Mark A. Carter
 

Mary Chanton Krater
INTERVIEWS Mark A. Carter re:
HEPHZIBAH OF HEAVEN

Always stylish fictional British book critic Mary Chanton Krater sat down with Canadian Science Fiction novelist Mark A. Carter and, while sipping espresso, interviewed the flamboyant poète maudit about his Mythpunk Science Fiction novel: Hephzibah of Heaven.

The Crucifixion retold, the end of the world, and the future of humanity

Mary Chanton Krater: Why did you write Hephzibah of Heaven?

CARTER: I had my first thoughts about Hephzibah of Heaven on Christmas Eve of 1981, at a low point in my life, while standing on a train platform, at midnight, as it began to snow, awaiting the last train out of town that would take me back to university, after being put out on my heels by my sister after I had spent hours to get home for Christmas.

I very clearly heard the words, spoken by God in the novel, "You must, my Son, go down." And I dared to play with the idea of writing a story about the crucifixion. It was called "The Promise." I found the concept of Jesus Christ being alone, as depicted in the Holy Bible, without Angels at his side, during the lowest point in his life, intolerable. So, I imagined a deific lover, a Seraphim named Hephzibah who was betrothed to him, floating before him but unseen by the humans at Golgotha, as he hung on the cross. Her simple task was to catch his soul when it tumbled from his flesh, and to carry it back to Heaven. But the crucifixion lingered longer than she anticipated. She became impatient with God. In a moment of fiery, seraphic anger, she took matters into her own hands. And for her transgression, she was punished. One of the three stories told in Hephzibah of Heaven is about her two thousand year ordeal.

I sat on that idea for years, but it took a promise made to God during the drug-induced hallucinations of a prolonged illness, and the right music, for everything to gel.

When Evanescence came out with their Fallen CD, I heard Hephzibah's torment within the songs. In a tick-tack-toe slam to my sensibilities, within the same week, I heard two television celebrities, as well as a dear old family friend, profess a lack of belief in God, and Joan Osborne's song One of Us from her Relish CD was playing on radio, and its video was playing on television. When I heard her lyrics, "up to Heaven alone," I jumped out of my chair, shook my fist, and screamed, "never alone."

I could not imagine Jesus Christ being alone while walking the Earth let alone during his crucifixion. So, I imagined what the human witnesses, at Golgotha, could not see. I imagined his beloved Seraph Hephzibah with him, as well as her handmaidens, and the entire Angelic Chorus.

MCK: How long did it take you to write the book?

CARTER: I had been thinking about it for twenty-five years. But certain events had to fall in place before I finally got around to writing it. 911 tipped the scale. Then, with a fire burning in my belly, the novel exploded onto the page. It took six weeks to write the first draft, through blindness, eye-surgery, and recovery. The book tripled in size during the year it took to complete. Editing, editing, and more editing took another six months before I considered submitting it. Writing the book was an intense emotional experience, and proofing it was an intense technical experience that seemed to linger forever. Writing the book burned me out for a time. The book became something I loved to hate and hated to love, but that is to be expected.

MCK: Who do you see as a potential audience for Hephzibah of Heaven?

CARTER: Every adult who can read should read this novel. It is faith affirming. I watched someone on television recently standing outside amid flowers, plants, and trees and she had the audacity to say that she saw no evidence of God around her. This book bridges the gap between faith and science, and does much more. Especially during these uncertain times, we need this kind of uplifting work. As the subtitle suggests, Hephzibah of Heaven is a novel of hope in a graceless age. I see everyone who believes in God, or who has lost faith and wants to believe again, as a reader of this book. Why? The book is a fictional verification of the existence of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Moreover, the three story lines depict miracles, some historical, some recent, and some deific in the context of our heroine and her quest to return to a very real Heaven.

MCK: You have commented that you wrote Hephzibah of Heaven in the presence of Messengers, which is another word for Angels. Aren't you concerned that your comment makes you sound abnormal if not crazy?

