Folks, please welcome journalist and book author Robert W. Kingett to the blog today. He was kind enough to give me a bit of his time for an interview. After listening to his book, Off the Grid, I was very excited to pick his mind on several things.
Off the Grid came out in 2015. What lessons from that month of no internet still linger with you?
The lessons that still linger with me are lessons I’d thought I’d lose, honestly, like, don’t take humans for granted. I see a time when human interaction will become even more haphazard in the future. I see the scope of the net changing even now that I am back online in ways I never considered before. It seems like the internet is turning into a place where people go if they want to feel outraged or to feel validated by someone or something. Self-confidence, in my generation anyway, is fading very fast so a lesson that I hold onto very dearly, in my journalism work and personal life, is value your own thoughts and ideas but don’t seek praise or validation or a pat on the back. Nobody is as important or worthy as you are and your closest, offline, friends. Treasure yourself, and this goes for writers and journalists today too. Just write. Don’t try to please an audience because, chances are, half of the comments section won’t understand you anyway. Report on what you believe is right. Write because you enjoy it, not because you are trying to be the most ethical person on the planet.
Ethics will never be fulfilled fully by one journalist or writer. Why should you try so hard to be everybody else’s version of ethical when they will just call you fake anyway? What’s the point? Stick to your own passion and your own ethics and become who you always wanted to be, not someone everybody wants you to be.
The other lesson that lingers with me is the lesson that keeping up research skills and asking questions is more important than people realize. Now that I am back online, I see so many people willing to believe the first Google result they see. Many don’t look for dissenting opinions or even try to ask questions anymore. This is scary. We are becoming a generation that cares about facts but doesn’t understand the motive behind the facts. We don’t care to know why someone else thinks differently. We’re locking ourselves into a subconscious echo chamber and, that too, scares me. I still talk to people I don’t agree with. I still seek out differing opinions. I always will. I hope others continue to do the same.
If you could be an extra on a TV show or movie, what would it be and what would you be doing?
Without a doubt, it would be the Big Bang Theory. That show is my favorite of all time. I think it’s hilarious and the character development is outstanding, among other aspects of the writing, but I’d totally get into a heated argument with Sheldon about Star Wars because I’m sure I’d know something he doesn’t and it would be great just to have an argument with him. He’s a great actor and character, by the way. He has a lot of depth and development.
You are an advocate for greater media access for the disabled. What has been your greatest struggle in that role?
Honestly, the biggest struggle in that role has been getting people to care, on all fronts. Many in the disability community want others to make things happen for them but when this advocate or that person trying to change things reaches out, very few in our community do anything. They want to reap the rewards of hard advocacy without advocating.
On the non-disabled side, even today, people continue to see us as the lowest form of society so they don’t want to do anything for us. We must constantly prove why we need accessibility changes, even in this current year. I don’t understand why companies and things still, in a lot of cases, refuse disability accommodations in buildings and on the web. Many will fight to the death with excuses of cost and liability and other lame excuses. All of you guys, the ones who don’t have a disability, are temporarily abled. There may come a day where you need accessible housing or to use a website or to find a job with an understanding employer. What then? Will it be too late for you to get what you need? Probably. Just think about that.
If you could pick a fictional character to officiate at your wedding, who would it be?
Without a doubt, it would be Albus Dumbledore. I just think he’s a person everybody should meet, at least once in their lifetime.
What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?
I’d honestly talk to V. C. Andrews about writing to vanquish her own personal daemons through stories. I am a weird cookie so I read all kinds of books, even some where many would feel very uncomfortable, like reading about sexual endeavors with other family members. The problem is I have a very open mind. I ask questions. I want to know about things that others find really off the wall, so I will read things that others won’t even consider trying. For V. C. Andrews, it’s her incest characters. I don’t care about that at all. In fact, I dove deeper to understand their histories and ways of thinking. It just fascinated me. Even if you don’t agree with something, wisdom can be found anywhere.
