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An Ontological Thriller

James Shelley Author Interview

The Deep Translucent Pond follows two students that go on an extremely emotional journey led by their mentor, The Black Magus. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

In literature, emotional journeys are usually between two people in a relationship. I felt that journey could be made even more powerful if taken on by three people—in effect, three people locking arms and trying to get to a higher place together rather than just two. So how do you create a setting to make that happen? The weekly meetings of the poetry fellowship unexpectedly provide that catalyst, the Black Magus, shaman-like, entwining the cords of the physical with the meta-physical to create a dynamic that continually expands into spaces that were not there before, taking the three characters with it.

The Black Magus is characterized as philosophic. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

At one point an old friend of the Black Magus’s characterizes him as a cross between Jean Paul Sartre and Jim Morrison. Such a crossing of a “disciplined philosophic approach” with “unpredictable ecstatic leaping” is going to create a huge flexibility in terms of where that character can go, what he can say. Add some history of mental illness and a kind of religious intensity and you have a character who—if he can hold it together—will burn at a very high temperature. Although it can’t last for too long. In the case of the novel, the Black Magus makes it last for the ten intensively transformative weeks of the fellowship.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Most novels struggle between surface action—plot essentially—which is fast moving and lurid and keeps you reading, and the probing for deeper meanings through character development or insights into the human condition. That second part is almost always secondary, because the book has to sell. I felt there was a way to focus primarily on the latter, the deeper parts, while at the same time giving those parts a “surface action” which will keep reader’s avidly turning the page. An ontological thriller, if you will, with a transcendent climax even more resonant than if a horrible crime was solved.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will be available?

Since The Deep Translucent Pond focuses on a poetry fellowship with the three characters transformed by that fellowship, the novel includes poetry produced by the three characters, used to drill deeper and faster into their interior lives. In a surprising way, the three characters in the novel—Jerome, Natalija, and The Black Magus—have continued writing poetry beyond the book. Their book of new poems is my intended next book.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

In The Deep Translucent Pond, a 40 year old attorney, Jerome Konigsberg, and 30 year old nurse, Natalija Gasper, are winners of poetry fellowships which allow them rare access to a once famous, now reclusive poet with the nom de plume, The Black Magus. At their first meeting the Black Magus “hijacks” the fellowship, proclaiming it the final piece of a secretive ten-year project known as the Triangulum, its goal: The re-enchantment of the world.
The key to re-enchantment is The Deep Translucent Pond which the Black Magus has identified as “a hideout of the fugitive gods.” If he can reach into it—as placid as a reactor cooling pool—and retrieve a mysterious object from the bottom, re-enchantment will be ignited. He elaborately recruits his two fellowship “students” to help. For their part, they accommodate his severe eccentricities in exchange for flashes of insight into their lives and a feeling that he is guiding them to a higher place.

James Shelley has spent his professional life shifting between the underworld and higher places. He’s been a psychiatric attendant, land surveyor, arts critic, mental health case worker, archivist for the Rockefellers, and a bagpiper playing at the funerals of men and women he’s never met. As an educator, his innovative work at an Ohio college supporting at-risk male students has attracted national interest.
As a writer, Shelley started out writing plays for experimental theatre before shifting to fiction, early efforts earning him an Ohio Arts Prize. In his published poetry and fiction, he has always been fascinated with how prosaic moments can unexpectedly transcend, expanding into spaces that were not there before.

The Deep Translucent Pond

Middle-aged writers desperate for a life-changing break in the literary world, Natalija and Jerome embark upon their poetry fellowship with the unconventional mentor ‘The Black Magus.’ As they make their way through the unexpected Ten Books of the Triangulum Project, one thing is certain: they are both searching for the same light, and to do so, they need to make the leap, love, and surrender.

Author James Shelley has fashioned three distinct characters and revealed their commonality through deep-rooted psychological assessment – laying bare a convoluted and confronting take on humanity and the art of writing. The Black Magus is a philosophic character whose idiosyncratic guidance consisted of strong religious themes, mental illness, and seeking beyond the conscious mind and basics of literature. The allegories he adopted as part of his mentorship transported the students and the reader into a subconscious state of coping mechanisms the brain can manifest and remain alive. Hence, the Deep Translucent Pond.

He resembles a modern-day Van Gogh stuck on a cycle of great intellect and manic thoughts. The term “un-machined” is used early and frequently throughout The Deep Translucent Pond and sets the tone for the novel. The Black Magus is not interested in surface-level emotions and forces Natalija and Jerome to strip back mediocracy and analyze the places they go to when everyday life becomes overbearing – and why that is. The use of topics in The Ten Books of the Triangulum Project was strategic. It produced the interrelation needed between each character’s journey to uncovering their personal demons, creating an unruly sophisticated literary piece that masterfully leaves many thoughts unanswered.

The Deep Translucent Pond is a must-read for magical realism and literary fiction lovers. This will compel the reader from start to finish and leave behind a profound sense of the purpose behind human existence and the tangibility of reality.

Pages: 192 | ISBN : 1956635793

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