The Road Not Taken by Susan Rubin - Fiction: Women’s Fiction, SciFi/Time Travel, Fantasy - A trippy fantasy that uses time travel to explore the inner drives of a woman in midlife whose errand to a department store lipstick counter becomes an opportunity to unravel the mystery of self.


The Road Not Taken    
by Susan Rubin


Genre: Fiction: Women’s Fiction, SciFi/Time Travel, Fantasy
Publisher: Harvard Square Editions
Date of Publication: September 4, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-941861-68-4
Number of pages: 290

A trippy fantasy that uses time travel to explore the inner drives of a woman in midlife whose errand to a department store lipstick counter becomes an opportunity to unravel the mystery of self.

Widowed suddenly at age 50, Deborah is left with plenty of money but no direction to her life. Shedding her suburban housewife life, she moves back to the West Village where she grew up.

When she meets a woman who appears to be an identical twin, Deborah discovers the Lost: a group of 100 fully-formed people who were dropped off on Earth as it cooled down and who have lived on the planet as it developed.

The Lost show her the myriad dimensions of Spacetime, taking her to ancient Egypt, Weimar Germany, and planets without inhabitants. They reunite her with deceased loved ones. She forms relationships with an Egyptian god and a famous artist through whom she lives new truths and learns who she needs to become to walk the road not taken.


Interview with Author
Susan Rubin


Welcome to JB’s Bookworms with Brandy Mulder, Please tell us about your newest book. 
This is a debut novel. I have written 25 documentaries on the state of women’s lives in the world and have had 7 World Premiere plays produced in Los Angeles. But I am essentially a storyteller and after many successful outings in the theatre and in documentaries, I wanted to return to telling my story. The Road Not Taken, is a magical novel, which travels the universe with a newly widowed housewife, Deborah. She is introduced to the Time/Space continuum where she meets and joins an ancient tribe, the Lost, 100 humans who landed on earth when it cooled down. These fifty million year old earthlings are looking for somebody to help them decide the merits of our planet. To give her the information she needs to make a judgement on the fate of the earth, they show her as much of the universe as they can: archived planets that are uninhabited, mythological gods of Egypt who befriend Deborah in her search for herself, and as she walks the Road Not Taken, she encounters lovers, mentors and friends who have died, and left this life behind. A central part of the story begins when she steps inside a Van Gogh painting and forms a friendship with the painter, deciding to retrieve his works from their wealthy owners by replacing them with copies by dozens of painters no longer alive. Filled with historical truths and fantastical ideas, this previously unfulfilled woman finds her contract with creation. 

Writing isn’t easy. What was the most difficult thing you dealt with when writing your newest book? 
My protagonist is very different than me. But the places she lives and visits are all based on my life growing up in New York’s Greenwich Village. Deborah, the protagonist, was often on her own leading me through familiar landmarks in my life with a very different emotional response than I had experienced. She allowed/forced me to deal with issues on which she and I don’t agree! But ultimately, I was true to telling my character’s story. It was hard to remember to keep us separate but to allow my story to be part of this character. In the end, I’m not sure I agree with her conclusions about the planet earth, and I certainly did not get to eat onion soup with Van Gogh, nor did I get to see the Giza pyramids and cavort with Isis and Osiris. 

Tell us a little bit about your writing career. 
I wrote documentaries for Ms Magazine’s educational and outreach division for a long time. The topics I had to cover were grizzly: Early Forced Marriage, Domestic Violence, Rape Kits going Untested, Abortion Clinic Doctors who were murdered (I knew one of them from my documentary and his death was truly a nightmare for me). The documentaries were shown at large gatherings of organizations who were dealing with whatever topic we had been given to write about and seen by thousands of college and graduate students in classrooms that were part of Ms in the Classroom. One of our docs went to the White House Commission on the Status of Women. A proud moment, but not enough to make up for the horrible footage I had to write about for many years. 

I taught playwriting for a long time to Underserved High School students. I always chose the toughest schools in the toughest neighborhoods because that’s where I thought I could do the most good. The students and I fell in love every time, but I couldn’t compete with the poverty and violence of their home lives, and after several years it was time to let somebody else pick up that assignment. 

Through all of what I just described, I alternated between writing the documentaries, teaching, and being commissioned and co-produced by the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, and many small theatres In Los Angeles, New York and Baltimore to create original plays that were given World Premieres. That was really hard. I got lots of great reviews, none of which pleased me because they said things about the play that I thought were either a near miss of my intent, or just plain dumb. And these were the good reviews! The terribly hard part about doing theatre in Los Angeles is, the actors are always being pulled away by a movie or TV show. I have had leading actors not able to come to Press Opening because they got a Mercedes commercial. So I would have to go on for them. Although I was a good actress, I get so nervous before performing it wasn’t worth it. That’s why I started to write plays I wasn’t in. After a while the tension of live theatre became unbearable, and when the Actor’s Union stepped in with new rules that all but killed live theatre in Los Angeles, it was time to leave the dressing rooms behind and write for myself. 

They say hindsight is 20/20. If you could give advice to the writer you were the first time you sat down to write, what would it be? 
Enjoy yourself. Speak from your brain, your heart, your life experience and trust that the more you do it the better you will become at expressing yourself. Please stop coming up with deadly scenarios of failure just because what you do is hard. You write because you want to speak to people. You write to describe how you see the world. You have to believe this is important, and worth all the ups and downs that every artist, and in fact, every human being encounters. 

