Interview with Robert J. Dornan, author of '23 Minutes Past 1 A.M.'

Robert J Dornan is someone who wishes to leave a better world to his children. He realizes that the odds are slim but he will do whatever he can to increase the probability of success.  He is always open to discuss new and innovative ideas and hopes someday to see the building of a functional solar city as well as a fair and community-driven compensation system.

Robert’s latest book is the historical fiction, 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M.
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About the Book:

In the early morning of her sister's wedding day, Mila Kharmalov stared in stunned silence at the coloured sparks streaming from Reactor Four of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant.  At that very moment, her life and the lives of everyone she knew changed forever.

Years later and on another continent, Adam Byrd was writing biographies for everyday people looking to leave their legacy in book form. When the woman he loved phoned from Kiev offering him the chance to write the story of a lifetime, he jumped at the opportunity not realizing that his voyage would be a bumpy ride through a nations dark underbelly. With the help of his friend's quirky cousin, Adam is nudged into a fascinating adventure of love, greed, power and psychotic revenge, culminating with a shocking finale.

23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. is a work of fiction based on factual events from Chernobyl and villages throughout Ukraine.

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  • 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. is available at Amazon..
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

In short, I was a member of a discussion board that had several politically motivated threads.  Chernobyl was mentioned in one of the threads but more in reference to the main theme.  I had no idea what or where Chernobyl was or what had happened.  Truth be told, I had lived a rather sheltered life and was for the most part, too self-involved to care about world events.  Many people, like me, live these bubbled lives until something happens that effectively changes their survival instincts.  9/11 comes to mind and it was, in fact, the event that opened my eyes.

This particular discussion board had several categories, one of them being the Arts, which included Poetry, Music and Lyrics et al.  After researching a couple of days, I wrote a lyric about Chernobyl that was well received but no musician would touch because it was fifteen verses long.  One forum member commented that lyrics should not be as lengthy as a book, and of course, this got me thinking about a new novel. During that same time period, I had been working on a couple of teen oriented books and had no desire to convert a lyric into a full novel. 

And then, Fukushima happened. 

I was glued to my television watching this event unfold over four days.  It was both frightening and maddening.  How could any responsible corporation and/or government be so incompetent?  A week later, coverage began to dwindle and within two weeks, newscasts dropped the subject altogether.  I started following YouTube broadcasts to get updates.  How could this not be front page news?  I had already begun my Chernobyl research but now I was all in and within a couple of months, the novel began to take shape.  If the mainstream media wasn’t going to warn its viewers, then maybe I could play a part.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

I found the subject of Chernobyl fascinating so creating a story based on the disaster was not difficult at all.  I’ve been involved in some writing jobs that were mind numbingly boring but 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. was an adventure in itself.  The primary characters are unique and I enjoyed creating them.

My number one tip for anyone writing a Historical Fiction would be to research until you drop.  Look for comments and interviews from witnesses.  If something sounds too unbelievable don’t dismiss it as you may have a new chapter and a lasting book memory for your readers.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I went the self-publish route.  This is and will continue to be a popular and debatable subject in our collective group. At my age I don’t suppose that Publishing Houses will barge down my front door so there is no animosity or expectations in that regard.  The industry has changed immensely and budgetary concerns are front and centre.  It makes more economic sense for any up and coming author to consider their personal franchise/branding and go it alone. To me, there are very few benefits to sign with a Publishing House unless you are an established author.  It’s all fine and dandy to have your book in the neighborhood book chain store but without your own marketing, you’re depending on word of mouth.  As for sales, I may buy a book from a brick and mortar retail store at Christmas but other than that…online only.  That being said, I have not sent any manuscripts to a Publishing House and wouldn’t know where to begin.
.Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Yes, for sure.  I’m astounded at how many people have spent their weekends working on the next great generational book.  Seriously, it’s mystifying to see so many authors peddling books to so few readers and expecting anything else but disappointment.  Metaphorically, it’s like an outside market with twenty stalls selling different sized carrots.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I just finished a revision of a teen novel called Jack City and am close to completing the sequel.  I have another teen novel called, Gwydion, that is completed and awaiting a virtual tour. I am also working on a very ambitious Historical Fiction called, Sins of the Samurai, which I hope to release this time next year. If 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. shocked you, this upcoming book will blow you away.

Q: What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?
Most people have no clue that three men saved Europe. It’s befuddling and also disturbing that an ongoing tragedy such as Chernobyl is so unknown.  There should be high school or university classes devoted to the pain that Chernobyl has caused and continues to cause.  It’s almost sickening that so many of us know the name of three Kardashians but a miniscule amount of us know the names of the three Chernobyl divers that saved Europe.  If these divers don’t complete the task they risked their lives for, all of Europe could have been lost.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?
Yes, of course.  The first message in 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. is that nothing good – absolutely nothing good – comes from building nuclear power plants.  We hear of huge accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima but we never hear of the smaller ones, or the leaks that pollute the Columbia River (example).  The world has made tremendous advances with alternative energy so nuclear should never be an option.

Secondly, oppression makes ordinary people hard and angry. They become unforgiving and desperate.  This is what happened in the USSR and especially Ukraine.  Many villages in Ukraine were hubs for criminal activity because of harsh conditions caused by political oppression. 

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Yes, thanks for reading.  Please feel comfortable to write me at  I’m always open to discuss my books, alternative energies, vertical farms and societal reform/equality.  Say no to nuclear power plants!

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