Hit and Run: An Interview with Australian author Dr. Bob Rich

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Congratulations to Joan Edwards. She won a copy of Spivey's Christmas Web for commenting on my last blog. 

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But the greatest of these is LOVE! 

That's all I could think of as I neared the end of reading Hit and Run by Dr. Bob Rich. 

 In Hit and Run, the underlying themes of compassion, forgiveness and especially love propel the characters forward following a tragic murder where multiple children lose their lives. Led by 84-year old, Sylvia Kryz, a near victim herself, parents of the children who perished are challenged to set aside their grief and anger against the young perpetrator and help him become a reformed member of society.

The emotional side of this story will stay with you and force you to contemplate how you would react given the same set of circumstances.

Dr. Bob Rich has masterfully woven believable characters into a tale that models for us all the power of love and that's why I was compelled to know more about the author. His responses to my questions do not disappoint.   

 1. Where did the idea for Hit and Run come from? Your comment at the end made me think you might have a personal connection to the story.

I read an inspirational story in the newspaper. A man’s daughter was raped and killed. After the criminal was convicted to 30 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 15 years, he was so outraged he started a petition to have the death penalty reintroduced in Australia. His campaign was effective enough to get tens of thousands of signatures, although this was before the internet had taken off.

One day, he visited the criminal in jail, basically to gloat and rub it in. To his surprise, the person he met wasn’t a monster, but a damaged, hurting man whose only wish was to die. At first curiosity, then compassion, then even friendship replaced the bitterness and hate. He publicly retracted his campaign, trained as a social worker, and the newspaper article reported his first job in that jail, working to rehabilitate criminals.

There is no such thing as coincidence. A few days later, a blind old man was referred to me under a victims of crime scheme. A bunch of teenagers had bashed him up, and even hurt his old seeing-eye dog.

You can’t guide someone out of his hole by jumping in and joining him. In order to work with this poor man, I needed to get rid of my outrage. A standard psychological technique for that is “displacement.” I invented a far worse crime by a teenager: 14-year-old Chuck driving over 6 little kids and the crossing guard. I thought this would be a short story of just retribution, so I could focus my emotion there and maintain “professional distance” with my client.

I needed a witness within the story, so added an old lady he’d barely missed. That was Sylvia. Only,

once she came alive in my computer, she dictated the contents, and I was merely her scribe. The entire book is her record of the remarkable 9 months of contact between her and the young killer.

2. What was the most difficult part of the story to write?

Sandra, one of my personal clichés is, writing is the chocolate icing on the cake of life. When I write, I can get stuck, then simply allow the story to cook in some 7th dimension and come to me when it is ready. There were periods like that, but such things are just normal writing.  

S: I love your cliché! 

   WRITING IS THE CHOCOLATE ICING ON THE CAKE OF LIFE! 

2.  Con't: 

Hit and Run reports on several court hearings, and I needed to research these. Advice from three lawyers was very helpful. Having to correct the details could perhaps be called a difficulty. (Isn’t English a fun language? Do difficulties come when you call them?)

I also needed to change the names of a few important secondary characters. There is a 12-year-old girl who is in a foster home because her mother is dying of cancer. When she came to me, her name was Petra. But later, Sylvia told me that her abusive father was actively searching for her, and a relatively unusual name would be easier to trace. So, she became Jenny. It took me quite a while to get used to the new name. My characters didn’t mind, because electronic people are fortunate to have a delete button. Don’t you wish us humans did too?

S: I know what you mean about changing a character's name. Midway through my last novel I did that and it was extremely difficult to picture that same character in the same way with the new name. I never would have believed it had I not been a writer. 

3. You could not have written such a story without exhibiting some of Sylvia Kryz’s characteristics yourself. Did life experiences shape compassion and forgiveness on your part or were you born with it?

