Laura Roberts is the author of Rebels of the 512, as well as the forthcoming Naked Montreal. She edits the upstart literary magazine Black Heart.
Here’s what Benjamin Sobieck wrote in a review at Amazon. “This is an author who knows how to write humor. Don’t be fooled by the slapstick, it’s not an easy thing to do. That she wrote it in three days as part of a contest proves Roberts’s humor chops beyond the remotest shadow of a doubt.”
Let’s start with this, Laura:
What is the most overrated virtue? Abstinence.
What is the one thing other people always seem to get wrong about you? The precise location of my hometown.
If you could change one thing about the world what would it be? I’d have all Republican party leaders sent to work camps in Siberia for their crimes against humanity.
What pet peeve do you have about other people? I’m an equal-opportunity misanthrope, so most things about humanity peeve me. But one of the worst are road ragers. Take a deep breath and envision letting it all go, will ya? Or take public transit like I do.
Is there any occasion when it’s OK to lie? Only when confronted with overly nosy interview questions.
What is your philosophy of writing? Do whatever it takes to get ‘er done.
What’s the name and genre of you book? Rebels of the 512 is a satirical political novel, and also qualifies as urban fantasy thanks to the presence of pirates and ninjas.
Who is the audience for this book? People who love or live in Austin, Texas. People who are tired of governmental nonsense from clowns like Governor Rick Perry. People who have a sense of humor. People who enjoy pirates and ninjas squaring off in the ultimate battle of good vs. evil. People who dig strong female characters. People who enjoy reading books that were written while highly caffeinated.
Is this book part of a series? If so is it a sequel or a prequel? Name the other already published books? The book leaves things open for a sequel, but I haven’t written anything else in this universe. I leave it up to the readers to decide whether they want more pirates, ninjas and political humor from me. My next book is an erotic chick-lit title, so I like to change things up.
Describe your protagonist and describe the challenges the protagonist needs to overcome and the motivation for overcoming them. Suzie Jimenez is a teacher at Rebel Yell High School in Austin, Texas. She’s just been canned, thanks to Governor Nick Harry’s budget cuts, and she rallies her fellow teachers to protest at the Capitol. During the protest, ninjas attack and issue demands that Governor Harry surrender to the group or face all-out war. Suzie, a black belt in tae kwon do, ultimately joins the ninja crew to fight against Harry’s fascism. She’s strong, both physically and emotionally; she’s also a History teacher, so she’s got plenty of non-violent tactics up her sleeve from revolutionaries like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. She also faces down racism on a daily basis as a Mexican-American; some people view her as an exotic beauty while other people think she’s an illegal immigrant, both based purely on looks, so she fights against stereotypes as well as evil politicians-and pirates.
Describe your antagonist and talk about motivation. My villain is Governor Nick Harry, who is based on real-life Texas Governor Rick Perry-whom you may have seen in the 2012 election runoff. Harry is a fascist dictator who thinks he can do no wrong, and goes about gutting all of the government services people tend to support: public education, health care, etc. He has also mysteriously built up an $8 billion “Rainy Day Fund” that he keeps in a private safe, and has a dangerous secret weapon that is about to be unleashed as he tosses his cowboy hat into the ring for the Presidential election. He’s motivated by greed, lust for absolute power, and the kind of Texan pride that has spilt over into arrogance and hubris. He also pays lip service to religion to marshall public support for his most insane schemes, and hires thug-like pirates to back him up when all else fails.
Quote a passage from your book that you love. “Suzie still wasn’t sure why the place was called Kick-Ass Karate, since they’d never taught karate and always had plenty of confused would-be students asking why they didn’t teach the Bruce Lee fighting styles of Jeet Kune Do or even Wing Chun, but she figured it must be like the Tamale House down the street that only served breakfast tacos. Welcome to Austin, the official home of Keepin’ It Weird.”
Elaborate on the meaning of the passage. There really is a place called the Tamale House here in Austin, and they really serve only breakfast tacos. No tamales, ever. That’s pretty odd, naming your business after the one thing you don’t serve, right? I think it illustrates Austin’s sense of “weird,” because it’s not the type of wild-and-crazy weirdness that other cities have. It’s more like constant inside jokes that are trying to keep newcomers on the outside. And while that can be rewarding if you’re the insider, it’s pretty goddamn annoying when you’re the outsider and everybody wants to mess with you, or get you to leave because you’re not a native Texan. This is probably why there are also lots of bumper stickers that say “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!”
What surprising things did you learn while writing this book? I learned a lot of things I never really wanted to know about Rick Perry. I had the misfortune of reading his book, which really creeped me out. The idea that someone with a sixth-grader’s view of how our democracy was created is now in charge of the state of Texas (and wanted to take a shot at taking over the Presidency) is unbelievably disturbing. This is a guy that should never have been allowed to take office, and yet we can’t seem to get rid of him. At least with George Dubya as (history’s worst) President, he was only legally allowed to screw things up for 8 years. Perry could conceivably be Governor for the rest of his life because Texas has no term limits on the office. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing? I started reading at a young age, and my parents are still not entirely sure who taught me this terrible habit. As a result, I was constantly checking out stacks of books from my hometown library (which, looking back, was actually quite well-stocked with subversive reading material), so I’d say that having always been an avid reader, my related interest in writing was fairly inevitable. I also had a lot of supportive, encouraging teachers who allowed me to write some very outlandish and bizarre things for their classes in the name of creativity, so that also helped convince me that I should pursue writing as a career. Thank you emails should also be sent to my university professors who allowed me to write “Socratic dialogues” instead of essays.
Where do you live and how does that influence your writing? I currently live in an apocalypse-proof bunker in Austin, Texas, which influenced my book a great deal. As someone from “up North,” Texas is certainly not like anyplace else I’ve lived. I wanted to comment on that in my book. I also wanted to comment about the things Austin is famous for, as I think many of them are overstated (i.e. the music scene, SXSW, how “weird” it is here, the supposedly liberal politics, etc.). People will probably be pissed off by the way I describe the city, but I think Austinites should look a bit less through the rose-colored glasses when considering the way their city is operated. Sure, food trucks are great, and being able to listen to live music is cool, but is that all this city has to offer? And if so, shouldn’t people be interested in equally cool ideas coming from all their new transplants, rather than responding, “Well if you don’t like it, you can leave!”?
Do you prefer fermented or distilled? Both, please. Although I’m more into wine these days than vodka.
Do you have a special routine you go through before you begin writing? Writing this book, I tried a method that’s been popularized by the science-fiction author Michael Moorcock. I’ve written about it at the Professional Writers of Austin blog , because it’s definitely something that other people can use, and it’s fairly straightforward. Other than that, I usually get fired up about something and sit down to pound out my opinions, and see where it leads.
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/129672,
CreateSpace – https://www.createspace.com/3793477
Price: $7.99 print, $2.99 digital
The book’s website: http://rebelsofthe512.com
That’s the interview. Thanks for listening.