Robert Liparulo Interview
Hello Everyone, I want to introduce my friend Robert Liparulo, best selling author. “The 13th Tribe” is the most recent book of his and it will be on shelves on April 3rd. He has written many books-some adult thrillers, and some young adult. Check them all out.
1. How do you find inspiration?
Art done well always inspires me. Doesn’t matter if it’s literature, paintings, statues, music, movies—if it stills my emotions, if it’s finely layered, and well crafted, it inspires me to be just as good. Before I write, I’ll often read a few chapters of a great book, look at Michelangelo paintings, watch an especially moving scene from a movie. While I write, I listen to mostly soundtracks. I’m also acutely aware that God gave me the gift of storytelling. I don’t want to let Him down.
2. When is it that you get new ideas? Meeting people? Visiting new places? Dreams?
All of the above! And also from pursuing my insatiable curiosity. The Dreamhouse Kings came from a dream I had when I was a child. Comes a Horseman sprung from my reading an article in Psychology Today about people with delusions of grandeur. It addressed people who thought they were great people throughout history, and I thought, if people can think they’re heroes, why not villains, why not the ultimate villain, the Antichrist? Deadfall came about when I considered my best friend: He’s a game warden, a real outdoorsy guy, and a strong Christian. I wondered what he would do when faced with an impossible situation, in the case of Deadfall, a guy armed with only a bow and arrow trying to stop an isolated town from being terrorized by group armed with a satellite laser weapon.
3. What do you do when you get in a tough spot with your characters? When they don’t want to talk?
In the rare times when that’s happened (my characters tend to be highly animated and alive from start to finish),I act out their situations, I try to be them. People can’t stop life, so something has to happen. I try to get a sense of what I would do as them. I’m already in character, so I trust what I think I’d do is what they would do.
4. How do you approach starting your novel? Do you outline? Make a story/character bible?
I don’t create a detailed outline, but I know the high points of the story, where I need my characters to be. I want them to figure out how to get there, to behave they would based on their personalities and experiences. So once I have a general idea of the story and have spent a lot of time “being” my characters and doing researching, I set the characters loose on the page, then run behind them, writing down what they do. Since I try to live my characters for a time before starting to write, I don’t make character bibles; I don’t need one for me, so I don’t need one for them. That’s the theory, anyway.
5. Do you write the story straight through? Or write bits and pieces to later piece it together?
Except for adding a scene here and there to make things clearer or create better transitions, I write straight through, beginning to end. I’ve found that writing in non-contiguous chunks leads to inconsistencies in character behavior and sometimes plot and tone. It’s tempting to write whatever scene is pressing on you, inspiring you, but the inconsistencies that result (at least for me) isn’t worth it. Instead, I try to write faster so I can get to that needling scene sooner.
6. If you were told you couldn’t write any more what would you do?
Fall into a deep depression. I feel wired by God to write. Not doing it would be like ripping out a large part of my soul. I’d keep searching for a way to write nonetheless. Unless, of course, it’s God telling me to stop writing. I trust that He would also take away my desire to do it. I hope so.
7. What kind of advice do you have for amateur writers?
Read everything. Never stop reading. In reading fiction, you’ll learn what works, what doesn’t, the structure of stories, the development of characters. Even reading magazines helps, it’ll fill your head with ideas and people and inventions, adventures and misadventures, human nature—all of it you can use to flesh out your stories, make them deep and real.
8. What stories, songs, and/or writers inspire you?
All kinds, as long they’re well done and stir my emotions. I’ll listen to everything rock to Christian contemporary to soundtracks. I like The Fray, Iron & Wine, MercyMe, The Kry, Hans Zimmer, Daft Punk . . . a wide variety. As far as authors, Richard Matheson, Dean Koontz, Thomas Perry, Elmore Leonard . . . mostly thriller writers.
9. What was the hardest part of writing The 13th Tribe?
People have asked if moving from more mainstream-type thrillers into a Christian thriller was daunting. But writing about faith wasn’t difficult at all; all of my stories have had some measure of my own sense of faith in them, though until now, it’s been very subtle. It’s a matter of degree. In The 13th Tribe, the spiritual-faith-supernatural elements have been ratcheted up a good bit.