CARTER: What is normal? In Psychology, we are taught that normal is established by the norm. I would be abnormal if I made the comment at an atheist convention. Among Christians the comment is exceptional, perhaps miraculous, but within the norms of the Christian faith. As for being crazy, which is not a technical term found in Psychology, I was painfully aware while I was writing the novel and sensed entities unknown that if I saw them, which I never did, and heard them, which I never did either, that I would be suffering from hallucinations. Furthermore, if I thought I was chosen by God, or that I was some kind of modern prophet because of what I sensed, then I would have a delusion of grandeur. Delusions and hallucinations are the very definition of psychosis. Alas, I was merely a vitamin-deprived writer sitting on the floor and writing long-hand at the coffee table who sensed something while I worked on my book. Most probably I imagined the presence of Angels, but I would like to believe that I was actually visited by them while I wrote.

MCK: When I was in school I read Isaac Asimov's Foundation. And his depiction of mankind expanding out into the vastness of the Milky Way utterly blew my mind. I thought my head was going to explode. But your concept of millions of galaxies within the known universe being part of a larger multiverse shaped like a starfish depicted in the colored sand on the floor of the Mandala Room of Heaven went so beyond Asimov that it left me in awe and quite speechless. How did you come up with the idea? Was Asimov an influence?

CARTER: It would be too complex to explain all of the influences in the short time and space you have allotted for this interview. But let me at least say that the influences extend from the very small, like the concept of superstrings mentioned in Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe to the very large, like the concept of Black Holes mentioned in Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. As for Isaac Asimov's Foundation, yes, it was indeed an influence. How could it not be? I read it when I was twelve. And it blew my mind too. Do you realize that it was part of a seven book series? I had thought that it was merely part of a trilogy. Who knew?

MCK: My time is just about up. But before I depart, would you share a pearl or two of advice with new writers?

CARTER: I would be delighted. Write about what you know. It sometimes takes a long time for a story to percolate. Persevere. Rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite. The story only gets better. Read Anatomy of Criticism by Northrop Frye, and Aristotle's Poetics. Learn about mythos and symbolism. Learn about possible improbabilities and impossible probabilities. When you are finished writing and polishing, publish yourself through an on-demand company. Don't wait to get accepted by agents and then get ripped off by them, and don't wait for publishers to accept you either. That's all old school and is destined to go the way of the dinosaurs unless they adapt. Don't give up. Believe in yourself. When things seem their darkest, and your book is out there, but hasn't been discovered yet, and consequently has made you no money, and you don't know whether to pay the rent that month or buy food, my advice is pay the rent and eat at the local soup kitchen. If things get even worse, live out of your car, eat at the soup kitchen, and work out of the public library. Meanwhile, write another book, and another. That way, when lightning strikes, you can pull a rabbit out of your hat. Nobody said writing was easy. Moreover, nobody said the life of a writer was easy. It sounds romantic, but it isn't. Particularly at the outset, and that outset can quickly become a decade, the life of a writer involves sacrifice that few in our society are willing to make. You will live the life of a monk in his cell for your craft. Then suddenly, if you're lucky, you will be discovered. You will become an overnight sensation, and the talk of the town. Right. Sure. You bet. You have my pity and my respect. Good luck.

...

End of Interview One

Mary Chanton Krater: It has indeed been an honor to read and to review Hephzibah of Heaven. And interviewing Mark A. Carter, who usually does not do interviews, was a great privilege. I recommend that you read Hephzibah of Heaven. Thank you, sir.

AUTHOR BACKGROUND: Mark A. Carter holds a B.A. in Drama and Psychology, a B.Ed., an Honors B.A. in English, and an M.A., with thesis, in English Language and Literature. He lives in the outskirts of Canada and in the shadow of so-called civilization, with his wife Donna. As always, he wrote his novels by hand, in the presence of messengers, using his fabled translucent, red, fountain pen.

Read other Mary Chanton Krater interviews of Mark A. Carter:
Thea of the Seraphim
Tellusian Seed

Now you know.

from the imagination of Mark A. Carter - novelist

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