Interview with Robert Sheppard

Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer. What inspired you to write your first book?
Writing has always been my personal calling. I have done many other things such as law, business, teaching and political activism, but I have usually regarded them as secondary to my primary mission in life of writing and being a citizen of the republic of letters. I began by reading the great authors, secondarily in terms of academic study, but primarily in terms of personal communion with the great minds of our human civilization. The inspiration for writing Spiritus Mundi was threefold: First, the culmination of a lifetime of reading and self-exploration; Second, a desire to make a contribution to World Literature in an era of literary and social globalization by sharing beauty and my personal vision and insight with others; Third, Spiritus Mundi was written with the practical goal of popularizing a specific global social reform, the furtherance of global democracy through the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, a movement I had been involved with for the last ten years.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I grew up on the Classics, especially the Modernist masterpieces such as Joyce's Ulysses, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Yeats, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence. In my personal reading and undergraduate work in English Literature I worked closely with Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens, George Eliot, Donne, Wordsworth, Blake, Fielding, Sterne, Browning, Keats, Shelley and Byron, Hawthorne, Melville, Mark Twain, Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Jack London, Dreiser, and Eugene O'Neil amoung countless others. Later, in my Ph.D. studies in Comparative Literature I reached out to the global classics of all cultures: The Journey to the West of Wu ChengEn, Shakuntala of Kalidasa, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Achebe's Things Fall Apart and the great classics of Western Literature such as Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and War and Peace, Dostoyevsky, Thomas Mann, Goethe, Schiller, Kleist, Pushkin, Cervantes, Flaubert, Maupassant, Eco, Gunther Grass and innumerable others. After so much professional "heavy' reading I also like to take a break from high seriousness and try to "go with the flow" of what is popular amoungst bestsellers to keep up with the popular tastes---Jeffery Archer, Grisham and Jodi Picault. I also like popular epics such as Tolkien's Ring Trilogy and Harry Potter as well as Science Fiction greats such as Asimov, H.G.Wells, Verne, Ray Bradbury and others. I began with "the Greats" but I also like to keep up with a broad spectrum of contemporary novels and poetry to be part of the overall modern scene.

Part of what I read is motivated by a desire as a professional literary scholar and writer to have mastery over the great works and masterpieces of World Literature----the "Touchstones" in the phrase of Matthew Arnold which constitute our common heritage and the models of excellence in all genres. When I am writing I will often read books that have common elements with scenarios, characters, situations and themes that I am working on to try to "learn from the masters" or gain some source of inspiration in my own work. Beyond that however, I read for pleasure and for beauty, reading anything and everything our of interest or whim that intrigues or pleasures me.

Of course beyond fiction, poetry and literature I read an immense amount of works on history, philosophy, art, religion, science, politics, law and biography. I try to be universal in the fields of interest to understand life and the world around us. As I also do professional work in law and business I read a constant flow of professional publications in those areas.
Is there a message in your novel Spiritus Mundi that you want readers to grasp?
A great novel is never reducible to a paraphraseable message. The ultimate “message” is to enjoy the energy and beauty of life, including its enhancement through art and the engaged experience of reading. That said, however, my novel encourages the reader’s development as a whole person, rational and irrational, by bringing to life myth, spirituality and cultural tradition. Spiritus Mundi, nonetheless, is a peculiar book in having a particular social message and program for our era of globalization, namely overcoming our “clash of civilizations” by actively collaborating in the construction of a common world culture, including a newly emerging World Literature to complement national literatures, and the further democratic evolution of our system of global governance through the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, a kind of globalized advisory version of the EU European Parliament. But a novel should be first and foremost a work of art and beauty, and only secondarily a medium for the transmission of extrinsic messages, ideological or otherwise.
Spiritus Mundi carries a romantic and even sexual component. How do you handle sex and sexuality in your novels?
Well, I grew up as a writer very much in the tradition of D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce, both of whom embraced the central importance of sexuality in human consciousness and existence in their works and worldviews. We are all living intellectually in the wake of the Freudian and Darwinian revolutions, and the “sexual revolution” in popular culture since the Sixties. Our sexuality is the life blood of our lives and of our consciousness, not to mention our unconsciousness, collective or individual. In my view of sexuality, common with D. H. Lawrence and C.G. Jung, sexuality is intimately connected with the spiritual dimension of human existence as well—sexuality can alternatively lead to dehumanization and animalization of our beings but sexuality can also lead just as naturally in the direction of the humanization of our natural and biological impulses, their civilizing, and even to their spiritualization, as Jung observed.


