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Q. Reading The Chosen is like reading one very long, beautiful and disturbing poem, the images are often so dark and so cruel. The world you have created must be incredibly vivid in your mind in order for you to describe it in such macabre detail. Is your perception of the world we live in as dark as the world you have created in your books?
RP: How could it not be? I remember writing a particularly harrowing part of the book during the Rwandan massacre. The Stone Dance, of which The Chosen is the first third, is a book of its time, reflecting aspects of the world as I see it...
Q. You also are able to portray great love and devotion even among the ruins of this world. Is there a message here for your reader?
RP: In the darkest times, love can be all that people have left. Paradoxically, it is then that people are most deeply human. In the West we have forgotten this because our experience of war has either been in the past or at least, until recently, has seemed so remote, so far away.
Q. The protagonist, Carnelian, is very human in both his strengths and his weaknesses, unlike some of the other characters he must interact with. Do you consider him to be a hero in the classical sense of the word?
RP: If he is a hero, he is a reluctant one. Like any one of us, he has only his simple, flawed humanity to set against the monstrous realities of his world. I hope to have made him human enough that, through him, my readers will be able to experience deeply the wonder and horror of the story...
Q. Do you believe in heroes?
RP: Yes, but I do not believe they have to be extraordinary, free from doubt; that they have to win all the time. Compassion can be as powerful as a sword.
Q. Do you have a personal standard of right and wrong that you expect Carnelian to adhere to? Obviously, compassion is one quality he is endowed with. What are some of the others that are important to you?
RP: Carnelian is everyman. His is the morality which I believe is in every human heart.
Q. Many of the participants of the discussion groups here are authors and aspiring authors. Thus, many of them are interested in the process of writing as well as the process that begins after the manuscript is completed. Do you have a literary agent? If so, was it difficult for you to find one to represent you and guide you through what many consider to be the morass of queries and submissions and rejections? Was it difficult to find a publisher after you finished your first book?
How long did it take? Did you begin the next book before you had made arrangements for the first one to be published?
RP: I have been unsually lucky. I have not had to suffer any rejections. I found my agent, Victoria Hobbs and she helped me work up a few chapters - perhaps 100 pages - for submission to some publishers. One of these took on my first book. It was only finished two years after we signed the contracts...
Q. Do you still have the same agent? Has she guided you in your career as a writer?
RP: Yes. When Victoria chose to take me on, she was as much at the beginning of her career as was I. We have grown together. She is now as much a friend as my agent.