Interview with Rob Widdicombe

Rob Widdicombe was born on the Virginia banks of the Potomac River in a military hospital on a typical Wednesday. A former singer, guitar player and songwriter for Richmond-based bands The Wiggins and Flying Shovels, Widdicombe has held a variety of both day and night jobs over the years, including gas station attendant, landscaper, encyclopedia salesman, cab driver, truck driver, maintenance man, cook, dispatcher, piano salesman, catering captain and paralegal. He received an MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College and his interests include staring out the kitchen window and falling asleep on the train. He also likes monkeys, clowns, robots, thunderstorms, chocolate, cheese, coffee, thrift stores, existentialism and tiny things.

Rob Widdicombe's Face


Tee: How did you come up with the idea for this novel?

Rob: There was a news story some years back about a grown man who went on a quest to confront the pedophile who molested him when he was young.  But instead of having a satisfying, cathartic confrontation, he ended up getting arrested for stalking the pedophile guy.  The idea of that type of confrontation appealed to me and the idea of it somehow going all wrong and backfiring really appealed to me.

TeeHow long did it take you to write it?

Rob: About fourteen years, on and off.


TeeWhat kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
Rob: Old noir crime fiction, magic realism (really just Marquez), short stories by Thom Jones and Tobias Wolff.  Anything that has some life to it, some truth and humor, really.  I don’t care much for pretty, literary writing unless it has some raw honesty underneath it, something you can really sink your teeth into.


TeeYour book revolves around the theme of paedophilia. What made you come up with such a theme. How difficult was it to deal with this theme in your book?
Rob: Like so many others, I am an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, which is the true “inspiration,” (for lack of a better word), for the novel.  I found writing the book to be highly therapeutic.  It wasn’t difficult to deal with pedophilia as a theme per se, although the pedophile character in the book is based on the real pervert who molested me, so writing him felt creepy at times.  Ultimately, though, the process of writing the book was liberating and empowering.  Revisiting that creepiness forced me to confront and process those old feelings once again which is a big part of the healing process, in my humble opinion.

TeeHow did you go about your research for this book?
Rob: Aside from fleshing out some minor details, (e.g., the exact type of motorboat owned by one of the characters), I did not conduct any research.  I lived the life of these characters in Richmond, Virginia, where the novel mostly takes place.  And as I mentioned earlier, I was sexually abused as a child like the main character, so I had that experience to draw on.  So, you might say that my biggest source of research was my own mind.  And of course, I made a lot of stuff up.

Tee: What are you writing next?
Rob: I’m writing a comedic novel about a perfectly harmonized futuristic society in which there is no disease, the water is sparkling clean, sadness is illegal and death arrives painlessly as you sleep on the night of your 86th birthday.  Of course, all is not as wonderfully utopian as it seems…

TeeWhat according to you are the pros and cons of the indie publishing industry?
Rob: I’d say the number one pro is independence.  I had the absolute final say on what went into my book and onto the cover.  My wife and I designed the cover ourselves.  I have a great indie publisher, Saltimbanque Books, and its owner/editor Jim Boyett had very helpful and extensive input, but I ultimately had the final say on everything.  Another pro would be the feeling that your destiny is in your own hands.  That could also be a con, though, of course!

I think it’s safe to say that some of that independence might be compromised if you were signed to a major publishing house that provided manufacturing, distribution, advertising and marketing support, but it’s really hard to know what’s going on nowadays exactly.  Those big houses seem to want you doing a lot of this stuff yourself, anyway.  Everything is changing so fast, what might be considered a pro of indie publishing today could be a con tomorrow, and vice versa.  Right now I think it would be a pro to have the support of a big publishing house, but it would also be a pro to be a billionaire, have wings, everlasting youth and clear skin.  These opportunities aren’t falling off of trees, which leads us to one of the big plusses of indie publishing: it’s there for you when those apples are out of reach.  And for all we know, indie publishing of the future could be the dominant force and what used to be known as big publishing houses could either disappear or serve as a kind of support system for independent authors and small publishers.  Kind of like Planet of the Apes, where in the future, the apes take over.  But who knows what will happen.  The only thing you can say for sure is that media in general is changing at supersonic speeds – the way content is created, distributed and consumed.  People are trying to keep up with it all but it’s an almost impossible task.  I think you can say with some measure of certainty that 10 to 20 years from now, the world of book publishing will look quite different than it does today, as will probably everything else.


TeeHow important is a catchy title for any book?

Rob: I guess it depends on what you want the title to do for you and your book.  If you want the title to grab a prospective reader’s attention and inspire them to purchase the book, then I’d say a catchy title is very important.  If you don’t care so much about sales and marketing and attracting a readership, etc., and you just want the title to reflect what the book is all about, then thoughtfulness and relevance become more important than catchiness.  I suppose that the perfect title would capture both ends of that spectrum.

Read the review of Cold Plate Special Here.



Interview with Dr. Arthur Wenk

During his twenty-year career as a musicologist, Arthur Wenk published books on Claude Debussy (Claude Debussy and the Poets; Claude Debussy and Twentieth-Century Music) and music bibliography (the prize-winning Analyses of Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Music and Musical Resources for the Revised Common Lectionary).

Later he drew on his experiences as a university professor, church organist, choral conductor and pianist to produce a series of mystery novellas featuring musicologist Axel Crochet as sleuth: (The Quarter Note Tales; New Quarter Note Tales: Axel in Quebec; Axel Crochet: Musicologist-at-Large; and Quarter Note Tales #4: An Axel Crochet Trilogy).   Other books include A Guide to the Bookstores of Toronto, La Musique et les grandes epoques de l’art, and Camerata: A Guide to Organizing and Directing Small Choruses.


Dr. Wenk’s subsequent careers as calculus teacher and psychotherapist have led to public lectures on graphing calculators, Geometer’s Sketchpad, parenting and communication, separation and divorce, opera, western culture, and film. Since his retirement in 2014 Arthur Wenk lives in North Fort Myers, Florida and Lagoon City, Ontario.




Tee: What are your previous publications (non- academic) about?

Art: I have often written books that I felt filled a gap.  A lover of bookstores, I wrote a series of reviews that turned into A Guide to the Bookstores of Toronto, based on visits to all 250 of them.  (Sadly, most of those beloved establishments have now disappeared.)  As a church organist and choirmaster, I felt the need for a book that would connect me with tools for choosing hymns, anthems and organ music.  Since none existed at the time, I wrote Musical Resources for the Revised Common Lectionary, about which one reviewer said:  there are three books that every minister and music director should possess—the Bible, the hymnal, and Wenk’s book of musical resources.

Libraries contain many books on choral conducting, but I believed that, based on my thirty-five years as a conductor, I had insights to offer that were not to be found in any of these books, hence Camerata:  A Guide to Forming and Directing Small Choirs.  All my life I wanted to get a sense of the “big picture,” so once I retired I had time to write The Matrix of Western Culture:  Perspectives on History, the Arts and Ideas.  The same goes for my recent book, A Brief History of Classical Music:  A Tale of Time, Tonality and Timbre, a work intended not for academics but for the general public.

Tee: How long have you been writing fictional and non- fictional pieces?

Art: I have always loved to write.  I can identify three specific influences on my writing.  In my freshman year at Amherst, I had to write three one-page essays a week for a professor who criticized them fairly but vigorously.  We had the option of rewriting any paper to improve it, based on that criticism, so I rewrote constantly.  (I should mention that in these pre-internet days my only tool was a typewriter.)

The second major influence came during my final year at Cornell where a French professor read my doctoral dissertation.  Each week I would come to him with a forty-page chapter, and each week he would turn back my previous chapter, heavily marked up with his exquisite calligraphy.  I often found the process frustrating:  here I was writing as carefully as I knew how, but I felt as if he were reading even more carefully than I was writing.  (This dissertation turned into my first published book, Claude Debussy and the Poets.)

Some years later my best friend, knowing my passion for murder mysteries, suggested that I try my hand at writing one.  Many other people had already made this suggestion, which I rejected because I believed my writing could not measure up to that of the authors I most admired:  Arturo Perez-Riverte, Rennie Airth, Stephen Booth, Henning Mankell, et al.  But when your best friend makes a suggestion, you tend to take it seriously, which in this case meant purchasing three books on mystery-writing.  “I could do this,” I thought after reading them, so I set out to write a novella with a musicologist sleuth and after finishing it, wrote two others.  Eventually I found a publisher, Wingate Press in Stratford, Ontario.  By the time I completed my second set of mystery novellas, Wingate Press had gone out of business (I don’t think my book was responsible), so I self-published with iUniverse.

Tee: How do you manage non- academic writing with your strenuous academic schedule?

Art: My twenty years in academia were not entirely happy.  As a kind of free therapy, I would turn my pain into humor in the form of the Biweekly Chronicle–what you might now describe as a kind of pre-internet blog–that I would photocopy and send to my friends via snail mail.  After surviving an enervating faculty meeting, for example, I would return to my apartment with the thought, “That was unbearable …. but it’ll make a great story for the Chronicle.”  I didn’t need to invent anything:  I just wrote down my detailed recollections, perhaps embellished a bit here and there.  Years later, when it came time to write my murder mysteries, I just had to invent the murders.  The background material was all there, just waiting to be exploited.  So when readers chuckle over a “Sudden Service” sign in a California laundry, or the practice of replacing lawns with green concrete, those are not fiction—my imagination isn’t that good—but actual details culled from the Biweekly Chronicle.  And my peripatetic career has taken me to many locations, including San Bernardino, Boston, Pittsburgh, Durham, Bloomington, and Québec City.

Retirement has allowed me more time to write.  At present I am working on a book about the movies called Through the Lens:  How Great Directors Tell Stories, which gives me the opportunity to read books and articles and watch DVDs on fifty films.

Tee: What kinds of books do you personally enjoy reading?

Art: I love David M. Shapard’s annotated versions of Jane Austen’s six novels, and continue to read murder mysteries before sleep every night (now adding Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Carl Hiaasen, Scott Turow and Charles Todd to the earlier list of favourite authors).  The Matrix book offered me the opportunity to read books on art, literature, music, science and mathematics, philosophy and theology, history and social sciences in each century from ancient Greece to the present.

There are so many books to read that I welcome guidance in my selections.  The New York Times recently published a glowing review of a new translation of The Odyssey by Emily Wilson (the first by a woman!).  I read the book with enthusiasm, then decided, with The Odyssey in recent memory, to wrestle my way through James Joyce’s Ulysses again.  Up north, I am grateful to the Ramara librarian whose book club selections have brought me such unanticipated delights as The Goldfinch; The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry; Come, Thou Tortoise; and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.  The History Book Club, that I founded here in Ft. Myers, is currently considering a list of 100-odd “best history books of 2017” in choosing the eight that we will read and discuss next season.  Thomas Foster’s two books (How to Read Novels Like a Professor and How to Read Literature Like a Professor) have led me to authors I had overlooked or never heard of, including Boyle, Doerr, Hemingway, Niffenegger and O’Brien.

Several times in my life I have had to undergo the painful process of deaccessioning.  In Pittsburgh I once gave away 2500 books.  After leaving academia I donated my entire collection of music history books and scores to a university library, to avoid daily reminders of the end of a beloved career.  My personal library underwent a similar loss when I retired from an Oakville house to a Lagoon City condo.  But my new condo in Florida has lots of shelf space, so I look forward to reuniting my northern and southern libraries and hope never to give away another book.

Tee: Have your students read your books? What did they have to say?

Art: At the moment I am offering a six-lecture series based on the Matrix book to the Lifelong Learning Institute associated with Southwestern Florida State College.  Last week, after my presentation on the 13th century, one woman, noticing the lacuna for “history” in that century, proposed adding The Travels of Marco Polo.  I have since purchased that book and look forward to writing about it for the next edition of the Matrix book.  Another woman, who attended the series of lectures that eventually turned into A Brief History of Classical Music, said that she’d learned more from my talks than from several years of theory courses at the University of Toronto.

Tee: What tips will you give any aspiring writer?

Art: Prior to accepting Claude Debussy and the Poets for publication, the University of California Press sent the manuscript out to readers and then shared their critiques with me (anonymously, of course).  Being somewhat defensive, I spent a lot of time at the library seeking material to refute their remarks before the French professor mentioned earlier set me straight.  “Look, Art,” he said.  “This man has gone to a lot of trouble to offer you suggestions.  He didn’t have to do that.  If someone is willing to give you constructive criticism, embrace it gratefully.”  So aside from the usual advice to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, I would pass along the words my of mentor.  If you can find anyone who will read your work, extract any wisdom you can from any criticism offered, and use it to become a better writer.