In regards to sexuality I take as a starting point that it is a natural part of our lives and should be positively embraced in all dimensions of our existence—that it is a necessary and wholesome part of our individual and collective mental health. That is not to deny that it has its chaotic, selfish, destructive and socially disruptive side as well, which society has difficulty managing, which it always must, but it is important that it should not be irrationally repressed in the individual or the society at large, as Freud and Jung have taught us.


Thus, as the saying goes, “War is too important to be left to the Generals,” we can also observe that sexuality is too important to be left to doctors, psychologists, biologists or “sexologists.” It is the living root of our individual selves and of our spirituality as well. As such the sexual lives of the characters in fiction are a vital dimension of their beings, and a vital dimension for judging the viability, mental health and value of the worldviews of their authors. Hollywood and Washington have long judged their projects asking the question “Will it play in Peoria?” and writers similarly have tested their worldviews by asking “Will it play between the sheets?” In Spiritus Mundi sexuality is linked to the spiritual lives of the characters, but also to the “life force” which drives human evolution and the collective unconscious of the human race, necessary to its survival. The progressive humanization, civilization and spiritualization of our most primal sexual animal impulses in the forms of love, family, community and communion is the story of the progress of our individual lives in microcosm and of our civilizational lives in macrocosm.
How do you approach cover design?
The cover design for Spiritus Mundi was designed to acheive two essential objectives: 1) To illustrate and engage the interest of the reader in the themes and storyline of the novel, and; 2) To provide an attractive, original attention-getting image the reader can identify with for marketing purposes. When you look at the cover at the center you see a kissing couple above a Tibetan Mandala image, depicting the idealistic protagonists of the novel, emblematic of love, hope and spirituality surrounded by a world in crisis: a nuclear terrorist explosion in Jerusalem, a WWIII Chinese tank column advancing past the iconic image of the Terracotta Warriiors of the first Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di, and the image of the Egyptian Sphinx in the desert. Below the lovers and the images of crisis appears the composite image of rising hope: a dove of peace soaring upwards over the image of the United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, which is the idealistic objective of the work of the main characters of the novel and the means by which the world emerges from the threatened World War III and nuclear terrorism of Spiritus Mundi's storyline.

The cover image is designed to evoke the mythic and spiritual dimension of the novel, as for instance the Sphinx is associated with the origin of the famous phrase "Spiritus Mundi" which is best known from William Butler Yeats' prophetic poem "The Second Coming:"

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Thus a world unraveling towards chaos and destruction is evoked, alongside a weak and struggling hope of deliverance, the grand themes of the novel. The Tibetan Mandala at the center is emblematic of the esoteric spiritual powers of life which come to aid mankind in the face of overwhelming disaster and threatened annihilation, and which the protagonists of Spiritus Mundi encounter, especially in the more mythical Grand Quest of Book II. The Dove of Peace and Hope echoes the story of Noah's Ark surviving the universal disaster of the Great Flood and the continuance of life on earth against all odds.

The cover design of Spiritus Mundi is also designed to evoke the essential unity of all of the cultures and civilizations of our world, including Asia, Africa and the Middle-East, the West and all of the peoples of the earth. From a marketing perspective it also is designed to engage the interest of readers from all regions of the world, as Spiritus Mundi is designed to be a "Global Novel" in depicting our world as a whole in our Age of Globalization, as well as the emerging global consciousness of all peoples as "Citizens of the World" with a common responsibility for global governance and global environmental protection embodied in the novel's program of supporting the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly for global democracy. Thus, Spiritus Mundi aspires not to the older gold standard of seeking to constitute "The Great American Novel" embodying the spirit of one nation, but rather to the newer ideal of "The Great Global Novel" seeking to portray the spirit of all of the peoples of the world coming to a new global consciousness of their common world citizenship and need to work together to guide the fate of the world as a whole.

The cover emerged as a collaboration between myself, the author and a professional illustrator working with computer composition software. I suggested the broad approach and then the illustrator worked with various images and compositions to provide drafts. After about twenty revisions and reworkings we finally settled on the cover image you see on the bookpage.
What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Third Person, omniscient or restricted is, of course the natural first recourse. In Spiritus Mundi I used all of the points of view by interspersing third person narrative with extensive “Blog Journals” in which multiple characters told the story in their own voice and person, recorded in their blogs.

