Autodidact: self-taught


An Interview with Gary Glass

by V. L. Craven
Gary Glass

Gary Glass author of The Nirvana Plague


Last Friday I reviewed the excellent Nirvana Plague by Gary Glass and I’ve recently had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his novel.

The novel takes place in 2027 and technology has progressed, as it does. How did you decide which way technology would go? For example, one character’s phone looks like a pen, whereas right now, the trend is for phones to be able to do to more and more, etc. Did you do any research or read any futurists?

Mostly I just imagined how I’d like things to go. For example, I’m sick of tapping with my fingers, but if part of my phone was shaped like a stylus then I could use it to write on a screen or a projected surface. Or again, sharing screens or information between systems: it ought to be easy, so I decided it would be.

Setting is really important–how did you settle on Chicago rather than, say, Boston or New York (or other East Coast cities, which was important to the plot)?

It was pretty cold-blooded actually. I wanted a big city that I was fairly familiar with. I grew up in Terre Haute, Indiana, and I’d been to Chicago many times. At the time I wrote the book I was living in northern Virginia but I couldn’t use DC because I wanted DC to be the place the protagonist goes away to because that’s where the NIH is. So, Chicago.

The book is psychiatry and psychology-heavy. I’m not a professional, but I’ve read a goodly amount about psychology/iatry, and a lot of it read believably. Do you have a background in those fields and if not, what sort of research did you do?

My wife has a masters in psychology, and it’s a field I’ve always been interested in. We’re the sort of people who own a copy of the DSM-IV! Also, many years ago I trained and worked as an RN, and did a psych rotation, which was one of my favorites. And, of course, I have had a life-long interest in spirituality and consciousness transformation.

The one thing that I felt I elided over for the purposes of plot is that psychological illness is very real and commonly has structural or chemical etiology, particularly when we’re talking about schizophrenia and psychosis. It’s not the sort of thing you can just get over with a change of heart, however profound. On the other hand, I wanted to talk about something that concerns me: the social and cultural aspects of mental illness. As Theodore Roszak said, it isn’t healthy to be well-adjusted to a sick-making society. To dramatize the latter point, I didn’t do justice to the former.

I liked the way you demonstrated that by showing the society that saw the ‘sick’ people as being angels. As being more enlightened. In our society we do tend to dismiss those who talk about oneness as being hippies or naive, but in other cultures it’s the height of awareness. What planted the seed of making Enlightenment a sort of, well, plague?

It has been said the most radical thing you can do in our culture is embrace joy. Political power feeds on fear. Suppose they gave a war and no one came? There’s a scene in Lost Horizon where Conway, who is about to become the new British Foreign Secretary, says he plans to disband the army: “Then when the enemy approaches we’ll say, ‘Come in, gentlemen – what can we do for you?’ So then the poor enemy soldiers will stop and think … to themselves – ‘Something’s wrong here. We’ve been duped. This is not according to form. These people seem to be quite friendly, and why should we shoot them?’” – If people were to embrace peace, love, and understanding as a regular way of life, wouldn’t it just knock the old world order on its ass? Wouldn’t it hit them like a plague? – You say want a revolution? You better change your mind instead!

Another thing you seem to have a great deal of understanding of (from a civilian point of view, at least) were the operations of the military and government operations in war zones and under a bio-threat. Do you have military experience? What percentage was research versus writer’s license?

I don’t really know anything about the military aside from what I see in the movies. Also an online acquaintance from Readerville and BookBalloon ( David Abrams , author of Fobbit) was kind enough to answer some technical questions for me (so I named a hospital in his honor). The rest was Google and imagination. Oh, and a Marine Corps field manual I picked up in a yard sale somewhere!

Your cover art is spectacular for a self-published book–or for any book, really–who did it and how did you find them?

Another online friend from Readerville and BookBalloon is a notorious graphic artist, so I approached him about doing a cover. He couldn’t take it on but he recommended another friend of his, the talented Mr. Jeremy Lehman , who put up with my endless niggling and dithering over the art. Jeremy has done two covers for me now, and they’ve both been completely unlike anything I had imagined, and they’ve both been terrific.

And finally–Do you have anything else in the works?

I’m currently working on a private detective tale, set in contemporary Boston, that takes a turn toward the surreal. Our hero, Christian McBride, is drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse between two apparently identical twins. I’m calling it “The Brothers Brown and Gray.”

Thank you so much for your time–I look forward to The Brothers Brown and Gray!

Thanks for reading it and telling your readers about it!

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