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Author Archive: "M. J. Rose"

On Memory and Fiction: Part Three

(Read Part Two here.)

Arthur Phillips is the New York Times-bestselling author of novels as diverse as Prague, The Egyptologist and Angelica. Each one is set in a different time period so brilliantly evoked it's truly hard to believe Phillips doesn't time travel. His newest novel, The Song Is You, will be out in April 2009.

MJR: What are the historical time periods you cover in your next book?

Phillips: It's funny you should ask. I was very proud to have written a very up-to-the-minute contemporary novel; it's set entirely in 2009. And then I just now remembered that it opens in 1953 and spends a lot of time there and in the late 60s and early 70s in the main character's childhood. But after my last two novels — 1920s (and 1640 BC) Egypt and 1880s London — I feel like this new one is practically a science-fiction novel. Of course the title song is from a 1932 musical, and there's a lot of Korean War stuff and references to jazz history and... Oh, never mind.

MJR: How do you delve into a historical


On Memory and Fiction: Part Two

(Read Part One here.)

David Liss is the New York Times-bestselling author whose literary suspense titles have earned him a special place with readers and reviewers who appreciate the quality of his writing, the development of his characters, and the page-turning stories he tells.

His newest book is The Whiskey Rebels, and it takes place in the early 1790s in the United States.

MJR: How do you delve into a historical past you cannot yourself remember — yet you somehow manage to write about so well?

Liss: My background is in literary studies, not in history, and so by training I am inclined to pay as much attention to researching historical subjectivity as material historical fact. What people ate and wore and how they got around and the material conditions of their day-to-day lives are all very interesting, but they are also meaningless if we try to impose a contemporary sense of self into a historical setting. When I work on historical characters, I always try to imagine how this person, living at this time, would respond to this ...

On Memory and Fiction: Part One

My favorite novels pick me up, carry me off, and put me down smack in another time and place , and after I turn that last page and return to the present, I feel enriched. The here and now is more interesting to contemplate when contrasted with the past. Who we were explains so much of who we are.

In his autobiography, Goethe wrote:

One feeling which prevailed greatly with me, and could never find an expression odd enough for itself, was a sense of the past and present together in one — a phenomenon which brought something spectral into the present...It must not be forgotten that the closest unions are those of opposites.

It's a quote I've always found fascinating, and it resonates with me now even more since I've been writing a series of novels that play with the concept of reincarnation (The Reincarnationist [2007]; The Memorist [2008]).

These books have required me to do research going back as far as the ancient Indus Valley , covering subjects as ...

Thank You

Thanks so much for reading with me this week. I wish I could come back next week and post the rest of the interviews I've done... coming back being the operative reincarnation word. But besides being greedy, I'm be on tour for my new thriller and while I won't be getting to Portland to visit Powell's, I will be traveling a bit and would love to see some of you and sign a copy of The Reincarnationist. Or two. (You can always give the second copy to someone you knew in a past life.)

I also would love to hear from any of you about your feelings on the subject and your take on the slightly altered consciousness Proust Questionnaire.

Just drop me a line at and I'll post your answers on the blog.

And now, the last interview.

÷ ÷ ÷

Christine Feehan,

Most Recent book:
Dark Possession

Q. Do you believe — even a little bit — that reincarnation is possible?

A. I have a very open mind where reincarnation is concerned.

Q. Have you ever read any books on the subject ...

Die Laughing and Be Reborn Laughing

My mom was a photographer back before there were such things as digital cameras. Every day while my dad was at work she turned their bathroom into a darkroom. Like the black and white shots she took, she saw things in a very logical way. Too skeptical to be religious, she was however fascinated with reincarnation.

The first time I remember hearing about past lives was when she read me a book called The Search For Bridey Murphy. Strange bedtime reading, right? (And people wonder how some of us wind up writing what we write!)

Of all the people I interviewed for this blog, my mom would have loved this author's answers the best because she appreciated nothing more than a great sense of humor.

÷ ÷ ÷

A.J. Jacobs,

Most Recent Book:
The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

Q. Do you believe — even a little bit — that reincarnation is possible?

A. Everything's possible, except for, say, looking dignified while wearing Crocs. And I find the idea of past lives enticing (and, naturally, an awesome premise ...

Life After Death

The ReincarnationistFrom 1999 to 2002, I had a weekly column at ( reporting on the publishing industry. All too often the facts I discovered about this business sounded more like fiction than the novels I was writing. But that's a subject for another blog post altogether.

It was during those years that I had to overcome a certain innate shyness and approach total strangers to ask for interviews.

No one was more surprised than me when they'd say yes.

But no one I've ever asked has mattered to me as much as the man who agreed to answer this questionnaire for this blog. He's a true inspiration who has radically changed my perceptions over the years and someone who has himself written extensively about the subject at hand.

÷ ÷ ÷

Deepak Chopra

Most Recent Book:
Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment

Buddha: A Story of EnlightenmentQ. Do you believe that reincarnation is possible?

A. I think consciousness outlives the death of the physical body through which it expresses itself. Also, the universe is constantly recycling itself



In my week here I only have room to post five of the dozens of interviews I've done. The rest of them will are being uploaded to my blog The Reincarnationist. Please be sure to click over to read what other fabulous authors like Douglas Clegg, David Morrell, Caroline Leavitt, Joshua Henkin and more have to say.

I just answered the questions myself but had a very tough time committing to the question: What three people from history would you like to have over to dinner for a discussion about reincarnation?

The single most popular person in the answers I got from other authors is Jesus Christ, which is especially interesting because while doing my research one of the most explosive ideas I came across was the concept that when Jesus told his disciples he would be resurrected, what he might have been talking about was being reincarnated.

÷ ÷ ÷

Diana Gabaldon,

Most Recent Book:
Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade

Q. Do you believe — even a little bit — that reincarnation is possible?

A. ...

The Proust Questionnaire Reincarnated

Greetings from research hell.

I've spent the last few years studying reincarnation from the sublime to the ridiculous, the religious to the metaphysical. Along the way, I've completed The Reincarnationist, which just came out and is the first novel in a new suspense series. To date I've read 60 books on the subject and have a shelf of at least 30 more to tackle.

When I started I had no idea how popular a subject it is. Not only is there a Reincarnation for Dummies there's also The Idiot's Guide to Reincarnation. Turns out more than 60 million people in America believe in it.

So I thought it would be interesting to alter and abridge Proust's ubiquitous questionnaire and find out what some of my favorite authors think about the subject.

Over the next few days I'll share some of their answers. I hope you'll find them as interesting as I did.

÷ ÷ ÷

Doug Preston,

Most Recent book:
The Wheel of Darkness

Q. Do you believe — even a little bit — that reincarnation is possible?

A. Yes.

Q. Have you ever read any books ...

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