Interview with David Rocklin, author of "The Luminist"

David Rocklin
David Rocklin is an attorney and a mediator.  He graduated from Indiana University with a BA in Literature.  He lives in California with his wife and children.  The Luminist is his first novel.
You can visit his website at

The Interview

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, David. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing? 

 A: I was born and raised in Chicago, and now live in LA with my wife and two daughters. I’m an attorney by trade, so I guess I’m living proof that attorneys all yearn to be writers! I’ve been writing all my life. Writing is how I’ve always made sense of the world and my place in it. I’ve been through many phases over the years – if you knew me as a kid, you’d recall my Bruce Lee phase, my rock bassist phase, and my hockey phase – and the one thread running through them all is my having written about them. 

 Q: Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it? 

 A: The Luminist is set in nineteenth century Ceylon. The novel tells the story of Eligius Shourie, an Indian boy whose father is killed by English soldiers after a melee at the East India Company. He becomes a servant in the house of Catherine Colebrook. Independent and driven, married to a fading Court Director, Catherine is chasing an obsession: the nascent art and science of photography. Eligius becomes her apprentice in the quest, and a bond neither of them expected is formed while around them, unrest between the native populace and the colonials occupying their country threatens to break open. The novel was loosely inspired by a period in the life of Julia Margaret Cameron, an English woman who became involved with photography in its infancy. She was a remarkable woman, unique for her time in that she tenaciously pursued this little-known art against all societal pressures and expectations. I saw an installation of her photographs at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I’m not a photographer, and I had no previous experience with India, but something about those images really captured me. I read a quote attributed to her – “I longed to arrest all beauty that came before me” – and she had me. This obsession of hers, to take a moment out of the world and hold it still, became the novel’s heart. 

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it? 

A: When I first began to consider what I’d taken on in terms of overarching story and setting, I felt a little intimidated! I didn’t want to simply recycle the elements that I’d seen before in fiction with settings in India: things like India’s caste system, or the intricacies of politics at the East India Company. I also had taken on the challenge of depicting the mechanics of early photographic devices, a challenge in itself. Then I realized that the Ceylon of this story no longer exists – I could travel to what is now Sri Lanka and I would not find it. I had to imagine life into the characters’ Ceylon to make the novel work. This was equally true of the photographic techniques at the story’s heart. The emotional impact of holding time still, the very idea of chemicals and other photographic elements first discovered on battlefields, now making their way into this new art form – this all became as important as the technical depiction of them. 

Q: Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it? Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it? 

A: My publisher maintains a press release that contains the latest tour news, reviews and contact information. You can obtain a copy by emailing Liz Crain at 

Q: Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV? What are your upcoming plans for doing so? 

A: I have been on tour for the novel, and have been privileged to speak, read and sign for audiences in Seattle, Portland and Chicago (where I was also interviewed by NBC), with Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York to come. 

Q: Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one? 

A: I have the best agents in the world, if I may say so! Christy Fletcher and Melissa Chinchillo of Fletcher & Co. in New York. They are tireless and so supportive of the novel, and of me. I feel very lucky to be among their stable of writers. Amazing people. I do feel that for traditional publishing, agents are needed and very valuable to writers. There are more self-publishing outlets than ever available to writers, and I don’t think agents are necessary for that route (I also think it would be more difficult to get an agent interested in a self-published title unless it came about as a last resort following exhaustion of traditional publishers). 

Q: Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?  

A: The publisher was incredibly active on the novel’s behalf. They put together a media map which was literally pages upon pages of reviewers, media, conferences and tour site candidates, blogs, book club strategies - on that note, if you’re a book club, we would love to hear from you! We have special pricing available for book clubs, and I will skype or appear in person (if you’re in southern CA) to talk about the novel at your convenience. I have my contact information below – I’d love to have my novel considered for your club. 

Q: Do you plan subsequent books? 

A: I’m working on a new one now. It actually came about as a result of research on The Luminist. 

Q: Thank you for your interview, David. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book? 

A: Please feel free to contact me via my website ( or via the Facebook page (Facebook). My website also has contact information for the publisher. Hearing from readers is my favorite part of this wonderful journey, so I really do look forward to receiving your emails! Many thanks for this opportunity – I hope you enjoy The Luminist, and see in it what it is that made me write it. All the best.

The LuministAbout The Luminist

IN COLONIAL INDIA, at a time of growing friction between the ruling British and the restless Indian populace, a Victorian woman and her young Tamil Indian servant defy convention, class, and heartbreak to investigate what is gained – and lost – by holding life still. Suggested by the life and work of photographic pioneer Julia Margaret Cameron, The Luminist filters 19th century Ceylon through the lens of an English woman, Catherine Colebrook and a 15 year old Tamil boy, Eligius Shourie. Left fatherless by soldiers, Eligius is brought as a servant to the Colebrooks’ neglected estate. In the shadow of Catherine’s obsession to arrest beauty – to select a moment from the thousands comprising her life in Ceylon and hold it apart from mere memory – Eligius transforms into her apprentice in the creation of the first haunting photographs in history.
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