This has been one of my fave interviews for several reasons – the most important being that I’ve had the pleasure to read M.J. Rose’s latest novel – THE REINCARNATIONIST – and it is, by far, my most favorite novel of 2007 thus far. I doubt anyone could top it, actually. I strongly urge everyone to pre-order this novel and take some time to delve into every nook and cranny of the book when it arrives. I will post my review for the novel soon; however, for now, check out the interview with Ms. Rose ~~ a link to PRE-ORDER can be found within the interview (with the book cover image).
If you could only pick five words to describe your latest novel, THE REINCARNATIONIST, what would those words be?
The book of my heart. (I didn’t even have to count. That’s how I’ve been describing the book for a long time now and it turns out to be five words.)
As I read THE REINCARNATIONIST, I couldn’t help wonder about the amount of research needed to develop such a novel. How long did you conduct research for this novel?
Literally for years in various ways. I’ve been studying the subject for most of my adult life. I’ve read at least 60 books on the subject, have interviewed dozens of people and spent six months visiting a past life regressionist.Specifically I have 1200 pages of notes for THE REINCARNATIONIST and 1534 page of notes for the next book in the series.
So this is a series? I’m so excited by that. When I finished reading the novel, I was so overwhelmed, I cried and wanted to keep reading about these ideas…these characters. Will these characters be seen in the next novel?
The characters won’t continue but the ideas will… In THE REINCARNATIONIST there is mention of a dozen memory tools that were once created over 4000 years ago to help people remember their past lives.In each book in the series one of those tools surfaces. Who finds it, who wants it, how the people involved touch each other’s lives, how the past intrudes on the present… it’s a different kind of series… stand alone novels all on a theme. I’m very excited and nervous at the same time. I’m pushing an envelope I’m not sure I’m up to it.
What were three of the most amazing, interesting things you learned about reincarnation through your research?
1. The story of Dr. Ian Stevenson, s doctor who spent his life working with children… over 3000 of them… documenting their past lives.
2. The correlation between birthmarks in this life and scars from past lives. There are many people who have marks on their bodies now that when researched prove to be the site of the bullet or knife wound that killed that person in a past life.
3. The sheer number of people who believe in reincarnation. I though I’d picked a odd quirky subject… but more than 26 million people in the US alone believe in the subject.
Why this novel? Having been a fan of your works for years, I couldn’t help but feel that this was a different novel for you – a novel that you almost HAD to write. What drove you to writing THE REINCARNATIONIST?
You’re absolutely right. I did feel I had to write it.I’ve been toying with the idea of writing about this subject since I first started writing but I’ve always been wary of the negative attention, of having the “woo-woo” label affixed to me.But despite that, every year on the anniversary of my mom’s death (she died in 1997) the idea of writing about reincarnation would pester me again for a while but still I stayed away from it. Then a few years ago on the anniversary of her death my niece daid some very provocative things to me about my mother – things she really couldn’t have known – and the pestering became an obsession. A few weeks later I presented the idea for this book to my editor, Margaret Marbury, she loved the concept and helped me shape the book. It wouldn’t be what it is without her involvement.
The main character, Josh Ryder, is a photojournalist; how does his occupation play a role in the novel?
Josh is a realist. He’s spent his life shooting black and white film and documenting what exists in the here and now and then he comes face to face with a world that is anything but definable. As someone whose job it is to ferret out the truth the reader trusts him, knows he’s not being fooled by tricks of light or mirrors or smoke, his job helps the book that way.
At the end of the day, what’s one thing you’d like readers to get from reading THE REINCARNATIONIST?
That it was time well spent.
I read that THE REINCARNATIONIST is in development as a major motion picture with The Pitt Group. And before the publication of the novel no less. CONGRATS. How excited are you about this? Do you think you’ll have a hand in the movie process of your novel?
I’ve been around too long to get excited till I see the first ad for the movie in the newspaper. I’ve had quite a few options and development deals but none have come to fruition. If this one does, you’ll have to peel me off the wall. And no, I don’t imagine I’ll have much of a hand in the movie. I cringe at having to cut down the story to turn it into a two-hour film.