Consider your audience.  I have always tried to emulate Donald Jay Grout, my musicology professor at Cornell, who strove to write in a way calculated to enlist the interest of the “intelligent common reader,” that ideal creature.  This encomium has steered me away from subjects that I could not imagine the common reader tolerating but has led me to seek clarity and connectedness in my own writing.

The Cornell French professor I mentioned earlier advised me to think of writing as a double funnel:  you begin with the whole world, then funnel down to your particular subject, write about it as engagingly as you can, and then open it back up again to the entire world.

Tee: How can your readers reach you?

Art: The best way to reach me is by email,  Anyone interested in my career can find details on my website,


Read the review of The Quarter Note Tales Here.

Interview with Max Micallef

A New Yorker at heart, Micallef is from the tri-state area and often resides in the city.  He’s a politics/government junkie, spiritual but not religious and very into homeopathic living. His sun sign is Gemini; Moon Sign is Scorpio; Rising/Ascendant Sign Sagittarius; Venus Sign Cancer and Mercury Sign Gemini to name a few. He can be contacted through his email for more about his natal chart or talks on astrology and/or Numerology.  His life path number is 3 and his current personal (or world) year number is 6.  He’s gay, single, and ready to mingle but so over the lust scene. Insightful/intuitive, blunt, and ambitious/driven are three words that he’d use to describe himself. Biblichor has an amazing time up close and personal with this budding writer/poet.


Tee: What has been the inspiration behind this book?

Max: I have always felt emotions on an intense level. Being an empath, I feel other people’s emotions as though they are my own, or at least pick-up on other people’s not-so-obvious feelings and emotions. Not to confuse this though with being easily excited or general hyper-ness. Though this ability brings great intuitiveness, great pain can come along with it. I decided to create something good out of this pain being a combo of the mentioned empathy, genetic depression/anxiety, and trying to live life through these variables. I hope people read this collection and have an “ah-ha” moment on their journey of life. Some sense of connection their innate self.

Tee: Since when have you been writing? Do you feel writing as therapeutic?

Max: I can’t remember when I started writing. Writing to me being even jotting-down bits of stream of conscious or moments you have with yourself. Writing is definitely therapeutic to me. It’s a very clear channel to the self. I write down what comes out then organize after. It’s one of the closest ways I objectively view my perspective, experience/journey, and overall being.

Tee: How long did it take you to complete writing this book?

Max: The subtitle of the book is actually the time frame of the intensity of my depression/anxiety, a major love life experience, and then the creation of the book itself. Out of the subtitle’s time range I would say the year, ending around May, 2017 even though the book was published in July, included the main organization/putting-together of the book. Most of the collection I wrote during the low point half the book is about then well later or after the suicide attempt I organized or put-together.




Tee: What are the main ideas that you want readers to take away from this book?

Max: I want readers to take anything they take out of this book that promotes any internal awakening for them, or anything positive in relation for that matter. We are the teachers and students of each other. When i have moments of wisdom or clarity or the “ah-ha” moments I mentioned before, it’s such a pure and grounded feeling like no other, and I want others to experience that as well.

Tee: What are the projects that you’re working on at the moment?

Max: I am currently working on another piece of writing about our current, and position speaking, illegitimate federal administration. It’s also in poetry form; specifically the found poetry style. But I say illegitimate because because the people that make-up this administration are not allowing themselves to just live and be. I see them, whether in a literal or non-literal sense because I don’t know their private lives, as having a crucial low-point in their lives as I did that in the end is beneficial to their growth but is difficult to process and experience because they were all given positions of power simultaneously like my low-point simultaneous with a prominent experience in my love life. Because of this, what proceeds is then actions and behavior on their self-journey that are not coming from their innate self. I feel both anger and upset towards their actions and behavior because of the people they are hurting. I am a proud member of the resistance. However, I hope with all of this the people of this administration learn to love themselves.

Tee: How can readers, admirers and fans reach you?

Max: Anyone for any anything or reason can contact my more professional or work email

Tee: Thank you so much for your time Max. It was a joy catching up with you. Waiting eagerly for your upcoming books.

Read the review of Of Love and Mental Health Here.