Monday, March 27, 2017

{Character Interview} Daniel Danten of 'The Heatstroke Line'

We’re thrilled to be talking to Daniel Danten from Edward L. Rubin, The Heatstroke Line.  It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Pimp That Character!

Thank you for your interview, Dr. Danten.  How old are you and what do you do for a living?

I’m thirty-nine years old, and I’m a research entomologist on the faculty of Mountain America University, one of the few universities left in our country, or anywhere in the former United States, after the climate change and the Second Civil War.

What would I love the most about you?

I genuinely care about people and I want to help them.  The thing I like most about being an entomologist is that I’m able to help the farmers who are suffering from insect infestations.  This has become a much more serious problem, even apart from the biter bugs, since the climate has gotten so much hotter.  So farmers really appreciate my work, and that makes me feel good.  One of the things I hated most about being held captive below the Heatstroke Line is that I didn’t know what was going on, and whether the things I was being forced to do, or had to do in order to survive, were helping or hurting other people.  And I couldn’t figure out a way to help Deborah, even though she was of such great help to me. 

What would I hate the most about you?

I guess I have to admit that I’m pedantic.  When anyone asks me something about my work – anything about insects, really – I want to tell them everything I know about the subject, and so I tend to run on until someone stops me.  I’m not usually inattentive to other people’s feelings.  I think the reason I do this is that I’m trying to convince myself that I’m really interested in what I do. I never realized this; it was Deborah who pointed out to me that I was still upset about the fact that I had to give up my real aspiration, which was to become an astronomer, and study something practical, like combatting insect infestations.  So my over-enthusiasm about my work may be a way for me to suppress my regrets.

What is the trait you most not like about yourself?

I don’t have very good judgment.  I didn’t realize this until recently, when I made some important decisions that turned out very wrong.  The worst one was thinking that I could go below the Heatstroke Line and do something about the biter bug problem.   That’s what lead to my capture -- and to Stuart’s horrible death. It made me realize how important it is to think ahead and avoid giving in to the needs of the moment.  The decisions that we make at any given time have consequences for the future, and sometimes those consequences can’t be reversed, no matter how much we regret them.

What is your greatest fear?

I’m terribly afraid for my family – everyone is so vulnerable these days.  My wife, Garenika, has seemed so fragile for the last few years, although she turned out to be much stronger than I expected when she had to be.  I’m also afraid for our society, and for all the larger things I care about. I see us losing all the admirable and gracious aspects of our culture – one by one – under the stress of climate change.   Our coastal cities are gone, our country has broken apart, most of it is no longer under democratic government, none of it is producing any art or culture, and people seem to be getting more ignorant and mean.  Things are better in Canada, where I live now, and where I’ve managed to find a relatively safe place for my family. But who knows how long that’s going to last.

Who is your best friend?

My best friend is dead.  His name was Stuart McPherson, and he was my colleague at the University.  A leading expert on American history.  He was killed – hideously tortured to death – by the people below the Heatstroke Line.  Those people are   -- were – all crazy, but the woman who killed Stuart  -- I call her the leopard woman because she was wearing a leopard print dress when she did it.  I never did find out her name.  Anyway, she was not only crazy but a vicious sadist.  I’ve wound up with a good position here at the University of South Baffin Island  -- I was lucky, in the long run – but I miss Stuart.

Do you have children?

I have three children, Joshua, Senly and Michael.  Actually, that’s not true, but I still think that way.  Michael died while I was being held captive.    He’s one of the many people who got sick as a result of the climate change.  I could see he was declining rapidly and I had a sense, when I was in captivity, that he was going to die.  Even so, it was devastating when I got back home and my wife told me he was dead.  My great regret is that I feel that I ignored him while he was alive.  That was partially because of my work, but also because he was quiet, and my other two kids have more forceful personalities.  Joshua, who’s seventeen now, is a wonderful student and a serious, mature human being –- he impresses everyone.  I used to think that he was pretty close to a perfect child, but after my own horrific experiences, I worry that he’s trying too hard and lacks a real center.  Senly is fourteen and just as smart as Josh, but she’s hooked on Phantasie and filled with cynicism – she has no ambition.   Ever since I brought Joanna home, though, she’s mellowed out a bit.  She’s great with Joanna; I don’t know how we would have managed the situation without her.  Joanna’s the daughter of the family I was placed with when I was below the Heatstroke Line.  I brought her with me when I escaped because her own family was gone.  She’s thirteen now.  So, as  I think about it, I guess I really do have three children after all.

