Category Archives: Peter Roman
Moby Dick by Herman Melville is one of those books I’ve had a love-hate relationship with since I read it the first time, back in an American Lit university course. To be honest, I was baffled by the book after that initial encounter. If you’ve read it, I’m sure you’ll understand. If you haven’t read it, let’s just say it’s a work of eccentric genius.
Moby Dick has some of the most memorable scenes in literature for me, and I can see its influence everywhere — Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian leaps to mind first. Moby Dick is a thing of sublime beauty that tells a simple yet incredibly compelling story. It’s also a completely batshit crazy book that breaks all the rules of writing and publishing and veers into textual madness at times. It marked a trend for Melville’s later books, which faced an uneven reception to their literary experimentation — see the headline “Herman Melville Crazy,” for example.
I’ve read Moby Dick a number of times since that first encounter, and I’m not sure I understand it any better now. That’s kind of the point of the book, though — or one of its points, anyway. Ahab is consumed by his quest to master the whale, which remains throughout an incomprehensible force to him and the others. You have as much luck truly understanding the book as Ahab does of besting the white whale.
I do appreciate the beauty of the book, though, and its incredible imagery and masterful scene construction were much in my mind when writing my latest Cross book, The Apocalypse Ark (ah, here’s where we getting to things). I wanted to capture Moby Dick’s sense of something vast and mysterious lurking just under the surface of our world — I guess it will be up to readers to decide if I succeeded or not.
I was also inspired by Melville’s bravery and risk-taking in publishing what you could call an unusual text. Often, writers are influenced more by market trends and sales numbers — “Hey, maybe I should put a steampunk vampire romance in this book….” Sometimes you have to remind yourself of the chances other writers have taken, of the commitment they’ve had to their vision, before you can truly commit to your own crazy vision. And I do think the vision I had for The Apocalypse Ark was crazy — it’s batshit crazy in the same spirit as Moby Dick, although I would never make claims about being equal to that book in any other capacity. “Peter Roman: Crazy as Melville!”
Anyway, this is all a long-winded post about the fact that it’s Moby Dick weekend — where people gather to read and watch others read aloud the entirety of Moby Dick, in a marathon event that’s as mad as Ahab. Check out the livestream, read along in your own copy, or just retweet your favourite lines.
That should be enough to hold you until The Apocalypse Ark comes out and you can see what I’ve done with Moby Dick and Herman Melville in my own peculiar telling of the tale.
Image is from Paul Vermeersch’s postcard art collection, but I supplied the caption.
I see my third Cross book, The Apocalypse Ark, is now available for pre-order. I really need to finish the edits….
Here’s the official jacket copy:
In the third Cross book, the immortal angel killer Cross faces his most dangerous enemy yet: Noah. For ages Noah has sailed the seas, seeking out all of God’s mistakes and imprisoning them on his ark. Noah is not humanity’s saviour but is instead God’s jailer. But he has grown increasingly mad over the centuries, and now he is determined to end the world by raising the mysterious Sunken City. Only one person can stop him: Cross.
The Apocalypse Ark is an epic chase around the world and through history and myth as Cross races to stop Noah from finding the Sunken City. He’s joined by a few old friends, such as Alice from the Alice in Wonderland tales, and several new characters make memorable appearances as well: Captain Nemo and his crew of Atlanteans aboard the submarine the Nautilus; the sorcerous pirate Blackbeard, who has sworn revenge upon Cross; the devilish angel Sariel, whose sacred duty it is to protect God’s Bible; and the eerie and mysterious Ishmael, who may be the key to the world’s salvation—or its damnation. Cross must find a way to bring them all together to stop Noah or the world will drown in madness.
Order The Apocalypse Ark now at:
I’ve been sick with a norovirus that swept through my household recently like, well, like a plague. I tried to avoid it by wearing a medical face mask and gloves while I tended to sick children and a spouse but eventually it claimed me. The unexpected bonus to lying in bed alternating between fever and chills and other such delights was that I had some crazy visions of new Cross adventures that would make awesome short stories. Very strange, very hallucinatory Cross short stories. So I’ve been working on those. I’ve written a story and a half so far, with notes for two other short stories. So there may be a Cross story collection at some point in the future.
Or maybe I’m still sick and just imagining all this writing stuff.
A number of people have told me recently how much they love Alice from the Cross books. (For those who haven’t read The Mona Lisa Sacrifice or The Dead Hamlets yet, Alice is a real-life version of Alice in Wonderland who is perhaps Cross’s closest friend.) So I thought I’d share an image of Alice that is perhaps my favourite vision of her. It’s created by artist Stephen Rothwell (image via Boing Boing) and I think it sums up some of the ways I also see Alice, at least in terms of its dark beauty and conflicting elements.
If you like the eerie nature of this, then I think you may like the next few Cross books.
Earlier today a reader asked me how I choose which monsters to include in my Cross books. It’s a good question, and I don’t think I’ve been asked that before. So I thought I’d answer it here.
