Friday, December 17, 2010

Interview with Robert W. Walker

Robert Walker's an old friend, and earlier this year I helped him get his backlist of 30+ out of print novels onto Kindle.

Now he's got a new ebook out: Titanic 2012 – Curse of RMS Titanic. In the spirit of that, here's a fanciful interview and an excerpt from his latest...

It was no easy task locating author Rob Walker. It required my chartering a helicopter to go out over the North Atlantic to be set down on the Scorpio – Rob’s amazing science fiction NOW salvage ship which set out to pillage the wreck of Titanic in 2012, a hundred years after she sank…to pillage her of any remaining treasures found inside.

The principal characters have the technology to safely descend to amazing depths and actually dive the wreck thanks to liquid air they breathe and their space-age suits.

I found Rob in the control room aboard Scorpio, and while glad to see me, the man was busy with mapping out the dive, determining last minute decisions for the dive team. I could not imagine the weight on Rob’s shoulders and couldn’t help but notice the deep creases in his features since last I saw him at a bar in Chicago some years before. He’d aged of course, but this was more than normal aging; this was the stress of pulling off the impossible, to in a sense ‘raise the Titanic’ in terms of raising awareness of what really happened that night in 1912 aboard the ill-fated ship he nowadays refers to as his “mystery ship”.

Somewhat annoyed at my suddenly showing up, despite the fact we had an appointed time, Walker reluctantly turned over duties to Captain Juris Forbes, and he led me to a specific area back of the ship where he insisted we sit at a table outdoors a mile and a half above the wreckage of Titanic. It was here that the impossible happened, and I was completely taken by surprise, as we had stepped into a force field activated by nature itself, one that placed us onto the deck of the Titanic in 1912.

Walker slyly winked at me and said, “My novel is Dr. Who meets Conan Doyle and Michael Crichton on the steampunk ship Titanic.”

And so, despite be shaken up in realizing I had gone back in time, being the pro that I am, I started in on my interview of Rob Walker while stewards aboard Titanic came and went with tea, coffee, sweets, and politeness. We were at the stern at an outdoor café aboard, just above the ship’s powerful wake, the sound of which created a beat to our discussion.

JA: Rob, after all that has been written about this ship we’re somehow on, topped by Cameron’s film, why did you wish to tackle what your publisher told you was a ‘tired subject, done to death’?

Rob: Where did you hear that? Man, try to keep things quiet in this business. OK, yeah, my traditional publisher who did my Alastair Ransom City Series was not interested when I suggested that Alastair needs be placed on board the Titanic now that the Chicago World’s Fair titles had ended in a trilogy.

My editor, understandably doubtful, was not interested. In fact the idea had been floated the year that Cameron’s film came out minus Alastair and was turned down by agents and editors alike as not a good time to deal with the ship. A bad time to be in love with Titanic. But honestly, there is and always will be a huge audience of readers fascinated with every aspect of the Titanic story.

JA: So you took it to Kindle and published it yourself, right? How has that worked out for you?

Rob: I found this so serendipitous that a story chockfull of technology and science fiction is being self-pubbed. In fact, my last five booklength works, one a how-to, have been Kindle original titles.

I say serendipitous because my dream as a writer had always been to publish as I produce – no nine month gestation period, no year and a half wait for print, but pubbed the day after completion, hot off the brain. Technology in the real world has caught up to my dreams, and in the novel, technology has caught up to the dreams of my shape-changing creature who is among the divers going down to Titanic, a hundred years after surviving the sinking of the ‘unsinkable’ ship. How coincidental is that?

Walker paused to sip at his coffee, then pulled out a flask and topped it off with Jack Daniels, offering me a tweak, which under the circumstances and still reeling from our time travel, I gladly took. It improved the 1912 coffee to no end.

JA: But your answer does not cut to the real issue—who are you, Robert Walker, to take on the Titanic? You are known for your serial killer and police procedural and medical examiner novels and forays into the horror category.

