|A.R. Taylor, Author|
SEX, RAIN, AND COLD FUSION
A.R. Taylor characterizes her new novel, SEX, RAIN, AND COLD FUSION as “a comic novel, a piece of quality mainstream fiction.” Her reviewers love her humor—“Physics has never been funnier!” -- but they also appreciate her characters and the mystery. “She's brilliant, incisive, wildly entertaining and profoundly touching. This is a book well worth reading despite all its raucous conceits.”
The award-winning writer has written plays, essays, and fiction and claims movie scripts are the most difficult to produce, with documentaries a close second. Although she continues to write, she dreams of owning a restaurant/tavern with live music. Above all, she says “the best thing in her life” is her daughter.
Don't miss the excerpt at the end of her interview.
Q: How would you characterize SEX, RAIN, AND COLD FUSION? Is it a romance, a mystery, literary fiction, or…?
A.R. Taylor: It's a comic novel, a piece of quality mainstream fiction.
Q: Reviewers love your humor: “Physics has never been funnier!”, “There is no author funnier or smarter, nobody who packs her punch,” and “highly original sense of humor is like that of no other writer of today.” Humor is difficult to write – people see “funny” differently. Do you target a specific group with your humor? How do you make your story funny?
A.R. Taylor: The only group I really target is people who like to laugh, smart, interested readers who nevertheless will fall for the banana peel every time. When you say "make your story funny," that's a tough one. It's a matter of how you see the world, with a certain distance or irony, and refusal to take yourself too seriously. There's an old saying, "It may not be fun, but it's always funny."
Q: Reviewers also appreciate your characters. “Wonderfully engaging characters”, “The characters, with all their flaws, were quirky and lovable,” “Really liked the characters,” “characters were so well developed and layered.” How did you make your characters engaging? Why do your readers care about them, particularly your protagonist, David Oster?
A.R. Taylor: It's not possible to make readers care for your characters, if you, the writer, don't. So, you have to love them even when they're stupid or cruel or even villainous, and that can be tough. At times, David behaves like a jerk, but he's a charmer too. You have to hold your characters very close to your own heart––that will help other people like them as well.
Q: You set SEX, RAIN, AND COLD FUSION in the Pacific Northwest, which enabled you to include “RAIN” in your title. Can you comment on the value of using setting to tell your story, or any story.
A.R. Taylor: For me, a particular landscape and its weather control a great deal of normal, everyday behavior. I lived in the Pacific Northwest for five years, and I can honestly say that it rained 85% of the time, at least to my sodden brain, and it caused (in my novel) "an unwholesome addiction to drink, philandering, and crafts."
Q: How relevant is the concept of “heroes” vs “villains” to telling your story?
A.R. Taylor: I often look at my stories and say, "Gee, who's the villain?" Basically you get so immersed in a character's problems that you come to see him or her as just trying to be good but failing constantly. So hero and villain are twins in the womb. From a writing standpoint, villains are fun to write, and everybody loves a good villain.
Q: SEX, RAIN, AND COLD FUSION is, according to reviewers, also a mystery, and one they couldn’t put down. How do you develop suspense amidst laughter?
A.R. Taylor: With sweat and constant re-writing. This is just the hardest technical trick in the world, especially in a comic novel, because you can get lost in your own jokes, and the characters make you think of other crazy things they could get into, but you must hang on to the thread of the story like grim death. It's a bit like weaving a tapestry—just keep pulling certain threads tighter and don't drop any. Easy to say, really bone crushing to do, as all you writers out there know, and I'm honored that reviewers thought I succeeded.
Q: In addition to entertaining readers, did you also intend to deliver a message or educate them?
A.R. Taylor: I don't think good novels start out with the intention to educate, but by indirection they can. So, in the case of SEX, RAIN, AND COLD FUSION several of the characters are scientists who happen to be working on two entirely discredited theories, cold fusion and the fifth force. I got very interested in these subjects, and I hope curious readers will look into them, too.
Q: You have written in a variety of outlets including as head writer for Emmy-winning shows. Do you have a favorite? Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? Scripts or novels? Books or short stories?
A.R. Taylor: You're looking at my checkered history of trying to make a living at writing! I think movie scripts are the single hardest form in the world, documentaries (in which I worked) a close second. The novel form is wonderful for its scope, its expansiveness, and the variety of characters. I love writing short stories, too, as a way to try out novel ideas or to work on specific problems in fiction––say, the surprise ending. One summer I worked on four such stories and had a ball.
