Interview with Author R.B. Clague

R.B. Clague

ED- The Eerie Digest travels all over the world on the magic carpet known as the internet. We have met, and interviewed, exciting celebrities and writers from around the world and introduced them to our legions of readers. One such writer is an author from Australia, R.B. Clague. Rob, before becoming an author you were a Probation and Parole Officer in Australia and have worked in some of the most remote territories there. Please tell our readers all about this and some of the places where you traveled


RBC- I worked in a number of regions across the centre of Australia from Santa Teresa (approximately eight kilometers from Alice Springs) to Kintore, which is about a seven hours drive from Alice and numerous other communities in between. I was also for a time, the PPO (Probation and Parole Officer) for Mutitjulu, who are the traditional owners of Uluru; one of the most iconic landmarks in the whole of Australia. I have very fond memories of all the communities and the many people that I met while working in the field, from the offenders, to the judges, who I would accompany to the many “Bush Courts” that occurred in the Aboriginal communities on a monthly basis.

ED- What kind of dangers did you face on a daily basis?

RBC- One of the things about travelling to remote communities in the centre of Australia is that the smallest mistakes can mean the difference between life and death. For instance, it was a departmental rule that you had to take forty liters of water with you, at any given time. If your vehicle breaks down, you can quickly succumb to the heat, dehydrate and die before help reaches you. You also need to be able to expertly drive a four-wheel drive through some of the toughest, most desolate terrain in the world, which is not something for the fainthearted. Another constant threat was the wildlife; especially kangaroos and camels. Most people don’t know that there are approximately a million camels in the centre of Australia. If you hit one of them at high speed on a dirt road, the consequences can be devastating. You also had to look out for domestic animals such as cattle, which have a tendency to wander out at night onto the roads.

ED- At any time did you ever face life threatening situations?

RBC- I guess there were a few hairy instances, but the one that comes immediately to mind occurred with a former colleague and great friend of mine, Mick Hever. We were travelling from Docker River, which is literally in the middle of nowhere and close to the Western Australian border to Uluru, on a dirt road… (I use the word “road” very loosely) which suddenly disappeared and became a chasm as a result of recent heavy rains in the region. Had Mick (who was driving) decided to brake, we would have gone headfirst down into the chasm and the situation may have become dire. We would have been trapped inside the vehicle and may have suffered significant injury. Instead, Mick accelerated and the four-wheel drive just managed to straddle each side of the chasm. I still remember the vehicle being on a forty-five degree angle, as the dirt fell away from under the tyres. It was truly scary experience. We laugh about it now, but at the time, it was a real split-second decision and literally a matter of life and death.

ED- How did your work influence your writing?

RBC- My work, especially in the Probation and Parole field, has had a profound influence on my writing. Aside from all the stuff I’ve already mentioned, my specialty as a PPO was to write Pre-Sentence Reports for the Supreme Court in relation to serious sex offenders. The writing of such reports requires in-depth analytical skills and excellent written skills and the ability to make appropriate sentencing recommendations to the Court. I have been commended on several occasions by Supreme Court Justices in relation to the quality of those reports and on my writing skills. As far as my experience in the Northern Territory; I’m a city-boy by birth and spending time with people of others cultures and in surroundings that took me completely out of my comfort zone was a huge growth experience for me. I recommend it to anyone, especially other writers.

ED- Tell us about your book, ‘Whitefella Dreaming’, and the theme behind it.

RBC- Whitefella dreaming could best be described as a supernatural thriller and is based on the traditional Aboriginal law of “payback.” The novel is set in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia. It is the story of Rob Swift who accidentally kills an Aboriginal man in a car accident on his way to work one morning. The accident leaves his partner, Aroha, in a coma and his best friend is killed. Following the accident, there are a number of strange events that occur in the Alice Springs hospital and Rob is informed that Aroha is being held captive in a spiritual world, unable to return to him until he takes a journey into the desert to face the consequences of his actions. Throughout the process he develops a psychic insight, which occurs whenever he physically touches anyone. Rob is eventually led out into the desert by different native animal spirits, taken to sacred sights and kept alive so that he can eventually face judgment for the death of the Indigenous man.

ED- You also have a collection of short stories, ‘Twenty Twisted Tales’, of which you have submitted many for our readers to see over the next several months. This is the kind of ‘stuff’ that our readers enjoy. With many student writers reading our magazine, tell them how you develop these stories.