What is your favorite weather?

My favorite weather is late Autumn, when the last leaves are falling and the air is turning crisp.  It doesn’t happen in Mountain America any more, or anywhere in the former United States, but I read a lot of nineteenth century literature and I love the scenes that are set at that time of year.  I can’t say I feel truly at home in my new position here in Canada -- at the University of South Baffin Island -- but we do get a real fall here and that’s been a pleasure for me.  When I get a chance, I go hiking with the kids -- all three of them.  Senly and Joanna complain about the cold, but they’re getting used to it.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an astronomer.  Astronomers  - -in the U.S. and other places -- had discovered a number of Earth-like planets in the years before the country broke apart as a result of the climate crisis.  I think we were on the verge of making some amazing discoveries at that time. My dream –when I was a kid -- was to pick up that kind of research again and learn about the way other civilizations had managed, and maybe did a better job than we have.  It was a childhood fantasy of course.  The climate crisis and the Second Civil War had put an end to any research of that kind more than a century ago.  So I went into entomology, one of the few areas where we’re still doing research.  That’s because it has practical uses of course – there are so many insect infestations as a result of the warmer climate.

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?

I would say goodbye to my wife and children.  I would ask them to remember me for the things that I’m proudest of –- my commitment to them, and the good I tried to do for other people.  It’s terrible to lose someone without being able to say goodbye, to be able to look into their eyes and hear their voice that one last time.  That’s what happened with Michael, who died while I was being held captive below the Heatstroke Line, and also what happened with Stuart and Deborah.  I think those who are left never get over the loss of that final chance for some sort of closure. 

About the Author

Edward Rubin is University Professor of Law and Political Science at Vanderbilt University.  He specializes in administrative law, constitutional law and legal theory. He is the author of Soul, Self and Society:  The New Morality and the Modern State (Oxford, 2015); Beyond Camelot:  Rethinking Politics and Law for the Modern State (Princeton, 2005) and two books with Malcolm Feeley, Federalism:  Political Identity and Tragic Compromise (Michigan, 2011) and Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State:  How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons (Cambridge, 1998).  In addition, he is the author of two casebooks, The Regulatory State (with Lisa Bressman and Kevin Stack) (2nd ed., 2013); The Payments System (with Robert Cooter) (West, 1990), three edited volumes (one forthcoming) and The Heatstroke Line (Sunbury, 2015) a science fiction novel about the fate of the United States if climate change is not brought under control. Professor Rubin joined Vanderbilt Law School as Dean and the first John Wade–Kent Syverud Professor of Law in July 2005, serving a four-year term that ended in June 2009. Previously, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania Law School from 1998 to 2005, and at the Berkeley School of Law from 1982 to 1998, where he served as an associate dean. Professor Rubin has been chair of the Association of American Law Schools' sections on Administrative Law and Socioeconomics and of its Committee on the Curriculum. He has served as a consultant to the People's Republic of China on administrative law and to the Russian Federation on payments law. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his law degree from Yale.
He has published four books, three edited volumes, two casebooks, and more than one hundred articles about various aspects of law and political theory. The Heatstroke Line is his first novel.

Website & Social Links:


About the Book:

Nothing has been done to prevent climate change, and the United States has spun into decline.   Storm surges have made coastal cities uninhabitable, blistering heat waves afflict the interior and, in the South (below the Heatstroke Line), life is barely possible.  Under the stress of these events and an ensuing civil war, the nation has broken up into three smaller successor states and tens of tiny principalities.  When the flesh-eating bugs that inhabit the South show up in one of the successor states, Daniel Danten is assigned to venture below the Heatstroke Line and investigate the source of the invasion.  The bizarre and brutal people he encounters, and the disasters that they trigger, reveal the real horror climate change has inflicted on America. 


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Monday, March 20, 2017

{Character Interview} Dhara of 'The Mountain Goddess' by Shelley Schanfield

We’re thrilled to be talking to Dhara from Shelley Schanfield’s, The Mountain Goddess.  It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Pimp That Character!

Thank you for your interview, Dhara.  How old are you and what do you do for a living?

I’m twenty six now, but I must tell you that when I was fifteen I could already talk to tigers and vanish into thin air! You see, as a girl I ran away from my little village to a sacred Himalayan cave to study with a mysterious woman yogi. She promised she’d teach me yoga’s supernatural powers. I frightened her with how gifted I was—and still am.

Can you tell us about one of your most distinguishable features?

