Interview with Robert Fitzpatrick

When did you first start writing?
I first started writing in sophomore year of high school. It was something where after having read for most of my child life, I started understanding the structure of books. I understood the patterns enough to realize that writing was something I could do. And there was also the wonderful joy of being able to talk without being interrupted. So my understanding of the intricacies of the English language grew with every word I read and every word I wrote. Of course, that led to the ability to make wondrously awful puns. But that's a side effect I can use for my own amusement, so I don't mind.
What's the story behind your latest book?
House 49 was born from two ideas. The first idea was "What if there were a totem that caused weird things to happen in whichever room of the house it was in? What if, when it was in the kitchen, it caused blood to show up in chocolate syrup bottles? What if, when in the bathroom, it caused piranhas into the bathtub from the drain." And the second idea was, "Could I write a book that was interpreted by different readers differently? Could they use their own beliefs to interpret the book in their own way?" So, while there is no blood in the chocolate syrup bottle in the fridge, and there are no piranhas in the bath tub, House 49 takes the idea of a typical suburban house and flips it upside down. And each reader, hopefully, will walk away with their own personal experience.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Control. It comes down to that one word. I'm not looking to become the next bestselling author, so I'm not eager to let someone else restructure my stories so that they are most profitable. I'm looking to reach readers who relate to what I've written and enjoy what I've written. There lacks a depth in writing for the masses. So, in short, if the book that I've written becomes popular, I would be very excited because it means I've written something universal. But I don't want to mutate my work just to have it be popular.
What are you working on next?
My next book is a social satire about social media and the public perception of suicide. It's probably going to rub some people the wrong way, but I feel like it's something that we need to start talking about. I firmly believe once all creeds and races and sexual identities achieve the equality everyone deserves, that our next big revolution is going to be in the change in how we view mental health. It's been a long time coming and I feel like I have some useful information to put forth. It's a lofty view, sure, but I'm trying to avoid any preaching that would natural occur in a book like this.
Who are your favorite authors?
The list here is pretty large. Stephen King has been a huge influence for me, he knows more about the human condition than any other author I've read. He manages to reveal humanity in words that hook you from the start. Philip Pullman is another big one. He opened my eyes to the fact that authors could make some underhanded statements about their own thoughts and beliefs while still creating an incredible story without estranging the reader. It makes stories stronger when the author has a conviction to present. I love the magical realism that Gabriel Garcia Marquez puts to great use. JK Rowling has the most beautiful empathy and demonstrates it so well in her characters. Lev Grossman's sarcastic sense of humor makes me laugh often and hard. I can't talk about sarcasm without mentioning Chuck Palahniuk, either. His commentary, satire, and brevity make me incredibly happy with every book he writes. The list continues on, but for now it looks like I've captured the most influential of my favorite authors.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I do, and it was terrible! It was basically a Sword of Shannara (by Terry Brooks) rip off--or should I call it fan-fiction to make it sound more positive? One of the creatures in this book was a dust bunny. It looked like a rabbit, but it was made of dust. There's a reason I stopped working on it three chapters in.
How do you approach cover design?
I make all of my covers, even though it's a painful process. I spend a couple of days coming up with as many quick pencil sketches as I can. For House 49, I had something like thirty or forty sketches. I picked important scenes from the book, important objects, a few house that matched the look of the titular house, and even tried to put characters on the cover. The final cover wasn't even in these initial ideas, but it helped to sort through all of the bad ideas before finding the best one. The final cover happened by accident, I had the roof-scape of a neighborhood, then found an interesting wall paper pattern, and from there all of the pieces came together quickly enough. Of course, quickly still took a month, but the end result was worth it.
What do you read for pleasure?
Everything. Right now I'm reading Rosehead by Ksenia Anske, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon, On Creativity and the Unconscious by Sigmund Feud, and Duma Key by Stephen King. I don't usually have this many books going at once, but they're all interesting and I can't easily put one on hold to finish another without wanting to return to it right away.
Describe your desk
Messy at the moment. On the left side of my computer, I have a tape measure, masking tape, my tablet charger, a drawing compass, several SD cards, a winter hat, a Rubik's cube (that looks just like Liam's), my DSLR camera, a paint brush, several ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils, my next water/sewer/trash bill waiting to be paid, my cell phone, the journal that I'm writing my next story in, and a random scattering of watch batteries (I can't really explain this one.)

On the left of my computer, I have a container of black paint, another tape measure (how do I have two?), a spool of black thread, a case of sewing needles, several empty envelopes I should really throw out, a pile of wooden dollhouse shingles left over from the doll house I built and burnt down for my House 49 trailer video, a black Sharpie, several hand sketches on scraps of paper, and yet another mechanical pencil.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The thing that makes me the happiest writer ever is when readers tell me that they completely relate with any of my characters. It feels in that moment like they can understand me and I can understand them. It's a warm thing to achieve even that brief moment of understanding. It hits even deeper when the reader tells me that what I had written helped them. It helped them feel appreciated, or it helped them solve a problem in their life, or it helped them forgive someone that they hadn't fully understood until they read what I had written. It's about connecting, for me, and it's about knowing that what I've written has made a difference.
Published 2015-12-20.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.