Rob Tobin is an award-winning, produced screenwriter with his latest film shortlisted for a 2012 Best Picture Oscar, a published novelist, and former motion picture development executive. Rob was brought up and worked the gold mines in Timmins, Ontario, Canada, Shania Twain’s hometown. He now lives in beautiful Huntington Beach, California with his lovely wife Leslie and goofy brown dog.
1. Tell us a bit about the world of Jo-Bri and the Two Worlds, what are we likely to come across on our reading journey there?
“Jo-Bri and the Two Worlds” is a fusion between “Stranger and a Strange Land,” “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” in that it’s a Young Adult urban fantasy which deals with magic like “Harry Potter,” has characters about the age of the “Twilight” cast of characters and the social commentary of “Stranger in a Strange Land.” It’s about Jo-Bri, a young wizard from a parallel sword and sorcery world who is chased into Modern day Montana by an evil sorcerer. Here Jo-Bri discovers he may be the only one who can save not only his own planet but also ours. He also falls in love and becomes a cross between a teacher, a messiah and a holy warrior.
2. How would you describe Jo-Bri himself? Is he a wizard like parents, is he a rebel?
Jo-Bri begins the story as a callow youth more interested in hunting, fishing and hanging around his “petite” 6’8” tall girlfriend, Kawille. By the end of the first section, everyone in his life is dead, he’s fleeing for his life and planning his revenge, not as a child anymore, but as a grown man and a wizard flexing his magical muscles and learning by the day, preparing for his inevitable confrontation with the Dark Wizard, Hodon.
3. What would you say Melinda’s first thought is when she meets Jo-Bri? The very first that crosses her mind?
“Oh damn he’s hot!” Remember, at this point in the story she’s still very much a shallow “girly girl” more interested in boys, clothes and gossip that anything of substance.
4. What about Jo-Bri’s first thought when he finds himself on Earth?
What is this place?
5. Would you tell us a bit about Hodon? What’s his greatest desire, and what’s his greatest fear?
Hodon is an opponent, and he’s vicious, calculating and dangerous, but he also has a valid point of view, and that is that Earth – the “other world” is threatening his world and that he will do anything to protect his world, including destroying Earth. He wants to gather as much power to himself as he can so that he can do exactly that – destroy Earth or at least Humanity, and thereby save his own world, no matter the cost. So his desire is to save his world, and his fear is that he may be too late.
6. What made you choose Montana as a setting for the Earth part of the novel?
I wanted a small, manageable venue, where these events could take place and be contained without necessarily going viral and attracting that kind of attention. I also wanted a certain… innocence that you can sometimes still find in rural and small urban areas that you might not find in Chicago or New York or L.A.. Plus, to be honest, when this becomes a film, it’ll be cheaper and easier to shoot in Montana than Miami, lol.
7. It’s interesting to see the shift in POV between the two parts of the novel. What made you decide to go that way?
I’m a big Hemingway fan and I remember reading “The Short Happy Life of Francis McComber” and the way the author shifts the POV from Francis to the lion and I was dazzled by that. I always wanted to do that in one of my own works. As well, I wanted to impart both a masculine and feminine energy to the story because this is very much a story about love, sexuality, gender, male versus female point of view, and Jo-Bri himself and eventually Melinda engender and express both sides of their selves in this story: both the male and female aspects, and I feel that is one of the messages of the story, that we need both sides of ourselves in order to survive. And that, perhaps, is Hodon’s weakness, that he represents only the male aspect, while Jo-Bri, who begins the story as a totally male character, grows into a more complete human being, perhaps partly because he has both males and female energies and voices inside him after the Merging.
8. How was writing a novel different from writing a screenplay?
Wow, that’s a great question. I began as a novelist back in Canada but switched to screenwriting when I came to L.A. Then when I returned to novels in the last year or so, it was with “God Wars: Living with Angels,” another urban fantasy, but that was an adaptation of a screenplay and though it makes for an interesting feel, a fusion of script and novel, it wasn’t nearly as successful as “Jo-Bri.” That’s because point of view is so essential to a novel, not just having a point of view but expressing it strongly enough to convey the actual point of view and personality of the person through whose eyes you’re seeing the story. So if I had to say one thing about the difference between script and novel, it’s the crucial importance of point of view. And because “Jo-Bri” was written as a novel from the get-go, the point of view was far stronger than in my previous novel.
9. What can your readers expect from reading Jo-Bri and the Two Worlds? What would you like them to walk away with from reading it?
They can expect a great combination of pure entertainment and wonder combined with social commentary and introspection. Again, if I had to compare “Jo-Bri” to any other works, I’d say it was a combination of Heinlein’s brilliant “Stranger in a Strange Land” and today’s urban fantasies the likes of “Twilight” and “Harry Potter.” I would like the readers to walk away with questions about our world and the way we do things, the clothes we wear, the music we listen to, the television shows and movies we watch, the way we treat ourselves and others. One of the lines from the book is that we humans have a lot of self-hatred that arises from guilt over the things we’ve done, including the Holocaust, war, oppression, and so forth. I think that that self-hatred and guilt gets expressed in a lot of the things we do – like the more violent rap lyrics, for instance, and the angry, threatening attitudes of rappers and a lot of rockers and athletes and other celebrities who we supposedly admire, and I’d like people to walk away thinking that maybe there’s a better way to live and to act and to think, that maybe we do need to be more loving. None of that, however, gets in the way of the pure entertainment of the book, because preaching will not get it done, you have to deliver that kind of message in an entertaining fashion, and I think “Jo-Bri” does that.
10. And the regular question all interviews come with, have any exciting future plans for your writing career? Give us something to look forward to.
The past year and a half have been the most exciting time of my life both as a writer and a human being. I was a writer on a script that was shortlisted for a 2012 Best Picture Oscar – it didn’t make it to the nominations but still… I have two screenplays in pre-production and watching that process has been an education in itself. I’ve had two novels published in the last year, I have four screenplays under option to production companies, and am constantly in negotiations or talks with various producers on various projects, with several being very close to coming to fruition. I’m also in the preliminary process of forming a motion picture production company and possibly signing a multi-script funding agreement.
All that has pulled me away from the world of novels and books, so I’m not sure when I will be able to get back to that, but I do have a continuing desire to write at least the second book in the “Jo-Bri” series and, hopefully, to write several more “Jo-Bri” books, each from the point of view of a different character from the original novel, showing those characters go out into the world on their own, splitting up and spreading the “gospel” of love and peace that Jo-Bri gave them, while trying to save humanity from its own mistakes and possibly from Hodon’s second coming.
Thank you for your time, it’s been a pleasure to ‘chat’!