I’m descended from a beautiful celestial nymph who seduced the god Himalaya, and I inherited her silky black hair and dark, almond-shaped eyes.

What would I love the most about you?

I am passionately loyal to those I love. Like my best friend Sakhi. Or I was loyal to her, until I ran away and became a powerful yogi and warrior and captured Prince Siddhartha’s heart. In the years since I became his princess, Sakhi and I have drifted apart…but it’s not all my fault! And I’ll make it up to her, I swear…

What would I hate the most about you?

I am so good at so many things—archery and riding and yoga and, well, everything—and I’m beautiful, too. All Prince Siddhartha’s companions are in love with me. So the women at court hate me. You might, too, but when you read my story, you’ll understand me. Understanding begets love. I’m selfish, but I’m brave, too, and I want to fight for my kingdom!

What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is that my husband Siddhartha will give in to his secret yearning. There was a prophecy when he was born that he would forsake his royal duty and become a Buddha, the wisest sage to ever live. He might slip away to become a homeless truth seeker and leave me here alone with our newborn son. How can I be a mother, the most unselfish of all beings, without him? If only I could talk to my beloved friend Sakhi…

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

It was hard work on my part to get Shelley to ignore how the legends about the Buddha portray me.  Some of them say I was a saint, some say I was unfaithful, some hardly mention me at all! In the end, though, I think Shelley put me on the page as I really am.

What are three must haves when shopping at the grocery store?

I’m a princess and I don’t shop at grocery stores; besides, there weren’t such things in northeastern India 2500 years ago! While I was living at the sacred cave I learned to survive on what mountain and forest had to offer. So I’m not afraid of hardship, even if I’ve become accustomed to palace luxury, and this serves me well in these difficult times.

(I think, though, if I were living in your day and age, I would always have bittersweet chocolate around. Shelley always does!)

Who is your best friend?

As I’ve said, Sakhi is my best friend. She’s modest and wise and a good mother to her five sons. I even think Siddhartha is a little in love with her. (I’m not jealous. Really.) But she’s not perfect either. Rumor says she’s taken a lover…

Someone is secretly in love with you.  Who is it and how do you feel about that?

No one is secretly in love with me. All Siddhartha’s companions openly adore their warrior princess! Here’s the real secret: I love Siddhartha’s best friend, that charming rogue Chandaka, and I don’t know what to do about it…

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?

Everyone should ask herself this question the first thing every morning, but who among us does? There will be a day, though, in the sequel to The Mountain Goddess, when its answer will truly mean life or death for me. You’ll want to read that book, too, when it comes out in 2018.

About the Author

Shelley Schanfield’s passion for Buddhism and yoga arose sixteen years ago, when she and her son earned black belts in Tae Kwon Do. The links between the martial arts and Buddhist techniques to calm and focus the mind fascinated her. By profession a librarian, Shelley plunged into research about the time, place, and spiritual traditions that 2500 years ago produced Prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha. Yoga, in some form, has a role in all of these traditions. Its transformational teachings soon prompted Shelley to hang up her black belt and begin a yoga practice that she follows to this day.

Because she loves historical fiction, Shelley looked for a good novel about the Buddha. When she didn’t find one that satisfied her, she decided to write her own novels based on the spiritual struggles of women in the Buddha’s time. She published the first book in the Sadhana Trilogy, The Tigress and the Yogi, in 2016 and will publish the second, The Mountain Goddess in early 2017.


About the Book:

A beautiful warrior princess. A tormented prince. A terrible choice between love, duty, and spiritual freedom.

In ancient India, rebellious Dhara runs away to a sacred mountain to study with the powerful yogi Mala, a mysterious woman with a violent past. Flung by war onto an adventure-filled journey, Dhara meets and captures the heart of Siddhartha, whose skill in the martial arts and extraordinary mental powers equal her own.

Worldly power and pleasure seduce Dhara, creating a chasm between her and her husband, who longs to follow a sage’s solitary path. She takes on the warrior’s role Siddhartha does not want, and when she returns wounded from battle court intrigue drives them further apart. As Siddhartha’s discontent with royal life intensifies, Dhara’s guru Mala, who has returned to her life as a ruthless outlaw, seeks her former pupil for her own evil purposes.

Dhara’s and Siddhartha’s love keeps evil at bay, but their son’s birth brings on a spiritual crisis for the prince.  If he leaves his kingdom to seek enlightenment, he turns his back on love and duty and risks destroying his people. Only Dhara can convince him to stay. 


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