Oh no. As a young fellow, I was a passionate bully-basher. All my fights as a teenager were when protecting someone from victimization, but my reaction was violence rather than compassion. In my final year in high school, one of the other kids punched a teacher — an overweight man in his 60s, waiting to retire. I converted the boy’s face to hamburger and broke a few of his bones before others restrained me, and this taught me the lesson that two-way violence is twice as bad as violence one way.

This is one of the stories in my novel, Ascending Spiral, which is my fictionalized autobiography. I’ve

changed details for two reasons: first, it protects the guilty so I am less likely to be sued; second, my hero, Pip, faces the same life events I did, but handles them in the way I wish I had. That’s a standard therapeutic technique I describe in From Depression to Contentment: A self-therapy guide.

In the early days of my counseling practice, I could only work with a repentant bully. But then, as you suggested, I grew, and like that man who became a mentor for his daughter’s murderer, I realized that evil is what people do, not what people are. My task is to point to the path to a good life, and invite the other person to walk along it. Then it’s their choice whether they do or not. The outcome is not in my hands, but I can and should do the best I can.

Here is another of my personal clichés: all sentient beings are apprentice Buddhas, apprentice Jesuses. We are here to grow spiritually. Every human and other animal on this planet, perhaps even every complex plant, is on a rung along a very long ladder to enlightenment. We are all caterpillars feeding on the green leaves of experience, until we graduate into butterflies. A graduate is someone who intuitively, automatically, without effort, reacts to every other living being with the unconditional Love St. Paul describes in Corinthians 13. However, this is not a specifically Christian message. Have a look at http://bobswriting.com/bill/metta.html to see what I mean.

 4.  If it was innate, did it cause you problems growing up among children who tend to be egocentric?

Hmm. You just have to read Ascending Spiral.

I have two answers to that.

First, I was the shoulder to cry on. When a kid’s parents fought, he came to me for consolation. I didn’t tell him he was lucky to have parents — mine were on the other side of the planet, and I lived isolated in a migrant hostel. When a kid had girlfriend trouble, he unburdened himself to me. I didn’t tell him I’d never had a girlfriend, and was sure I never would. My problem was too much empathy. Often, I worried more about other people’s problems than they did themselves. That’s why I couldn’t be a therapist until training as a nurse toughened me up. (“It’s not your pain. You are not there to share it but to relieve it.”)

Second, perhaps paradoxically, I was (and am) a loner. I don’t know how to chat, prefer solitude and quiet to crowds, noise and parties, and am much less fun in real life than with my writing. Oh, I have the skills to get up on a stage and inspire an audience, or make them laugh, or teach them, but that’s a learned skill; a sort of a second skin I put on. For some lucky people, conversation is lubrication. They can amusingly talk with anyone about anything (or nothing). For people like me, conversation is information. When I have something to say, I can say it well, but... But tell me to “Go and sit there next to Sandra, and have a chat with her,” I’ll sit there like a dummy, unless you ask me questions to unplug my information reservoir.

5.  You tend to wear many hats which reflect your desire to impact the world with positivity and love. If you could only wear one of those hats, which would it be?

I am trying to visualize this. Are those hats each on a separate head? In that case, I can eat LOTS of chocolate, with all those mouths! Or are the hats on top of each other? I’d better be careful, walking through a door.

Actually, I only have one role in life. Everything else I do is subsidiary to it. This is being a Professional Grandfather. Anyone born after 1992 qualifies as my grandchild; anyone after 1967 as my child. They merely need to apply. Trivia like nationality, skin color or religion don’t matter. Many hundreds have applied, and been adopted with love.

The job specification is that everything I do is working for a survivable future, and one worth surviving in. Both are equally important.

A survivable future means environmental action. We are in the 6th extinction event of earth, and when we unravel the web of life, we also fall through the hole. One worth surviving in means a society of decency, cooperation, compassion instead of the global culture we now have, which is ruled by greed and conflict.

