For our readers who wondered about the prolonged absence of our “Day Trippin’” correspondent, Robyn Weinbaum, here’s the low down: not only was she swamped with tax work, but she and her friend, Gene Hodes, finished and released their mystery/thriller, Mastermind (available at www.52782.authorworld.com, barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com)
GN: So you’ve been a busy woman. Tell me about ‘Mastermind.’
Robyn: It’s a very nasty psychological thriller set in Boca Raton. Bête Noire, the murderer, leaves a bloody trail of fabricated evidence framing Michael Case, a billionaire genius/inventor who can’t manage to match his socks. Since some of the murders take place in New York City, Hannah Gold, an NYPD detective with a PhD in psychopathology, is brought in as a consultant. She and Michael unite to figure out who the murderer is and why he is killing both specific and random persons, what the killer really wants. Each murder is well-crafted both in commission of the murder and in the orchestration of the publicity. It’s like dominos or chess. Every move has a choice of possible countermoves. Watching the persons in the book make various choices, why they do what they do, is fascinating. And the secondary characters? Everyone is in love with Ying. Ying is the eccentric butler, hardware and software wizard or Michael’s brother. Or all three or none of the above. Chiefs Tittle and Getz are just all around good guys. The murderer, Bête Noire? He could be anyone, anyone at all: Michael, Van Dyck, Ying, Malone, Connors.. This is a guy who steals from the corner candy store after he kills the owners, who celebrates his high school graduation by burning down the family farm with Mom and Dad inside. Bete Noire’s twin sister, Emerald, is smarter and if possible, more evil than he is. When he burned down the farm, she wanted to make s'mores. These are some bad-ass dudes. Gene and I wrote this book and it scared us.
GN: A book collaboration is difficult. How did you meet Gene and work on ‘Mastermind’?
Robyn: Gene and I have known each other for a while, a few years now. We were introduced by some friends and hit it off. We knew there was something we were meant to do together. At first we thought we were destined to make the ultimate latke, but this is so much better. We get along great, we love each other, we love working together-as long as we are 200 miles apart. In fact we have three or four other book projects in various stages of completion right now.
GN: Wait a sec. Two hundred miles apart? How do you work two hundred miles apart?
Robyn: It’s easy with phone and Internet. We send things back and forth all day long. When we are in the same place, we get distracted by our different eating, sleeping and work patterns. I need quiet to work with long exercise breaks. Gene needs the TV with frequent cigarette breaks. Anyway, Gene wrote the first version of ‘Mastermind’ in two weeks or so and gave it to me to read. I told him exactly what I thought, that it needed editing and fact checking, but the plot was a real page turner. I’ve read hundreds of mysteries and I had to finish it, see how it turned out. So we sat down, I gave him a list of what I thought had to be changed. Next thing I know, twelve weeks, over 500 hours and 362 pages fly by and we have a book to release. At this point, we can’t tell who did what and we can’t wait to do it again.
GN: Well, it does seem to work for the two of you. Tell me about Gene.
Robyn: Gene is a semi-retired psychologist. The information on the psychopathological personality is based on his professional font of knowledge. He has worked with persons with very twisted, sick fantasies. Scary, isn’t it? Working with psychopathologically damaged individuals is not pleasant. The psychopathological personality REALLY does not give a hoot about anyone or anything except as it serves his/her purpose. You can work with them from now until doomsday, but they just don’t get it, they can’t get it. They are missing that piece of the soul which governs the super ego, the ability to put oneself in another’s place. Gene has practiced all over the United Sates, but mostly in New York and Florida. He specializes in high-risk intervention, substance abuse, sexual and psychological abuse. He prefers to work with the whole family because a person doesn’t exist in a vacuum nor were they created in a vacuum. If you get the whole family invested in treatment, the actual patient has support and reinforcement of new behavior patterns. It is a very tough field, very painful.
GN: This is very different from your usual work.
Robyn: Yes, it is. I like to create thought provoking pieces, romantic, wistful poems, and curious flash fiction and, I hope, add to the positive balance in the universe. Even a vicious murder mystery adds to the positive balance by giving the reader an escape and allowing the reader a catharsis, a release of tension and stress. You lose yourself in a good book-I hope it’s a good book, anyway! - and come away relaxed, and ready to slay another day’s dragons.
GN: How long have you been writing?
Robyn: I’ve been writing all my life, since before I could even write. When I was maybe four, I realized that I could put words together and make new stories or poems. I’d ask my mom to write them down for me, read them back, I’d make changes and then I’d draw pictures to go with the work. Lots of kids do that; only thing is I’ve never stopped doing it. As I’ve gotten older, my love of words and desire to paint with words has gotten stronger.
GN: Paint with words? That’s a lovely image. Can you explain that?
Robyn: If I could actually paint or sculpt or make music, create beauty in some other way, I’d never write. But I can’t. What I can do is put words together in ways that are lyrical, that pull an image from the reader’s being, recall an experience or emotion, open someone’s eyes, cause a frisson of desire, love, fear, recognition, make someone think. It is a great honor and responsibility to use words for good, for happy, to promote well-being. There is more than enough grief, anxiety and hurt out there. I want my words to heal. If that means ripping the scabs off my own wounds, fine. I do what I have to do. If one reader feels, then the work is a success.
GN: I know you do ‘open mic’ at least once a week. What is that?
Robyn: ‘Open mic’ is short for ‘open microphone.’ No reservations required no reservations about what you perform. You sign up and read or recite what excites you. I generally read a chapter from our book and a piece of flash fiction [short fiction, under 500 words] and a poem. When I’m on open mic and I get that pause at the end, that gasp of recognition which means my work ‘hit’ it is the best feeling because I’ve made something happen. Maybe, just maybe, someone will be inspired to go home and change his or her life. Or maybe try a new recipe for poached pears. Of course, sometimes, even though my work is edited and critiqued, I bomb. I fall flat on my face, which hurts. But I learn from it. I reread the work, consider my presentation, and most important, try to figure out where I was opaque instead of transparent, where I failed my words. I have a small poster that says, “Read it like a writer. Write it like a reader.” I try. I may not succeed all the time, but I try.
GN: Thank you, Robyn.
Robyn: Thank YOU, Gary.
‘Mastermind’ can be ordered at www.52782.authorworld.com. It will be available at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com in a few weeks. To experience more of Robyn’s world, visit her at www.wingedunicorn0205.blogspot.com.
UPDATE: Mastermind can be ordered through all retail outlets