Interview with Greg Rohloff

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy in writing is to explore an idea and discover truth in the process. And while journalism may seem to be the most obvious mode for such discoveries, fiction writing lets me explore attitudes, beliefs and situations such as in "Dog on a Rope" in which a man explores how his dream goes awry and what being responsible means in understanding how his dream is sidetracked, what he can do and cannot do to revitalize that dream, and how that process affects his role in his family; is the dream more important than these relationships, or do the relationships define the dream?
Who is the "dog" on the rope?
We meet Digger, an aging ranch border collie who is unable to adequately do his ranch duties of guarding cattle and helping to bring them in from distant pastures, when Jay Dean persuades the rancher to let him take in Digger as a pet. So long as Jay Dean can take care of him, the dog will live. When Jay Dean takes the dog on his journey home, he is stopped on the interstate for a terrorist checkpoint, and a deputy orders Jay Dean to put Digger on a leash or he will shoot the dog. Digger has never been on a leash, and as Jay Dean frantically searches for anything that will serve the function, a young African-American man in the car behind Jay Dean, rushes forward with a rope, sparing Digger. Thus the dog becomes a symbol for anyone tentatively hanging on in uncertain circumstances, whether it is Jay Dean seeking to return to coaching, his wife working for a billionaire investor who is acquiring ranches and unceremoniously fires her once her task in negotiating a deal is complete. The backdrop to their story is a presidential election season in which the incumbent president and the challenger are essentially front men for slick operators seeking only to wield power for the next four years. Thus, voters and all Americans are in that same symbolic position, depending upon what moves are made by power brokers to sway voters, and how those policies actually affect every-day life.
How does a political election campaign connect with a love story between a man whose dream has been shattered by circumstances and his quest to reunite with his family?
Because the political process in nominating presidential candidates has turned into a race to pile up campaign cash years before the election, and party interests often reflect only the interests of the biggest campaign donors, parallels to a tenuous life situation for one man can be made to the tenuous situation in which political campaigns create false controversies -- the federal debt "crisis" which Paul Krugman's considers in a recent New York Times column, and the subsequent fears that Social Security and Medicare will soon run out of money unless benefits are cut which can also be easily debnunked -- that fear mongering has become the essence of public policy debates. We no longer hear any proposals for creating the greatest good for the greatest number of Americans, whether it is in debates over government spending, immigration or the rising costs of college compared with the skittish demand for labor. In essence, the lack of attention to those issues places average people like Jay Dean and his wife Lisa at the mercy of dumb luck, just as the rest of us are stuck in tenuous positions if we are not within the top one-half of one percent or so in wealth ownership.
Who are your favorite authors?
The authors I have enjoyed most have been Ernest Hemingway for his use of journalistic writing conventions to tell a fictional story, and Thomas McGuane for the beauty of the language in his short stories and for the unconventional heroes and their odd situations in defining a hero. The opening scene in Dog on a Rope draws inspiration from McGuane. Jay Dean displays to his visiting brother what he considers at the moment the ultimate expression of freedom -- shooting a gun naked. The scene, though, sets up the question about freedom, whether it is the ability to do anything at anytime an individual so desires -- a common belief -- or the ability to live up to responsibilities such as family and work and gaining a reasonable reward to support that family and allow it to pursue its dreams. The story's ending draws from one of the most memorable passages in literature, the characters and situations Huck Finn and his friend Jim encounter in their raft trip down the Mississippi River in Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Instead of a river, though, Jay Dean encounters an array of twisted characters in traveling down Interstate 35 from the ranch in Kansas to his home in the Texas Metroplex.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The beauty of life itself. Although a day can seem to be one drudgery after another, moments can stand out that overshadow the mundane, whether that moment is a smile from a spouse, the laughter of a child, the antics of a pet or the moment that a hummingbird darts through the blossoms in a flower bed. Literature helps us appreciate those moments and gives us a framework for relating such events as the brighteners in life. Generally life is fair, it treats everyone harshly at one time or another, so we all have a responsibility to point out moments of hope and beauty.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I teach freshman composition at West Texas A&M University and developmental writing at Amarillo College, stressing to those students that writing is a way to organize thoughts in a rational manner understandable to others, and it is most effective when it is grounded in verifiable truths. I sing in a church choir and am active at Beautiful Savior in a variety of endeavors, In the past, we taught CPR in a Mexican village about an hour from medical facilities, and currently I work with a branch of the Texas Ramp Project, which builds wooden wheelchair ramps for the needy.
What is your writing process?
I start with a question, whether I am writing in an academic vein or in a creative project. For the creative project, I then ask the question of what kind of character would be asking such a question and the elements in their backgrounds that would come into play. This allows me to create a back-story for the main character and the secondary players, and it also gives me a starting point in telling his or her story, for their past will tell you how they think, how they speak, what they like and dislike, and how they are influenced. From their, I keep asking the question of how this person would react as situations in the plot arise.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
As a child, I was fond of the series of books about a dog, "Big Red." I was enchanted with the settings and the drama that can arise in everyday life. The words became a new world for me that I could visit by turning the page and reading the book to its conclusion.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I grew weary of the constant querying agents, waiting for a reply, getting replies that were encouraging but closed with a sorry about being so busy with current clients I have too little time available to serve your needs properly, but best of luck and please let me know about your next project. And then seeing similar books in the bookstore.
Published 2014-08-04.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Dog on a Rope
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 85,510. Language: English. Published: August 15, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » Satire
Weeks before the conventions, the president dies from dabbling in cocaine and a heat stroke fells his folksy challenger. Politics as usual breaks out with assassins, voting machine hackers and a prosecutor who kidnaps an American official for a war crimes trial. A man who lost his dreams must find his way home through a twisted American landscape, and discovers we all are the dog on a rope.
When They Can't Come Home
Price: Free! Words: 3,880. Language: English. Published: November 23, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » Middle Eastern, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
Three mothers -- one coming to terms with the death of her husband in Iraq from a sniper's bullet, one dealing with the father of her child who is caught in a drugs-and-party life, the third, a refugee from the Middle Eastern wars hoping to build a new life.
Bag Daddies
Price: Free! Words: 11,120. Language: English. Published: May 15, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
Four desperate guys, a bag of stolen diamonds, a plan to get them to a fence. What can go wrong?
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 98,900. Language: English. Published: October 27, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
Donny Joe Snell loves the high life, and he takes shortcuts to get there. When Sarah Corham, who has aspirations to model, meets him, he promises to open doors for her by introducing her to the party crowd in Dallas. Family life with a son spirals downward into cocaine addiction, and a tightening hold of crime, drug dealers and crooked cops. That's when Donny Joe decides he has one chance to live.