Q: What’s next?
A.R. Taylor: Oh boy, I'm working on a new novel that I started several years ago but dropped in frustration. Now I'm back at it. While it has comic elements, it's also steamy and seriously romantic.
Q: Tell us something about A.R. Taylor. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
A.R. Taylor: First off, I'm really Anne with an "e." I play paddle tennis at the Venice boardwalk, love to dance and cook––my dream would be to own a tavern/restaurant with live music. I love learning languages and speak French and Spanish, but just now (sigh) I'm going back to the piano, and to prove it I've got a real live teacher. But the best thing in my life is my beautiful, kind, talented daughter, with whom I spend a lot of time.
About A.R. Taylor
A. R. Taylor is an award-wining playwright, essayist, and fiction writer. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Southwest Review, Pedantic Monthly, The Cynic online magazine, the Berkeley Insider, Red Rock Review, and Rosebud, among others. The New Short Fiction series featured her short stories, and her work has been performed at the HBO Workspace, the Annenberg Center, and The Federal Bar. Taylor herself played the Gotham Comedy Club in New York and Tongue & Groove in Hollywood.
Her awards include the De Golyer Prize in American Studies, a nomination for the Henry Murray Award at Harvard, recognition from the NBC Program for New Writers, the Writers' Guild East, The Dana Fiction awards, the Theatre of Louisville Humana Prize, and the Writers Foundation of America Gold Statuette for Comedy. In addition, she was head writer on two Emmy award-winning series for public television.
Prepare to meet physicist David Oster, a big thinker, a charming cad who flees Caltech and his three girlfriends for the Pacific Northwest, pastoral fantasy firmly in hand. Whatever will he do with all that rain, yet another beautiful woman, and several crazy physicists intent on his ruin? Obviously he needs to discover some entirely new physics principle, as yet unnamed, but can he deliver?
Days later, David found himself seated high atop the administration building in a glassed-in conference room with President Royce Thornton, a tall, gangly, gray-haired man clad in a mustard-colored suit. Trying to ignore an interminable discussion of university sports, he instead concentrated his attention on the first serious downpour since his arrival. At Caltech, David had perfected the art of fixing someone with a stare while at the same moment making calculations. Counting was the trick. Watching from the front of his head, he counted at the back, and his consciousness would remain on point even though he wasn’t listening. This was a minor skill, but the rain offered a promising medium. How fat were the drops, and how long did it take each one to fall from the branches of a tree? These raindrops seemed lean and needlelike, and he had just formulated their location on his new scientific creation, the Oster Wet Scale, when Thornton turned to him, shuffling through a sheaf of papers.
“Oster, Oster, is it?”
“David Oster,” he replied, eyeballing the other gloomy men at the table, which predictably included Niels Hoekstra.
“We must get you to work, Oster. No point in you just catching things under the ocean, or whatever you people do.”
As David opened his mouth to define the nature of physical oceanography, Thornton gave a tremendous snort indicative of a nasal problem so deep, so unreachable, he might well pull up his stomach to get rid of it. He looked around, but nobody else reacted, not even Hoekstra.
The president pressed his face into a white handkerchief while he continued speaking. “We would like to put on a show for our basketball team, the Steelheads. Something amazing, diverting. Specifically horses.”
“I’m sorry, what did you say, sir?”
“I’m sorry, what did you say, sir?”
“Don’t toy with me, young man. Horses on the basketball court! Haven’t you been listening to anything the others have said?”
“I have, I have. It’s just that sports, per se, is not really my area.” David had been a decent rugby player in college, and his father had been ferocious at tennis, but in general, the American obsession with sports left him cold.
“Consider it your area now. In addition to the Larson Kinne Institute, as of this year, we have a new sports center courtesy of the same donor, named in honor of his wife’s family, Crestole. Naturally, it has a state-of-the-art basketball floor. The question is, can the floor of this basketball court withstand five or ten horses on it performing a show for, say, fifteen minutes, something like that? That’s a physics question, I think.”
“It’s an engineering question, I believe.”
The vision of a new, young person who was presumably a faculty member telling President Thornton of Western Washington State University what he was supposed to know already made the room seize up like a car engine low on oil. The assembled males stared in open pity. Hoekstra, however, looked sly, almost gleeful.
“I am an agriculturalist, sir,” Thornton fairly shouted. “Do not play the dummy with me.” He slammed his papers down and dismissed the meeting.