Mark A. Carter re:
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
Crucifixion retold, the end of the world, and the future of humanity
Chanton Krater: Why
did you write Hephzibah of Heaven?
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.
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.
long did it take you to write the book?
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.
Who do you see as a potential audience for
Hephzibah of Heaven?
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.
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?
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
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
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?
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.
My time is just about up. But before I depart, would you share
a pearl or two of advice with new writers?
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.
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.
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
other Mary Chanton Krater interviews of Mark A. Carter: