Q&A with Walter Rhein

1. Your write science fiction and fantasy. What was the first book that inspired you to become a science fiction writer?

‘Out of the Silent Planet’ by C.S. Lewis comes to mind as a science fiction book that intrigued me when I was younger. I ended up buying the Space trilogy, but I’ve never finished reading all three of the books though I’ve made several attempts at it. I’ve gotten through ‘Perelandra,’ but ‘That Hideous Strength’ always beats me (I’ve had the same problem with Narnia—I can read the first couple and then I steam out). I don’t think it’s an especially good series, but if I remember right the first book begins with a man stepping out of the nook of a tree he’d squeezed into in order to escape the rain. Just that single image has been enough to keep me coming back to the Space trilogy every decade or so.

I suppose the book that was the biggest influence for me as more of a mature reader is ‘Ender’s Game.’ That’s one of those great combos of a book with significant psychological weight that is also very easy to read. I watched the movie recently and they do a decent enough job, but that’s the one I wish Peter Jackson had turned into three, three hour sequels. As it stands, the film is pretty rushed.

2. In you latest book, The Reader of Acheron, reading is forbidden. Where did you get the idea for this book?

The idea for ‘Reader’ started growing when I was doing my student teaching. I was getting certified for English and for Physics and the woman I had as my teaching mentor for Physics was, quite frankly, a terrible human being. In my opinion, she was verbally and psychologically abusive to the students. I tried to report her, but they don’t take you seriously when you are a student teacher. I started thinking of how there are a lot of things in our society that everybody knows to be wrong, but we just tolerate them anyway. I thought I’d explore these themes in a world where slavery was commonplace, since that’s a striking manifestation of the same idea. As I continue in the series, I’ll continue to wrestle with the corrupting effect authority seems to have on people.

3. This is book one of The Slaves of Erafor series. How many books do you envision for this series?

There will certainly be three, but after that it’s anybodies guess. I have a pretty good idea as to how things are going to transpire in book two (and I won’t be close to a resolution yet). I think I know how the series will end too—I have the final scene—but when you write you sometimes have plans, and then sometimes the book has plans. I won’t know for sure until they’re all published. But Erafor has a lot of problems, I don’t know if I can resolve them all in 3 books!

4. Kikkan and Quillion are fugitives of sort. What is it about these characters that make people want to follow them?

Unfortunately, I think everybody alive today has had some sort of an experience with an abusive relationship. Kikkan and Quillion are both survivors of abuse, and they’ve set themselves on the path to personal empowerment—though they do it in very different ways. The abuse that Quillion has suffered is less obvious than what Kikkan’s been through, but it’s no less damaging. These characters are very much products of desperate situations, and they try to fight their way through even though there aren’t any really good opportunities available to them. Sometimes they’re forced into doing things they have trouble living with. Like I said, these are things I believe most people who read books can identify with.

5. Besides reading and writing, What is one thing you would hate to live without?

Exercise, running, or cross-country skiing. Any kind of exercise. I like getting out and not thinking for a couple hours, and that’s hard to do unless you are completely occupied in something else. To date, my most successful novel is a travel memoir about cross-country skiing called ‘Beyond Birkie Fever.’ Skiing is an elegant sport that people don’t know all that much about. One of my great friends once said that exercise is the best cure for what ails us, and I couldn’t agree more!

About the book: Book One of the Slaves of Erafor series: Reading is forbidden, and the penalty for non-compliance is a life of slavery enabled by the forcible administration of a mind rotting drug. Yet, there are those possessed of the will to seek illumination. Kikkan, a former slave on the run, and Quillion, a mercenary and self-taught scholar. Together they seek out a small bad of rebels living in hiding who offer the promise of a better world. Their leader is a mysterious figure known only as The Reader of Acheron.

To find out more about Walter Rhein:
Walter Rhein is the author of Beyond Birkie Fever, and The Reader of Acheron.  He blogs at StreetsOfLima.com and HeroicFantasyWriters.com.  He also runs and frequents the Heroic Fantasy Facebook group.  For questions or interviews, he can be reached at: walterrhein@gmail.com.


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