First off, I had to decide whether I was going to include monsters at all. When I first dreamed up the character of Cross, I was obviously thinking of Christian mythology, so it was a natural to include angels and the like in the books. In fact, the first book, The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, kind of began with my idea to have Cross hunting and killing an angel at the Gaudi church in Barcelona.
But the Cross books obviously have a lot more than angels running around in their world. You can blame Alice for that. I’d been thinking about the character of Alice for years — a supernatural, eerie real-life Alice in Wonderland who lives outside of the Lewis Carroll books. I’d originally been considering writing a book about a professor with magical powers who was friends with Alice, but that book never happened. When I started thinking about Cross, however, I immediately knew Alice had to be his friend.
Whenever I finish a draft of a new book, I generally want nothing to do with it for a while. When you spend months immersed in a world, sometimes you want to go holiday somewhere else. I haven’t been doing a whole lot of writing since I handed in the manuscript for the third Cross book, The Apocalypse Ark. I’ve done a bit of work on another project, but I can’t really talk about that yet, so never mind.
While I’ve been waiting for the edits to The Apocalypse Ark, though, I’ve still been thinking about Cross and his crazy friends. I’ve been making some notes for the fourth book, and I think I know how it’s going to take shape. (I’ve known what it’s going to be about for a while, but knowing that and knowing how you’re going to write it are two different things.) I’ve also written a Cross short story, which is a first for that series.
I woke up this morning to discover my first Cross book, The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, had become an Amazon.ca Top 100 bestseller overnight — in both the Kindle and the overall Books category. The book is doing better now than when it first came out two years ago! Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read it and recommend it. #thingsIamgratefulfor
As all writers know, most of an author’s day is spent obsessively checking your Amazon ratings, with little bits of writing thrown in here and there when the Internet is down.
All right, I kid. A little. Most writers I know do check their Amazon ratings from time to time because it’s one of the few ways they can see how their book is doing. The problem is that when you see a spike in sales, you often have no idea what’s caused it. Did you get a good review somewhere? Did a popular blogger link to your work? Did you make the Bad Sex in Literature Award again? It’s all a bit of a guessing game. Most of publishing is….
Sometimes you can trace the direct cause and effect, though. Yesterday my first Cross book, The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, got a very kind mention on the CBC show The Next Chapter, hosted by Shelagh Rogers. (The bit begins around the 41 minute mark.) Robert Wiersema, a fine writer and one of Canada’s most thoughtful reviewers, compared The Mona Lisa Sacrifice to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Now, it’s a huge honour to be mentioned on The Next Chapter at all. And to be compared to Gaiman? Well, that left me feeling humbled and beyond honoured.
I remember travelling to Toronto years ago to see Gaiman give a reading, back when I was still a struggling writer. It was a magical experience for me, partially because of his wonderful stories and charming performance. He’s a charmer, that Gaiman. But I also saw how much he loved what he was doing, and how he was doing it on his own terms. Gaiman became an inspiration for me in that moment. I wanted to be a writer who made people love stories again, just like Gaiman. I never thought I’d be compared to him in casual conversation, let alone on a national radio show.
I don’t really have words for what the CBC thing meant. It was one of those moments when you’re feeling exhausted and discouraged and thinking about throwing in the towel at this writing game and then someone’s kind comment reminds you why you’re doing this and drives you back to the computer.
But back to that cause and effect. I was a kids’ fun park most of the day, playing subterranean mini-golf with my son — yes, apparently subterranean mini-golf is a thing — so I didn’t have my usual time to obsessively browse Amazon. Damn kids adding to my quality of life! Late at night, after everyone was in bed, I finally got around to checking Amazon to see if the CBC thing had connected me with any new readers. I was totally blown away by what I saw. The Mona Lisa Sacrifice managed to hit the No. 1 and No. 3 spots in Amazon.ca’s Historical Fantasy bestsellers (for paperback and Kindle versions) and No. 3 and No. 5 in Amazon’s Contemporary Fantasy bestsellers — bookending Gaiman’s American Gods at No. 4! It even hit No. 3 and No. 5 on the Canadian Literature bestsellers.
I was a bit shocked by this. I’ve made joking posts in the past about trying to hit the No. 1 spot in an Amazon category — any Amazon category — but I never really expected to manage that. It turns out getting compared to Neil Gaiman can really help your sales! Who knew?
Sales rankings are just numbers, though. They rise and fall — usually, like the numbers in my bank account, they keep on falling. What those rankings really mean is that some people are now reading The Mona Lisa Sacrifice who hadn’t heard of it before yesterday. So thanks, Robert Wiersema, for the shout-out! Thanks, Shelagh Rogers and The Next Chapter, for hosting such an incredible book party! Thanks, Neil Gaiman, for being you! And thanks most of all to everyone who’s ever taken the time to read any of my books! You’re the reason I sit down at my computer and write every day. When I’m not checking my Amazon rankings, of course….
(The thing that makes this better is I interviewed Gaiman once for The Province newspaper where I work and he was one of the nicest and most charming writers I ever met. Good karma all around.)