Roof Oasis, first in a series of apocalyptic tales with a twist, is now available. You can read more about her adventures at her not-so-top-secret online HQ, Gilbert Curiosities.