All of your novels have a psychological thriller aspect to them. Why do you think you develop your works around this aspect?
I think I write what I made me fall in love with reading, books that have psychological suspense aspects to them: The Secret Garden, Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, Portrait of Jenny.
You’re a pretty prolific writer: do you have a standard process to your writing? Are you an outliner or a jump-right-in writer?
I used to be prolific. THE REINCARNATIONIST took three times longer than anything I’ve ever written before and the next book in the series is taking that long too. And I do have a process. I start with a “ What If “ and then I develop a theme. Then I start doing research and pretty much at the same time start a scrapbook for the main character or characters.
I usually spend months documenting as much of his or her life as I can. Collecting piece of a life, building a character. I call it “procrastinating your way into writing a novel”. When the scrapbook is finished I write down a storyline. About ten to twenty scenes. Then I throw them all away and start writing.
What is your favorite thing about THE REINCARNATIONIST?
That I cry when I read it.
Though now it’s hard to believe, there was a moment when publishing houses had no idea how to market you and your works. You originally self-published your first novel, LIP SERVICE. How was the self-publishing journey for you?
It was an amazing experience because I somehow wound up being in the right place at the right time… I never expected to be a pioneer, only meant to go online and test some theories I had… it turned out to be so much bigger than that.
Years ago, self-publishing had a huge negative stigma to it. Do you think things have changed for those who wish to self-publish their works and the works of others?
Yes, to a large degree. There are dozens of novels every year that start out self –published and get picked up and go on to do incredibly well. The NYT bestsellers Vince Flynn, Christopher Paolini, Zane… The list goes on and on. It’s very tough to do, though. And I don’t recommend it. But it definitely has lost some of the stigma it had when I did it in 1998.
How do you spend your time when you’re not writing or promoting your writing?
I have a marketing business for authors – Authorbuzz.com that takes a lot of time. I’m on the board and one of the founding members of ITW (International Thriller Writers –thrillerwriters.org
).I try to go swimming four or five times a week and take a lot of long walks with my dog. I love to read, watch movies, spend too much time on the internt doing who knows what, running my blog. I also love to travel and visit art galleries and museums. And when I’m feeling brave I paint. (I’m extremely bad at it but I love it.)
What three adjectives best describe you?
Determined, stubborn and dogged.
What inspires you to write?
Nothing very noble I’m afraid. I write to give myself something to do other than worry. If I don’t have a story going on in my head to focus on I obsess about things there are nothing I can do about: the health of everyone I love. I had a difficult time when I was a kid and making up stories saved me. They save me still. Every day.
It is said that great writers are also well-read: what authors are on your MUST READ list?
It’s such a long long list. And everyone asks this and every time I give different answers which must look like I don’t remember but rather is than I’m trying to give everyone a shot. I read a lot of suspense: Carol O’Connell, Robert Goddard, Ruth Rendell, Daphne DuMauier, Wilke Collins, Jeff Deaver, Doug Preston & Lincoln Child, David Hewson, Lee Child, Steve Berry, Doug Clegg, Laura Lippman, Barry Eisler, Michael Connolly… then non suspense: Lisa Tucker, Sally Vickers, Paul Auster, Tracy Chevalier, Sophie Kinsella (She’s the only writer who makes me laugh out loud). And at least 40 others I know I’m leaving out. Seriously, I have piles and piles of books waiting.
Word Association. What comes to mind when you see the following words:
M.J. ROSE: Lip Service (I took the name M.J.Rose when my first novel, Lip Service was published so they are indelibly tied together.)
SELF-PUBLISHING: The Past
As a published author, what advice might you offer to writers hoping to get published?
Read. I know it’s a cliché but it’s frightening how many people I meet who want to be writers who don’t read. And also know this is one tough gig – I also meet so many writers who are annoyed this whole process isn’t easier.
What are you currently working on?
The next book in THE REINCARNATIONIST series: THE MEMORIST
Want to know more about M.J. Rose? Then, check her out at these locations: