Interview with H. William Ruback

1.)      What can you tell us about your new book?

Bernie and the PuttyBernie and the Putty is a humorous fantasy about a young god named Bernie who just graduated from God School.  He was lucky enough to get his dream job building universes, but his best efforts are being thwarted by an old school rival who wants to see him fail. 

2.) How do you think your book differs from others in the same genre?

I don’t know any books with a similar premise – a world of gods and goddesses who are in the business of building universes.  It’s clearly a fantasy, although it touches on science fiction because the world, as extraordinary as it is, still has rules to follow.  One of my title ideas was to call it Creation Science 101.  My reviewers had divided opinions on whether it was written for adults or for young adults, so it could easily fit into either category.   

3.) What do you draw most of your inspiration from?

Most of my inspiration comes from my love of fantasy and magic.  My working career involved pretty intense work; writing is a fun release for me.

4.) How much of yourself do you put into your characters? Do you spread bits of yourself through multiple figures or pile it all into one character?

I talked with my wife about this today.  I would have said there is a little of me in each of the characters.  Bernie, the hero of my story, is a young, geeky god-kid, who grew up a bit on the outside of things.  After talking with her, I realize a lot of Bernie comes from me.  Bernie and I both spent a lot of time in the woods.  I used to “create” worlds of little clay people – I even got a Boy Scout Merit Badge for it.  I was also fascinated by magic and its power to alter the world.  I used to hunt as a kid but eventually came to feel sadness over the loss of life.  As for girls, they have always been one of the Great Mysteries to me.  Sound like Bernie?  It does to me too.  Fortunately, I don’t have a chaos cloud following me around all the time.  That would be too much. 

5.) What kind of research did you do in preparing your manuscript? How important do you think it is to follow that research?

I didn’t do a lot of research before I started, but I discovered my world needs rules.  How do the gods actually create a universe?  How do they create life?  Do they have a purpose in mind for the universes they create?  How do they learn to create things?  And, of course:  What’s it like to live among people with such powers? 

I ran into an interesting problem – if the gods are all-powerful, it’s really hard to present them with any challenges.  I spent most of my time developing rules to govern their limitations.  For example, a god can go back and forth in time in a created universe, except he can’t go back any further back than the point when he entered the universe.  Otherwise it creates impossible time paradoxes.  And, besides, what fun would it be if Bernie could simply go back in time and fixed all the problems?  I couldn’t let him off that easy. 

Time and again, the rules were challenged by the intricacies of the plot.  Flawed rules were no good because sooner or later the story ran into problems.  Creating rules, also called “world building”, is like creating a huge maze where you can force your characters down the path you have chosen, leading them from one crisis to the next.  You need good rules to keep the young gods from punching a whole in the wall and taking a different path.

6.) What do you hope readers take away from the experience of reading your book?

Several of my reviewers asked if my story was really some deep metaphor about God and the universe.  Nope.  I just like taking ideas and turning them upside down.  It’s like a game where you ask questions like, If God created the universe, what did He do before that?  Where did He come from?  Does He have a mom and dad?  Does He live in a town with other gods and goddesses?  Why did He build the universe?  What did He hope to get out of it?

For most of us, these are questions we’ve never asked, and the answers have the power to boggle the mind and tickle the funny bone at the same time.  I try to share this experience with my readers by giving them a unique view of what life might be like for people with the power to create.

7.) What experience will you take away from writing this book?

Several things surprised me.  First, I hadn’t appreciated how challenging it is to write a book.  I’ve done business writing for years, but this is different.  I did a lot of reading and research and got involved with writer’s groups to hone my skills for novel writing.  Second, I learned that even after the book is published, the author still isn’t done.  The book still has to be marketed, a task that nowadays falls to the author. 

8.) How did it feel to have the power of creation in your hands?

Starting with a blank page and being able to create a world of gods and goddess has been great fun.  At first I “created” my characters based on some character design ideas I found in a book.  For example, each character has at least two major flaws and at least one humanizing characteristic.  But as the characters took form and the story took shape, I found myself doing more listening than telling.  The characters started having their own ideas about how they would react.  I could throw challenges at them, but they made their own decisions about what they were going to do.  Most of the time, I felt like a transcriptionist trying to keep up.

9.) Who are the authors whom have influenced your style most?

There are several authors I admire, but the one who impressed me most is Terry Pratchett.  His Disk World series is extraordinary.  He’s created an outrageous world (a flat world resting on the backs of four elephants, standing on the back of the great space tortoise as he wings his way through outer space).  A world like this has to be filled with magic and fun, and it certainly is.  I love the way he thinks so far outside the box that soon you’re laughing at the expression on the face of the poor box when it realizes you have escaped.

10.) What’s next?

When I wrote Bernie and the Putty, I was filled with plot ideas.  I have notes for over twenty plots that could easily be turned into stories.  After all, when you have a world of gods and goddesses capable of building any kind of universes they want, you don’t have a lot of plot restrictions.  That will make it easy to write more books.  I plan to create “The Universe Builders” book series.  Bernie will be a reoccurring character, probably because I like him, although there are certainly others in God Town with stories to tell.

Anyone who wants to follow Bernie and The Universe Builders series can do so at:  You can sign up for the newsletter and even free copies of the book.

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