Rob: I brought all the categories I have ever written in on this novel: mystery, history, autopsy, horror, science fiction, coming of age, suspense, generational, thriller, steampunk, romance—

JA: Sounds meaty.

Rob: The novel is meant to cut across time, space, and genres or pigeon holds and traditional publishing holes. The novel has more layers than an onion, and as they are peeled away it falls into place like a puzzle in two time zones—past and future. Drink up. You’ll need it, Joe.

I felt the entire ship groan and we both looked up to see a wall of black ice in the night sky and it began to rain down chunks of ice.

JA: What’s happening?

Rob: This is the scene where the orders from Captain Edward Smith are being carried out—to run the ship into an iceberg, but apparently they’ve botched it. It was supposed to be a dead on hit. Now we can stay here or go into the Ballroom and raid the bar. Either way, Titanic is going down.

JA: Are you kidding? I know the ship must go down but you’re telling me it was intentional?

Rob: Just as intentional as Inspector Alastair Ransom getting drunk, sitting in on a card game in an attempt to win a new pair of shoes to die in, and managing to get into a fight as Titanic is going down, yes.

JA: But why would Smith wish to destroy Titanic? His own ship?

Rob: That is what the novel’s pivotal question is all about, and I refuse to give it away. This interview is over!

JA: Hold on! You can trust me. I can handle the truth.

Walker was heading for the bar by now, and I following.

Rob (turning on me): But can readers handle the truth? I am toppling a lot of pedestals in this novel, raising questions about the questions that have plagued us for a hundred years.

JA: Tell me.

Rob: Smith sunk the kill something onboard.

Walker's words sank into me, and then the deck beneath my feet lurched, groaning terribly.

JA: Any chance, Rob, we can get off this ship and get back to the more stable deck of Scorpio? Feels like the ship is coming apart.

Rob: Frankly, I’d be happy just to have us go to Chapter 30 – not aboard Scorpio but INSIDE Titanic.


…David helplessly watched in the same instant as his dive partner imploded, his suit fragmented from the force of the implosion. Compressed pieces of his flesh rained around David like blood-red flakes of fish food.

The autos and the ghosts within them, a fatherly figure at the wheel, wife beside him, children in the rear, were by now filling screens topside, fueling the imaginations of some, the greed of others. Books and films were inevitable deals in the works, for sure, thought David. Scorpio’s monitors would create the first glimpse mankind would have of these buried treasures—thanks to Mendenhall’s rash action when in fact their orders had been to locate Kelly and Swigart, and to reunite with them. But the allure of seeing up close and personal Dr. William O’Laughlin’s Renault touring car had taken a sudden deadly turn.

The impact of the implosion spawned a shock wave that hurtled David end over end, and as David righted himself, he saw a number of eerily preserved bodies tumbling in ragdoll fashion across the floor, tossed out of the shadows. A normal-appearing dead man in the water was enough to shock a man, even black-water divers working for police departments, but these hundred-year-old perfectly preserved mannequins in the dead zone, flesh turned to a kind of Jell-O, their clothes like sheets—moving with the eddies, these ghosts of Titanic proved even more disturbing as parts of them stretched out to David as if drawn to the only living being in the water now.

These were bodies that had lain hidden behind cars and in the shadowy reaches of the cargo hold. Some of these grim figures still sported hair and nails. One in particular cascaded into him as a drunk might stumble from a bar—this one without shoes.

It was as if the dead wanted both of them to join them here for eternity.

Almost perfect in their preserved bodies, the disturbed dead now seemed everywhere. Bodies preserved due to the pressures and containment within the once sealed cargo hold sported intact exaggerated features, their mouths open like so many banshees. Men, women, and children staring out of glassy eyes that made them appear as grisly wax figures. Their equally preserved period clothing only added to the surreal nature of this place.

David pushed away the growing number of bodies that came at him, or rather the exit behind him—each one more surreal than the one before it, and all of them like so many mannequins in appearance. He thought of what he, Jacob, and Scorpio had just accomplished, for no one had visited or seen these people for a hundred years. These were first class passengers aboard Titanic who sought refuge not in drink or music or prayer but in their latest acquisition. Those who, in a last ditch hope to die rich, David imagined, wanted to cross over with their most valued possessions firmly in hand—their motorcars.