The challenge was in making these things organic, natural to the story. I didn’t want anything to feel tacked on, but everything needed to flow from the characters and the plot. In other words, take away the faith part and the story crumbles. And I wanted the story to appeal to the kind of reader I am: I don’t want to be preached to; I don’t want to read a story where the world is sanitized and everything is oh so sweet because the characters believe in God. Bad things do happen to good people. I wanted to paint a realistic world that is both fallen and basking in the hope of glory.
The story itself was a bear to put together because of its complexities and that I wanted everything to feel organic, natural, but I didn’t think in terms of “this is what I have to do to make it a Christian story”; even though my previous novels found a readership among mainstream thriller fans—readers of James Patterson, Doug Preston, Vince Flynn—I’ve always felt there was a thread of Christianity woven throughout them, whether because my characters exhibited moral traits that have their roots in faith or the stories have faith-based elements; the main reason is that I wrote them and my stories will always reflect who I am, which is a lot of things, one of which is that I am a spiritual man.
10. Did you learn anything from writing The 13th Tribe and what was it?
Honestly, there are too many to list. Everyday I stumbled onto interesting fun facts. One was finding out that the brain actually undergoes a physical change during puberty that gives it the capacity to grasp adult concepts, to think like an adult. It’s not just time that matures us into adult thinkers. That factors into the way the immortal children think and behave.
Another one was the story of the Apostle John walking away from that vat of boiling oil, and that Jesus said about John, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?’” The two things taken together make you wonder.
I’ve always studied God’s word, always sought deeper understanding, but now, writing about it, I’m learning so much. To make these stories work, to make faith integral to the plots, I have to excavate theology like I never have before. And at every turn, I’m awed by His love for us, his tolerance and grace. We are so unworthy, but still, there He is with His arms wide open.
11. What inspired you to write The 13th Tribe?
Some time ago, I started thinking about vigilantism, frontier justice. I think most of us would say we’d do something to stop, for example, a child abuser, even if we have to go outside the law to do it (assuming all other recourses have failed). But what are the ramifications of that . . . to society? To our souls? It’s a scary door to open. The best way to examine a topic is to exaggerate it, or look at how it functions under extreme circumstances. I wanted to look at vigilantism that way: an exaggerated reason to be a vigilante . . . how far could you take it . . . what do you become if you practice it over a long period of time?
You can’t think too deeply about taking the law into your own hands, about hurting people before they can hurt others, without eventually getting around to thinking about the nature of forgiveness and grace. So now there’s God, filing off the edges of my story, shaping it into something bigger than it was before.
Also, my previous adult thrillers were heavy on action, adventure, and the fight between Good and Evil—but light when it came to acknowledging God’s influence in the world and in the lives of my characters. That was fine with me: Before embarking on each new story, I’d spend weeks fasting and in seclusion, praying for Divine guidance. And then I wrote the stories I believe God wanted me to tell in the way He wanted me to tell them.
As I prayed about the next adult thriller after Deadlock, I sensed God’s telling me it was time to go another direction, to take a new, bold stance in proclaiming His sovereignty in everything that happens. To rip down the veil and show His inextricable presence in all we experience—unreservedly and un-apologetically.
The result of all this became The 13th Tribe, which can be summed up in two words: Immortal vigilantes. But, really, it goes much deeper. It explores our struggle to grasp God’s holiness; our stubborn belief in “earning” God’s favor, though we know better; and how even our good intentions can be twisted when we insist on abiding by our own limited logic instead of God’s righteous wisdom. All of this in a story filled with action, cutting-edge technology, and complex characters—the kind of story I like reading myself.
12. What motivated you to become an author?
When I was 12, I read “I am Legend” by Richard Matheson. For about half the book, the main character, Robert Neville, tries to get a sick dog inside his home. When he finally does, he spends the night nursing and stroking the dog- he recalls the way things used to be. The last line of the chapter was: “In the morning the dog was dead.” Not only was the dog cool, its death was symbolic of the death of life as it had once been. I started crying, and I thought, “If words—only WORDS!—can make a pretty tough 12-year-old boy cry, I want to do that.”
