It’s Tuesday and R.D. Varnon is sitting in his family room still dressed from his morning run. He’s wearing shorts and a long sleeve shirt under a graphic tee sporting a NASA logo. He keeps his yellow hat on, apologizing for his appearance saying his hair is a mess and he had to get some chores done around the house. During the interview he gets called away briefly to help his son deal with a computer issue as the child participates in distance learning.
Varnon is the author of two books, his latest, “The Last Disruptor” is the story of a boy who tells stories that become real on an Earth in an alternate universe. The planets are connected by a quantum bridge or tunnel and Crate, that’s the protagonist’s name, is the key to both planets’ survival. The book was released at the end of October in both electronic and paperback formats.
So here is the interview. (It has been abridged and edited for clarity.)
Q: So, how are you feeling about the book?
RDV: Really excited. I do think it’s the best thing I’ve written to date and I’m very proud of it. I think it’s entertaining and people will love the underlying message of friendship.
Q: Wow, so you just jumped right in. So tell us more about the ideas in the book. Where did you get the idea from?
RDV: Well, it really started a few years back. My son and I used to go on walks and we’d play this “what if” game. You know, I’d pose a question, what if cars were never invented and he’d tell me what he thought the world would be like. Well one of the the questions I asked was, what if there were no stories? How would people communicate? That was a real tough one for that game and after a while I began to think, well, why would people not be able to tell stories or be forbidden to tell stories. And that’s where the idea came from. I also wanted to write something that was less magical and more scientific for kids. So the original drafts had a lot of basic science in it.
Q: What I found interesting was the idea of why the stories couldn’t be told. It’s sort of a Footloose situation, no?
RDV: (Laughs) I don’t know if that’s an accurate analogy, though I guess it could be. It’s more like, what if kids were telling stories and they came true on another planet? That could really do some damage, right? Whereas Footloose, I guess they banned dancing because they felt it was leading kids to do dangerous things and imperil their eternal souls. I don’t know.
Q: So tell us about Crate and his friends and how you came up with them, oh, and the differences between the earths. Did your background as a journalist influence you?
RDV: Well obviously Crate is a bit different from other kids. He can’t help but tell stories and when we start the book, he’s really only got one real friend, Brooke.
Q: Can I say I love Brooke.
RDV: That’s cool. Yes, I love her, too. She’s a great character. I’m glad I found her for this story. And she plays more than just a supporting role, which I really liked about her. She’s fiercely loyal, but also honest with Crate. You know, she’s the kind of friend we should all have. And I like their relationship. They really root for each other to succeed.
As for Crate’s other friends at school, I just like the idea that there are kids out there that will just embrace the loners and the people who are different. You know, we all need that and need to do more of that. I know, I’m being kind of preachy here, but it’s the way I feel. I don’t think it comes off that way in the book.
My journalism background really helps me when it comes to hitting my personal deadlines, doing some research on the fly and with dialogue. I can’t help but write dialogue and report what the characters say and do.
Q: Are your characters based on anybody?
RDV: A little, but mostly they’re elements of what I wish people were or elements of different friendships I’ve had and have and sometimes elements of myself. I guess, really, they’re all part of me, which is weird.
Q: Ok, so there are two Earth’s in this, how did you come up with the differences between them?
RDV: It’s a matter of time, and when the two Earth’s are. You see, for me, writing about being a kid raises memories of my own childhood, which was quite happy, especially in California, where I was born. So I kind of went back there to create Crate’s world and then the other Earth is our world just a couple decades or so ahead.
Q: So, Crate’s world is the 1980s?
RDV: Um, slightly earlier. It’s based loosely on 1970s Vacaville, California. As for the rest of Crate’s world, they’ve got a smaller population and are a lot more intone with environmental consequences and have avoided any meaningful wars since the end of their World War II, which was even more brutal and lasted longer than our own. Their world also accepted a world government.
Q: Yes, I think you explained part of that. You have a pretty rich history in this book, not just about the planet but also the Absurd.
RDV: Yes, that was fun. I majored in history and that helped with the world building. Oh, I guess for your readers I should explain, The Absurd is the name of the research institute that studies and guards the secret connection between worlds. It’s been around for more than a couple generations and has developed a world-wide network on Crate’s world. I did write out a sort of historic outline of the Absurd and even some short vignettes involving the early history of the institution and the discovery of other disruptors.
Q: Yeah, that leads me to ask, you wrote “The Last Disruptor” so there are other disruptors. Umm, are there going to be other books about disruptors and The Absurd? If so, why start with this one?
RDV: That’s a good point. I originally thought it would just make a good stand alone novel, but as I wrote it, I did realize there are other stories to tell about this world. But I was having so much fun with Crate and his story that I just kept going and besides, this is a quantum-based story so the order that the books come in doesn’t really matter.
Q: So there will be other books?
RDV: Could be, if there’s a market for them. I’ve outlined some ideas and written out a few chapters for some of them, but I have a ton of ideas for a lot of other stories. So we’ll see.
Q: Ok, tell us about Ms. Read.
RDV: Ms. Read is interesting. She seems very severe and of course she’s British. That’s because in my brief history of the Absurd, the English are very involved in research on the other Earth. So they have a lot of representation from that side of the tunnel. I thought, to be honest, she was the villain in the story, but she didn’t go that way. Instead she’s very much involved in trying to set things right and help Crate out.
Q: I have tons of questions about her, but I also would like to know about Ryan and Alfie.
RDV: I like Ryan’s arc and I don’t want to give away too much. I think people will, in the end, like Ryan despite his early interactions with Brooke and Crate. As for Alfie, he’s probably the wisest character in the book.
Q: The dog is the most wise character in the book?
RDV: Of course, when is the dog not the wisest member of any family?
Q: OK, so what do you ultimately hope people get out of reading your book?
RDV: I hope the book communicates how wonderful friendship is and how amazing the world of science is. Though this is fanciful stuff, it’s still got its roots in scientific ideas. There is so much to be amazed by — both our capacity for investigating the world around us and sharing ourselves with our friends.
The Last Disruptor is available on Amazon in paperback and in digital formats.