 6.  When all is said and done, what do you want folks to remember about you? 

 I am not that fussed about what other people think of me. It’s more like, “I am going this way. It’s a good path, come with me. If you do, welcome, if not, have a good life.”

The only place to live in is THIS MOMENT. There is nothing else. If this moment I am in nirvana, then I am in nirvana. If this moment I am of benefit, then I am of benefit. So, I need to remember this, and shape this moment to be that of an apprentice Buddha.

If you go to my blog, Bobbing Around https://bobrich18.wordpress.com you will find a lot more along lines that will enable you to improve your life, regardless of your circumstances. The most important thing is to read my essay, “How to Change the World,” but there are many other goodies as well.

Among my stories, you’ll find two relevant to your questions: “Forgiveness,” and “Jarro.”

And there is a list of my published books too.

I’d like to mention Sleeper, Awake. I wrote this last century, and it won an international award in 2001.

It’s just been reissued by a new publisher, and the passage of 20 years has not reduced its value to entertain, to surprise, and when you’re not looking, to educate.  Currently I am offering a free PDF copy to every follower of Bobbing Around, and every subscriber to my monthly newsletter. So, your visitors need only do one of those two things, and they have earned a free copy of a page-turner. Well, there is a payment requested: please write review.

S: Let me repeat in case you missed what you just read.

Dr. Bob is offering a FREE PDF download of his award winning novel Sleeper,Awake for the price of a REVIEW! 

No contest! No random.org! Just sign up for his blog, https://bobrich18.wordpress.com, request the PDF and share your thoughts in a review. It couldn't be easier than that. 

Thank you! Thank you Dr. Bob Rich for your candid and insightful responses to my questions. Learning the backstory to Hit and Run enhances its message and meaning and has increased my respect for you as a human being, a writer, a teacher and friend. I look forward to reading Sleeper, Awake and The Ascending Spiral.  

Good stories move you. Great stories stay with you and won't let you alone. Hit and Run will remain with you long after you close the back cover. 

*          *          *          *

YOU WIN whether you leave a comment or not! I'd still love a comment or two. 

Contact Sandra Warren                                                                                                                arliebooks@gmail.com or sandra@arliebooks.com                                                                                      https://www.arliebooks.com or http://www.sandrawarren.com 






 

8 comments:

Debbie Allmand said...

WOW, well it's obvious I shouldn't have read this right before settling down for the night. My curiosity is peaked. What a plot he has developed from an article he read. WOW, just WOW! Looking forward to reading this novel. Thanks for the blog post!

Bob Rich said...

Thank you, Debbie. You sound like a future friend, as Sandra has become after I reviewed one of her books.

Bob Rich said...

Sandra, I absolutely refuse to leave my comment. I am taking it with me! As I said, English is a fun language.
Thank you for fogging up my glasses. But you know, I am a grumpy, boring old man only I am good at pretending.
:)
Bob

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Sandra and Bob,
What a delightful interview! I enjoyed learning the backstory of Hit and Run!
I enjoy reading what both of you write. You both engage the readers in such a way that they are pulled into your stories and share the emotional roller coaster with your characters.

I am thankful that I won a copy of Spivey's Christmas Web and also Obsessed by a Promise. I am a lucky lady.

I am lucky I know both of you.
Enjoy your day.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Sandra Warren said...

Thank you for your comment, Joan. You are fortunate to also know Dr. Bob. If you haven't read Hit and Run, you MUST!

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Sandra,
Yes. I am lucky that I know both you and Dr. Bob. I have read Hit and Run. It is a story that most everyone finds something in it that resonates with them.

Enjoy your writing and reading.
You are important to our world.
Never Give Up
Joan

J.Q. Rose said...

My introduction to Bob was through reading Hit and Run. So glad he is on this planet. We need more Dr. Bob's. Great interview.

Bob Rich said...

Thank you Janet. But you ladies must stop fogging up my glasses. Keep this up, and you might fool me into thinking I am a good bloke.
:)
Bob

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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