I started crying, and I thought, “If words—only WORDS!—can make a pretty tough 12-year-old boy cry, I want to do that.”
13. Our lives have all been touched and challenged by various people. Is there one person who has most influenced your life? your writing?
My mother, actually. She’s a natural storyteller. She can describe a great adventure out going to the store for milk. Her ability to describe locations and people in fascinating detail is incredible. I hope a bit of that rubbed off on me.
Regarding living a fulfilling life, I have my father to thank for that. He’s a man of high morals, which I’ve tried to live up to.
14. What are five songs that have recently been on your IPOD playlist?
“Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol
“Sail” by Awalnation
“Sub Lift” from the X-Men First Class soundtrack
“Sarabande Suite (Aeternae)” by Globus
“Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence
15. When writing have you ever come to deal with spiritual warfare or spiritual attacks?
More so while The 13th Tribe than any other novel. It seemed that everything went wrong, equipment malfunctions, crashes that obliterated days of work, personal issues that had to be handled. They were so frequent, weird, and severe that I started thinking I was being attacked. I figured I was on the right track, doing something that God wanted, and so drew the attention of those who oppose Him, so I just prayed a lot and buckled down and wrote with more determination.
16. What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
First, probably that I’m as emotional as I am. Here I am, writing action thrillers, tough guy adventures; and personally, I shoot guns, do extreme sports . . . but I’ll tear up at Hallmark commercials. A break-up song can get me all choked up. When I see someone hurting, I want to hug them, to comfort them. But I think this aspect of my personality has helped me tell compelling stories. My good guys tend to be tough on the exterior, but fiercely in love and protective of their spouses and kids and people who can’t protect themselves. I have a lot of female readers, and I think it’s the undertone of love and justice and hope, the quality of my hero’s and heroine’s relationships that they relate to and appreciate.
The second thing . . . hmmm . . . maybe that I’m a frustrated musician. I love music, all kinds of music. I consider myself more of a storyteller than a novelist. The novel is just one medium for telling stories. Music is another. Years ago, I wrote a few songs that made it onto the albums of local bands. I loved it. I tried performing my own music, but I’m not as I wanted to be, and much as I tried, I didn’t improve much. So I went back to prose.
17. Can you describe your average writing day? Do you have a set schedule, or just work like crazy when the “muses” strike?
Stephen King said, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” That’s a philosophy I ascribe to. I research for months, then start writing, and when I do, I put in twelve, fourteen, even more hours everyday. I practice what’s called “immersion writing,” which means while I’m writing, I try to go deeply into the story and characters. I forget I’m writing, I’m there. When I look right, I don’t see what’s right of me, but what’s right of my character. It takes time to get there, to travel into that world, and the only way to get there is to commit to long stretches of writing.
18. Many writers are also avid readers. Do you have any favorite authors? If so, could you name a few?
Beside the ones I’ve already names, there’s Ted Dekker, Frank Peretti, Steven James, Tosca Lee, Eric Wilson, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, F. Paul Wilson, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Crichton, James Rollins, David Morrell, Steve Berry, Vince Flynn, Umberto Eco.
19. What motivates you to head to your keyboard every day?
Beside believing that this is what God wants me to do, I love my job and want to do it.
20. For writers who are married and have kids, how can they balance family/kids with writing?
It is a challenge, but what works for us is making it a family affair. My wife is my first reader and a great person to bounce ideas off of. My kids help at signings and with office duties. I try to take them with me when a travel of business. When I finish a book and when one comes out, we celebrate together. Because they’re so aware of what I do, why I do it, and what comes from the hard work, they’re very respectful of my writing time. It also helps to have scheduled time when I’m there for each of them, to do nothing but play or do something recreational or just be with them.
21. Do you have anything else that you would like to say to people?
I love to interact with readers. So if you have any comments or questions, write me. I’ll write back.