JA: Eerie scene, Rob.

Rob: Now I’d best get you back to Scorpio and your chopper, Joe. I know how very busy you are and time is money as the say!

With that, I found myself back at the table at the stern on Scorpio as if we’d never left. Coffee still warm and Rob pouring a shot of whiskey into my cup. I didn’t ask after the fantastic technology that made the previous events occur, but rather shook Rob’s hand, and Rob pulled me into him for a ‘man hug’ and a slap on the back to send me off.

As the chopper blades drowned him out, I saw Rob mouth the words, “I love ya’ man!” to which I saluted and shouted back the same as the chopper lifted off. As we rose, I looked down at Scorpio only to see that it had again turned into the Titanic, and I saw a dark and sinister hound of hell lurking about the top deck which made me wonder about Robert W. Walker’s fantastic tale of a creature that made of Titanic a plague ship…a mystery called Titanic 2012 – Curse of RMS Titanic...


Layton Green said...

Sounds like just my thing! Checking it out now.

Aaron Hilton said...

I've been looking forward to another multi-layered novel capable of washing James Cameron's saccharin laden film out of my mind. After reading your post, I went right over to Amazon and picked it up. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Claudia Lefeve said...

I never saw Carmeron's Titanic (nor do I care to)...but I'll have to add this book to my list of must-reads.

Norma said...

Once again, I see that readers will have a much broader range of books to read, thanks to self-pubbed e-books!

Merrill Heath said...

This is a fun review for Rob's book. I haven't bought my copy yet but I plan to soon.

Merrill Heath said...

I also meant to say that I love the cover. Who did it?

M Pax said...

I'll have to add this to my list. Wishing you all success, Robert.

Dodge said...

That was fun!

Rob Walker said...

Thanks to youse guys who've commented so favorably on my interview aboard Titanic with Joe. Merrill - the cover art was done by my son, Stephen who has his own graphics arts company (; he also did my website and at my website the book is linked if you do not wish to wait in that long line or if you just want to feel special...hehehehe! Again thanks all. I will monitor responses in case any other questions arise. And thanks JOE, my main man! Best get back to my WIP now!

Jude Hardin said...

Sounds like a terrific book. Best of luck with it, Rob.

Just curious, but how did you go about researching 1912 Belfast?

Dodge said...

I went and checked out your website, Rob. Clean, tight, and chock full of information. I'm always checking out author websites to see how I can improve mine as far as material/info goes. When I had my site assessed by fellow web designers (mines nothing to celebrate) they said... "You need more content!"

Anyway it looks like you are doing very well.

Rob Walker said... did I research 1912 Belfast by Jude Hardin. Well you did read in the interview that I have figured out time travel, no? But it really helped that I did a huge amount of research for 1893 Chicago for the Inspector Alastair Ransom trilogy with City for Ransom and its sequels. Put me right in the mileu - and as I did reearch on the hospitals and instituions and the building of Titanic it was not hard at all to place myself down in the industrial city of Belfast. I took one liberty...the iron ore mine shaft was not close to the shipyards but I needed it within walking or rather stumbling distance. I am also or Irish and Scottish background and having grown up in Irish neighborhoods in Chicago...well...

Selena Kitt said...

Ooo I love all things Titanic (in a really morbid sort of way, I admit) - gotta check it out!

best of luck with it, Rob!

WDGagliani said...

Hey Rob, great to see you here and cool interview Joe! Rob, did you get my "gift" of ones and zeros? I'm looking forward to checking this out, man. Still think your kundalini book is one of the bestest, eeriest ever. And of course the Stroud books. Keep rockin' those historicals, though. Best of luck with this one! (Catch me on twitter.)

Enid Wilson said...

Very interesting plot. I love Titanic and with time travel throw in, it's a winner!

Fire and Cross

Jude Hardin said...