What was your most difficult scene to write? 
For this debut novel, the last scene/chapter was the hardest: I had to pull together every strand I had put into the previous pages and I had to write a closing argument about which the protagonist and I disagree. The book begins with Deborah suddenly widowed and very alone with almost no direction to her life. Then she is contacted by a woman who appears to be her twin, but who actually represents people who landed on this planet 50 million years ago when it first cooled down. Every 10 thousand years they find a person who they believe is smart and observant, and they ask about the value of the planet. The earth is energy intense, it is filled with hard things to deal with, and these first inhabitants are concerned that it is worth the upkeep it requires. For this time, they have chosen Deborah who in the arc of the book goes from a bright but directionless housewife to a judge of life on earth. A judge of the Biblical proportions of the character named Deborah. She has been given tremendous insight into the history of the planet, she has been shown the worst of times – Germany as the Nazis were coming to power, and the most creative of times – Egypt at the time their mythology was being developed. In the last scene of the book all of the first inhabitants (there are 100) come to hear her argument for or against going on with this planet. Deborah’s argument rests on human cruelty. It is cruelty that has her stuck. This is something my character and I agree on. Every time I see somebody do something heroic and kind, I am struck by the human being’s innate value. But there are many days when I hear things or see things that are so cruel, so needlessly brutal, that I want to crawl under a rock and give up on everything. Deborah has been given an intense tutorial on all of this. The hard part was realizing that my character and I disagree on the value of human beings. It was a great learning experience to figure out that I could state her case, even while I am not sure she is right. 

Are themes a big part of your stories, or not so much? 
Themes are Us! Sometimes it isn’t clear to me at the outset of a piece of work what the theme would be. I could feel like a blind sculptor: I had some concept in my head, and I would start writing, and after a while I would figure out what the hell I was trying to say. The Theme. Then writing was easier and harder because once you know your theme you need to stay true to it, close to it. Taking off of flights of fancy are not so smart. Usually I do that when something in the theme is painful to me. In truth, everything I write about is painful to me. 

What are you working on now? 
I did the final re-write on my book, The Road Not Taken, months ago. The next thing I will write is beginning to dance around my unconscious mind, but I certainly can’t see it or name it. Unlike a play, which has a certain run and then you pack it up, strike the set, have a closing party, a book can stay with you forever. Or at least this book is staying with me. I still rifle through the copy I have on my desk and become deeply involved as if I don’t know what’s coming next. And I don’t because the book is not yet published. 

Is there a release date planned? 
The publication date for The Road Not Taken is September 4, 2020. 

Who is your favorite character from your own stories, and why? 
My favorite character always comes from the last thing I have written. After I have just spent hours inside myself with my characters, I feel protective of them. My last play included the Greek goddess, Persephone. I have written about her before. She is kidnapped and raped by her disgusting uncle, Hades, the god of the Underworld. It is a deal he makes with Persephone’s father, Zeus, head of the Olympian household. Her mother, Demeter, wonders the world looking for her lost daughter. Demeter is the goddess of the Harvest. When she cannot find her child, she declares there will be no further harvest on earth until Persephone is returned to her. Eventually, Zeus owns up to the deal he has made with Hades, and Demeter is able to retrieve her beloved girl. But Persephone has been changed forever, and in my play I try to defend her not just from Hades, but from her pompous father, Zeus, and her very self-involved mother, Demeter. I love Persephone. But as the book is now finished, I love the protagonist of it, Deborah, who I feel I have to protect from the world getting to know her. 

Most writers were readers as children. What was your favorite book in grade school? 
The Magic Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. As the name implies it is about a special, hidden garden. It was the first time I read magical realism and it is the form I was immediately drawn to. 

What are your plans for future projects? 
I want to write another book. I am done (for now) with theatre. And I certainly won’t write more documentaries. I gave myself big bruises on my head after watching the horrible footage I had to write about and then slamming my head into my desk. I will write another book. My narrative voice is easier for me than writing scenes in plays which have to give each character their due. Also, the book doesn’t require actors. Having been a big pain in the ass as an actress, especially when I performed in my own plays early on, I am done with that. Yes. A book. There are so many discoveries to be made as I write. 

Is there anything you would like to add before we finish? 
I want to thank you for listening to me. Thank you for the opportunity to write about writing which is such a solo act. And I guess finally, I want to spread the news: if you want to write, you can. So don’t give yourself excuses, it isn’t easy for anybody to do, but if it’s in your gut or your soul to write, you will never be satisfied until you do. 

Good luck with your newest release, and thank you for being with us today. 



About the Author:

Susan Rubin has written for Funny or Die, and in contrast, she’s written more than two dozen documentaries that highlight international women’s issues like domestic violence, forced child marriage, and untested rape kits accumulating in police evidence rooms. Rubin has used her skill, empathy, and compassion to render these darkest of topics into accessible films distributed to tens of thousands of college classrooms.

As a playwright, Rubin has, for 20 years, been the recipient of Los Angeles County Arts Commission Grants and Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department Grants. She also was honored with a six-year residency at the prestigious Los Angeles Theatre Center. Her plays have been seen at New York Theatre Workshop, Baltimore Center Stage, and at every major 99 seat theatre in Los Angeles including co-productions with Bootleg Theatre, Circle X, Skylight Theatre to name a few. She is the recipient of Garland, Ovation and LA Weekly Awards.




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