Interview with Ron Houston, author of Rogue Prophet
When Cincinnati resident, Ron Houston, first entertained the notion of writing he was a mixologist in one of the city’s most notable nightclubs. “There I was standing behind the bar. At a point when every customer had been served, I developed an observing eye, I saw what was really going on in the club and started to really hear the conversations. I thought, somebody ought to write a book about this stuff. After a few moments more, a light came on in my head and in realized, ‘Why don’t I write it?’ (oh, did I mention, I’m kinda slow?). I studied writing technique for three years then produced my first collection of short stories, Tales From the Satellite. In one month it became a local bestseller.”
Q. Your writing has a nice, modern conversational tone to it, and you say that you were inspired to write when listening to conversations you overheard as a local mixologist. What was the transition from deciding you wanted to write to producing your short story collection “Tales from the Satellite” like for you? Were the people around you encouraging? Did you have to overcome any resistance?
A. The transition was a wonderful time of discovery. As I studied the writing craft by day, I’d go to this wellspring of characters, situations and conversations at night. This went on for about two years and I must confess, I never told anyone about my writing intentions. I just listened and watched. I didn’t want any resistance and I wanted the flow of ideals to keep coming.
Q. You have worked with both the short story and the novel, not only with your latest novel “The Rogue Prophet” but in your previous work, “The Devastation of Mr. Drake.” What challenges did you find in working with the novel length format vs. the short story?
A. Definitely, the challenge was patience, or should I say, resisting the urge to rush the novel. I knew that I shouldn’t blow through the details of some sub-plots just to get to main plot-line payoffs, but it was difficult. So I decided that it was best for me to write main and sub-plots as individual short stories then craft my novel from that. In fact, “Tales from the Satellite” and “The Devastation of Mr. Drake” were both carved out of the same stone. It added time in the process but it helped me with detail consistency and pace.
Q. I was interested to learn that you became a local best seller. What was it like to market your work locally, and is there any advice you could offer to other writers on local vs. national focus when it comes to developing an audience?
A. I put the most focus on local marketing. Newspapers, radio and magazines are more accommodating to hometown talent. I also used grocery store bulletin boards. No outlet was too small. “Tales from the Satellite’s” themes were nightclub related, so I did book signings in various local nightclubs. Whenever I traveled I took books with me. Once I added E-publishing and Amazon to my arsenal, I began to get national and even international responses.
Q. The Rogue Prophet definitely has an eerie, supernatural feel to it while taking place in an urban setting, and it could fit into more than one genre. I’ve seen you categorize it as a religious thriller. What can you tell our readers about the genre and how it relates to horror (which is the focus of this blog)?
A. The vehicle of the “Prophet”, novel is religion, and it’s driven by rapid episodic suspense. There are at least five characters that the reader will truly connect with. It’s from the connection of these five characters that the horror comes. All conflict has horror rooted in it, just at varied intensity. The horror intensity in the conflicts of the main protagonist, Lawrence Garnier, three children and one other character is extreme. Remember, horror is sticky. It stays with you. It disturbs you. I love to disturb my readers.
Q. There is a bit in your novel “The Rogue Prophet” I especially like where your protagonist, Lawrence Garnier explains the imprecision of his psychic “gift” or as he deems it, “curse” by telling the Ezekiel Barnes that he didn’t know if his vision where he saw people in front of the television with their mouths dropped and shocked expressions was of 9/11 or Michael Jackson’s 30th anniversary performance until 9/11 actually happened. The lack of clarity in his vision really is a major part of the character. What inspired you to write him that way? Is his inability to see clearly in any way a protection against people like the Bishop?
A. Lawrence Garnier is based upon the brother in law of a close friend of mine. He is a faith healer. I saw video of his performance and he was actually impressive. The problem was when he was away from the pulpit. He was a flawed person, and I don’t just mean imperfect, we are all imperfect. His imperfect life was very flawed. After I met him for the first time, I said to my friend, “So that was the rogue prophet.” I imagined what would happen if a very flawed person had a true God-given gift.
Lawrence Garnier is a flawed man with a true gift that is limited at best. This limited gift of foresight came to light under tragic conditions in his childhood, which has tortured him his whole life. His horror is that he can’t control it. Can’t get rid of it. He ruins lives around him because of it. He’s exploited by those who knows he has it. He’s blind to how his life will turn out because his future is the only one he can’t see. With all this, the evil Bishop Ezekiel Barnes is there with outstretched arms to guide this poor soul to salvation.
Q. Your book has the tag line “Just when you thought it was safe to believe.” What does that mean to you and what would you like it to say to your readers?
A. Influence. I remember the first time I was of the proper size to ride a roller coaster. I was scared to death and everyone around me knew it. They all said “Come on, it’s fun.” At that point, I chose to believe them. As we clack, clack, clacked to the top they all said, “Put your arms up, it’ll make it better.” Down the first drop, I knew I wasn’t ready for this. I wanted out. I was trapped and forced to endure what I felt at the time was torment. I gave in to influence that I believed in . . . had faith in. This was a small thing, but I was a child. It’s always your own choice to believe what you choose. Everyday our lives are products of what we choose to believe. For instance, someone might say, “You seem so nice, everyone speaks so highly of you. I would love to have dinner sometime. Great, well it was really nice meeting you, Mr. Dahmer. . . okay. . .Jeffery.” Are we so sure about what we are lead to believe, that we breed safe choices every time? Does the tireless social worker always place the helpless orphan in the best foster home every time? Horror disturbs. So to my readers I say, “Question everything.”
Q. Is there anything else you would like our readers to know that I haven’t asked you yet?
A. I would like your readers to know that I am presently writing the sequel to, The Rogue Prophet. Once you read the first you’ll know why the second book had to come. The two books make the story an event, always surprising, always satisfying. I thank you, Sumiko ( I’m such a fan of your work), and thanks to your readers for their time.
THE ROGUE PROPHET– Lawrence Garnier, a loser with a real but limited gift of foresight, is convinced that his talent is a curse. After he joins the ministry of Bishop Ezekiel Barnes, he realizes his talent is only the tip of a horrific iceberg between good and evil. At a time when faith is the only thing left to cling to,this novel dares its reader to question everything. Just when you thought it was safe to believe.
~ by Sumiko Saulson on August 31, 2012.