From what one of your reviewers said, I thought you might have some old maps or something. Anyway, I think it's perfectly all right to take liberties with historical facts in a novel, especially one of this nature.

Rob Walker said...

Actually in T2012, there is no actual Time Travel element except to say that each chapter alternates with the time frame, that is to say you, the reader, the captain of the book, you are plunked down in the past, and next chapter the future - 2012, so in that sense yes, but there is no Time Machine going on, but rather a journal that is kept in one time period informs the other and in fact even the future chapter (science fiction) informs the past chapters (historical thriller). Wanted to clear that up.

Gagliani - thanks for the support over the years and your insights while others seem blind to my best early work! Those books are all now, thanks to Joe's example, inspiration, and help ebooks and they have New Life!


Anonymous said...

Some interview! I didn't realize my mouth was open till my lips got dry enough to crack - LOL
What stuck in my mind? "-to kill something on board." that's what - whew! :-O
Jackie Griffey

Steve said...

Enjoyable read and am looking forward to the entire story.

Hey Joe and Rob, I liked this "Rob pulled me into him for a ‘man hug’ and a slap on the back to send me off."

Ann Charles said...

I love this concept, Rob! I could barely stand to watch a half hour of Cameron's film, Rob. Your book sounds like my kind of Titanic story. Sweet!

Ann Charles

WiseMóna said...

I love this story Joe! Thanks for sharing.

Ruth Harris said...

Loved the interview! Loved the excerpt! Good luck to you, Robert -- and to your 30+ titles!

Want to let everyone know that the Dec 20 issue of Publisher's Weekly (we get ours a day ahead, today, Sunday the 19th) has a 32 page section devoted to self-publishing. It includes announcements of more than 200 titles & reviews of 38 self-pubbed books.

PW doesn't go on-line until tomorrow (Monday). I will post a link in the comments here.

Meanwhile, this is PW's first real acknowledgment of the huge change sweeping through publishing & a very exciting development!

Ruth Harris
NYTimes bestselling author of
Husbands And Lovers

Rob Walker said...

Ruth - WOW - this is huge news about PW. We knew it was coming but didn't expect it as a Christmas present. Wish to thank all of youse guys who've taken the time to remark on the interview with Joe and the excerpt. I am seeing the numbers spike for T2012 and so appreciate your interest. Tell it on the mountain...hehehe!

Blake Crouch said...

@Ruth and Rob: Actually it's not a big juicy Christmas present from understanding (and someone correct me if I'm wrong) is that the authors in there had to pay a $149 "registration fee" to have their books listed, and of those, PW chose to review a handful. It's PW being predatory and pathetic.

Ruth Harris said...

A very nice Xmas present indeed!

Rob, I just read your bio & note you were born in Corinth, Miss. My husband, Michael, was one of the human guinea pigs the army sent to the south pacific proving ground to witness the H-bomb tests of the 50's. A royal cock-up if there ever was one (to put it mildly). He wrote a memoir called THE ATOMIC TIMES about this mad-crazy-insane-hilarious-deadly experience. It was publishing by Ballantine but he's about to put it on Amazon.

The reason Corinth caught my eye is that one of Michael's Army buddies lives in Corinth, a town we would never have heard of except for the H-bomb.
So here's a mind-boggling 6 degrees of separation...Corinth, the Pacific Proving Ground, American H-bomb tests, a novelist wife with an early career in mm paperback publishing and -- 50+ years later -- JAK's blog. Small world indeed!

Ruth Harris
NYTimes bestselling author of
Husbands And Lovers

Ruth Harris said...

@ Blake....Seriously? Jeez. I didn't know this. Is there any way to check?

Sounds like the writers get screwed again.

Reminds of a friend who sold his novel to the movies for what he considered a sh*tload of money. He was in his lawyer's office, about to sign the contract & he was feeling pretty good about things.

The lawyer shot him down (and I quote): "They got ways to f*ck you you haven't even thought of yet..."

So it just the same old same old. Bleh. No wonder some of us can get pretty bitter.