I’d ask her things about writing, her thoughts about life in general. People who write very unorthodox things have an insight into the world most will refuse to explore or figure out. I’d want to just ask her questions for a day about anything just to see her point of view on things just because I know there will be some wisdom I can take from her views.
What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing Off the Grid?
I’ve been a journalist for many years and I’d cover political issues. I still do, but something hard, and, yeah, I am going to say it, is listening to a Trump supporter blabbering on about destroying a system they barely grasp to begin with. I’m not a Trump supporter. I won’t pretend to understand people who like his word salads of stupidity. I find it hard to listen to people who want to bring hatred and segregation back into this country.
Writing Off the Grid was a different kind of challenge but it was a much easier challenge. It was a challenge within myself. Could I honestly write about my frustrations and humorous thoughts? Could I look inside of myself to see what I am getting out of this month offline? While challenging, I believe I did well. I’m not saying I did stellar work but I did darn good pondering if I do say so myself.
More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to be more inclusive of the disabled?
I see it happening by accident, honestly. I see the publishing industry becoming accessible by accident not by design. With the rise of E-Books and audio books that will only continue to make things better for us. I still also believe podcasts, audio only podcasts, will grow as well.
If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?
Without a doubt J. K. Rowling because I’d just love her sense of humor to tag along. I’d also take Brandon Sanderson, and, maybe Eoin Colfer because, well, we need a boy genius with us. It would be neat to see how Artemisia Fowl would handle me getting everybody into trouble with my curiosity. I’d take Robert J. Sawyer, even though he isn’t a fantasy author, because he would be just as creatively curious as I am and this could help in puzzles, perhaps.
If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?
Mine would probably have commas or colons between the words. Weird, strange. Outrageous, needy, lovable, and, crazy.
In this age of publishing, self-promotion is necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?
Obviously the most difficult is getting people to notice me without me doing my part to add to the outrage pool, but it gives me a sense of freedom to set my own work hours and schedule. I have the freedom to say no to a person I can’t stand, interviewing me that is, if I wanted to, although, I’d never do that. It’s hard work letting people know about this project I’ve worked hard on it and it’s even more difficult to tell people why they should care, but it’s liberating all the same because I get to meet other authors with great audio books who I’d never meet otherwise. Some of the best books I read have been from authors I never agreed with on anything.
What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?
The most memorable argument I had with someone was about the horcruxes in the Harry Potter series. A high school buddy of mine agreed with my guesses that Harry was a horcrux. A few other people in the class did not agree with us. The teacher tried to get us to quiet down so she could teach us science but the whole class was fired up. She chucked her whole lesson plan and held a debate class instead. It was a shocker to us to realize that we were right all along!
Are you planning any further experiments? Any future books in the works?
I’d like to start opening doors up for other disabled writers like me. There’s a lot of contests for disabled artists, painters, and the like, but nothing for disabled authors or writers or journalists out there, really. I am working on a few other books, yes, mostly memoirs and politically incorrect humor books, like erotic retellings of classic fairy tales, but I’m trying to do many things, including hosting an essay contest where the blind writers get adaptive technology, or something similar.
I’m also working on ways to give back to organizations I fully support like Planned Parenthood and the like. If someone donates to one of my journalism campaigns or similar, I want to open doors and give back to people. It’s hard but it can be done! With me, it will happen. It may not happen tomorrow or the next day but I will open doors for people, eventually.
As for my next journalism project, I am working on the day in the life of an incest couple. I am gathering interviews, spending time with their family, and the like, so I can create a unique human interest story.
I am also still trying to break into the Modern Love section in the New York Times. That’s my priority right now. I will make it there though! Just watch me.
Places to Stalk Robert W. Kingett
Synopsis of Off the Grid: Living Blind Without the Internet:
Journalist Robert Kingett accepts a dare, one that at first seems simple: to adapt to his blindness without the Internet. This account is a cozy diary of battling with an FM radio, hooking up a landline phone, and the journey of adapting to a brand new way of living from someone who has never disconnected from the World Wide Web.