RBC- I don’t know if there’s anything to akin to a formula that I adhere to when writing. In fact, I’d never written any short stories before and decided to write a collection as a challenge to myself. I actually came up with he title for the collection first and then set about writing twenty short stories, just to see if I could do it. It surprised me how quickly they developed and I’d completed them all within a month. One of those stories entitled “Payback” inspired a fellow writer, Charlotte Blackwell, to write a similar story. I did give her permission to do that and she will provide me with an appropriate acknowledgement, for providing her with the inspiration. I’m a typical flow-writer and pretty much go with whatever is in my head at the time. I don’t usually know how a story, or a novel is going to end until about halfway through, and I do minimal planning; that’s just my style that I’ve developed over many years. It drives some of my more meticulous writing friends crazy!

ED- Another of your books is titled ‘Desert of the Mind’. Please describe the book and the story behind it.

RBC- Desert of the mind is the sequel to “Whitefella dreaming” and follows the main protagonist, Rob Swift as he leaves Alice Springs, to attend a one-week training course in Melbourne, Victoria, as part of his job. His friend, an Aboriginal sorcerer, appears to him on the plane, and informs him that he will be required to help somebody who has gone to the city and has ended up in some sort of trouble. Rob arrives in Melbourne and has a vision of a woman forcibly taken by unknown assailants in the centre of the city. Her identity remains unknown to him. This incident becomes a reality to him on a bulletin, he sees on the nightly news. He has a further vision in which he gathers a clue to the identity of one of the kidnappers. He approaches the police, but when he tells them just how he came across this evidence, they are reluctant to believe him and initially dismiss him. However, information that he provides them in relation to the murder-suicide in an unrelated case finally convinces the two detectives who are working on the present case, that he may be able to assist them with their investigation. Through use of his visions and with some assistance from the Sorcerer, he finally finds out that the abducted woman is a famous Aboriginal artist who has been taken by unscrupulous art-dealers and held captive to paint pictures for them, which are worth many thousands of dollars. Their plan is to kill her and therefore increase the value of her paintings, that is, until Rob develops a plan to rescue her. Throughout the process of helping the police, Rob provides assistance in the solving of another serious case, inadvertently making psychic contact with a ruthless killer, with tragic and disastrous results. His week in Melbourne turns out to be far more than he could ever have imagined.

 ED- You have another unusual title, ‘Finding The Here’. Please tell our readers all about this work.

RBC- Finding the Here was originally written in 2001 and remained in my desk drawer for almost a decade before finding a publisher. It’s essentially a story about a man who loathes what he’s become and how he’s lived his life. As a story, I wanted to combine several elements including psychology (Carl Jung is a hero of mine) existentialism (as is Jean-Paul Satre) religion, mental health, sexual assault, drug addiction and the journey to self-acceptance into one book. These are all areas that I’ve worked in throughout my career and issues that I’ve dealt with John Brown, the main protagonist in the story, is a kind of anti-hero, everyman, whose journey to his “Here” is something many people will relate to. It has only recently been released, but I’ve had some good feedback so far, which is always gratifying. There are some sections in it which are vaguely autobiographical, but I’ll leave that up to the readers to work that out for themselves.

ED- Where can our many readers find your books ?

RBC- My books can be purchased through any good bookstore or at Amazon and are distributed through the Ingram Network. They can also be purchased as e-books through services like Smashwords and Kindle. My publisher at Better Karma is a person who likes to cover the market.

ED- What exciting work do you presently have on the drawing boards and what are you planning to write about in the future?

RBC- I have a number of projects completed including “Sigh of the Wind” which is the third part of the Rob Swift series and has been approved for publication in 2011, although no date has yet been set for the release. I also have a few projects underway at present, including a 160,000 word fantasy novel, which is currently under consideration. I have almost completed the second book in the series, and will then take a break from that to complete two other novels entitled: “One amongst many” which is the story of a Probation and Parole Officer, assigned to complete a Pre-Sentence Report for the Supreme Court in relation to a murderer, based on my own experiences and also “Profit of the Laud” which is a kind of satire on the mental health system. In all honesty, there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to complete everything I want to, even though I work to a quota of two-thousand words per day.

ED- Rob, you have really led an adventurous life-style, and The Eerie Digest hopes to hear more from you in the future. Thank you so much for this interview, and we heartedly wish you much luck in all that you do. I know that our readers will rush out to look for and read your work. Many thanks again!

RBC – My pleasure and I do hope your readers enjoy the short stories. I also have a Facebook fanpage and am happy for people to join and provide feedback about my various works.

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