Ruth Harris
author of NYTimes bestseller
Husbands And Lovers

Rob Walker said...

Blake and Ruth - Why am I not surprised...just got back home from Christmas shopping...and think of it. Have published some 45 novels over the years, last five Indied via Kindle, and have to be upset at not having enough to buy presents for everyone I love thanks to this passion/obsession to write--and still teaching to support my habit--and yeah, some bitter. This is sad news to learn that reviews are being purchased routinely these days and idiots out there get upset with Indie authors whose colleagues and fellow authors have a positive review up on Amazon! Really....PW should be ashamed of itself, charging a hundred fifty bucks for an author mention and even more for a review. This sucks rocks for sure.
RUTH - about dad was born and raised there--Walkers all over them hills and valleys, an uncle runs the local auto shop. Downtown Corinth is a lovely Time Stood Still place where the local theater boast an Elvis appearance...of course Early Elvis lived not far from there! A Norman Rockwell square where the town's
Court House squats. Some great downhome cooking restaurants, a good Indie bookstore, and of course no one does Catfish like they do Catfish in Mississippi. Myself...grew up in Chicago after my parents moved us from Corinth when I was 5 years old and so I grew up inner-city Chicago and we visited my mom's folks in Tuskegee, ALabama each summer and seldom to never returned to Corinth until my sister and I made of it a Road Trip a few years back and I found myself on the front page of the local newspaper when we stopped at the Welcome Center! That was cool. I held a signing at the local bookstore and it turned into an impomptu family reunion and most of those who showed up I had never met or hadn't seen since I was a child. It was a cool homecoming.
Ruth, your husband's experiences and book sound fascinating!


Ruth Harris said...

Here's the link to the PW issue with the feature on self-published books I promised yesterday...

Blake Crouch raised some troubling questions but I thought people would like to have a look at it anyway.

@Blake...thanks for the heads up

@rob...both Michael & I enjoyed your evocative description of Corinth...thanks so much...Leon Nelms is the name of M's friend...he worked in the Corinth PO & M is still in touch with him.

Ruth Harris
NYTimes bestselling author of
Husbands And Lovers

Morgan Mandel said...

Though you've been writing a long time, your latest novel has certainly come into its time. Crossing genres was a no-no before, but not any more. Also, waiting for publishers isn't always the best way to go, and your method is certainly working for you!

Unlike the original Titanic, your career is rising and not sinking!!!

Right on, Rob!!!

Morgan Mandel

Rob Walker said...

Placed up a photo of Joe, me, and the iceberg on my facebook wall with us in period clothing aboard Titanic, drinking, toasting the innocence of the berg....and the book itself can be ordered via my website to amazon link for those who want to know the nature of the creatue I placed aboard Titanic.


Anonymous said...

Oh yeah... as I 'live on Facebook' here is my address there -!/?sk=messages&tid=1806298796298


Anonymous said...

hey for anyone looking for a cute original child's Christmas story to read to your kids or grandkids, try my The Thief of Christmas Present found at:

Rob Walker

Robert W. Walker said...

TITANIC is selling briskly this YEAR of the 100th Anniversary. April 14th will be precisely 100 yrs. OMY!

Rob Walker

Rob Walker said...

Replaying this interview on my facebook wall now as April 14th is the 100th Anniversary of Titanic's sinking and launching.


Morgan Mandel said...

One of many great books by the imaginative and multi-talented Robert W. Walker! I don't know how he does it!

Morgan Mandel

Ken Rossignol said...

The bodies of Rob and J.A. were fished from the sea by the freighter SS James Cameron after the explosion as they tried to raise the Titanic. Mangled but identifiable, their corpses were stripped of their clothing and personal affects and put into burlap bags which were then sewn shut and marked with numbers and their names written on the labels. The improvised mortuary bags were then laid with the others as hundreds of those who perished 100 years before were amazingly blown loose from where they were entombed.
--- Ken Rossignol, see my new tale on this old story FOLLOW TITANIC at Amazon.