Ever since I heard about torkidlit author Rob Weston‘s book, ZORGAMAZOO, I’ve (a) wanted to get my hands on a copy, and (b) wanted to get inside Rob’s brain. You see, ZORGAMAZOO isn’t just any kidlit book. It’s very unique. Very, very unique. I won’t spoil the fun here, I’ll let him tell you why.
Shortly after I’d figured that I wanted – no, needed – to get my hands on a copy of the book, Rob won the Silver Birch Fiction Award, which, to me, is one of the highest honors ever considering the winners are chosen by school kids. But of course because of this it meant that finding an available copy wasn’t going to be an easy task. So I had to order online. And I’m still waiting for my copy since they weren’t in stock online, either!
So as I wait, let me introduce you to Rob Weston, torkidlit author of the Silver Birch Fiction Award winning, ZORGAMAZOO.
Greetings! My name is Robert Paul Weston, but that’s only what my mother and the covers of my books call me. I usually go by “Rob”. I was born in Dover, England, where my father was once the Turkish-speaking immigration officer at the Dover to Calais hoverport (a seaport specializing in hovercrafts, back when such things were a little more common). I emigrated to Canada when I was four years old and grew up in Georgetown, Ontario. Since then I’ve lived in Vancouver, England, Japan and traveled all over the world doing all sorts of unusual jobs. At the moment, I live in Toronto.
What have you published so far?
I’ve published a handful of short stories in small-press literary magazines that no one has heard of. On the up side, I’m proud to say a couple of them were nominated for the Journey Prize in Canada and the Fountain Award for Speculative Literature in the U.S.
Other than that, I published by first novel, Zorgamazoo, in October of 2008.
Tell us about Zorgamazoo.
Well, it’s a story about a young girl named Katrina Katrell. She’s quite adventurous and very observant, so she’s always spotting strange (and very real) creatures that no one else notices. Her guardian thinks she’s insane, of course, and threatens her with a lobotomy—which is why Katrina runs away and ends up getting embroiled in all the adventure she can handle! Oh, and perhaps because I really am insane, I decided to write the whole thing as a poem. The entire book rhymes. Indeed, I must be mad.
It’s challenging enough to write a book, let alone one in rhyme. Were there any specific challenges involved (besides the obvious trying to get everything to rhyme!) in writing Zorgamazoo?
Other than getting everything in rhyme? Not sure I could have made it any harder without writing it all with my left hand on the skin of a shaved leopard. Or something. But now that you mention it, yes, there was also the prosody constraint, getting words to fit the rhythm (I tried to put four evenly dispersed accented syllables in each line); not to mention the basic frustration of how slow it was, sometimes taking hours to write a single sentence, which I might end up ditching anyway. Ack. Don’t remind me.
But it all paid off! Tell us what it was like for you to win the Silver Birch Fiction Award.
Overwhelming, but in a lovely, lovely way. I’d certainly been warned about how big it was going to be, but actually seeing—and hearing—all those screaming readers! I was pretty choked up.
Why did you write Zorgamazoo? What inspired the story?
When I was a kid, it seemed like there were times you could open a regular newspaper and read headlines like “Strange lights spotted in the skies over Helsinki” or “New photos of the Yeti revealed”. Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems like that sort of reportage (at least beyond the pages of absurd tabloids) has all but dried up. Now, this isn’t to say I believe in the Loch Ness monster or anything, but observing this trend, I began to wonder if perhaps something had happened to all the sasquatches and dragons, to all the creatures of myth. Perhaps they were kidnapped! But by who? And why?! I suppose Zorgamazoo is one possible answer.
Not being a poet myself, I think poetry is a particularly inspired form of writing. Would you agree? Are you in a different “zone”/frame of mind when writing poetry than when writing prose?
Indeed. In the case of Zorgamazoo, writing in rhyming couplets, I sense my mind is more in the realm of math than literature, as if each pair of lines is a little equation you have pour over until you find a solution.
What inspires you in general?
Books. While I’m reading, I often wonder what would happen if the characters or ideas presented had spun off in a totally different direction. Those sorts of musings often end up becoming the ideas for futures books.
Many artists say they have a “Muse”. Do you believe in this concept?
Certainly I believe in the concept—that such a thing as sudden, inexplicable, lightening-strike inspiration exists. Happens all the time. But I don’t believe you ought to wait for it. If you do, you’re sunk.
Do you have any current and/or upcoming projects you can tell us about?
My next book is called Dust City, which comes out in October, 2011. In many ways, it’s the antithesis of Zorgamazoo. It’s aimed at an older (teen?) audience; it’s written prose rather than poetry; and it’s quite gritty and violent. It’s a kind of dystopic fantasy inspired by the darker aspects of medieval European folk tales, particularly those collected by the Grimm Brothers, and it’s narrated by the son of the wolf who murdered Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother.
Thanks, Rob! Now I’m really looking forward to DUST CITY as well.
See, now you know why I wanted to get into Rob’s brain. Indeed, he must be a mad genius.
Update: My copy of ZORGAMAZOO arrived in Monday’s mail! Yay! I’ve now been fully transported back to my Dr. Seuss childhood days. Bliss…