In Spiritus Mundi’s Chapter 28, The Volcano’s Underworld (Mexico City)–Theatro Magico (The Magic Theater) I experimented with telling the story in the Second Person, addressed to the reader, where the protagonist Sartorius undergoes three mescaline-inducedd hallucinatory experiences in a “Magic Theater” and in which I wanted to impel the reader into undergoing the immediacy of direct and uncanny surreal experience.
How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Far too much! I would really rather be writing works of importance, but without the marketing machine of a major publisher or established reputation behind me I am doomed to try to become known and appreciated by my own efforts and promotion. For a lesser-known writer this seems to be a necessary evil. Though writing is a solitary profession, we are still nonetheless social animals and we writers need to be known in order to be read and appreciated. “Work without Hope” of any recognition or appreciation quickly turns to despair. The new writer has to bear this doleful burden until one has a readership.
Some have described your novel Spiritus Mundi as a work of art with a mission. How would you describe that mission and what induced you to undertake such a demanding and fascinating mission?
In terms of “missions,” yes, you could say that Spiritus Mundi, in addition to aspiring to constitute a rich and enjoyable work of literature in and of itself, takes on at least two special “missions.” The first is the promotion of the concept of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly for global democracy, and the second the promotion of the concept of “World Literature” as an emerging cultural institution in the age of the Global Village transcending the national literatures which it has outgrown.

In terms of my personal background, both missions grew out of my professional life as well as personal interests as they developed over the years. I studied and practiced law and then taught International Law at Peking University and also worked for UNIDO, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization in China, during which time I wrote some influential papers around the year 2000 for the civil society component of the Millennium Forum of the United Nations, focused on the evolution of the United Nations in the new century. These papers were rooted in the successful development of the European Parliament, the first democratic international institution, and essentially proposed the extension of that proven concept from the European Union to a global scale as a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly. In the next decade I discovered that many others were working in the same direction, and joined with them in the Committee for a Democratic United Nations and the Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, headquartered in Germany, and whose most visible leader has been former United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.


At the same time, I had long had a “double” profession, in addition to having studied law, having also studied Comparative Literature in the Ph.D. program at the University of California, Berkeley. You could say that while I enjoyed law, literature was always the “first love of my life.” I had always felt that writing as an author was the “first calling” of my life, and that in a sense the other involvements were a preparation and support for that calling. I had written poetry and short stories all my life, but about three or four years ago I felt it was time to move to a higher plane and write a full-length novel. Out of these disparate interests grew Spiritus Mundi, which was designed to challenge my writing skills and capacity to a higher level, along with the tangential goals of promoting the concept of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly along with the emerging cultural institution of World Literature, which grew out of my prior work in Comparative Literature.
Where can we find out about you and your work?
You can refer to many other online Interviews I have given in both text and audio forms including:

Wordsprings with Glenda Fralin: http://wordsprings.blogspot.com/

Morgen Bailey Interviews: http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/author-interview-with-non-fiction-science-fiction-and-fantasy-writer-and-poet-robert-sheppard/

■BlogTalkRadio Interviews (Listen to these audio intervies anytime online):

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/icdrrose/2012/12/07/robert-sheppard–spiritus-mundi-a-novel
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/icdrrose/2012/08/01/robert-sheppard–spiritus-mundi-a-novel.
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/chuckmorsespeaks/2013/02/07/chuck-morse-speaks

I also invite you to read myWordpress Blog, "Robert Sheppard Literary Blog and World Literature Forum:"
http://robertalexandersheppard.wordpress.com/

You can also follow these links to the Spiritus Mundi websites and blogs:

■Introducing Spiritus Mundi, a Novel by Robert Sheppard
■Author’s E-mail: rsheppard99_2000@yahoo.com
■Related Links and Websites: Spiritus Mundi, Novel by Robert Sheppard
■For Introduction and Overview of the Novel:https://spiritusmundinovel.wordpress.com/
■For Updates on the Upcoming Movie Version of the Novel, Spiritus Mundi & Casting of Actors and Actresses for Leading Roles See: http://robertalexandersheppard.wordpress.com/
■For Author’s Blog: https://robertalexandersheppard.wordpress.com//
■To Read Abut the Occupy Wall Street Movement in Spiritus Mundi: http://occupywallstreetnovel.wordpress.com/
■To Read a Sample Chapter from Spiritus Mundi:https://spiritusmundisamplechapters.wordpress.com/
■To Read Fantasy, Myth and Magical Realism Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundifantasymythandmagicalrealism.wordpress.com/
■To Read Sexual Excerpts fromSpiritus Mundi: The Varieties of Sexul Experience: https://spiritusmundivarietiesofsexualexperience.wordpress.com/
■To Read Spy, Espionage and Counter-terrorism Thriller Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: http://spiritusmundispyespionagecounterterrorism.wordpress.com
■To Read Geopolitical and World War Three Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundigeopoliticalworldwar3.wordpress.com
■To Read Spiritual and Religious Excerpts from Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundionspiritualityandreligion.wordpress.com
■To Read about the Global Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly in Spiritus Mundi: https://spiritusmundiunitednationsparliamentaryassembly.wordpress.com
■To Read Poetry from Spiritus Mundi:https://spiritusmundipoetry.wordpress.com
■For Discussions on World Literature and Literary Criticism in Spiritus Mundi: http://worldliteratureandliterarycriticism.wordpress.com/
■For Discussions of World History and World Civilization in Spiritus Mundi: https://worldhistoryandcivilizationspiritusmundi.wordpress.com/
■To Read the Blog of Eva Strong from Spiritus Mundi: https://evasblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com
■To Read the Blog of Andreas Sarkozy from Spiritus Mundi: http://andreasblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com
■To Read the Blog of Yoriko Oe from Spiritus Mundi: http://yorikosblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com
■To Read the Blog of Robert Sartorius from Spiritus Mundi: http://sartoriusblogfromspiritusmundi.wordpress.com
■CyberStationUSA.com’s interview: https://www.cyberstationlive.com
■BlogTalkRadio Interviews: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/chuckmorsespeaks/2013/02/07/chuck-morse-speaks, http://www.blogtalkradio.com/icdrrose/2012/12/07/robert-sheppard–spiritus-mundi-a-novel, and http://www.blogtalkradio.com/icdrrose/2012/08/01/robert-sheppard–spiritus-mundi-a-novel.
Finally, can you give us a look inside the man Robert Sheppard?
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!—as I recall one your fellow Kansans once sagely remarked on a certain occasion. Or I can have my doctor send you my latest X-ray if you like! ……I don’t know how to answer such a question exactly—-“the man Robert Sheppard” continues to be, like his writing “a work in progress” with many contradictions, frustrations, inadequacies, irrationalities and inscrutable impulses coexisting with and ever evolving beside and within the socially and literarily observable persona. The ancient Greeks had to cut into stone in their temples the admonition “Know Thyself” precisely because it was so hard, perhaps impossible to accomplish—we knowing ourselves ever “but in a glass darkly.” Perhaps sometime in the future I will meet and get to know that man behind the curtain, “the man Robert Sheppard”—–it is likely we may become friends—–it would be natural—–after all we have a lot in common, and I may even learn a lot from him if we can somehow learn to rub along and tolerate each other—- we may even, at the end of our little dramatic offering, ascend in a homeward-bound balloon together, or as in the ending another film, as in Bogie’s Cassablanca stroll off into the mist-filled night arm-in-arm together, with one or the other observing “You know, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!”
Published 2013-12-27.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Spiritus Mundi - Book I: The Novel
Series: Spiritus Mundi, Book 1. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 530,130. Language: English. Published: April 7, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Alternative history
(5.00)
Robert Sheppard's thriller novel, Spiritus Mundi, is an unforgettable read and epic journey bringing to life the sexual and spiritual lives of struggling global idealists overcoming despair, nuclear terrorism, espionage and a threatened World War III to to bring the world together from the brink of destruction with a revolutionary United Nations Parliamentary Assembly and spiritual rebirth
Spiritus Mundi - Book II: The Romance
Series: Spiritus Mundi, Book 2. Price: Free! Words: 193,950. Language: English. Published: April 7, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Alternative history
(5.00)
Robert Sheppard's thriller novel, Spiritus Mundi, is an unforgettable read and epic journey bringing to life the sexual and spiritual lives of struggling global idealists overcoming despair, nuclear terrorism, espionage and a threatened World War III to to bring the world together from the brink of destruction with a revolutionary United Nations Parliamentary Assembly and spiritual rebirth.